Written Answer to Question: Planting oak trees to combat fires and desertification
Source: European Parliament
Answer given by Mr Vella on behalf of the European Commission to a question (Rule 138) by Athanasios Konstantinou (NI) concerning “Planting oak trees to combat fires and desertification”.
1. The Commission is very concerned about forest fires in Europe. Land-based prevention is one of the key-tools to deal with this problem. This includes using nature-based solutions like planting fire-resistant trees. The Commission chairs the EU Expert Group on Forest Fires(1) which meets regularly to exchange information and good practices on forest fire prevention with national experts. The matter is being regularly discussed among these experts. As regards further policy action, the current Commission is not in a position to answer questions related to the mandate of its successor and invites the Honourable Member to address the question to the next Commission once it takes office.
2. Ensuring the sustainable management of natural resources is one of the objectives of the the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) is, by large, the main source of public financial support to promote the sustainable management of forests with a planned expenditure of about EUR 4.4 billion available for beneficiaries. Specifically, some EUR 226 million are available in the Greek Rural Development Programme for afforestation, prevention of damages and restoration of forests. Replanting of Valonia oak can be supported through those measures if in line with the forest management plans. Other funding instruments, for example the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Cohesion Fund, the Civil Protection Mechanism, the EU Programme for the Environment and Climate Action (LIFE) and Horizon 2020 have also consistently supported EU’s forests.
Question for written answer E-003108/2019
to the Commission
Athanasios Konstantinou (NI)
Subject: Planting oak trees to combat fires and desertification
From 1 January 2019 to 18 September 2019, forest fires in Greece destroyed at least 9 610 hectares of land, including 1 440 hectares of coniferous forest.
Fires have devastating effects on wildlife and domestic animals, as well as on human life. By way of example, during the fire in the district of Mati-New Voutzas in the Municipality of Marathon, Attica, on 23 July 2018, 101 people lost their lives and dozens of others suffered the after-effects.
According to experts’ estimates, the Valonia oak can be used effectively to prevent the spread of fires, drought, desertification and greenhouse effects. It can also reduce the number of fires, limit soil erosion and enhance the quality of ground water. It is extremely resistant to wind and fire, requires little water, is highly conducive to forest biodiversity and is cheap in terms of reforestation.
Although there are still some woods in Greece (the largest in the Balkans is situated in Aetolia-Acarnania), there are far fewer than before.
In view of this:
1. What action will the Commission take to launch the necessary studies and ensure the protection and cultivation of the Valonia oak in areas where there once were extensive forests?
2. What does the Commission intend to do to encourage the replanting of this fire-resistant tree?