Since 2000, an overall increase of deadwood has been observed in several countries, a sign of more biodiversity-friendly management practices, but also of large disturbances such as storms.
What is the trend in the amount of deadwood in Europe’s forests?
The quantity of deadwood in Europe’s forests has decreased significantly since the middle of the 19th century due to intense forest exploitation and the widespread burning of small wood and other debris. Since 2000, however, a small overall increase in this indicator has been observed (figure 1). This may be due to forest management practices that deliberately increase the amount of deadwood in managed forests either as a result of government policy or because of the establishment of requirements for forest certification. Large disturbances such as storms could also have contributed to the increase. Better reporting on deadwood must be noted, with 17 EEA countries providing data in 2010 against just eight in 1990. At national level, the average volume is variable across the European region (figure 2).
Deadwood (coarse woody debris) is a proxy indicator for biodiversity, since it is a habitat for a wide array of organisms including vertebrates, invertebrates, lichens, bryophytes and fungi. Deadwood decomposition plays a key role in the recycling of nutrients and organic matter, as well as in providing a wide variety of (micro)habitats for plants and invertebrates, particularly insect species and other organisms. Deadwood in forests can be measured relatively easily. The amount of deadwood is thus a good indicator of the biodiversity value of a forest.
Overall, deadwood in most European countries is nowadays generally low compared to natural conditions. However, many European countries have recently launched initiatives to increase the amount of deadwood, though not all increases are the result of biodiversity considerations.
Disturbances such as storms, fires and insect outbreaks also produce deadwood. In some areas the accumulation of deadwood may not be desirable, for example where forest fires or the risk of insect pests (such as bark beetle plagues) is considered unacceptable, such as in Mediterranean coniferous plantations where deadwood must be removed to reduce the risk of fires. Although most countries legally require harvesting of extensive amounts of damaged trees, such as deadwood from recent storm damage, it has not been possible to completely remove the entire extent of deadwood produced by these disturbance events.
- Forest Europe, UNECE and FAO, 2011, State of Europe’s forests 2011. Status and Trends in Sustainable Forest Management in Europe.Available at: www.foresteurope.org/documentos/State_of_Europes_Forests_2011_Report_Revised_November_2011.pdf [Accessed 2 April 2014].
Indicator specification and metadata
This indicator shows the volume of standing and lying deadwood in forest and other wooded land, classified by forest type (Forest Europe - Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe (MCPFE)). In national forest inventories, countries generally classify according to type (standing, snags, lying, species and state of decay).
Policy context and targets
Deadwood (coarse woody debris) in the form of snags (dead standing trees) and logs (dead lying trees) is a habitat for a wide array of organisms and, after humification, an important component of forest soil. During some parts of their life cycle, some species are dependent on finding a place to live either on the surface or in the cavities/protected places of dead or dying wood of moribund or dead trees (standing and fallen), or upon wood-inhabiting fungi or other species. Because of a lack of deadwood in multipurpose forests, many of the species dependent on deadwood are endangered.
At present it is still debated what amount of deadwood is required in order to maintain the most valuable species and under what circumstances the accumulated deadwood component may give rise to a risk for insect outbreaks.
Relation of the indicator to the focal area
Decaying wood habitats are important components of biodiversity in European forests and recognised as an indicator for assessing and monitoring biodiversity as well as sustainable forest management.
2020 EU biodiversity targets - target 3: Increase the contribution of agriculture and forestry to biodiversity
Related policy documents
EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy
in the Communication: Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020 (COM(2011) 244) the European Commission has adopted a new strategy to halt the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the EU by 2020. There are six main targets, and 20 actions to help Europe reach its goal. The six targets cover: - Full implementation of EU nature legislation to protect biodiversity - Better protection for ecosystems, and more use of green infrastructure - More sustainable agriculture and forestry - Better management of fish stocks - Tighter controls on invasive alien species - A bigger EU contribution to averting global biodiversity loss
Methodology for indicator calculation
Definition of terms:
Terminology is well defined for international reporting by Forest Europe. Deadwood (coarse woody debris) as such, and the methodology for reporting its volume are thus defined according to Forest Europe standards.
On a national scale, the monitoring of deadwood is carried out in several National Forest Inventories (NFIs). Work towards the harmonisation of terminology is carried out by the COST E43 action. This comprises type classification (standing, bending, lying) as well as potentially important additional parameters (uprooted stems, clearcut stems, pieces of stems, cut branches, uprooted staves, logging residues, fine woody debris, intact snags, broken snags, broken, lying stems without uprooting). There are several approaches to register state of decay, most commonly this is classified in five classes. Noting the tree species is desirable but data are not collected by everybody.
MCPFE has defined the following reporting of the indicator "Deadwood":
- Status: m3/ha.
- Changes: m3/ha/yr.
Figures to be reported on
- Volume of dead standing trees (snags) and lying trees (logs) on forest area and
other wooded land, classified by forest type.
Minimum length and diameter of standing and lying dead trees
- Length: 2 m.
- Diameter: It is up to the countries to define the minimum size of diameter to be
reported. It is recommended that the minimum size be:
Standing deadwood: 10 cm d.b.h.
Lying deadwood: 10 cm mean diameter.
Methodology for gap filling
- European forest types -- Categories and types for sustainable forest management reporting and policy EEA, 2006. European Environment Agency, Copenhagen, Denmark. EEA Technical report No 9/2006.
- Status based on national forest inventories FBI 2003 (Forest biodiversity indicators in the Nordic countries)
- Terms and definitions (Final version) FRA 2005 (Global forest resources assessment update) (2005). FAO Forestry Department. Rome, 2004
- Terminology of Forest Management. Terms and Definitions in EnglisH IUFRO (2000). IUFRO World Series Vol. 9-en. IUFRO Secretariat Vienna. SilvaTerm Database
- Forest resources in Europe 1950-1990 Kuusela, K. 1994. Cambridge University Press.
- TBFRA Supplementary Enquiry for Data on Protected and Protective Forests and Other Wooded Land MCPFE (2000). MCPFE and UNECE, Geneva.
- MCPFE Assessment Guidelines for Protected and Protective Forest and Other Wooded Land in Europe as adopted by the MCPFE Expert Level Meeting MCPFE (2002). 10- 11 June 2002, Vienna, Austria.
- State of Europe's Forests 2003 MCPFE (2003). The MCPFE Report on Sustainable Forest Management in Europe. Jointly prepared by MCPFE Liaison Unit Vienna and UNECE/FAO. Vienna.
- Global Forest Resources Assessment 2005 UNECE/FAO (2005). Data for Europe, United Nations, New York and Geneva.
- Communication from Mr. Almunia to the members of the Commission SEC(2005) 161 final. Sustainable Development Indicators to monitor the implementation of the EU Sustainable Development Strategy.
- Forest Resources of Europe, CIS, North America, Australia, Japan and New Zealand (TBFRA 2000) UNECE/FAO (2000). Main report. UNECE/FAO Contribution to the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2000. United Nations, New York and Geneva.
No uncertainty has been specified
Data sets uncertainty
No uncertainty has been specified
MAIN DISADVANTAGES OF THE INDICATOR
- The indicator is a general measure on habitat quality. It will not, at least not in international reporting, be possible to evaluate the indicator with respect to specific organisms, e.g. threatened species.
- A minimum level of required deadwood to create suitable habitats in multifunctional forests is not yet defined. This will probably have to be done when developing management plans at landscape or stand scales. Huge amounts of deadwood may also be a risk (insect calamities, fire).
- Methodology to measure deadwood differs between countries. Some countries also include tree stumps in the calculations. Numbers may also be influenced by the share of undisturbed forest (in which case figures for deadwood may reflect the share of undisturbed forest instead of the real amount of deadwood in production forests).
ANALYSIS OF OPTIONS
The 35 MCPFE quantitative indicators (http://www.mcpfe.org/documents/r_2007/ici)
all relate to sustainable forestry management. From this set, those with most direct relevance to biodiversity were selected.
Biomass stock in forest and other wooded land (Forest Resources Assessment 2005 - country tables)
provided by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
Biodiversity (Primary topic)
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
- SEBI 018
Contacts and ownership
EEA Contact InfoKatarzyna Biala
EEA Management Plan2014 1.7.4 (note: EEA internal system)
Frequency of updates
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe's environment.
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