EU’s New Forest Mapping Plan Becomes Reality

Environment - December 30, 2023

The Initiative Will Mark a Crucial Step Towards Environmental Conservation on the Continent

As part of growing environmental awareness and the urgency to address the challenges related to climate change, the European Union recently launched an ambitious plan to map Europe’s forests. This program represents a significant step towards conserving natural resources and promoting biodiversity, providing a detailed overview of the forests that form a vital part of the European ecosystem. Europe’s forests play a crucial role in mitigating the effects of climate change, absorbing carbon dioxide and acting as green lungs for the continent. However, in recent decades, forests have been subject to various threats, including deforestation, fires and biodiversity loss. The new EU plan aims to fully understand the current situation and take targeted measures to protect and sustainably manage these precious ecosystems.

The European Union’s plan for forest mapping has several key objectives and aims, meanwhile, to create an updated and detailed list of forest structures, identifying the plant species present, their geographical distribution and the overall state of health of forest ecosystems . This data will be key to developing targeted conservation strategies and implementing sustainable forestry practices. Another crucial objective is to evaluate the impact of human activities on forests, including illegal deforestation and unsustainable agricultural practices. Mapping will enable effective monitoring and timely response to such threats, facilitating the enforcement of stronger laws and regulations to protect forests.

Mapping of European forests and woodlands will be carried out using innovative technologies, such as high-resolution satellites, drones and advanced ground sensors. These tools will allow detailed data to be collected efficiently, providing real-time information on the state of forests. The combination of data from different sources will ensure a complete and accurate view of European green areas. The new EU plan for forest mapping offers numerous benefits, both at an environmental and social level, as the conservation of forests itself will contribute to the fight against climate change, preserving biodiversity and ensuring the sustainability of the wildlife for future generations. Furthermore, an accurate categorization of the forest ecosystem will provide a solid basis for the development of more effective policies and the promotion of sustainable and effective agricultural practices.

According to the European Commission, the role of forests in caring for the ecosystem is estimated at 57 billion euros per year while, in terms of fighting harmful emissions, their contribution is equal to 32.8 billion euros. The supply of wood, however, represents an annual turnover of 16 billion euros. The community executive considers that approximately 4.5 million jobs depend on forests. In 2022 forest fires affected almost 900 thousand hectares of forests across Europe, equal to the entire territory of Corsica, with an increase of 150% compared to the average of previous years. The European Commission’s objective is to complement, not replace, national forest conservation plans. As mentioned, monitoring will also take place thanks to satellite observation, and in particular to the Copernicus community system.

Already in Germany, a federal inventory dedicated to the state of forests is carried out regularly and the most recent census began in 2021, the fourth since 1986. In practice, the inventory is carried out by at least 60 teams of men and women, IT experts , with ultrasonic measuring instruments and special devices, called “relascopes”, which are used to measure the height of the trunk. According to the latest census, Germany had 90 billion trees.

The European Union’s forest mapping plan represents a crucial step towards environmental conservation and sustainable management of natural resources. Through the use of advanced technologies, detailed data and an integrated approach, the EU is demonstrating its commitment to protecting green areas and addressing global environmental challenges. Forest mapping not only provides essential information for policy decisions, but also constitutes a fundamental pillar in ensuring a sustainable future for our planet.