Forestry statistics

Data from March 2017. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: March 2018.

This article presents statistics on forestry and logging in the European Union (EU). In 2015, the EU-28 had approximately 182 million hectares of forests and other wooded land, corresponding to an estimated 41 % of its total area. The EU’s forests and other wooded land covered approximately the same proportion of land area as that used for agriculture.

Figure 1: Annual production of roundwood, EU-28, 1995–2015
(thousand m³)
Source: Eurostat (for_remov)
Table 1: Wood production, 2000–2015
(thousand m³)
Source: Eurostat (for_remov) and (for_swpan)
Figure 2: Roundwood production and gross value added of forestry and logging, 2013
Source: Eurostat (for_remov) and (for_eco_cp)
Figure 3: Volume of work per area of forest available for wood supply, 2013
(annual work units per 1 000 hectares)
Source: Eurostat (for_awu) and (for_area), FAO Forest Resources Assessment

Main statistical findings

Primary and secondary wood products

From 1995 to 2007, there was a relatively steady rise in the level of roundwood production in the EU-28, both for coniferous (softwood) and non-coniferous (broadleaved or hardwood) species — see Figure 1. However, the effects of the financial and economic crisis led to the level of coniferous production falling in 2008 and this pattern was confirmed with a further reduction in 2009, when non-coniferous production also fell.

EU-28 roundwood production (for coniferous and non-coniferous species combined) rebounded strongly in 2010 (up 10.1 %) and continued to rise in 2011, but at a much more modest pace (up 1.4 %). This was followed by two years when there was almost no change in the level of output. In 2014 and 2015, there were moderate increases in EU-28 roundwood production of 0.9 % and 2.3 %, such that output stood at 447 million m³ in 2015, some 16 million m³ (or 3.4 %) lower than its pre-crisis high of 2007.

A comparison of production levels in 2015 with those recorded before the crisis shows that roundwood production from coniferous species remained 8.4 % lower than it was in 2007. Having declined by 13.2 % in 2008 and a further 8.2 % in 2009, there was a considerable rebound in the level of roundwood production from coniferous species in 2010 (up 11.0 %). Thereafter, the fluctuations in output were less marked, with production falling by 0.7 % in 2011 and 2.9 % in 2012, before a modest increase of 0.8 % in 2013 and somewhat stronger growth in 2014 (3.5 %) and 2015 (3.1 %).

By contrast, production from non-coniferous species reached a peak in 2008, after which there was a reduction in output of 5.8 % in 2009. However, by 2010 production from non-coniferous species had already surpassed its relative high of 2008, and this pattern of expanding output continued in 2011 and 2012, with annual growth rates of 5.5–8.3 % during the three-year period from 2010 to 2012. Thereafter, there were two consecutive reductions in EU-28 production from non-coniferous species, as output declined by 1.6 % in 2013 and 4.1 % in 2014, with growth returning in 2015 as production expanded by 0.7 %.

Some of the large increases (2000, 2005, 2007 and 2010) in roundwood production are due to forestry and logging having to cope with unplanned numbers of trees that were felled by severe storms. For example, the relative peak in production in 2007 was due, at least in part, to exceptional windthrows by storms in many parts of Europe — notably in Germany and Sweden — after which many more trees had to be removed from forests than planned, while in 2010 at least 50 people died as a result of the storm Xynthia (which affected Portugal, Spain and western France). Indeed, there appeared to have been an increase in the frequency of and the damage caused by storms in recent years, which may, at least in part, be attributed to more extreme weather conditions associated with the effects of climate change; nevertheless production remained relatively stable between 2010 and 2015.

Among the EU Member States, Sweden produced the most roundwood (74.3 million m³) in 2015, followed by Finland, Germany and France (each producing between 51 million and 59 million m³) — see Table 1. Approximately one quarter of roundwood production is used as wood for fuel and three quarters is industrial roundwood that is used either for sawnwood and veneers, or for pulp and paper production.

Some 102.9 million m³ of sawnwood were produced in the EU-28 in 2015, close to two thirds of which came from the five largest producing EU Member States, namely, Germany (20.9 %), Sweden (17.7 %), Finland (10.3 %), Austria (8.6 %) and France (7.3 %).

Forestry and logging — economic indicators and employment

There is a strong link between the volume of roundwood produced and the value added generated by forestry and logging — see Figure 2. In Sweden — the leading roundwood producer in the EU — for each cubic metre of roundwood production in 2013 there was an average of EUR 55.70 of gross value added produced within forestry and logging activities. The next largest producers among the EU Member States recorded similar ratios: Finland (EUR 57.50 of gross value added per m³), Germany (EUR 67.30), France (EUR 61.10) and Poland (EUR 53.80). The highest ratios were recorded in Italy (2012 data), Cyprus, Ireland and the Netherlands, although all of these were relatively small producers of roundwood, with none contributing more than 1.8 % (Italy; 2012 data) of roundwood production in the EU-28.

There is also a link between the labour input (in terms of the number of annual work units) and value added. However, it is worth noting that the number of annual work units per hectare of forest varies significantly between EU Member States, ranging in 2013 from 12.5 annual work units per 1 000 hectares in Romania and 9.6 in the Czech Republic to less than 2.0 annual work units per 1 000 hectares in France and Finland (as well as in Norway) — see Figure 3. This pattern may, at least in part, be explained by the fact that forestry and logging work in mountainous areas generally requires a higher labour input than on large tracts of flat land.

Data sources and availability

Eurostat, the Timber Committee of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the Forestry Section of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) collect and collate statistics on the production and trade of wood through their Joint Forest Sector Questionnaire. Each partner collects data from a different part of the world; Eurostat is responsible for data from the EU Member States and EFTA countries.

Roundwood production is a synonym for removals; it comprises all quantities of wood removed from forests and other wooded land or other felling sites during a given period; it is reported in cubic metres (m³) underbark (in other words, excluding bark). Sawnwood production is wood that has been produced either by sawing lengthways or by a profile-chipping process and that exceeds 6 mm in thickness; it includes, for example, planks, beams, joists, boards, rafters, scantlings, laths, boxboards and lumber in the following forms — unplaned, planed, and end-jointed; it is reported in cubic metres (m³) of solid volume.

Economic and employment data for forestry and logging are collected with a separate questionnaire that was developed in collaboration with Eurostat’s national accountants; these statistics are part of the European forest accounts.

Context

Contrary to what is happening in many other parts of the world, the area covered by forests and other wooded land in the EU-28 is slowly increasing. Over the past 25 years (1990 to 2015) the area of forest cover and other wooded land increased in total by 5.2 %, equivalent to an average increase of 0.2 % per annum. The overall rates of change between 1990 and 2015 varied substantially across the EU Member States, from a reduction of 3.2 % in Denmark and minor contractions in Sweden and Luxembourg, to increases within the range of 11–22 % in Bulgaria, Lithuania, the United Kingdom, Croatia, Hungary and Italy, while Ireland recorded a 55.8 % increase.

Ecologically, the forests of the EU belong to many different biogeographical regions and have adapted to a variety of natural conditions, ranging from bogs to steppes and from lowland to alpine forests. Socioeconomically, they vary from small family holdings to state forests or to large estates owned by companies, many as part of industrial wood supply chains; about 60 % of the EU’s wooded land is privately owned.

Forestry strategy

In March 2010, the European Commission adopted a Green paper on ‘Forest protection and information in the EU: preparing forests for climate change’ (COM(2010) 66 final) as part of a broader discussion about adapting to climate change. The paper aimed to stimulate debate concerning the way climate change modifies the terms of forest management and protection, and how EU policy should develop as a consequence.

In April 2011, a decision was taken to review the EU’s forestry strategy which dated from 1998; an ex-post evaluation of the strategy was conducted in 2012. In September 2013, the European Commission adopted a Communication titled ‘A new EU forest strategy: for forests and the forest-based sector’ (COM(2013) 659 final) designed to guide policy to 2030. The strategy aims to put forests and the forest sector at the heart of the path towards a green economy and to value the benefits that forests can sustainably deliver, while ensuring their protection. The strategy highlights that forests are important for rural development, the forest-based (or wood-based) industries, bioenergy, the protection of biodiversity and the fight against climate change. The guiding principles of the strategy are:

  • sustainable forest management and the multifunctional role of forests, delivering multiple goods and services in a balanced way and ensuring forest protection;
  • resource efficiency, optimising the contribution of forests and the wood-based sector to rural development, economic growth and job creation;
  • global forest responsibility, promoting sustainable production and consumption of forest products.

The strategy also covers an objective for 2020: to ensure and demonstrate that all forests in the EU are managed according to sustainable forest management principles. In line with these principles, the EU adopted a multi-annual implementation plan (SWD(2015) 164 final) with a specific list of actions for the period 2015–2020.

Forestry within rural development

Forestry, along with farming, remains crucial for land use and the management of natural resources in the EU’s rural areas, and as a basis for economic diversification in rural communities. The EU funds many different measures for rural development that directly benefit forest owners. Rural development policy is part of the EU’s common agricultural policy (CAP) which has been the main instrument for implementing forestry measures in recent years.

The CAP was reformed in 2013 and this review had consequences for forestry policy in terms of strengthening the strategic approach to rural development policy. In December 2013, Regulation (EU) No 1305/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council on support for rural development by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development was adopted. Among the six common EU rural development priorities are: fostering knowledge transfer and innovation in forestry; promoting sustainable management of forests; restoring, preserving and enhancing forest ecosystems; and promoting resource efficiency and supporting the shift towards a low carbon and climate-resilient economy in the forestry sector.

Wood-based industries

The EU’s wood-based manufacturing activities form an important part of manufacturing. Their growth can help achieve the goals of the EU’s industrial policy, including the target of raising manufacturing’s contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) in the EU from 15.3% in 2012 to 20 % by 2020, referred to as the ‘reindustrialisation of Europe’. In the past decade, employment in wood-based manufacturing activities has fallen, although in the last two to three years these activities have seen some employment stability and even growth. By contrast, forestry employment has been more stable and has even recorded growth between 2011 and 2015.

Through their supply and value chains, the wood-based industries extend upstream into an increasing EU timber resource and downstream into an array of industrial and consumer applications for their products. Their main raw material, wood, is a natural, renewable, re-usable and recyclable material, thus having enormous potential to contribute positively to the EU’s 2050 goals for a low-carbon economy, such as to provide a high standard of living from lower levels of energy input and resource consumption. However, concerns have been expressed that wood is becoming increasingly sought after and expensive through growing competition, for example, between the use of biomass as a renewable energy source and emerging bio-based products.

See also

Further Eurostat information

Publications

Main tables

Economic accounts for forestry and logging - values at current prices (tag00058)
Roundwood production (tag00072)
Total sawnwood production (tag00073)
Total paper and paperboard production (tag00074)
Forest increment and fellings (tsdnr520)

Database

Removals, production and trade (for_rpt)
Roundwood removals (for_rptr)
Roundwood production and trade (for_rptt)
Production and trade in primary products (for_rptp)
Trade in secondary processed products (for_rpts)
Economics and employment (for_eaf)
Integrated environmental and economic accounting for forests (for_ieeaf)
Employment (for_emp)
Economic accounts for forestry - historical data (until 2005) (for_eafh)
Sustainable forest management (for_sfm)
Assets (for_sfmas)
Environmental aspects (for_sfmen)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

  • Forestry (ESMS metadata file — for_esms)

Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)

Other information

External links