Indicator Specification

Forest: deadwood

Indicator Specification
  Indicator codes: SEBI 018
Published 21 May 2010 Last modified 04 Sep 2015
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Volume of standing and lying deadwood in forest and other wooded land, classified by forest type (Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe (MCPFE) (MCPFE) definition). In national forest inventories, countries generally classify according to type (standing, snags, lying, species and state of decay).

Assessment versions

Published (reviewed and quality assured)
  • No published assessments


Justification for indicator selection


  • Biodiversity relevance: deadwood is a measure of habitat quality relevant for thousands of European forest organisms, several threatened. Data on deadwood can be collected at relatively low cost in national forest inventories and the indicator is reported by countries according to agreed definitions.
  • Accepted methodology.
  • Geographical coverage: pan-European.

Scientific references

  • No rationale references available

Indicator definition

Volume of standing and lying deadwood in forest and other wooded land, classified by forest type (Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe (MCPFE) (MCPFE) definition). In national forest inventories, countries generally classify according to type (standing, snags, lying, species and state of decay).


No units have been specified


Policy context and targets

Context description

Deadwood (coarse woody debris) in 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. Some species are dependent, during some part of their life cycle, to find a place to live, either on the surface or in 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 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.


No targets have been specified

Related policy documents

No related policy documents have been specified

Key policy question

How much deadwood is present in European forests?



Methodology for indicator calculation

Definition of terms:

Terminology is well defined for international reporting by MCPFE. Dead wood (coarse woody debris) as such as well as the methodology for reporting of volume are thus defined by MCPFE.

On a national scale monitoring of deadwood is carried out in several National forest Inventories (NFIs). Work towards harmonisation of terminology is carried out by the COST E43 action. This comprises type classification (standing, bending, lying) as well as potentially important additional parameter (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 5 classes. Noting the tree species is desirable but data are not collected by everybody.

MCPFE has defined the following reporting of the indicator "Deadwood":

Measurement units

  • 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.

Forest type

A European Forest Types classification has been proposed to MCPFE (EEA, 2006).

Methodology for gap filling

No methodology for gap filling has been specified. Probably this info has been added together with indicator calculation.

Methodology references


Data specifications

EEA data references

  • No datasets have been specified here.

External data references

Data sources in latest figures



Methodology uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Data sets uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Rationale uncertainty


  • 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 include also tree stumps into 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 dead wood in production forests).


The 35 MCPFE quantitative indicators (
all relate to sustainable forestry management. From this set, those with most direct relevance to biodiversity were selected.

Further work

Short term work

Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.

Long term work

Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.

Work description

SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT Applying the proposed European Forest Types (EEA, 2006). More research is required on the quality and quantity of dead wood and the related biodiversity components.

Resource needs

No resource needs have been specified


Not started


2099/01/01 00:00:00 GMT+1

General metadata

Responsibility and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Katarzyna Biala


No owners.


Indicator code
SEBI 018
Version id: 1


DPSIR: State
Typology: N/A


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