More and more forests are being added in Europe, but the quality is poor

More and more forests are being added in Europe, but the quality is poor

A cut-off forest in the Polish Kashubia region.Image by NurPhoto via Getty Images

Among all the forests in Europe, Only 14 percent in good condition. European forests are often in poor condition (13 percent) or inadequate (54 percent). This means that it is threatened, for example, by urbanization, air pollution and drought. The boreal forests, in the north of the continent, are especially in a difficult situation.

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One of the problems identified by the European Court of Auditors is illegal logging. According to the auditors, the European Commission should monitor this closely. “While remote sensing offers great potential for cost-effective monitoring of large areas, UNHCR does not use it consistently,” the report said on Monday. The court recommends greater use of aerial photographs and satellite data.

In general, forests are far from being fully utilized to combat climate change. On the contrary, remove them Less carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every year. Between 2013 and 2018, the number of megatons of CO2 removed fell by 28 percent. This is due to felling of trees, but also due to the maturation of an increasing number of forests, and due to disturbances such as insect infestations, storms and wildfires.

“Trees mainly store carbon when they are in good shape,” says Samo Girib, a Slovenian member of the European Court of Auditors who has dealt with forests. If the forest is struggling to survive and is degraded in the long run, it is not picking up much carbon dioxide. To combat climate change, we need resilient forests.

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Biodiversity

What should not happen then is monocropping: large areas with only one type of tree, such as pine. However, this still happens a lot, despite EU rules that state that different types of trees must be used for afforestation. In practice, foresters often place these species next to each other rather than mixing them. This is bad for biodiversity as well as for the ability to adapt to climate change.

A frequent annoyance of the SAI is that the EU puts many great words on paper about forests, but these are often empty due to the lack of measurable targets.

Frans Timmermans, EU Commissioner for the Green Deal, plan to plant 3 billion trees by 2030 is a positive exception. “The trees are wonderful”Timmermans praised his project. They purify the air, cool cities, and absorb carbon dioxide. But our forests are in poor condition. We need to plant 3 billion trees in the next 10 years so that our forests become true allies in the fight against the climate and biodiversity crisis.

bad condition

Geert Jan Nabors, Professor of European Forest at Wageningen University, was not surprised by the findings of the European Court of Reviewers. “What’s going well is that there are more and more forests, more and more old-growth forests, more and more protected areas,” he says. But at the same time, there was a lot of mortality of the Norwegian spruce, especially in Central Europe, due to drought. So these forests are in poor condition.

According to Nabors, politicians want more and more forests. On the one hand, we want more wood production in Europe, and on the other hand we also want to protect biodiversity. We can standardize this only if we invest in forest management, for example in expert training.

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