Indicator Specification

Forest: growing stock, increment and fellings

Indicator Specification
  Indicator codes: SEBI 017
Published 08 Dec 2017 Last modified 08 Feb 2021
8 min read
This indicator looks at the growing stock in forests and other wooded land. Growing stock is classified by forest type and by availability for wood supply. The indicator considers the balance between net annual increment and annual fellings of wood in forests to be made available for wood supply.

Assessment versions

Published (reviewed and quality assured)
  • No published assessments


Justification for indicator selection


  • Growing stock is a traditional indicator of sustainability of the forest sector and is also used as a proxy for biodiversity. The sustainable development of growing stock in forests and other wooded land, through the comparison of fellings and net annual increment is evaluated on the basis of long-term available data for all pan-European countries.
  • The information is easily understandable.
  • Future assessments will be based on regular reporting, supporting the analysis of long-term trends. This will help assess sustainability levels.

Scientific references

  • No rationale references available

Indicator definition

This indicator looks at the growing stock in forests and other wooded land. Growing stock is classified by forest type and by availability for wood supply. The indicator considers the balance between net annual increment and annual fellings of wood in forests to be made available for wood supply.


The following units are used in this indicator:

Growing stock (m3 per hectare)
Ratio of fellings to increment (%)
Utilisation rate (%)


Policy context and targets

Context description

Growing stock is one of the basic statistics of any forest inventory and is useful for various purposes. The standing volume of growing stock can be converted into estimates of above and below-ground woody biomass by applying biomass expansion factors. Data on growing stock, increment and fellings are crucial for the calculation of carbon budgets in the forest sector.

How the indicator relates to the focal area

The balance between increment and fellings highlights the sustainability of timber production over time as well as the current availability and the potential for future availability of timber. For long-term sustainability, the annual fellings must not exceed the net annual increment, agreed to be less than 70 % over the long term.

An increase in growing stock relative to forest area is an indication of a maturing forest. The balance between growth and fellings in production forests is the best indicator to understand the forest's potential for wood production, and the conditions it provides for biodiversity, health, recreation and other forest functions. 


EU 2020 biodiversity target 3

Related policy documents

  • A new EU Forest Strategy
    A new EU Forest Strategy: for forests and the forest-based sector.  Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions ‘A new EU Forest Strategy: for forests and the forest-based sector’, COM(2013) 659 final. The EU needs a policy framework that coordinates and ensures coherence of forest-related policies and allows synergies with other sectors that influence forest management. The new forest strategy is a key reference in forest-related policy development. EU forests and forest sector need to be positioned in a way that ensures their contribution to the EU’s objectives and targets. This implies to: • Ensure that the multifunctional potential of EU forests is managed in a sustainable and balanced way, enabling our forests’ vital ecosystem services to function correctly. • Satisfy the growing demand for raw material for existing and new products (e.g. green chemicals or textile fibres) and for renewable energy. This demand is an opportunity to diversify markets, but poses a significant challenge for sustainable management and for balancing demands. Demand for new uses in the bioeconomy and in bioenergy should be coordinated with traditional demands, and respect sustainable boundaries. • Respond to the challenges and opportunities that forest-based industries face in resource and energy efficiency, raw materials, logistics, structural adaptation, innovation, education, training and skills, international competition, climate policy beyond 2020 and information and communication, to stimulate growth. • Protect forests and biodiversity from the significant effects of storms and fires, increasingly scarce water resources, and pests. These threats do not respect national borders and are exacerbated by climate change. • Acknowledge that the EU does not only rely on its own production, and that its consumption has implications for forests worldwide. • Develop an adequate information system to follow-up on all of the above.
  • 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

Key policy question

Is forestry in Europe sustainable in terms of the balance between the increment of growing stock and fellings?



Methodology for indicator calculation

Definition of terms:

Growing stock

The living tree component of the standing volume.
The standing volume refers to the volume of standing trees, living or dead, above-stump measured overbark to top (0 cm). It includes all trees with diameter over 0 cm at breast height (d.b.h., i.e.  typically at 130 cm above stump). Standing volume includes tops of stems, large branches, dead trees lying on the ground that can still be used for fibre or fuel. It excludes small branches, twigs and foliage (UNECE/FAO, 2000).

Gross annual increment

This is the average annual volume of increment over the reference period for all trees and is usually measured at a minimum d.b.h. of 0 cm. It includes the increment on trees that have been felled or that died during the reference period (UNECE/FAO, 2000).

Net annual increment

This is the average annual volume over the given reference period of gross increment minus the the volume of natural losses on all trees with a minimum diameter of 0 cm d.b.h. (UNECE/FAO, 2000).

Annual fellings

This is the average annual standing volume of all trees, living or dead, measured overbark to a minimum diameter of 0 cm d.b.h. that are felled during the given reference period, including the volume of trees or parts of trees that are not removed from the forest, other wooded land or other felling site. It includes silvicultural and pre-commercial thinnings and cleanings left in the forest, and natural losses that are recovered (harvested) (UNECE/FAO. 2000).

Various methods exist in countries to estimate fellings. Fellings are measured from standing trees, from already felled trees, at factory gates or by using a combination of techniques. Typically, estimates of fellings for energy and especially the fraction of fellings for domestic firewood are difficult to make. Another issue in some countries is illegal logging and ranges for the volume of illegally felled wood are difficult to assess without a large error margin.

Combined with forest scenario modelling, it is also possible to create outlooks for the future development of this indicator. Such data are developed under the auspices of UNECE/FAO as part of its European Forest Sector Outlook Studies (formerly: European Timber Trends Studies).

Measurement units for growing stock

Status: m3
Changes: m3/yr
Status: m3/ha
Changes: m3/ha/yr

Measurement units for increment and fellings

Status: m3.
Changes: m3/yr.

Methodology for gap filling


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 should be interpreted carefully, for example, fast-growing non native species, fertilisation etc. may contribute to an increase in growing stock, but may also be detrimental to biodiversity.



Forest Europe 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.

General metadata

Responsibility and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Katarzyna Biala


Forest Europe
European Environment Agency (EEA)


Indicator code
SEBI 017
Version id: 2

Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled every 4 years


DPSIR: Pressure
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)


Document Actions