10.09.2010 / News - EU Level

The International Year of Forests 2011

Protecting forests means protecting biodiversity.

biosphere reserve schorfheide chorin, germany

Even though the European Union made strong efforts in the recent centuries to halt the loss of biodiversity new strategies had to be developed. The Europe 2020 strategy summarized an urgent need to reverse continuing trends of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation.
One of the apparent problems of biodiversity loss at world`s level is the ongoing deforestation. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation (FAO) recently estimated that about 13 Million hectares of the world`s forest are lost due to deforestation each year. Not only deforestation but also degradation of forests by e.g. overgrazing or unsustainable land management causes the loss of biodiversity. The degradation lowers the resilience of forest ecosystems and makes it more difficult for them to cope with changing environmental conditions. We should keep in mind that forests are one of the most biologically rich terrestrial systems which provide us with numerous ecosystem goods and services such as the mitigation of climate change. 
Within Europe the situation is still degrading though the pace of degradation has slowed: on the up-side, forest are and standing volumes are increasing, protected areas are regularly increasing, certification that includes biodiversity criteria is on the rise and sustainable forest management is widely recognizes and implemented. On the down-side, the conservation of threatened forest species has not been as successful as planned, there are increasing pressures from invasive alien species, climate change is putting a lot of strain on all forest ecosystems and the connectivity between forest areas is still to be developed.
How to cope with the ecologically valuable forests in the future in order to protect biodiversity?
The 2006 EU Biodiversity Action Plan was a landmark, though it did not achieve its results of halting the biodiversity loss in Europe before 2010. Its priorities were to ensure the functionality, health and resilience of ecosystems, recognize the services they provide and set ambitious, clear and measurable targets. During the International Year of Forests, the European Union will renew its strategy for halting biodiversity loss by 2020, with a great emphasis on networking protected areas, climate change management, building up ecosystems resilience, and integrating biodiversity aspects in transversal policies.
One possibility for the European Union to meet the objective is the conservation through the Natura 2000 network, where 30% are exclusively forested areas, and over half of all proposed sites include forest areas. The purpose is to protect forests from unsustainable use, but not to ignore their economic and social relevance. A balance between potential local development and the necessity to protect biodiversity needs to be found for each individual site. But the awareness of the importance of forest conservation goes beyond European borders.
The UN defines the year 2011 to be the International Year of Forests. The Member States reaffirmed their commitment to the non-legally binding authoritative statement of principles for a global consensus on the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests and recalling the convention on biological diversity and the United Nations framework convention on climate change. They are convinced that concerted efforts should focus on raising awareness at all levels to strengthen the sustainable management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests for the benefit of current and future generations. The International Year of Forests 2011 offers a unique opportunity to raise public awareness on the challenges facing many of the world`s forests and the people who depend on them. Great success stories and valuable lessons on how to promote sustainable forest management already exist. The Year provides a mean to bring these voices together and build momentum toward greater public participation in forest activities around the world. To help facilitate achievement of the objectives of the Year, the UNFF Secretariat is undertaking a lot of communication activities. These are for example the development of a logo, a website or the stamp series. Beside numerous of topic related publications that are planned to be published and lots of meetings that will be held, forest spokespersons or messengers will be identified who will discuss and present the topic in public.
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