Assessment of the Protection State of Mostly “Untouched” Forests in Europe

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Primary forests are vital for biodiversity preservation and shop high amounts of carbon in biomass, for that reason assisting to alleviate environment modification. Credit: Tzvetan Zlatanov

Europe’s main forests: What to secure? What to bring back?

Primary forests are forests with no indications of previous human usage and where environmental procedures are not interrupted by human impact. These forests are of exceptional environmental worth. They are an irreplaceable part of our natural heritage and crucial for saving forest biodiversity. In Europe, where centuries of land usage have actually changed forested landscapes, extremely couple of such main forests stay, and these are primarily discovered in remote and fairly ineffective locations.

Even if limited and irreplaceable, a lot of these forests are not lawfully secured and continue to be visited Europe. The recently launched ‘EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030’ clearly acknowledges the intrinsic worth of main and old-growth forests and the requirement to secure them. The concern is: Which locations should be focused on?

An global evaluation of main forest status

A research study group of researchers from 28 organizations led by Dr. Francesco Sabatini (iDiv; MLU) and Prof Tobias Kuemmerle (HU) has actually now provided the extremely first evaluation of the preservation status of main forests in Europe. With the assistance of a big spatial database on where the last main forests in Europe are discovered — a database that took control of 5 years to produce — the group had the ability to deal with 3 sixty-four-thousand-dollar questions: 1) Are the staying main forests agent of Europe’s forest types? 2) Where are these forests adequately secured? And: Where are so couple of main forests left that forest remediation is required?

Forest Restoration Gaps Map

The map reveals the circulation of spaces relating to security, remediation and updating of main forests in Europe to satisfy the present security objectives. Credit: Figure drawn from the publication

Conservation difficulties and chances in Europe

“While many primary forests are in fact well protected, we also found many regions where they are not — particularly where primary forests are still common,” stated lead author Sabatini. “And in some cases, the level of protection is inadequate to ensure these forests will be conserved in the long term.”

The research study likewise highlights that staying main forests are unevenly dispersed throughout Europe. “Some regions, particularly in Scandinavia and Finland as well as Eastern Europe, still have many primary forests. But often those countries do not realize how unique their forests are at the European scale and how important it is to protect them,” described Prof Tobias Kuemmerle (HU), senior author of the research study. “At the same time, we were shocked to see that there are many natural forests in Europe without any remains of primary forest at all, particularly in Western Europe.”

Primary forests in Europe remain in a risky state

Overall, the research study reveals Europe’s main forests remain in a risky state and their long-lasting security need to be a leading concern. Where no main forests are left, forest remediation is the only choice. “Restoring forests to resemble and function like primary forests will take a long time, but it is attractive because such forests will not only benefit biodiversity but also store a lot of carbon and, therefore, help mitigate climate change,” stated Kuemmerle. “The good news is that there is a wide range of opportunities to restore primary forests even within existing protected areas, which means that restoration efforts would not necessarily require reducing the area of forests used for timber production.”

Expanding Europe’s secured forest locations by 1% suffices

The scientists have actually computed that even a growth of the secured locations by just about 1% would be adequate to secure most remaining main forests in Europe. This represents just 2 or 3 thousandths of the overall European acreage.

“Now is the time to be ambitious. There is a lot of momentum for forest conservation and restoration in Europe,” stated Sabatini, describing the EU’s just recently launched ‘Biodiversity Strategy for 2030’. “The new strategy explicitly recognizes the irreplaceable value of primary forests. Our study provides a foundation for putting this strategy into practice.”

Reference: 16 September 2020, Diversity and Distributions.
DOI: 10.1111/ddi.13158

The lead author got financing from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research study and development program under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant contract No 658876.