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United Nations express alarm in a new report that states 'a fifth of all trees in the European Forest are either damaged or dead'

29th July 2011

The statement is found inside a new report published this month that is intended as a guide for policy makers in the European forestry sector. It is funded by the UN Economic Commission for Europe and the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation. A more detailed report that will elaborate on the findings contained in this ‘summary’ report is to be made available later in the year.

Called “ The State of Europe’s Forests 2011 Summary for Policy Makers ” the report contains facts and figures relating not just to the health of the forests, but also to its biodiversity, carbon sequestration properties, land mass coverage and various instruments and other guidance for sustainable forest management. Of the decline in health of the forest in Europe the report ominously states:

Crown defoliation is a key factor which indicates the health condition of a tree. The rate of defoliation of most tree species varied moderately during the last decade, and the level is still alarming. Roughly 20 percent of all trees which were assessed in 2009 showed a mean defoliation of 25 percent or more and were thus classified as damaged or dead .

Commenting on the report, John Roche, spokesman for green industry organisation FOPAP, said “ This is a very worrying statistic indeed and is seemingly completely at odds with the information trickling down to the industry from other quarters; that the forest is in good health and a growing asset. The report says that 80% of the European Forest is in Russia, which effectively means that the mass equivalent of all of the other forests in every other European country is either dead or dying .”

Exactly what the effect of this huge mortality rate will have on the print and paper industries is not yet precisely known. However, the report does seem to highlight areas of concern in the European forest that are not being recognised or represented by the various bodies acting on behalf of the sector in the UK.

Roche is also concerned about the carbon sequestration effects of the dying trees: “ Dead and dying trees give off CO2 as they decay, and this could be a problem if the mortality rate of trees in Europe is observed to continue. The European forest is credited as absorbing up to 10% of the continents total CO2 emissions. This could easily become the same paradoxical CO2 reversal as appears to be happening in the rainforests of the world as a direct result of global warming – that is, a vast natural carbon sink that suddenly becomes a huge carbon emitter ”.

The bad news for the European forestry industry doesn’t end there in the report. Other issues discussed in the document include increased acidity and eutrophication of soils, along with rampant insect infestations and diseases that affect as many as 11 million hectares of the forest. With so much deadwood available, questions have been publically raised by FOPAP as to why this wood is not used for a purpose, such as paper and building materials.

We recycle ton upon ton of paper in order to ‘save trees’ and save the planet into the bargain and yet more wood than could ever be used for paper sits dead on the floor of a forest so vast that it covers half of Europe. It is literally crying out to be used. If we do not recognise this and learn how to utilise the huge natural resources we have at our disposal in the European forests, we are at risk of scoring an own goal of truly global proportions, that of allowing carbon-based life to die and go to waste, effusing all of the CO2 is has absorbed out of the air back into the atmosphere. It totally demolishes the notion of recycling to save trees from dying, if they are dead already .

A copy of the report can be obtained from

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(C) 2011