Offsetting carbon is one of the main objectives of countries that want to meet the goals set by the Paris Agreement. This is one of the reasons why plantation forests are increasing in Europe and worldwide. But as controversy around forests and ecosystem services rises in Europe, policymakers must keep their eyes set on the importance of natural or planted forests, and of Sustainable Forest Management in the global objective of tackling climate change.
According to the paper “Changes in planted forests and future global implications” which analyses data on planted forests over 25 years (from 1990 to 2015) while the percentage of global forests is dropping (from 31.85% to 30.85%), the area of planted forests increased from 4.06% to 6.95% of the total forest area. The paper also reveals that twenty countries accounted for 85% of planted forest area whereas a different 20 countries for 87% of planted forest roundwood supply.
Apart from offsetting carbon there are other reasons for the increase of planted forests around the world. In tune with the SDG 2030, boosting bioeconomy by increasing the demand of biobased products and forest-based products is another strong reason for the increase.
Nevertheless, according to the paper: “To ensure the continued contribution of planted forests, a number of responses will be required to both maintain existing and to develop new forests. Intensification of production in existing forests will lessen the need for greater forest areas and offset any land use conflicts related to food security; climate adaptation strategies will need to be developed as a matter of urgency, and forest health focus must remain a priority for research.”
On the other hand, the paper “The global tree restoration potential, shows how much additional tree cover could exist outside of existing forests and agricultural and urban land, and states that there is potential for 0.9 billion hectares. The paper also states that whilst for the moment land availability is not a problem, even in European countries, the real question is to find the right tree for the right place and the right technique.
In this context, forestry and Sustainable Forest Management are bound to be regarded as instruments to have better and healthier natural and planted forests and so help achieve the SDG 2030 and tackle climate change.
But controversy around forestry is soaring in Europe as there is the perception that forests are a common good, and that companies and private owners are taking advantage and making money out of something that belongs to society. Considering the benefits that society obtains from planted forests as ecosystem services and the costs and investments associated to maintaining forests, natural or planted, sustainable management is a must in any conversation on the matter. Policymakers have a very important role to play as they can base their proposals on scientific data, which is more available every day, exploring new techniques and being creative in their approach to the subject.