There is a growing demand for forest products and ecosystem services but information on the changes in Europe's forests is currently limited. According to an EEA briefing, high-resolution satellite images will improve knowledge about changes in structure, function and condition of forest ecosystems and the impacts of different forest management practices across Europe.
The EEA briefing ‘Forest dynamics and their ecological consequences’ analyses the current state and changes in Europe's forest area, based on an array of medium-scale land-cover data and statistics. The briefing highlights that information on changes in the health of forest ecosystems is currently limited.
Dedicated use of high-resolution satellite imagery from the EU's Earth Observation Programme, Copernicus, is a key method to overcome the current lack of data, the briefing states. These data can show changes in the forest area and management practices at the European level and provide information, for example, on the density of tree cover and forest type.
The briefing reminds that, while Europe's forest area is currently relatively stable, the forests are subject to many pressures, including pollution, built infrastructure, tourism, human activities and climate change impacts, such as storms and pests. The latest EEA data on forest biodiversity show that only 26 % of forest species and 15 % of the forest habitats were found to be in favourable conservation status.
According to the briefing, the demand for forest products and ecosystem services, including removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it, is projected to increase in the future. At the same time, forest ecosystems are increasingly prone to disturbances, such as storms, fires, droughts, invasive species and outbreaks of insect infestation and disease, all amplifying vulnerability to climate change.
Source: European Environment Agency (EEA)