New research looks at the trade-offs between forest protection and wood supply in Europe thus trying to shed light on the question: does more protected forest mean that there will be less wood supply in Europe?
The study looked at the extent of protected forests across the European Union’s twenty seven member states plus Norway, and Switzerland. The hypothesis was that protected areas imply felling restrictions that could in turn affect the potential annual wood supply in Europe.
As concerns around biodiversity loss and rapid landscape changes increase, forest protection came forth as one of the main measures to prevent such problems. On the other hand, the European timber market provides core economic revenues.
Indeed, protected forests in Europe covered as much 33 million ha (20 % of total forest area) in 2005, out of which 16 million ha were protected for biodiversity and the remaining areas for landscape diversity. In terms of timber volume, an average of 48% of volume cannot be harvested from forests protected for biodiversity and 40 % in forests protected for landscapes. Hence, 73 million m3 (10 % of the annual theoretical potential supply from the total forest area) of wood cannot be harvested from protected forests in Europe.
However, researchers reassure us that protected forests do not necessarily affect wood supply given the current demand for wood in Europe. Nevertheless, in case the demand for wood from European forests (such as wood for energy use) significantly increases in the future, these unused resources might have a greater impact on the European timber supply. The other side of the story is that, although in limited amounts, wood harvesting is indeed allowed in many protected areas. Hence, the researchers suggest that the real question should be if “biodiversity and landscape diversity within designated areas are sufficiently protected ? “
Striking a balance between the protection of biological and landscape diversity and demand for timber, together with other services provided by forests will be a paramount importance for Europe’s forest sector.