Multi-functionality and sustainability in the European Union's forests

The role of European forests as a provider of ecosystem services, shelter for biodiversity and an important stock of carbon and material is discussed in the EASAC (European Academies Science Advisory Council) report 32 that was released today 16th of May.

The report project was lead by the Finnish  Academy of Science. The group responsible of writing included experts from various fields, from Finland, professor Jaana Bäck, chairperson of the project, as well as Janne Kotiaho (University of Jyväskylä), Otso Ovaskainen, Olli Tahvonen and Timo Vesala (University of Helsinki).

In European Union, the uses and needs of forest-related services, such as, wood material, energy, carbon binding, maintenance of biodiversity and human well-being are multiple, and often the different purposes lead to disagreement on how to manage the forests. This report gathers the latest scientific knowledge on the management strategies and their effects on for example wood production, climate change and biodiversity  and provides a clearer vision on how to manage the forests so that all its services could be secured. 

The report emphasises the role of forests and their management in protecting biodiversity and the need for more diversified management approaches including other needs than material provision. The report also brings out the role of forest management and forest biomass use as material and energy source in climate change. The forest use does not only affect the carbon stocks and emissions, but also the forest albedo, emissions or binding of other greenhouse gases, as well as cloud formation. As to the forest biomass, the report supports the use of wood products due to their long life and stock of carbon, but suggests careful consideration when increasing the use of forest biomass as an energy source. Also the role of forests in the EU carbon accounting and the possibilities of payments for ecosystem services are discussed.