EU Forest in danger

Artificially planted spruce forests in the Czech Republic and in Austrias Waldviertel fall prey to bark beetles. Biomass power plants threaten French forests. The destruction of old-growth forests on Natura 2000 sites continues in Estonia. Conifer plantations swamp Ireland. Also, Sami peoples battle logging on indigenous lands in northern Finland and Sweden. These are just a handful of examples from EU countries illustrating alarming situation with forest.

Public fears scope of forest damage

The forests in Europe are seriously under threat. This is a very obvious observation travelling in not only in Slovakia, Romania or Poland but also in France, Sweden or Germany. There is no need to be an expert, or even to be acquainted with the growing number of reports, publications, blogs or websites focusing on this subject. We are not talking about disappearing trees, but large areas of forest disappearing. And that is visible.

Whole valleys recently covered by forest are now naked. Slopes across Europe are criss-crossed by a network of forests roads. They are often visible from long distances. Additionally, rivers are more and more often flowing out of the riverbed, because logging debris and soil is choking the rivers.

Why are all these happening? Forestry has a long tradition in Europe, and a sophisticated management concept. One difference from other economic sectors, is that foresters are thinking in much longer time-frames. Usually in the life span of a tree, which means planning several decades in advance, and makes the forestry sector very unique. This long term planning is threatened by increased economic pressures and climate change.

Foresters and Non-profit organisations are alarmed

Foresters and Non-profit organisations have been warning society already for many decades. The traditional model of Forestry is being questioned by the short term economic needs of an increased demand for timber profits while at the same time the forest themselves are coming under pressure by extreme weather caused by climate change.

However business markets very often force foresters and their institutions to do activities which make the situation worse. This issue is important, and it reached EU level several years ago, although results are getting worse and worse.

Experts see many complex reasons behind this situation, such as changing natural conditions in Europe due to ongoing climate change, rising temperatures, dropping of ground water level, planting native trees outside of their natural area, planting exotic species, and also a growing demand for timber.

New Project financed by the BMNT

A new project spearheaded by the European Wilderness Society, financed by the Forest Department of the Austrian Ministry of Sustainability and Tourism; in cooperation with the leading foresters of Austria and its 9 provinces will take a multiperspective view looking at the threats to Biodiversity of forests and forest border zones while identifying some of the threats posed to the long term viability of forests, particularly in Austria. This project will be supported by the experts of the forest department led by Pierre Ibisch of the University of Sustainable Development Eberswalde.

EU new publication

The EU is taking strong action to protect forests globally, through development aid or innovative trade work. One example is the EU Forest Law Enforcement. However, to meet climate targets and improve life of countless communities, the EU is aware that forests protection requires a complex approach. We need to include all relevant stakeholders, and collect relevant information. This then leads to recommendations how to improve the situation in the forestry sector.

Members of civil society, researchers and activists from EU Member States wrote, with EU support, a publication. Fern compiled and edited this publication. The publication named EU Forest in danger provide stories from 11 European union countries with one common denominator of all 11 stories is that forest in Europe is suffering and that forest as we know it is going to changed.

Copyrighted Ondrej Kameniar
Făgăraș Old Growth Forest threatened © Ondrej Kameniar

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