Key questions: introduction

The differing perceptions people have about forests demonstrate some of the many products and services that the EU’s forests provide to society, benefiting citizens
in numerous different ways. The expectations for forests are high, and they are subject to many and varied demands. Not all of these demands are necessarily compatible, resulting in societal and policy debates on the role of forests and their multiple products and services. Often such debates focus on the question if and
for which primary objectives forests in the EU should be managed, and how. 


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Sound decision making needs, amongst other things, a holistic understanding of the different interests regarding forests that are represented by multiple directly or indirectly involved stakeholders, and of the complexity, diversity and longtime horizons of ecological processes and management decisions in forests. Different groups of actors tend to have a good understanding of the forest aspects they value the most or they are familiar with. But often information on other aspects and interrelations between them are rather poorly understood or downplayed. This limits proper assessment of the implications of decisions in policy and forest management. Together with myths, misunderstandings, and distrust between actor groups, these gaps impede dialogue and rational policy development.

A solid and holistic understanding of the different roles forests play is necessary to be able to design policies that help to maximize synergies and minimize trade-offs
between the different forest uses. This publication compiles key research findings in the form of 12 questions on forests in the EU and the benefits they provide to society. It aims to inform a wider range of people who are not forest experts, but who are interested in information on some of the many contributions forests make to achieving EU policy goals. Harnessing its ongoing monitoring of recent EU policy processes, EFI selected the following areas in particular: bioeconomy, civil protection, climate change mitigation and adaptation, forestry, impact on global forests, nature conservation, public health and regional development.

The geographic scope is the 27 EU member states, although in specific cases it is indicated if EU 28 or European data are used. This report takes stock of several data sources informing on different aspects related to forests and their use. However, many datasets are incomplete or outdated or lack harmonisation. Therefore, it was not possible to provide data for the same reference time for all topics discussed in the questions. Harmonised and up-to date information would support communication and awareness raising on the complexity of forestry issues.


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Alberdi et al., 2016: Towards harmonized assessment of European forest availability for wood supply in Europe. Forest Policy and Economics 70 (2016) 20–29.

Annual European Union greenhouse gas inventory 1990–2018 and inventory report 2020. Submission to the UNFCCC Secretariat, 27 May 2020.

European Commission, 2020: SWD(2020) 176 final, 17.9.2020. Staff working document, Part 2/2. Impact Assessment accompanying the document Stepping up Europe’s 2030 climate ambition Investing in a climate-neutral future for the benefit of our people. Page 94.

European Environment Agency, 2021: Personal information from A. Bastrup-Birk in January 2021 based on an actual analysis of area data in the Natura 2000 database.

European Environment Agency: Retrieved 20201123.

Forest Europe, 2020: State of Europe’s Forests 2020. Missing country data were filled with information from Forest Europe, 2015: State of Europe’s Forests 2015, and from FAO Forest Resource Assessment 2020.

Lovrić, M. et al, 2020: Non-wood forest products in Europe – A quantitative overview. Forest Policy and Economics 116 (2020).

Ronzon, T., 2020: Developments of Economic Growth and Employment in Bioeconomy Sectors across the EU. Sustainability 2020, 12, 4507; doi:10.3390/su12114507