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13.1 Adapting to climate-related risks and natural disasters: Improving food security and disaster prevention through preparedness

The diversity and functioning of ecosystems form the basis for determining their vulnerability to the risks posed by climate change. This applies to both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.

The droughts that hit Europe’s forests and the extensive insect damage that followed have shown the vulnerability of forests to extreme weather events. These examples led us to develop a contingency plan for large-scale damage caused by the spruce bark beetle. We have also looked at issues related to current legislation and operational bottlenecks. In addition, we aim to identify emerging pathogens and associated risks, and to explore the link between forest biodiversity and health. Another goal is to identify the forest types that are most vulnerable or resilient to disturbances.

Extreme weather events also affect food security through crop losses. We are therefore developing a forecasting system to monitor and predict, for example, crop yields, their variability and crop losses due to weather events at farm level. The aim of the forecasting system is to help farmers, industry and policymakers to prepare for regional or nation-wide crop failures.

Climate change also affects aquatic ecosystems, particularly aquaculture. Warming of waters will directly affect the physiology of many fish species and increase the risk of pathogens. The realisation of these risks also depends on the ability of our fisheries to adapt to the ongoing changes. We have developed a genomic selection method based on the DNA profile of fish, which is particularly suitable for improving disease resistance. In 2022, we helped rainbow trout farmers combat the tricky columnaris disease, which is particularly prevalent in fish in warm waters.