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The role of climate variability in affecting human activities and the natural environment is well accepted. This may range from an extreme event lasting only a few hours (i.e. hurricane, thunderstorm and showers) through to the multi-year droughts (e.g. West and Sahelian Africa and Iberian Peninsula drought spells).

Climate change due to the enhanced greenhouse effect is also expected to strongly affect these activities and environments. Primary sectors, such as agriculture and forestry, will be more sensitive than secondary and tertiary sectors, such as manufacturing and retailing (Parry, 2000). In particular, in Europe the balance of impacts of climate change will be more negative in marginal regions (south and east) than in core regions (metropolitan northwest) aggravating current economic

Climatic Change (2005) 70: 117-135

© Springer 2005

and social problems. Consequently, climate change will have major implications for Europe's policies of development and environmental management.

This work is focussed on reviewing the impact of climate variability and climate change on European agriculture and forestry. In particular, the paper illustrates the responses of ecosystems to changes in mean and variability of climate, as well as the main management strategies adopted to avoid or at least reduce negative climate change impacts.

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