Climate change is not only a global phenomenon, it also affects specifically the region of the Rhineland-Palatinate. Climate change mitigation measures aim to maintain the adaptability of our environment. At the same time we have to adapt to the unpreventable consequences of climate change on a scientifically-sound basis. KlimLandRP studies the effects, risks and changes that climate change might have in the federal state Rhineland-Palatinate. It also aims to design possible adaptation measures.
Climate change and related adaptation measures are important challenges in the 21st century. In Rhineland-Palatinate there are already signs of climate change: e.g., higher mean temperatures, more frequent extreme weather events, and changing natural phenomena such as an earlier beginning and longer duration of the vegetation growth period.
The “Climate Report Rhineland-Palatinate 2007” (Ministry for Environment, Forest and Consumer Protection 2007) summarises various facts about the actual climate change. For example, there was a 1.1°C increase of the mean annual temperature in Rhineland-Palatinate from 1901 until 2008. The winter temperatures especially rose by up to 2°C in some regions, indicating considerable changes already in the environment. Days with westerly-dominated wind conditions have also increased over the past 50 years, combined with an increase in precipitation in winter, especially in the low mountain ranges of Eifel, Hunsrück and Palatinate Forest. By contrast, precipitation during the summer months decreased in most of the regions. Without neglecting the uncertainty concerning the extent of future temperature and precipitation changes, the observed trends are most likely to continue following the regional climate projections. In general, more frequent extreme weather events, and more intense and longer lasting heat periods, have to be expected.
The climate-induced migration of species from southern areas is already noticeable, for example, in climate-sensitive dragonfly species. Areal expansions and population growth can also be observed for thermophilic bird species, such as the European bee-eater (Merops apiaster). In forests the amount of storm-caused timber harvest has increased as documented in wood harvest statistics. More frequent warm and dry vegetation periods during the last 15 years caused stress situations for the forest trees, leading, for example, to intensified spruce bark beetle infestations on Norway spruce.
Unavoidable consequences of climate change need specific adaptation strategies. These strategies require knowledge about vulnerability within different environmental fields and in different regions. Some examples illustrating this context are: more frequent irrigation is expected in the agricultural sector, and there is an expected increased risk for drought damages, plant diseases and pests in agriculture and forestry. Harvest losses can already be detected today resulting from high temperatures and limited water supply. An increased occurrence of pests is also observable; e.g., a plague of mice 2007, and an intensified infestations in the forests of gypsy moths and oak processionary. In the field of nature conservation changes in species composition and areal shifts are expected. Therefore, preventive and minimizing risk planning is necessary, as well as monitoring strategies that are able to inform us about changes and their implications.
Various research questions arise from this background in the different environmental fields. Climate sensitive irrigation is, for example, one of the central topics in agriculture and water management. Furthermore, knowledge about crop species and climate-adopted fertilisation strategies are expected from the agricultural sector. In viniculture the adequate grape varieties have to be identified for future site conditions without losing the typicity of Rhineland-Palatinate wines. Among other questions forestry has to investigate potential changes in water balance of forest sites and future tree species composition. Still, little is known in species- and biotope-conservation about functional relationships among populations and ecosystems: Will thermophile biotopes shift towards the north?, and which dynamic changes of biotopes and corresponding biocoenosis can be expected?
The project aims at a future-oriented landscape management integrating protection and utilisation with respect to climate change. Therefore, to minimize the insecurity risk through flexible adaptation options, representative and reliable knowledge has to be generated.