The European Environmental Agency (EEA) released their 5-year report on the state of the European environment, 4 December 2019. The news isn’t good: agriculture and forestry practices are further degrading land. European forest health looks set to worsen until 2030 and prospects of meeting 2050 objectives – including protecting and restoring forests and adopting more sustainable forestry practices – are “largely not on track”. This is further bad news for efforts to tackle the biodiversity and climate crises.
While the area of forest across Europe remains the same, how this land is managed determines forests’ long-term health. Close to 90 per cent of European forests are used to supply wood and the amount removed for fuel has increased dramatically since 2010, driven by incentives to use wood as bioenergy.
According to the EEA report, timber production in Europe is expected to double over the next two decades. Yet, only one third of the forest habitats listed under the Habitats Directive have a “favourable” conservation status. All forest areas are under increased pressures from infrastructure development, such as roads and intensive management practices – both of which are linked to long-term biodiversity loss.
NGOs hope that these negative trends will be countered by new announcements in the European Green Deal which was released on 11 December. The Green Deal includes a proposed Natural Restoration Plan, which it is hoped will focus on protecting and restoring existing forests. This would make forests more resilient to future temperature increases as well as delivering the many other benefits of forests such as respite from the city, fibres for our clothes and materials for our houses.