Forest fires, storms, unsustainable management and mass tourism are major causes of forest fragmentation
The State of Europe's forests 2011 report aims at catalyzing action at ministerial meeting in June where negotiations commence on first legally binding instrument for sustainable management of forests in Europe
Geneva - European forests may be expanding by around 7,000 hectares a year but many are still under threat from 'fragmentation' as a result of felling, fires and conversion to agricultural land, according to experts with the United Nations.
These isolated and fragmented forest systems are not only more vulnerable to climate change, they are less able to support wildlife, stabilize soils and supply sufficient water to the cities, companies and communities that rely on such ecosystem services.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is working with scientists at the European Commission who are drawing up maps pin-pointing where increased tree planting can assist in restoring Europe's green corridors in order to reconnect fragmented forests.
It is hoped to have the maps ready by, or shortly after, a key ministerial meeting taking place in Oslo, Norway, in mid-June, which comes half way through the UN's International Year of Forests.
Some of the challenges facing Europe's forests are highlighted in the Carpathian Mountains. Here, the number of hotels has increased by almost 60 per cent in the last ten years and popular destinations are being affected by mass tourism.
Since the 1990s, the process of re-privatization and the transfer of forest areas to private owners has resulted in the disintegration of forest management and the fragmentation of forest coverage in the Carpathian states, according to UNEP.
Forest fires, especially in the Mediterranean basin and in the Russian Federation, are another challenge. The European Forest Institute estimates that 500,000 hectares are burnt each year in the Mediterranean region as a result of more than 50,000 fires.
Forest abandonment, coupled with climate change, is increasing the risk of forest fires in the basin. The Institute also estimates that without better forest management necessary for combating desertification, 80 million people living in the Mediterranean region may have access to less than 500m3 of water each year by 2025.
For further information, please contact: Isabelle Valentiny, UNEP Information Officer, Tel. + 41 22 917 8404, Mobile + 41 79 251 8236, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org