SEMAFOR: Pilot project on the System for the Evaluation of the Management of Forests

The EOS Secretariat expresses gratitude for having received copy of a study authored by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe/ Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UNECE/FAO) which summarizes the results of the pilot project on the System for the Evaluation of the Management of Forests (SEMAFOR), whose aim is to assess the sustainability of forest management in European countries on the basis of the Pan-European set of criteria and indicators.

The indicators assess criteria such as forest resources and carbon, forest health and vitality, production functions of forests, biological diversity in forest ecosystems, protective functions of forests, socio-economic functions of forests.

The study presents detailed results, by indicator and by country, and discusses the main issues arising from this exercise. 20 countries, accounting for nearly two thirds of Europe’s forest area (excluding the Russian Federation) participated in the study, including Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, and United Kingdom. Latest available data has been utilized, often based on observation periods of ten years.

The system aims to report on the sustainability of forest management at the national or subnational level. Overall, based on the thresholds agreed for the pilot study, and considering the indicators recorded and the explanations given, there is no evidence of significant areas of concern with regards to sustainable forest management in the twenty countries which participated in the pilot study.

Data was available for about 85% of the assessment indicators. At the first stage of the process, 18% of the data supplied exceeded the agreed thresholds, while 67% did not (in 15% of the cases data could not be provided). After dialogue with national correspondents, it appeared that in most cases where the thresholds were exceeded, there were valid reasons in the national context to show that there was in fact no threat to sustainability.

Going a little more in detail, almost all countries showed moderate growth in forest area, of less than 0.5% per year. Five (Denmark, France, Ireland, Romania and Serbia) showed growth rates between 0.5 and 1.0% per year. Bosnia and Herzegovina recorded a reduction of 0.33% per year, while Sweden recorded a slight decline in area, of 0.05% per year (Sweden has however a high forest cover, so local reductions were deemed acceptable).

Eleven countries reported an increase in area of forest available for wood supply (FAWS), with annual rates over 0.5% in France, Hungary, Ireland and Serbia. Eight countries recorded a decline in FAWS, with the fastest declines in Bulgaria (-1.45%/year) the Czech Republic (- 0.9%/year) and Ukraine (-0.78%/year). Sweden (-0.2%/year) and Finland also observed a decline (-0.3%). However, none of the correspondents in the eight countries considered this decline a cause for concern as in many countries, including also Sweden and Finland, the decrease of FAWS is due to an increase of protected areas.

Regarding annual average percent change in growing stock on FAWS, all countries but two (Czech Republic and Sweden) showed increases, of up to 2.9%/year in Ireland, a clear indication that harvests are well below increment on FAWS, a rough indicator of sustainability as regards wood supply. The two countries which showed a decline in growing stock on FAWS did so as a result of the decline in the area of forest available for wood supply mentioned above. Sweden’s decline is moreover almost negligible (-0.03%/year).

Many countries reported that 100% of their forests were under a management plan. The three countries with a share lower than 50% (France 45%, Norway 28%, UK just below 50%) all reported valid reasons for these lower figures. In France the reported figure (45%) does not include “equivalent” instruments, which, if included, would “change the picture considerably”; in Norway areas with plans prepared before 2001 have not been included, and it is not obligatory to have for forest owners to have a management plan; in the UK the main conclusion that can be drawn for the about 50% of woods without management plans is that little or no felling is taking place; many of these woods are small and associated with agricultural enterprises.

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