On the 2nd of June the EOS Secretariat participated in the event “Future of the Forest – Czech Contribution to Challenges for European Research and Policies”. Several stakeholders, including EU representatives, were present.
During the event, it was mentioned that forests account for 40% of EU land (of which about 40% is publicly owned, mainly from the state, but 10% also at communal level) –and their extension has been increasing in Europe for some decades; this bucks, however, a global trend which sees forests surface decreasing, though in some important developing countries such as India and especially China, forests’ surface has been growing. Even in Europe not all is rosy as recent research showed that 20% of mammals in Europe forests are threatened by extinction. Another important challenge for Europe forests is climate change: it is often underscored that forests have an important role to play in the mitigation of climate change, but stakeholders do have to take into consideration the impact that climate change will have on forests.
Czech MEP Pavel Poc emphasized that forests contribute to the economy and societal well-being through the provision of several services, including, but not limited to, the provision of wood. He reiterated the EU Parliament welcomes the EU Forest Strategy and said that from the legal point of view things look good for forests; however, the challenge consists in implementing such legislative framework. For that we will need to have better monitoring and enforcing mechanisms.
In its reports (together with the EU council) the Parliament stressed that in the implementation of the EU Forest Strategy there is a need to:
- better understand complex questions around forests and how they change
- better coordination between countries of research and innovation, with a priority to innovation and practical application of research
- reliable information, including on adaptation to climate change
Regarding EU Research and Development funding to the forest-based sector, it has been increasing in the last few years. It was a bit less than 60 million euros in 2008 and around 125 million euros in 2015 (though there was a peak in 2013 of around 140 million euros).
Also, Mr Poc emphasized that, by taking inspiration from best practices from Nordic countries such as Sweden, people and especially younger generations need better education on forests and forest-based products; to tackle the challenges which lie ahead will be much easier if the populace is well informed and aware of the importance of the forests.
Some economic facts related to forests were also discussed, such as the economic relevance of the forest based bio-economy. In 2013 the EU bio-based economy accounted for a total turnover of 1 trillion euro. Forestry stricto sensu accounted for 4% of this figure, while forest-based industry 15%.
In the event it was also stressed that Europe will need to strike a balance between different uses of wood, such as wood for energy and wood as a building material; in 2020 it is foreseen that 30% more wood will be harvested with respect to 2010; a European Commission officer stated that at present between 3 and 4% of total energy consumption in the EU comes from wood.
In short, forest and forestry sector face many challenges. Climate variability, both naturally caused and anthropogenic, as well as modern land-use practices and stressors and industry demands create novel conditions never before experienced by ecosystems and relevant stakeholders, which will have to live up to these challenges by having a multidisciplinary approach .