General Description/Cultural Significance
Austrian pine, or Pinus nigra, also known as European black pine,is a hardy evergreen tree native to Austria that can reach as high as 60 feet in height. It is a tree so beloved that when Austrians immigrated, they took small trees with them, including to the United States where the tree has become naturalized in some areas. The resin, which is antiseptic, and the turpentine, extracted from the tree’s wood, have been used in many ways for health and healing burns and scars. Turpentine has been used to treat inflammation of the upper and lower respiratory tract, and to treat kidney and bladder issues. The wood of the tree has long been used for lumber and fuel, and a pitch is made from its resin and is used for waterproofing and as a wood preservative. Older trees can feature dense branching and dark green needles, and its cones are brown when mature. It is known to tolerate adverse soil conditions, air pollution, heat and even droughts.
Climate Change/Conservation Status
The forests of Austria make up 40% of the total territory, and often consist of many different species with different sensitivities. Climatic conditions too differ geographically and by elevation. However, in Austria, temperatures have increased at a rate twice the global average and are predicted to accelerate. The trees of the northern Alps are showing the most significant damage with over 50% having lost needles or leaves, or worse. Some tree species have begun to migrate from the lowlands to higher elevations.
Austria is a landlocked country which some scientists believe increases temperature and makes its alpine regions particularly sensitive. As a result, the Alps have already been hit hard by climate change. The average temperatures were more than 2 degrees Celsius above normal in 2019, and the hottest days on record have been in recent years. Mean snow depth is decreasing in the southern regions of both Austria and Switzerland, and glaciers in the Alps have lost half their mass and the melt is accelerating.
In general, cold nights are few and hot days are now common, which is affecting forests. Austrian Pine, Pinus nigra, is known to be a resilient tree species that can sustain long droughts and other difficult conditions. However, rising spring temperatures and decreased rainfall has caused stress on the pines and reduced growth. With climate change, the pines have become much more vulnerable to drought than ever before, and also vulnerable to opportunistic insects. It is also thought that drier conditions induce stomatal closure to reduce water transpiration. This response mechanism also unfortunately reduces carbon uptake.
In order to adapt to the challenges of climate change, forest management groups in Austria are looking at planting material more adaptive to future climatic conditions and to replace species that have for previous centuries provided ecosystem functions such as protection against landslides and avalanches.
European black pine
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Juan Carlos Linares, Pedro Antonio Tíscar, (2010) Climate change impacts and vulnerability of the southern populations of Pinus nigra subsp. salzmannii, Tree Physiology, Volume 30, (Issue 7, July), Pages 795–806, https://doi.org/10.1093/treephys/tpq052