Europe’s forest resources healthy, but climate change may threaten future growth

Europe’s forest resources are in a healthy state despite a 60% – 70% harvest from the net annual increment, according to a State of Europe’s Forests report. The report however cautions that the uncertainties of climate change may threaten future growth.

“When planning the use of forests, we will have to pay more attention to the effects of climate change on the sustainability of forests in addition to the effects caused by their use,” said Jari Parviainen, regional director of the Natural Resources Institute Finland, and author of the report.

Forest management sustainability is monitored closely using sustainability indicators. The report includes latest statistics on forest resources: 

  • Forests cover about 33 % of Europe’s and about 73 % of Finland’s land area. Forest area in Europe (excluding the Russian Federation) amounts to 215 million hectares. Of this, over 150 million hectares are available for wood supply. Forest area is increasing thanks to tree planting. Finland has the most extensive forest cover in Europe. In Finland 22.2 million hectares are classified as forest area, according to the international definition.
  • In Europe, about 66 % of the annual forest increment is harvested, while in Finland that amount is about 70 %.
  • In Europe, approximately 30 million hectares of forests, or approximately 12 % of forest area, have been protected to conserve biodiversity. The corresponding figure in Finland is 13%. Strictly protected forests (no active intervention) account for 9 % of Finland’s total forest area. This is more than half of the total area of strictly protected forests in Europe (excluding the Russian Federation).
  • European forests sequestrate approximately 9 % of total European greenhouse gas emissions. In Finland, forests sequestrate over 40 % of the total national greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Wood energy consumption per capita in Europe is highest in Finland and Sweden. In Finland, wood-based energy accounts for approximately 85 % of the total consumption of renewable energy.
  • The forestry sector contributes approximately 0.8 % to the European GDP, while the corresponding figure in Finland is one of the highest in Europe at approximately 4 %. The number of people employed by the forestry sector continues to decline in Europe due to mechanisation. The Finnish forest sector employs approximately 65,000 people directly. 

“The Forest Europe indicators have substantially promoted sustainable forest management in Europe. The updated indicators enable better assessment of the effects of climate change on forests and carbon sequestration by forests, the significance of various forest products and services and biodiversity,” said Parviainen.


Image: Softwood forest in Russia/ Courtesy of Lesnaya Industriya Journal

Source: LUKE/ Panels & Furniture Asia