Abstract

According to the sixth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), global climate change is now unequivocal. Tunisia, like many other countries, has been affected by climate changes, including rising temperatures, intense heatwaves, and altered precipitation regimes. Tunisia's mean annual temperatures has risen about +1.4 °C in the twentieth century, with the most rapid warming taking place since the 1970s. Drought represents a primary contributing factor to tree decline and dieback. Long-term drought can result in reduced growth and health of trees, thereby increasing their susceptibility to insect pests and pathogens. Reported increases in tree mortality point toward accelerating global forest vulnerability under hotter temperatures and longer, more intense droughts. In order to assess the effect of these climate changes on the current state of forest ecosystems in Tunisia and their evolution, an investigative study was required. Here, we review the current state of knowledge on the effects of climate change on sclerophyllous and semi-deciduous forest ecosystems in Tunisia. Natural disturbance during recent years, as well as the adaptability and resilience of some forest species to climate change, were surveyed. The Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI) is a multi-scalar drought index based on climate data that has been used to analyse drought variability. The SPEI time scale analysis showed a negative trend over the 1955-2021 period in Tunisian forest regions. In 2021, Tunisia lost 280 km2 of tree cover to fires, which is equivalent to 26% of the total lost area between 2008 and 2021. Changing climate conditions have also affected phenological parameters, with an advance in the start of the green season (SOS) of 9.4 days, a delay at the end of the green season (EOS) of 5 days, with a consequent extended duration of the green season (LOS) by an average of 14.2 days. All of these alarming findings invite us to seek adaptation strategies for forest ecosystems. Adapting forests to climate change is therefore a challenge for scientists as well as policymakers and managers.

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