UNECE and FAO call for a harmonised assessment of Europe’s forest supply

A new reference definition for “forest available for wood supply” published by UNECE and FAO, international researchers and members of the European National Forest Inventories Network, could represent an important step towards a harmonised assessment of European forest availability for wood supply.

Robust data on the availability of European forests for wood supply is essential for planning sustainable wood use as well as analysing global climate change mitigation strategies under the Paris Agreement and for carbon accounting.

According to this definition forests available for wood supply are forests where there are no environmental, social or economic restrictions that could have a significant impact on wood supply.

Currently, 33% of Europe’s total land area is covered by forest. Around 80% of this (166.5 million ha, excluding the Russian Federation) is available for wood supply. This assessment is based on the reporting of 45 individual European countries with individual definitions, policies and legislations. This variation in the currently used definitions of “forest available for wood supply” causes a lack of robustness in the data.

“Considering the relevance of the estimation of the amount of forest available for wood supply to set targets for biomass and energy, for global change mitigation and on wood resources strategies, further action should be undertaken to ensure the implementation of the harmonised definition”, said Dr Iciar Alberdi, lead author of the paper.

“The importance of forest available for wood supply lies in its impact on several indicators to measure and compare forests that go well beyond wood management. It is a key for understanding the intensity of forest utilisation, carbon sequestration and prediction of the future resource. Finally this variable is often considered as a proxy for sustainability. Therefore it is critical not to over- or under- estimate it,” said Roman Michalak, Acting Chief of UNECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section.

The paper concluded that it would be highly advantageous for European countries to work together and adopt the new reference definition. This will be brought to the agenda of the UNECE/FAO Team of Specialists on Monitoring Sustainable Forest Management with the goal to incorporate the definition in the next reporting cycle (2020).

See also: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1389934116301010