European Forests are a major natural resource, covering 159 million hectares or 37% of Europe's land area. Forecasts for the coming decades predict an increasing demand for wood – for energy, but also for materials and new bio-economy products. Thus additional wood will have to be harvested, but in a sustainable way.
There is a huge amount of unused wood potential in European forests. Most of this is 'locked' in forests that belong to an estimated 16 million private forest owners who more and more live a urban lifestyle and lose interest in their land. The SIMWOOD project aims to mobilise the owners, promote collaborative forest management and ensure sustainable forest functions.
Socio-economic, environemental and technical barriers
The main challenges in forest ownership are demographic change, the increasing fragmentation of forest lands and the unstable income incentives from timber sales per owner. In a marginal/ unstable income situation, novel practices have to offer economically viable solutions, so collaborative forest management approaches are required. In addition the transfer of useable forestry knowledge to forest owners and stakeholders is also needed. Further, there is growing demand from society for non-economic ecosystem services like biodiversity conservation and water quality regulation.
In SIMWOOD, Wageningen Environmental Research (Alterra) took care of the modelling of the mobilisation of wood in 14 case regions in Europe. Through detailed modelling of management regimes, forest resources, physical constraints and socio economic circumstances, it was shown that additional mobilisation of wood will require a large effort. Through a medum effort and additional 60 million m3 may become available at the European scale which is an additional 11%.