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Forests are responsible for a range of ecosystem services which are imperative for our health and well-being, as well as for the health of our planet.
Biomass and forests
Biomass is a renewable resource, but it is not infinite. Its supply depends on natural growth rates.
In the case of forests in particular, biomass regrowth requires several years and is not guaranteed, especially under a changing climate.
This means that it is critical to harvest it at a sustainable rate that allows for regeneration.
Biomass harvesting should not exceed the natural growth rate needed to maintain biodiversity and ecosystem structure,functioning and productivity.
Forests help us fight climate change
Forests play an important role both in climate change mitigation and in climate change adaptation. Europe's forests are an essential carbon sink, capturing emissions. EU forests currently absorb around 10% of the total EU emissions.
At the same time, forests have an innate ability to regenerate and adapt to damages, disturbances and weather impacts — this ability makes them a great ally in facing the damaging effects of climate change.
Healthy forests, ready for climate change impacts?
Forest ecosystems play a vital role in supporting biodiversity and provide many benefits to our own well-being, helping to provide clean air and water, regulating weather extremes as well as providing recreation. However, forests are trying to cope with dramatic changes over past decades which have left them more vulnerable to disease, pests and biodiversity loss.
The EEA two briefings: ‘European forest ecosystems: key allies in sustainable development‘ and ‘How are European forest ecosystems doing?’ give the latest state and trends on how European forests are doing. They also provide an explanation of EU efforts to improve forest ecosystem resilience.
A walk in the woods
Forests support human well-being by providing space for rest, relaxation and exercise. The health benefits of green spaces are well recognised for children, whose physical and mental development is enhanced by living, playing and learning in green environments.
The elderly also benefit significantly from visiting green and blue spaces, through improved physical health and social well-being, while nature-based education and play can help children develop their motor skills.
In contrast, studies suggest that young people and children with relatively low exposure to green space are more likely to have poorer eyesight, suffer from obesity and be exposed to oxidative stress.