Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 79–91 | Cite as

Impact of climate change on vulnerability of forests and ecosystem service supply in Western Rhodopes Mountains

  • Tzvetan Zlatanov
  • Che Elkin
  • Florian Irauschek
  • Manfred Josef Lexer
Original Article


The vulnerability of forest ecosystem services to climate change is expected to depend on landscape characteristic and management history, but may also be influenced by the proximity to the southern range limit of constituent tree species. In the Western Rhodopes in South Bulgaria, Norway spruce is an important commercial species, but is approaching its current southern limit. Using climate sensitive forest models, we projected the impact of climate change on timber production, carbon storage, biodiversity and soil retention in two representative landscapes in the Western Rhodopes; a lower elevation landscape (1000–1450 m a.s.l) dominated by mixed species forests, and a higher elevation landscape (1550–2100 m a.s.l.) currently dominated by spruce. In both landscapes climate change is projected to induce a shift in forest composition, with drought-sensitive species, such as Norway spruce, being replaced by more drought-tolerant species such as Scots pine and black pine at lower elevations. In the higher elevation landscape a reduction in spruce growth is projected, particularly under the more severe climate change scenarios. Under most climate scenarios a reduction in growing stock is projected to occur, but under some scenarios a moderate increase in higher elevation stands (>1500 m a.s.l.) is expected. Climate change is projected to negatively influence carbon storage potential across landscapes with the magnitude depending on the severity of the climate change scenario. The impact of climate change on forest diversity and habitat availability is projected to differ considerably between the two landscapes, with diversity and habitat quality generally increasing at higher elevations, and being reduced at lower elevations. Our results suggest that if currently management practices are maintained the sensitivity of forests and forest ecosystem services in the Western Rhodopes to climate change will differ between low and higher elevation sites and will depend strongly on current forest composition.


Climate change Forest ecosystem services Ecosystem modelling Sustainable forest management 



Support for this study was provided by the project “Advanced Multifunctional Forest Management in European Mountain Ranges (ARANGE)” within the European commission’s 7th framework program, grant agreement number 289437.

Supplementary material

10113_2015_869_MOESM1_ESM.docx (2.6 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 2643 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Forest Research Institute SofiaSofiaBulgaria
  2. 2.Forest EcologyETH Zürich Switzerland & University of Northern British ColumbiaPrince GeorgeCanada
  3. 3.University of Natural Resources and Life SciencesViennaAustria

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