What is Close to Nature Forestry?

4 abril 2023

Person standing in a forest managed sustainably

What is forestry?

Forestry is the science and craft of growing, caring for, managing and harvesting forests, plantations and woodlands.


How does forestry affect the environment?

The model most widely practiced in the European Union (EU) is intensive forestry, also known as conventional, rotational or clear-cut forestry. Generally, this is when most or all of the trees in an area are removed at the same time, and tree seedlings, typically of a single species, are planted. Its advocates argue that as well as being commercially attractive, it has benefits such as allowing more sunlight for younger trees that do not tolerate shade.

In reality, intensive forestry is the main cause of the wretched state of Europe’s forests. Clearcutting is destroying the EU forests’ ecosystems, depriving wildlife of their habitats, worsening air quality and increasing soil erosion and carbon dioxide emissions. Despite there being an increasing number of trees, Europe’s forests are absorbing 15 per cent less carbon than they did 20 years ago. This is a strong sign of a deteriorating health.


What is close to nature forestry?

Close to nature forestry is an alternative to intensive forestry, a sustainable way of managing forests.

Under this model, harvesting is partial, and new trees are not replanted, but naturally sprout. Foresters using this method tend to allow naturally occurring forest growth patterns. Close to nature forestry preserves ecosystems’ integrity and uses forests’ intrinsic power to manage pests, naturally regenerate trees and produce high-value wood.


How economically viable is close to nature forestry?

A striking fallacy in the debate over different forestry models is that pursuing an environmentally-friendly, sustainable path means losing jobs and profits. In fact, there’s growing evidence that close to nature forestry provides similar or superior profits to forest owners than intensive practices. Many forest experts are now calling for a shift away from intensive forestry. For instance, evidence from boreal forests in Central Europe and Southern-European countries has shown that close to nature forestry has at least the same economic efficiency as intensive methods – and crucially is better for biodiversity, the climate and nature.


To find out more, watch our short film Managing forests for the future which introduces you to some of the European foresters already adopting close to nature forestry. 


You can also read our report "A just transition for forests".

Categorías: FAQs, Close-to-nature forestry, European forests

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