Managed forests

Left entirely to nature, forests will achieve a climax stage, where the site is supporting the maximum amount of biomass that the soil fertility, rainfall and temperature conditions will allow. At this point the forest only grows as trees fall from age, wind, landslip, disease or fire.

Although natural regeneration will occur, the dead and dying trees will decay or burn, emitting CO2 from the stored carbon. Growth is matched by decay and, with no forest management; there is no net increase in carbon storage.

Harvesting trees as they mature allows much of their carbon to be stored throughout the life of the resulting wood products, while at the same time giving the industry an incentive to plant new trees in their place.

With the Kyoto Protocol in 2005 and following COP negotiations, the forest sector is receiving credit for managing this specific environmental quality of the forest, while the development and trade of carbon emission credits enhances the significance of the forest sector within the global economy.

Increasing oil prices mean the forest sector not only provides alternative materials but also a sustainable source of (bio) energy. As present harvesting levels in the EU are well below sustainable limits, woody biomass energy has considerable potential to help sustain the future global economy.


The European forestry industry recognizes that its future inextricably linked to the protection and expansion of its forests. This, coupled with strong and effectively enforced laws, ensures more trees are planted than are harvested.

All European countries have policies and practices requiring reforestation. Although the number of trees planted per hectare will vary depending upon the species, site and management system, it will always be more than the number cut, in order to allow for natural losses and for the forest to be well stocked. Therefore the need be no confusion between deforestation in tropical regions - e.g. due to poverty or forest conversion for agricultural purposes - and forest management practices in Europe.

Only 64% of the annual increment of European forests is harvested and the forest area is ever-increasing.

Sustainable forest management

Due to the wide variety of historical, demographic, economic, climatic and ecological circumstances, different management and regeneration methods are used across Europe - from

large scale regeneration felling in uniform coniferous monocultures, to group, or even single tree, selection systems in mixed or broadleaved forests.

European forestry management is moving towards methods that enhance natural processes and produce authentic forest structures which are environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economic viable.

Protected forests

Europe, excluding Russia, enjoys high levels of forest protection, with almost 39 million ha or 18% of its forest area set aside to conserve ecological and landscape diversity.

More than 2.3 million ha are strict forest reserves, with no active human intervention. There are large tracts of protected forests in Northern and Eastern Europe with little human intervention which are actively managed for biological biodiversity. 85-90% of the forest area of Europe is used for economic, recreational, and other multiple use purposes and also helps to protect the soil, water, and other ecosystem functions, like biodiversity, air quality, climate change and land stability.

Nature dominates forest regrowth

Although the ways of rejuvenating the forest are diverse and differ strongly by country, nearly 70% of the European forest is restored by natural regeneration, up to almost 98% in Russia. This is important as it contributes to the diversity and a healthy (genotype) rich species composition, structure and ecological dynamics. As this method is not always possible or appropriate from an economical or ecological perspective, natural regeneration is complemented by or fully replaced by planting. 34% of the European forest (EU 27) is done mainly by planting or seeding and little more than 2% by coppicing.

Indigenous tree species

Many European forests have seen the introduction of non-indigenous species. For example, in the Netherlands, the fast growing species Larch, Douglas fir and American oak produce large volumes of quality timber.

With the increasing implementation of integrated forest management designed to respect natural ecosystems, these sometimes invasive species are being phased out in favour of indigenous species, at the expense of some reduction in the volume of quality logs.

Carbon stock in wood biomass in European forests
Carbon stock in wood biomass in European forests
Protected forest area in Europe
Protected forest area in Europe

European Wood (in China)
C412, Beijing Lufthansa Center
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Sino-European Wood Center
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