Scientists and industry experts from Europe and abroad recently launched a joint effort for the protection of forests. The 100-strong group initiated COST Action E27 targeting a better understanding of national and international distinctions of protected forest areas in Europe, and an explanation behind this diversity. They analysed an entire range of protected forest area categories. The findings showed that a marked separation exists between restrictions related to timber resources and silvicultural management, and those linked to non-timber production and public access. The publication Protected forest areas – analysis and harmonisation (PROFOR): Results, conclusions and recommendations was published last March and is now available.
The COST Action team, hailing from 25 European countries, found that the differences that do exist are in parallel between north and south. The working restrictions in northern Europe influence the harvesting of timber resources, as well as the forest infrastructure; a substantial part of northern Europe is rich in forests, while population density is rather low. On the other hand, the Mediterranean and Atlantic countries, which have high population densities, have low forest cover.
|A substantial part of northern Europe, like Germany (above) is rich in forests.|
The team, which evaluated direct and indirect benefits, found differences between the restrictions and compensations. According to the project partners, the individual stakeholder, including forest owners, hunters, scientists and communities, is the key element. In fact, actual beneficiaries of protected areas are local. It should be noted that it is not the forest owners themselves who actually benefit. Conversely, more people benefit from areas that lack more stringent protection regulations.
The team said that the findings showed significant disparities between two international classification systems assessed: The World Conservation Union 'Protected Area Management Categories' and the 'Assessment Guidelines for Protected and Protective Forest and Other Wooded Land in Europe' of the Ministerial Conference on the Protection in Europe (MCPFE). The partners said confusion does exist, and no standardised and comparable dataset on Protected Forest Areas in Europe is available.
The project partners have suggested a number of ways on how the quality and comparability of the statistics can be enhanced. According to them, the Liaison Unit of MCPFE drafted an Information Note of MCPFE Assessment Guidelines for the use of TBFRA country correspondents for their collection of data for the fifth MCPFE conference scheduled for August in the Polish capital of Warsaw.
A copy of the publication can be obtained from the PROFOR website.