Biodiversity versus Energy Wood from European Forests? UNECE/FAO outlook study identifies possible scenarios for the future of European forests

A new study of the FAO and ENECE looks at the future of the European forest sector. Based on different scenarios, the study shows how the European forests can develop and gives policy contributions based on these findings. It concluded that if wood is to play its part in reaching renewable energy targets, supply would have to increase by nearly 50% in the next twenty years. However, if biodiversity is to be the key priority for policymakers the supply of wood from European forest in 2030 would be around 12% less than present. To deal with these challenges, the study advises the companies and other stakeholders to adopt new innovations such in the form of new production methods for wood based products but also innovative financing schemes such as Payments for Ecosystems (PES).

22/09/2011 - The study notes that the forest area that is protected for biodiversity purposed has raised by about 0.5 ha/y over the last ten years. However, it also notes that the amount of dead wood that is removed from commercial forests does not benefit biodiversity. A positive sign is that because of the increased attention for biodiversity, biodiversity and ecosystem services have become a standard part of national forest management programmes. The new challenge is now not to approach biodiversity only from a stand point of view, but also from a broader, landscape point of view.

In addition to biodiversity, the study also covers the role of forests in the supply of woody biomass for energy generation. The EU aims to generate 20% of all energy in 2020 from renewable sources. Woody biomass currently accounts for about half of the biomass in those plans. The authors remark that there are still areas of uncertainty when it comes to the flows of energy wood and when the sector is confronted with a sudden rise in demand for woody products.

The study concludes that the sector, in order to respond to the challenge of combining biodiversity protection and the delivery of ecosystem services with energy production and other goals, innovation is a key solution. The biggest task for the corporate sector is to innovate. This innovation should take place in several areas. Companies can develop for example new production methods that use less energy or take up less space. In the domain of bio-refineries in which specialty and commodity chemicals are derived from wood, the authors also see a large potential. Finally, the authors point at new possibilities for forest companies to market their forest, wood and non-wood goods (such as ecosystem services) in the form of Payments for Ecosystem Services. 

You can find the study here.
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