In a Europe with limited natural resources, forests are of great importance for the supply of raw materials such as wood and biomass for bioenergy. But woodlands are also key providers of ecosystem services, such as water and soil conservation, carbon sequestration and, for example, recreation and tourism.
Where can these different functions best be situated? To help make these decisions, Alterra Wageningen UR developed a ‘strategic forest management map’.
Some 40% of Europe is covered in forest. That means strategic choices have to be made about where raw materials should be produced and where ecosystem services should be located. Demand for these materials, and for ecosystem services, is continually on the rise. But not all functions can be performed simultaneously at the same place. Alterra’s strategic forest management map of Europe can be used to help make such decisions.
The choice for a particular function is often made locally, or at the member-state level. However, with European forest policy being discussed in increasing concrete terms, it is of growing importance to take a more strategic look at forest management in Europe. ‘That’s why we developed the strategic forest management map of Europe’, says Alterra researcher Geerten Hengeveld. ‘This first map was recently published in Ecology and Society. By combining a variety of information sources, we mapped European forests, indicating what type of management would be most appropriate where, ranging from conservation areas to highly productive short-rotation forests.’
Some of the criteria used in the map are current tree species composition, terrain conditions, proximity to urban areas, accessibility and being situated in a Natura 2000 zone. According to Alterra researcher Gert-Jan Nabuurs, ‘The resulting map combines the on-the-ground reality of Europe’s forests with a strategic vision on the management of those forests at the EU level.’