EU Science Hub

EU forests contain 10 bn tns of carbon, equivalent to 9 years of CO2 emissions

Jan 31 2013

According to the results of the new JRC report "A European map of living forest biomass and carbon stock" , the total carbon stock in European forests amounts to approximately 9 900 million tonnes, which is equivalent to the total amount of CO2 emitted by the whole EU in approximately 9 years.

Forests provide a diversity of benefits and services to European citizens, including their role as carbon sinks. Forest biomass is composed of the living or dead organic matter in the trees, and around 50 % of this biomass is constituted by carbon. The carbon stocks in forests increase every year in Europe. For EU countries it amounts to about 430 million tonnes of CO2 per year for the period 2005-2010. This is equivalent to around 10% of total greenhouse gas emissions during this period. In addition to the absorption of CO2, forests play an important role in providing biomass for energy production, accounting for more than 50% of the EU's renewable energy production.  

This study is the first harmonised and comparable dataset for the whole EU represented in spatially-explicit European-wide maps of forest biomass and carbon. These are essential variables to assess biomass availability at the EU level, evaluate its sustainable production and quantify the terrestrial carbon storage and carbon sinks. Furthermore, this information serves to estimate potential emissions from deforestation, fragmentation and forest degradation. This makes this study a valuable input to assess, design and implement effective sustainable forest management options and forest related policies at EU level. This report will be followed by an extended report including methodological details of the approach implemented.

The maps follow the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) standards and represent the biomass and carbon at continental level. The results are in line with the amounts of biomass and carbon reported in the FAO’s Global Forest Resource Assessment (FRA) and State of Europe’s Forest report from the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forest in Europe (MCPFE).

Enhancing forest biodiversity is one of the main objectives of the European Union Forest Strategy. In this context, the focus of the JRC is to analyse the role that forests play in providing economic (e.g. timber, biomass for renewable energy, etc.) and ecological services (biodiversity and soil protection, water supply, etc.) to enable the transition to eco-industry and bio-economy. The JRC is particularly involved in assessing, modelling, mapping and valuing goods and services from forest ecosystems under natural and anthropic threats and from multiple policy perspectives.