By Pedro Garnica, Chairman of ProPopulus
Sustainability is becoming a growing claim from society. Several studies show that in the future the demand for sustainable products based on renewable sources, such as timber, will increase. Poplar is one of the most efficient trees in terms of sustainability, but also an economically sound investment due to its short growing cycle. Paradoxically, poplar plantations in Europe are decreasing alarmingly due to the lack of a coherent and unified regulation common to all EU countries and to the many restrictions imposed on this activity. In Italy, for example, populiculture is regarded as agriculture whereas in France is considered forestry.
These inconsistencies bring about many difficulties on growers, producers and all the poplar value chain. As consequence, if the European Union does not act quickly towards the development of a clear legislation, common to all country members, in not so many years it will be forced to increase its wood imports and might see many rural and industrial players disappear. As of today, there are important areas of land available that could become productive in less than two decades by implementing adapted populiculture. A clear forestry legislation would help country members to get rid of national, regional or local restrictions that currently only restrain the poplar sector’s development that we seek.
Poplar is an exceptional tree that offers essential features that make it a strategic raw material, renewable and sustainable: It is fast growing; every 15 years we can obtain a harvest, making it the fastest growing species in Europe. Also, poplar plantations serve as green filters as they annually capture 11 tonnes of CO2 per hectare and help absorb significant percentages of the nitrates and phosphates present in the soil.
In order to help building new green economy, there is an urgent need to act at a European level in two directions: normative, to standardize regulation among EU country members; and information, to rise awareness about the benefits of poplar and poplar plantations.
In this sense, our recommendations are:
- Recognizing the environmental benefits of poplar.
- Supporting the development of fast-growing species.
- Reflecting coherence and transparency in the texts, since forestry standards are very different within the EU.
- Setting an example in public contracts at the level of the EU and the Member States.
- Showing consistent information, which requires reliable and long-lasting statistics.
- Develop R & D at all levels.
- Publicize populiculture and increase political awareness.
- Speak with one voice.
- Raise awareness of the need for forest plantations.
- Consider poplar as a European tree.
- Create a stable network among European actors.