Although there is a widespread opinion that defends that intervention in forests and mountains is not compatible with the preservation of biodiversity, the truth is that sustainable forest management (SFM) is essential to maintain and improve the habitats of various species and plants, as well as to fight climate change and address the challenge of depopulated rural areas.
These are some of the conclusions of the experts who participated in the Treeconomics conference, “Wood in a sustainable economy”, organized by ProPopulus and sponsored by ING, which took place in Madrid at the end of last June.
Antolino Gallego, coordinator of the LIFE Wood for Future Project “Recovery of poplars in the Vega de Granada to promote biodiversity and long-term carbon sequestration through structural bioproducts” and professor at the University of Granada, explained that currently, they had identified “70 types of birds in the poplars of the city of Granada, of which 80% nest in the poplars”.
Gallego was blunt in pointing out that “administrations must be convinced that Sustainable Forest Management increases biodiversity and makes it more persistent over time.”
For her part, Inés González Doncel, coordinator of the platform Juntos por los Bosques (Together for the Forests), stressed that “the functions of forest ecosystems are being confused with the services they provide”. She wondered if the benefits generated by forests are quantified and she showed the need to give them value.
Santiago Saura, Councillor of the Delegate Area for Internationalisation and Cooperation of the Madrid City Council highlighted the importance of urban forests for citizens, both from an environmental point of view and from that of recreation and health.
He explained that the Madrid City Council is promoting the Metropolitan Forest project that seeks to generate a forest and ecological ring around the city of Madrid by planting 450,000 trees for which 22 million euros have already been included in the 2022 budget.
Key in the fight against Climate Change
For her part, Ana Belén Noriega, general secretary of PEFC Spain indicated that Sustainable Forestry management “is key in the fight against climate change”.
Noriega explained that wood contributes to mitigating climate change by storing carbon but “due to the effect of substituting other polluting materials for wood as a sustainable alternative ” mitigation increases. Noriega stressed the need to create a Sustainable Forest Management strategy to maintain or increase carbon stocks.
She also highlighted the importance of certification of both forests, where the verification that they are appropriately managed and in accordance with demanding environmental, social and economic requirements is achieved, as well as certification of the chain of custody, which guarantees the traceability of products derived from wood and its origin.
“Traceability and responsible consumption help, they are crucial, to maintain forests and foster a sustainable economy,” she concluded.
Francesc Cano, Deputy Director of Transfer, Forestry Science and Technology Centre of Catalonia, for his part, indicated that currently only 19 million cubic meters are extracted from the forests while the forests grow by 46 million cubic meters. “We are accumulating more than 25 million cubic meters,” he said.
This has a negative effect insofar as “we have more and more hydric stress, not only due to the increase in temperatures but also because there is too much forest in the headwaters of the basins.” Improving this situation requires a forest management strategy that allows the relief of forest masses to optimize their conditions.
Rural populations are essential to maintaining forests
Marta Corella, mayor of Orea, vindicated the role of rural populations as custodians of the forests and their resources and pointed out that they are in danger of extinction. She said that without towns, “there will be no paradises and no future. Nature doesn’t need us at all, and it will go on with or without us.”
She pointed out that for there to be an “ecological, fair and sustainable transition”, it is essential to recognize this reality, manage forest areas with the collaboration of the population, compensate rural work and modify the legislation adapting it to real needs.