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BFW supporting a harmonized assessment of forest availability for wood supply in Europe

Sustainable forest planning and managing is relating on robust data on the availability of forests for wood supply. The highlight of a recently published paper is a new reference definition on “forests available for wood supply”. BFW was among other organizations as UNECE or FAO a core partner institution in the process of developing the cooperative assessment.

Today 33 percent of Europe’s total land area is covered by forests. The report “State of European Forests” indicates, that 80 percent of this area are forests available for wood production (166.5 million hectares, without Russian Federation). But this number can vary significantly, depending on the definition used. A harmonized definition was therefore needed for a common understanding to assess wooded areas.

European forest area available for timber production smaller than expected

“This new definition will lead to a smaller forest area available for wood supply”, believes Dr. Klemens Schadauer (BFW), “as national forest inventories will have to adapt to the new definition and adjust their reported areas accordingly”.

Reasons, why forests cannot be harvested to guarantee a sustainable wood supply, can be diverse. It can be that areas are protected as national parks, land is inaccessible in mountainous regions or the profitability of harvesting activities is insufficient due to steep slopes.

Finding a common definition

The Austrian Research Centre for Forests together with the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and international researchers made an important step towards a reference definition for such areas. The topic is highly relevant and of great public interest. It is important to have a clear picture on the forested areas available for global climate change mitigation analysis and carbon accounting.

Data on forest productivity, availability of wood resources, biomass and renewable energy are important to guarantee a sustainable utilization of our forests. It is furthermore key to predict the potential of the resource wood.

The work done proves the leading role of BFW in monitoring processes and international cooperation.

Peter Mayer, director of BFW.

The study was conducted in the course of the OCST Action USEWOOD, in cooperation with the European National Forest Inventories Network (ENFIN).

The new reference definition for forests available for wood supply

Forests where there are no environmental, social or economic restrictions that could have a significant impact on the current or potential supply of wood. These restrictions could be based on legal acts, managerial owners’ decisions or other reasons.

  • Environmental restrictions should consider: protected areas, protected habitats or species, and also those protective forests meeting the above requirements. Age or diameter class restriction should not be taken into account (except in the case of protected ancient forest).
  • Social restrictions include restrictions to protect aesthetic, historical, cultural, spiritual or recreational values as well as areas where the owner has made the decision to cease wood harvesting in order to focus on other goods and services (e.g. leisure, landscape, aesthetic value).
  • The economic restrictions are considered as those affecting the economics value of wood utilisation (profitability). These includes: accessibility, slope and soil condition. Short-term market fluctuations should not be considered.

Further reading

Alberdi, I., Michalak, R. et al. 2016. Towards a harmonized assessment of European forest availability for wood supply in Europe. For. Policy Econ., under review. Paper available here


FOREST EUROPE, 2015: State of Europe’s Forests 2015

Original article: UNECE Website