Target 3 of the EU Biodiversity Strategy states that
By 2020, Forest Management Plans or equivalent instruments, in line with Sustainable Forest Management (SFM), are in place for all forests that are publicly owned and for forest holdings above a certain size that receive funding under the EU Rural Development Policy so as to bring about a measurable improvement in the conservation status of species and habitats that depend on or are affected by forestry and in the provision of related ecosystem services as compared to the EU 2010 Baseline.
Summary of EU progress on reaching Target 3 on forests:
Across the EU, even in legally designated Natura 2000 areas, unsustainable forestry management prevails over biodiversity friendly solutions. The fundamental cause for this lies in the continuing predominance of wood production as the main management objective, while other key forest functions are not sufficiently valued. Forests undisturbed by humans are estimated to amount to a mere 4% of forest areas in Europe.
The EU should develop guidelines on criteria and indicators of Sustainable Forest Management as an instrument for an improved and harmonised interpretation and application of this concept through national legislation and sectoral programmes.
Positive developments towards Target 3:
- Data on status of EU forest habitats has improved thanks to the Habitats Directives reporting, however basic forest data is still lacking for most Member States and data harmonisation at EU level is very partial.
- The on-going development of the EU 2020 Forest Strategy is a step in the right direction, but worries exist over its final quality, in particular as regards the balance between biodiversity and climate adaptation concerns versus timber and biomass production.
- An EU proposal is being developed on mandatory accounting rules and action plans on greenhouse gas emissions and removals resulting from activities related to land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) in the EU.
Delays and missed opportunities towards Target 3:
- Clear and detailed guidelines, criteria and indicators for Sustainable Forest Management are lacking, which hampers the proper implementation through national legislation and sectoral programmes.
- In most EU Member States sufficient progress has not been made in developing conservation objectives and management plans for forest Natura 2000 sites.
- The crucial role of forests undisturbed by humans (wilderness areas) in halting the loss of biodiversity by 2020, is not considered enough; the remaining dispersal of these forests is very limited across the EU.
Counterproductive developments towards Target 3:
- In many European countries state forests have been increasingly privatised or public forest management bodies forced to become more commercial, with a consequent shift of focus from a broader multifunctional approach to a narrower focus on timber extraction. Exploitation of high biodiversity forest
- The EU Renewable Energy Directive and other policies have been pushing a rapid expansion in the use of wood for energy without sustainability criteria.
Milestones – what needs to be achieved by 2014:
- The EU 2020 Forest Strategy and Action Plan truly balance economic and social functions with biodiversity and other ecosystem functions and provide incentives for maintaining forest ecosystem services.
- EU Member States are aiming to expand old growth (>120 years old) forests (both distribution and cover area); EU Member States commit to increase the share of strictly protected forest to 10% by 2020. Exploitation of high biodiversity forest
- EU Member States developed ‘real’ management plans for forest Natura 2000 Areas in which productive interests are secondary to the conservation objectives of the site. EU funding is granted only to forests that have a Forest Management Plan (or equivalent) which includes biodiversity measures. Exploitation of high biodiversity forest
- The EU is developing a reliable long term forest information system.
- The EU championed a binding pan- European forest framework, based on the need for multi-functionality and long-term sustainability of forests.
- The EU ensured that its Renewable Energy Policy (including bioenergy) does not pose new threats to forests inside and outside the EU. More on the global dimension and the EU Biodiversity Strategy
- The EU improved its biomass sustainability criteria and adopted new legally binding sustainability criteria for woody biomass that ensure biodiversity protection and efficiency of consumption.