Europe’s Forests Booming, but Fire Remains a Threat

Fires pose a major threat to Europe’s woodlands, but the continent remains the world’s only area where forest ecosystems are undergoing a revival, an international study said early this week.

“Forest fires continue to be a major challenge,” said the study by two UN agencies and an international forest body.

“Hundreds of thousands of hectares of forest are burnt annually,” the study said. However, it noted that despite a rising number of fires, the actual area burnt did not increase from 2000-2005, mainly due to “more effective fire suppression in many countries.”

The report was released during a two-day international conference in Warsaw which was due to highlight the danger by adopting a declaration of solidarity with Greece, where forest fires in August killed 67 people and ravaged 150,000 hectares.
Conference participants hailed the report’s findings that Europe’s total forested area has grown by 13 mln hectares over the past 15 years to reach more than a bln hectares.

Some 80 percent of the total is located in the European part of Russia.

Forestland now covers 44 percent of Europe, and accounts for a quarter of the global total, the report said.

The volume of wood in Europe has reached a record 112 bln cubic meters, and is growing by 350 mln cubic meters a year, the study added.

At the conference, the EU’s agriculture commissioner, Mariann Fischer Boel, said the continent’s lumber industry is currently exploiting 60 percent of available renewable forest resources, and that there was room for development.

The study was prepared by the UN’s Economic Commission for Europe and its Food and Agriculture Organization, as well as the secterariat of the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe.

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