Climate change impacts in Italy

Climate change impacts in Italy - what the IPCC 4th Assessment Report has found:
  • The duration of snow cover is expected to decrease by several weeks for each degree C of temperature increase in the Alps region at middle elevations. An upward shift of the glacier equilibrium line is expected from 60 to 140 m/ degree C. Small glaciers will disappear, while larger glaciers will suffer a volume reduction between 30% and 70% by 2050 [12.4.3]
  • Alps Formation of large lakes is occurring as glaciers retreat. These lakes have a high potential for Glacier Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs) [1.3.1.1].
  • A climate warming-induced upward migration of alpine plants in the high Alps was observed to have accelerated towards the beginning of the 21st century [1.3.5.2].
  • Alpine summit vegetation elevational shift, increased species richness on mountain tops (due to increased temperature) [1.3.5.2].
  • Pine processionary moth has displayed a 70 m/decade upward shift in altitude for southern slopes and 30 m/decade for northern slopes in Italian mountains [1.3.6.1].
  • In Venice Lagoon, the combination of sea-level rise, altered sediment dynamics, and geological land subsidence has lowered the lagoon floor, widened tidal inlets, flats and islands, and caused the shoreline to retreat around the lagoon circumference [6.4.1.3]
  • Alps: Invasion of evergreen broad-leaved species in forests; upward shift of Viscum album [Table 12.1].
  • The Alps could be one of the regions most affected by increase in year-to-year variability in summer climates and thus a higher incidence of heat waves and droughts. Mediterranean droughts would start earlier in the year and last longer [12.3.1.2.].
  • See also Mediterranean basin for regional impacts (e.g. droughts and water stress).
 / ©: WWF/Claudia Delpero
Artificial snow being spread out, Italy.
© WWF/Claudia Delpero

Key contacts

  • Mariagrazia Midulla

    Head of Climate Change and Energy Programme

    WWF Italy,
    Rome Main

    +39 06 84497375

WWF work

What WWF is doing on the ground in Italy to protect against climate change:
WWF Mediterranean Programme and WWF Italy have helped in the initial stages of a vulnerability assessment for Mediterranean forests.

The Mediterranean has been identified as one of the most important regions in the world for its outstanding biodiversity features.

Mediterranean forests, situated in a transitional zone between the European, African and Asian continents, are one of the planet’s centers of plant diversity, with 25,000 floral species representing 10% of the world’s flowering plants on just over 1.6% of the earth’s surface. Mediterranean populations of species with a Pan-European distribution, such as fir, beech, pine and spruce, are often characterized as the most variable in terms of genetic diversity.

Moreover, the forests of the Mediterranean region are essential to maintaining water and soil resources. The forests protect watersheds and regulate the local climate by increasing the air humidity and thereby reducing the intensity of drought. In this way, they are a barrier against desertification. The forests also serve as natural barriers to storms and floods and they have considerable water retention capacity that reduces run-off and landslides during periods of heavy rain.

However, climate change threatens to undo these ecosystem services that Mediterranean forests currently provide.

Increasing temperature, changes in precipitation patterns (notably, the projected massive summer drying), will likely lead to decreased tree growth, increased fire, insect, and disease outbreaks throughout the Mediterranean region. These impacts will greatly affect regional cork production, which is a major industry in the region.

To assess these climate change impacts, WWF proposes to implement a region-wide vulnerability assessment, which will identify the places that are at highest risk, quantify the projected impacts, and formulate viable adaptation strategies.

Climate Witnesses

WWF runs the Climate Witness programme to collect people's local observations of climate change that are then verified by scientists.

Giuseppe Miranti, a 26-year old beekeeper from Italy, said that because of warmer temperatures, flowers are blooming at unusual times, which makes the bees change their behaviour and reduce their activity. Stronger attacks from parasites also undermine the production of honey.

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