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Italy's woodlands dying due to climate change

Image: Low water of the Ticino river in Pavia, Italy

Italy's woodlands are already dying as climate change starts to bite in southern Europe, experts warn. Eight out of 10 trees across Italy's varied ecosystems were already suffering from the effects of rising temperatures and diminishing rainfall. Research showed that a third of the country's woodland was seriously threatened, and that 60 per cent was likely to suffer permanent damage. The warning echoes fears that the Mediterranean, and Italy in particular, is proving highly vulnerable to climate change. The Mediterranean is warming up faster than the rest of the world. "It's a climate change hot spot, one of the areas where we actually see the change happening". In the next decades temperature rises in Europe during the summer months could be 40-50 per cent higher than elsewhere. Of the six major droughts to occur in Italy in the last 60 years, four have occurred since 1990. The average temperature has increased by 0.4ºC in the north in 20 years and by 0.7ºC in the south. Many of Italy's tree species were ill-equipped to survive hotter, drier conditions.EN "Despite its large Mediterranean coastline, Italy has a relatively low proportion - just 40 per cent - of the shrubby Mediterranean trees that are best adapted to resist the heat waves that are on their way." Most surprising was how widespread the threat was across Italy. The regions of Tuscany, Umbria, Abruzzo, Puglia and also the islands of Sicily and Sardinia were being hard hit by rising temperatures, with several species of oak and beech tree in particular under threat. Lack of rainfall was proving the biggest threat to woodland in the Alpine north of the country. It is not only Italy's forests that are causing enviromentalists concern, however. Failing cold currents and rising water temperatures are exacerbating periodic flooding - and this is causing massive erosion along Italy's Adriatic coast. As a result they have drawn up a plan in which hundreds of miles of new sand dunes would be created to save it the country's most endangered coastline and its wildlife from rising sea levels.

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