Hotspots of biodiversity: The role of sustainable forest management in Europe
How to prevent the loss of biodiversity remains one of the hot policy issues in the EU and globally. Healthy and green livelihoods are also among society’s main expectations. European forests have a crucial role to play in answering these concerns and demands. On 9 September 2020, the Confederation of European Forest Owners (CEPF) and the European State Forest Association (EUSTAFOR) co-organised the virtual conference titled “European Forests: Hotspots of Biodiversity”. Co-hosted by MEPs Jessica Polfjärd and Adam Jarubas of the European Parliament’s Committee on Environment, the conference offered insights into the role of sustainable forest management practices in environmental conservation and how these practices can support the EU in meeting its long-term biodiversity and climate objectives.

The event gathered high-level speakers, ranging from EU officials to forest owners and managers and researchers, together with around 250 participants from all corners of the European forest and forest-based sector and beyond.

Opening the conference, MEP Jarubas stated that, “We need healthy and resilient forest ecosystems to reach the goals of the European Green Deal. Adequate financing is needed to make sustainable forest management economically sound and to ensure that environmental and socio-cultural benefits continue to be provided to the society at large. The future European legal framework must take into account the opinions of those who will ultimately be responsible for its implementation”. 

Reinhardt Neft, CEO of the Bavarian State Forest Enterprise and President of EUSTAFOR, stressed that, “Management practices applied in European state forestry clearly show that the ecological functions of forest ecosystems and biodiversity can be maintained in managed forests along with all other functions”.

During two panel discussions, the speakers discussed their views and provided practical examples concerning the way in which daily forest management practices currently support forest biodiversity. Future opportunities and actions to ensure that European forests remain hotspots of biodiversity were also explored. The wide range of forest types which can be found throughout the different regions of Europe, makes it necessary to include a variety of approaches and measures, at both EU and national levels, when planning Europe’s common effort to maintain and enhance forest biodiversity.

Christine Farcy, working with International Forest Policy in Service Public de Wallonie, presented the emotional and ethical point of views which society has regarding to forests. She explained that the many turbulences that humanity is going through are creating uncertainty and a feeling of urgency, and exacerbating tensions and misunderstandings in the public debate around forests. “If we want to build a basis for an innovative dialogue with the society and be able to tackle the challenges we have had, instead of using emotions to get people to join a project or an idea we should do the contrary – to progress, understand and properly address the drivers and levels of social emotions related to forests and forestry issues.” she advised.

Humberto Delgado Rosa, Director for Natural Capital, DG Environment, European Commission, gave insight into forests’ role in the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030. He explained that the Strategy does not bring new paradigm to Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) as SFM is supported by the EC and they intend to further develop the concept with announced guidelines. As opportunities and way forward to implement the Biodiversity Strategy, he mentioned the need for knowledge, experience and engagement of forest owners and further financing possibilities to facilitate the work of foresters offered by Rural Development Programmes. He also highlighted the need to discuss the question of further intensification of forest management that is taking place in some EU forests.

The Member States’ perspective was presented by Matthias Schwoerer, Chair of the WP on Forests under the German Presidency of the Council of the EU. Mr Schwoerer regretted that the EU Council’s call for a strengthened and balanced EU Forest Strategy was not taken into account by the European Commission when publishing the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 with references to forests and postponing the new EU Forest Strategy to 2021. The Council is currently preparing conclusions on the new EU Forest Strategy and aims at coherence building between the Biodiversity Strategy and the Forest Strategy. According to Mr Schwoerer the Council’s three main focus areas regarding to the Forest Strategy are biodiversity, adaptation and resilience of forests and bioeconomy.   

In her closing remarks, MEP Polfjärd emphasized that, “In times when it is of great importance that we reach our climate goals, we cannot afford not to utilise forests and the climate benefits that sustainable forest management entails, but this has to be combined with work that also aims to maintain forest biodiversity”.

Sven-Erik Hammar, Board Member of CEPF, closed the event by saying, “Sustainable forest management is the ABC of biodiversity conservation. Forest owners are custodians of forests’ future and their focus is to maintain productive, healthy and vital ecosystems in their forests”.

European forest owners and managers are looking forward to further collaboration and synergies with EU policymakers and partners as well as contributing to the next policy developments related to forests and biodiversity.


Conference material:

European Forests: Hotspots of Biodiversity

Panel 1

Panel 2