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Evaluation of the Safety State of Principally “Untouched” Forests in Europe

Old Beech Tree

Major forests are essential for biodiversity conservation and retailer excessive portions of carbon in biomass, subsequently serving to to mitigate local weather change. Credit score: Tzvetan Zlatanov

Europe’s main forests: What to guard? What to revive?

Major forests are forests with none indicators of previous human use and the place ecological processes will not be disrupted by human affect. These forests are of excellent ecological worth. They’re an irreplaceable a part of our pure heritage and demanding for conserving forest biodiversity. In Europe, the place millennia of land use have reworked forested landscapes, only a few such main forests stay, and these are largely present in distant and comparatively unproductive areas.

Even when scarce and irreplaceable, many of those forests will not be legally protected and proceed to be logged in Europe. The newly launched ‘EU Biodiversity Technique for 2030’ explicitly acknowledges the intrinsic worth of main and old-growth forests and the necessity to defend them. The query is: Which areas needs to be prioritized?

A global evaluation of main forest standing

A analysis workforce of scientists from 28 establishments led by Dr. Francesco Sabatini (iDiv; MLU) and Prof Tobias Kuemmerle (HU) has now introduced the very first evaluation of the conservation standing of main forests in Europe. With the assistance of a big spatial database on the place the final main forests in Europe are discovered — a database that took over 5 years to create — the workforce was capable of sort out three essential questions: 1) Are the remaining main forests consultant of Europe’s forest sorts? 2) The place are these forests sufficiently protected? And: The place are so few main forests left that forest restoration is required?

Forest Restoration Gaps Map

The map exhibits the distribution of gaps relating to safety, restoration and upgrading of main forests in Europe to fulfil the present safety targets. Credit score: Determine taken from the publication

Conservation challenges and alternatives in Europe

“Whereas many main forests are in reality nicely protected, we additionally discovered many areas the place they aren’t — notably the place main forests are nonetheless frequent,” stated lead creator Sabatini. “And in some circumstances, the extent of safety is insufficient to make sure these forests will likely be conserved in the long run.”

The examine additionally highlights that remaining main forests are erratically distributed throughout Europe. “Some areas, notably in Scandinavia and Finland in addition to Japanese Europe, nonetheless have many main forests. However usually these international locations don’t notice how distinctive their forests are on the European scale and the way necessary it’s to guard them,” defined Prof Tobias Kuemmerle (HU), senior creator of the examine. “On the identical time, we had been shocked to see that there are numerous pure forests in Europe with none stays of main forest in any respect, notably in Western Europe.”

Major forests in Europe are in a deadly state

Total, the examine exhibits Europe’s main forests are in a deadly state and their long-term safety needs to be a high precedence. The place no main forests are left, forest restoration is the one choice. “Restoring forests to resemble and performance like main forests will take a very long time, however it’s engaging as a result of such forests won’t solely profit biodiversity but additionally retailer a whole lot of carbon and, subsequently, assist mitigate local weather change,” stated Kuemmerle. “The excellent news is that there’s a wide selection of alternatives to revive main forests even inside current protected areas, which implies that restoration efforts wouldn’t essentially require lowering the realm of forests used for timber manufacturing.”

Increasing Europe’s protected forest areas by 1% is sufficient

The researchers have calculated that even an growth of the protected areas by solely about 1% would suffice to guard most remaining main forests in Europe. This corresponds to solely two or three thousandths of the full European land space.

“Now’s the time to be formidable. There may be a whole lot of momentum for forest conservation and restoration in Europe,” stated Sabatini, referring to the EU’s lately launched ‘Biodiversity Technique for 2030’. “The brand new technique explicitly acknowledges the irreplaceable worth of main forests. Our examine supplies a basis for placing this technique into apply.”

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

The lead creator acquired funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 analysis and innovation programme below the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant settlement No 658876.

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