European forests have a long record of management. However, the diversity of the current forest management across nations, tree species and owners, is hardly understood. Often when trying to simulate future forest resources under alternative futures, simply the yield table style of harvesting is applied. It is now crucially important to come to grips with actual forest management, now that demand for wood is increasing and the EU Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry Regulation has been adopted requiring ‘continuation of current management practices’ as a baseline to set the Forest Reference Level carbon sink.
Based on a large dataset of 714,000 re-measured trees in National Forest inventories from 13 regions, we are now able to analyse actual forest harvesting.
From this large set of repeated tree measurements we can conclude that there is no such thing as yield table harvesting in Europe. We found general trends of increasing harvest probability with higher productivity of the region and the species, but with important deviations related to local conditions like site accessibility, state of the forest resource (like age), specific subsidies, importance of other forest services, and ownership of the forest. As a result, we find a huge diversity in harvest regimes. Over the time period covered in our inventories, the average harvest probability over all regions was 2.4% yr-1 (in number of trees) and the mortality probability was 0.4% yr-1. Our study provides underlying and most actual data that can serve as a basis for quantifying ‘continuation of current forest management’. It can be used as a cornerstone for the base period as required for the Forest Reference Level for EU Member States.