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You are here: Home / News / Europe cannot halt the loss of biodiversity without sustainable use of forests

Europe cannot halt the loss of biodiversity without sustainable use of forests

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Forests are home to a large number of the plant and animal species and therefore closely linked to the overall state of biodiversity in Europe. On the World Biodiversity Day, 22 May, the European Environment Agency draws attention to the growing demand for forest resources, including for bioenergy, which will exert greater pressures on forest biodiversity.

Despite recent improvements, including increasing the amount of protected forest areas, several forest species remain threatened. A new EEA report points out the growing demand for forest resources, identifies major threats to the forest ecosystems across Europe and provides suggestions on how forest management could be improved to help halt loss of forest biological diversity. 

Although the European forest area is on the rise, in contrast to many other parts of the world, as much as 87 % of the total area covered by forests is subject to some degree of human intervention. Consequently, the way that forests are managed has a direct impact on biodiversity. 

Most European countries have appropriate legislative and administrative frameworks to ensure sustainable use of forests. However, Europe will need to continuously adapt its forest management to future climate change and other challenges.

Arising challenges and the EEA's suggestions

  • Production of wood and other traditional forest resources will have to be balanced against other kinds of goods and services from the forest ecosystems. This will require increased information on forest ecosystems and forest biodiversity.
  • Demands on forests as a resource for bioenergy will grow. Any use of forests for bioenergy should not damage biological diversity and ecosystem conditions.
  • Scattered or fragmented forest areas must be linked into habitat networks to protect biodiversity in forests. The Natura 2000 network is an essential component of the European Union's efforts in this field.
  • Genetically modified trees may offer benefits as well as risks to biological diversity and humans. Europe must follow a precautionary approach towards genetically modified trees.
  • Climate change will affect forest ecosystems and increase current threats to forests. Adaptation should ensure the connectivity of the forest landscape and protected forest areas to allow migration of species.
  • Forests are significant carbon sinks, but measures developed to increase the carbon sequestration should not negatively impact forest biological diversity.
  • Forest fires in the Mediterranean and other types of damage to forests need to be brought down.
  • Long-range air pollution and nitrogen deposition are still significant problems.

The EEA report is based on the data reported by countries to the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe (MCPFE) as well as a number of other sources of information. The report will be presented at a side event during COP 9 (the ninth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity) in Bonn, Germany.

EEA Report No 3/2008

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