Data revealed that the average patch size of forests affected by wood harvesting increased by 34% across Europe in recent years.
Human well-being is absolutely connected to the forests that provide a series of services to the society, from the production of raw materials and regulation of water flows to the protection of soils and conservation of biodiversity.
According to the FRA2020 report, today there are 4.06 billion hectares of forest. In the Europe, forests account for approximately 38% of the total land surface, out of which more than 95% are harvested regularly.
Actually, emerging economic activities that use renewable biological resources to produce food, materials and energy are imposing more challenge on balancing between wood demand and the need to protect forests. Preserving forests is considered by scientifics as an effective and crucial solution to mitigate the global warming. Carbon sequestration by forests is the key asset. The rate of forest harvest is, therefore, a key parameter in forest management as it largely controls the forest carbon budget.
The amount of carbon sequestered by forest carbon sinks in the EU has remained stable over the last 25 years and currently offsets about 10% of total EU greenhouse gas emissions. Most of this sink occurs in the living biomass, directly reflecting the difference between forest growth and forest harvest, mortality and natural disturbances.
The latest figures revealed that the Europe has lost a huge expanse of forest by harvesting in recent years. The average patch size of harvested area increased by 34% across Europe, with potential effects on biodiversity, soil erosion and water regulation.
The increase in the rate of forest harvest is the result of the recent expansion of wood markets. The loss of biomass increased by 69% from 2016 to 2018, compared with the period from 2011 to 2015 and the area of forest harvested increased by 49% from the same periods.
This indicates that much more harvesting has occurred in a short period. The losses occurred the most on the Iberian Peninsula and in the Nordic and Baltic countries. The research statistics excluded the areas affected by forest fires ( which represent a great part ), whereas areas affected by major windstorms were retained.
In Finland, a total of 78.2 million cubic meters of roundwood was harvested from Finnish forests in 2018, 8% more than in the previous year and, compared with the average of the preceding ten-year period, amounted to an increase of nearly 25%. The Sweden is showing also worrying figures ; 13% between 2018 and 2019, and 17% compared with the average of the period 2011-2015.