1. Forest management influences a variety of ecosystem structures and processes relevant to meso- and microclimatic regulation, but little research has been done on how forest management can mitigate the negative effects of climate change on forest ecosystems.
2. We studied the temperature regulation capacity during the two Central European extreme summers in 2018 and 2019 in Scots pine plantations and European beech forests with different management-related structural characteristics.
3. We found that the maximum temperature was higher when more trees were cut and canopy was more open. Logging 100 trees per hectare increased maximum temperature by 0.21–0.34 K at ground level and by 0.09–0.17 K in 1.3 m above ground. Opening the forest canopy by 10% significantly increased Tmax, measured 1.3 m above ground by 0.46 K (including pine and beech stands) and 0.35 K (only pine stands). At ground level, Tmax increased by 0.53 K for the model including pine and beech stands and by 0.41 K in pure pine stands. Relative temperature cooling capacity decreased with increasing wood harvest activities, with below average values in 2018 (and 2019) when more than 656 (and 867) trees per hectare were felled. In the pine forests studied, the relative temperature buffering capacity 1.3 m above ground was lower than average values for all sample plots when canopy cover was below 82%. In both study years, mean maximum temperature measured at ground level and in 1.3 m was highest in a pine-dominated sample plots with relatively low stand volume (177 m3 ha−1) and 9 K lower in a sample plot with relatively high stock volumes of Fagus sylvatica (>565 m3 ha−1). During the hottest day in 2019, the difference in temperature peaks was more than 13 K for pine-dominated sample plots with relatively dense (72%) and low (46%) canopy cover.
4. Structural forest characteristics influenced by forest management significantly affect microclimatic conditions and therefore ecosystem vulnerability to climate change. We advocate keeping the canopy as dense as possible (at least 80%) by maintaining sufficient overgrowth and by supporting deciduous trees that provide effective shade.