Definition of old growth / primary forest produced 

Forest
Sometimes hard to define. Even harder to protect.

A draft definition structure has now been produced to support objectives in the EU Biodiversity Strategy for protection and restoration of natural forest.

Applicable throughout Europe, this was initiated at the 2017 Brussels conference involving input from conservation and forestry interests among others.

It covers an overview of primary forest together with its constituent elements of old growth and virgin forest – the latter a narrower interpretation used mainly in Romania. 

Your feedback is welcome please:

  • Do you have any comments on the definition?
  • How readily could it be applied in your country?
Read More …

Concern expressed over EC consultation on climate change target

Areal view of Romanian logged landscape
Romania’s new landscape. What message does EU wood bioenergy policy send to Bolsonaro about the Amazon rainforest?
(Andrei Ciurcanu, Agent Green)

A collective representation organized by Wild Europe in partnership with Birdlife International, expresses widely held concerns that the current EC consultation on the 2030 climate targets is misleading, and could end up undermining the mitigation of climate change.

It has been signed by 49 organisations across Europe in little over 48 hours.

The EC consultation questionnaire, which aims to collate opinion for developing energy and climate policies, effectively encourages agreement to more ambitious targets for greenhouse gas reduction in 2030 with greater use of renewable energy to achieve these. 

Read More …

EU Biodiversity Strategy: a major step forward

Three speakers at the BioStrategy launch
Frans Timmermans launches the BioStrategy with Commisioners Kyriakides (Health, Food Safety) & Sinkevičius (Environment)

The EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy published on 20th May retains the visionary key targets in its earlier version. 

Proper implementation of the Strategy will require adequate funding and enforcement on the ground. Nonetheless the Commission is to be congratulated for sticking to its guns, so far, in advocating necessarily ambitious objectives for protection and restoration.

This represents good news for large natural ecosystem areas (“wilderness”) and natural forests – responding positively to major requests in Wild Europe’s most recent representation to Frans Timmermans and the Commissioners for Environment, Agriculture & Rural Development and Energy.

Read More …

European Investment Bank – a major player for wilderness?

European Investment Bank sign
European Wilderness Bank?

Our response to the consultation on EIB’s road to becoming a “Climate Bank” stresses its great potential opportunity to underpin major natural ecosystem conservation.

True protection principles must be safeguarded, given greater need to rely on private sector participation as COVID undermines official funding sources. There will also be a need for a more ‘balanced portfolio approach’ to include softer loans and grants. And projects funded must genuinely support the Paris Agreement in addressing climate change, with no more scope for image-tarnishing subsidised wood burning bioenergy.

However, if these issues are addressed, EIB could have a highly important potential role to play in achieving ambitious targets old growth forest protection, and restoration of large no-extraction natural ecosystem areas (AKA wilderness).

Read More …

New Slovakian government unveils potent support for wilderness

The Slovakian government, newly elected on 29th February,  has announced strong protection for wilderness, forests and conservation generally.

Gerlachovsky stit in the High Tatras – Slovakia’s precious heritage deserves the respect of conservation

The programme presented by Prime Minister Igor Matovic introduces three measures of particular importance:

  1. In national parks at least 50% of land will be left unmanaged, promoting fullest re-establishment of natural ecosystem processes and resilience through a land use zonation system.
  2. Administration of protected areas will be unified under the Ministry of Environment, a move long requested by the conservation movement
  3. Increased public scrutiny of forest operations will be encouraged. A mobile phone app will be available for mass use to monitor logging and timber transport, and full forest management programmes with logging data are to be publicly available.
Read More …

New legal structure for long-term protection

The transformative effect of a 150 year protection lease? 

A mechanism is being developed to offer private owners the opportunity to protect wild or wilderness areas on their land effectively ‘in perpetuity’.

The initiative has been created by a partnership between Wild Europe and the Lifescape Project conservation charity in tandem with international law firm Clifford Chance LLP.

Known as “The Legal Mechanism”, this involves legal owners granting a guardian charity the right to enforce ecological protections over the land for 150 years or more, whilst retaining effective ownership of the land for themselves and their descendants, using a leasehold structure. The leases would contain covenants stipulating land use that gives full protection to ecosystems with their wildlife.

Based on well-established procedure in the ‘built’ property sector, the concept is now proven for legislatures in England, Wales and Scotland; a technical brochure has been produced and initial consultations are taking place with landowners. 

Read More …

Wild Europe input to Consultation on EU Climate Target

Wild Europe’s feedback on 15th April welcomed the more ambitious target of a 50%+ drop in the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. 

However it warned that, if subsidies for wood biomass continue, this target would be at risk – as would the EU’s continuing credibility as a respected proponent of best environmental practice.

Payment of these subsidies is a burden on productive business and personal livelihoods. As economies slowly rebuild post COVID-19, proponents of wood bioenergy subsidy will not be lightly forgiven for supporting the wastage of scarce capital on an expensive myth of renewable energy that actually worsens the climate change it claims to mitigate.

Read More …

TEG report calls for sharp curb to wood biomass burning

An independent EU Technical Expert Group (TEG) report just published recommends that only residues, thinnings and stumps should qualify as wood bioenergy fuel, along with separate “advanced bioenergy” feedstocks under the new Sustainable Finance Taxonomy (see technical annex for feedstocks). 

This in turn will determine eligibility for “green investment” status, counting towards renewable energy targets and involving literally hundreds of billions of Euros.

The recommendation is in sharp contrast to the broad leeway given for “whole tree” wood use by the EU’s Renewable Directive II. 

Read More …

Wild Europe proposes new approaches in the wood bioenergy campaign

The cost of wood burning for bioenergy continues to climb steeply.

A succession of scientific reviews has clearly demonstrated that a practice which now utilises nearly 50% of European timber output is not carbon neutral. It worsens climate change while destroying forest biodiversity, is notoriously energy-inefficient and wastes literally billions of euro annually in subsidies.

Based on EUROSTAT solid fuel burning in the EU has increased by 260% since 1990 (Mary Booth’s presentation in Bratislava, November 2019)

In Sound Science for Forests and Bioenergy, a newly released consultation document following its recent conference in Bratislava, Wild Europe proposes new approaches and alliances for tackling this situation. It calls in particular for wider engagement between conservationists, consumer groups, taxpayer associations and investment advisors.

“These other interests may not share the same environmental objectives” said Toby Aykroyd, Wild Europe coordinator “but they have a duty of care to clients and members to ensure that their money is not misspent. By making common cause, we can greatly strengthen our impact on policy makers and corporate shareholders who are slow to heed scientific conclusions in the face of heavy lobbying by bioenergy producers and parts of the forestry sector.”

Read More …

Wood bioenergy “undermines every aspect” of EU Green Deal

Logging of 180 yr old beech forest inside Bükk National Park, Hungary (WWF Hungary)

Wild Europe’s draft consultation report, Sound Science for Forests and Bioenergy, examines the impact of wood burning for bioenergy the eight key elements in the European Commission’s draft Green Deal, published on 11th December 2019.

All elements are significantly undermined, as outlined below.

Read More …

Wild Europe online submission to EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy

Our input to the consultation exercise stressed the key importance of large natural ecosystem areas to the Strategy for adoption at the October 2020 UN Kunming conference.

This provided a brief summary, with input to follow in a Message from Bratislava containing recommendations from our conference in Slovakia on 20/21 November, and from partners in the Wild Europe network.

For climate change and biodiversity loss to be effectively tackled, and the failures of the 2010 Strategy not to be repeated, a quantum change in the capacity of the conservation sector, NGOs and EC alike, will be essential.

Read More …

Brexit – still time to influence UK environmental policy

Our suited Briton has finally sawn off his branch

The Shakespearean theatre of Brexit completed its final act on 31st January 2020.  Accomplishment of a damaging misrepresentation or a visionary “taking back of control”, according to your viewpoint. We now need to move on.

Wild Europe marked the occasion by funding the latest stage of a wild nature mapping and strategy programme by our partners in France.

There is scope for us all to influence the consequences for environmental policy, from within the UK and – for a short while – also through pan European representation to EC negotiators

Read More …

Final stage for mapping wild France

Wild Europe signed an agreement on 31st January to fund the third and final stage of this initiative title “CARTNAT” to identify and map actual and potential wild and wilderness areas. 

France: Mapping for a vision of true nature

The exercise is undertaken by IGN (Institut National de l’Information Géographique et Forestiere), Nantes University and the Wildland Research Institute at Leeds University

Phase 1 ending in October 2018 developed methodology appropriate to project objectives and geographic criteria.

Phase 2 ending in October 2019 mapped ten test sites, of which seven contain significant wild or even prospective wilderness areas. The remainder provided a context of different land uses.

Phase 3, now starting, will extend the exercise to remaining areas across FranceAlong with its partners IUCN France and WWF France, Wild Europe has provided funding for all three stages.

Read More …

Give your views on wood bioenergy for an IUCN motion

Use of wood as bioenergy worsens climate change, is an expensive and inefficient form of energy generation and causes huge damage to forests across Europe and in the USA (see below).

Fighting for forests? IUCN Marseilles 2020

If you represent an IUCN member organisation or are a member of WCPA or any IUCN commission, you can comment on submitted motions for the IUCN 2020 Marseilles conference. 

Motion # 038 ‘Promoting biodiversity preservation through energy transformation measures’

Representations could include (a) end subsidies for burning wood for bioenergy (b) burning wood is not carbon zero (c) safeguards are needed to protect forest biodiversity. If you have a chance to comment the document, please do so before 26 February (and encourage other allies eg. European Paper Network network to do so too).

ACTION: Log into the conference website using this procedure

Need more information on wood fuel bioenergy?

Read More …

Forestry leaders confirm their support for old growth forest

Europe’s largest forestry associations support old growth forest Attribution: European Union

Clear support for the concept and value of old growth forest was expressed by leaders of the European forestry sector at the seminal EU International Conference on Forests for Biodiversity and Climate Change in Brussels.

Hubert de Schorlemer President of the Confederation of European Forest Owners (CEPF) – in grey suit – confirmed “If the small forests we still have which are really really old, we don’t afford to cut them down, no that’s clear“

Reinhardt Nerf, President of the European State Forest Association (EUSTAFOR) – in green jacket – stated “We see the very old forest as a focus of biodiversity and we take it out of timber usage” 

Read More …

Snapshots of the conference on wilderness and old-growth/primary forests in Bratislava

With the permission of attendees, this post includes a few images of the Conference on Wilderness and Old-Growth/Primary Forest in Bratislava on 20-21 November 2019.

Presentations of the conference on wilderness and old-growth forest, Day 2

Session 1. Model initiatives for the wild

Session Chair: Eladio Fernandez Galliano, Former Head of Biodiversity and Heritage, Council of Europe

Session 2. Launch of the European Wilderness Forum

Session Chair: Gernant Magnin, Wild Europe Executive Committee

Session 3. Natural habitats, ecosystem services and climate change: the need for sound science

Session Chair: Martin Mikolas, Forestry Faculty, Czech University of Life Sciences

  • Ecosystem services and climate change – why sound science must guide the New Green Deal and beyond Michael Norton, Director of the Environment Programme, European Academies of Science Advisory Council (EASAC)
  • Linking incentives to science: action for bioenergy in Europe – EU level and country model replication, Mary S Booth, Director, Partnership for Policy Integrity (PFPI) USA
Session 4. Promoting best practice in the wild

Session Chair: Bill Murphy, former Head of Environment and Recreation, Coillte Irish Forestry Agency

Session 5. A framework for large-scale restoration in Europe

Session Chair: Theresa Frei, European Forest Institute

Session 6. New legal, enterprise and funding frameworks

Session Chair: Viktoria Hasler, Federal Ministry for Sustainability and Tourism, Austria

Session 7. EU Parliamentary Resolutions: to date and looking ahead

Session Chair: Zoltan Kun, Head of Conservation, Wild Europe

Session 8. European policy & practice – the wider impact

Session Chair: Andreas Beckmann, Chief Executive, WWF Central & East Europe

  • The New Green Deal and the global impact of Europe, Katja Garson, FERN (video conference)
  • European linkage with key international instruments, (UN Decade for Restoration, CBD) – the Carpathian Convention and UNEP, Harald Egerer, Head of the UN Environment Programme Vienna Office Head of the Carpathian Convention
  • Updating key instruments: Stage II of Management Guidelines for N2000 wilderness, and the Wilderness Register, Steve Carver, Director Wildland Research Institute (Leeds University), Co-Chair IUCN Rewilding Task Force
Closing session: Implementing and communicating the Action Plan for wilderness and old growth/ primary forest in Europe

Session Chair: Ladislav Miko, Head of EU Representation in Slovakia, Chairman, Wild Europe

A landmark for conservation

As Slovakia’s President opens the conference, EC Director General calls for stringent new protection – and restoration across Europe

President Caputova opens the conference (Photo: Stefan Voicu)

Participants were honoured by a warm welcome from Her Excellency President Zuzana Caputova of Slovakia, who provided patronage for Wild Europe’s wilderness and old growth forest conference on 20th and 21st November.

Herself a winner of the coveted Goldman Prize for environmental achievement, President Caputova has an understanding of conservation issues rare among national leaders.

Read More …

Presentations of the conference on wilderness and old-growth forest, Day 1

Following upon the successful event in Bratislava, the presentations of the conference on wilderness and old-growth / primary forests are available now through our website.

Opening session
  • Introduction and objectives Ladislav Miko, Head of EU Representation in Slovakia Chairman, Wild Europe
  • The President of the Slovak Republic Her Excellency Zuzana Caputova
  • New Green Deal for ecosystems in an era of climate change Daniel Calleja, Director General DG Environment, EC (video) with introduction by EC personnel
  • Sustainable conservation for Europe’s natural heritage Isabelle Anatole-Gabriel, Head of Europe and North America Department, UNESCO World Heritage (video)
Session 1. Overview: challenges and achievements for Europe in an era of climate change

Session Chair: Harald Egerer, Head of the UN Environment Programme Vienna Office Head of the Carpathian Convention

Session 2. Model initiatives in Slovakia, for wider replication

Session Chair: Ladislav Miko, Head of EU Representation in Slovakia, Chairman, Wild Europe

Session 3. Progress with the old growth/primary forest protection strategy in Europe

Session Chair: Zoltan Kun, Head of Conservation, Wild Europe

Session 4. Workshops - Building a European Action Plan

Each of the themes was related to a practical initiative, so input from participants could make a direct difference.

  1. Addressing the wood biofuel challenge – the urgency of action, Coordinators: Mary S Booth, Director, Partnership for Policy Integrity (PFPI) USA Michael Norton, Director of the Environment Programme, European Academies of Science Advisory Council (EASAC)
  2. Implementing the New Green Deal & Biodiversity Strategy – for EU and non EU states Coordinators: Kris Decleer, International Board, Society for Ecological Restoration Zoltan Kun, Head of Conservation, Wild Europe
  3. Research: addressing the gaps, Coordinators: Bernhard Kohler, PA & Forests Programme, WWF Austria Anastaysiya Bakteeva, Conservation Capital
  4. The new IUCN Rewilding Task Forcewhat is needed? Coordinator: Steve Carver, Co-Chairman IUCN Task Force
  5. Illegal and inappropriate logging, innovative solutions, Coordinator: David Gehl, European Director, Environmental Investigation Agency
Conference Gala Dinner

Presenting the Clima Carpathia initiative – A world class vision proposed for the Carpathians, Christoph & Barbara Promberger, Directors, Fundatia Conservation Carpathia (FCC Romania)

Continue reading the presentations of Day 2

Latest stage in primary forest mapping completed – further funding needed

The updated mapping research for Europe’s last remaining primary forest, presented at Wild Europe’s conference in Bratislava on 21st November, represents the next stage in a programme to record all areas  

Dr. Francesco Sabatini presenting the results of the updated old-growth/primary forest mapping work in Bratislava (Wild Europe)

Conducted by Francesco Sabatini and his team from Humboldt University in Berlin, with input from 56 new experts, this update includes a further 700,000 hectares. 

It brings the total so far covered to 2.1 million hectares, or just over 1% of forested area – plus European Russia (up to the Ural Mountains) which holds a gigantic 35.5 million hectares.  

Countries added include Albania, Belarus, Bosnia, Latvia, Moldova, Russia, Serbia, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Yet to be published, this update was funded by the Griffith programme of Frankfurt Zoological Society in conjunction with Wild Europe.

Next steps to address a growing threat

A further 3% of European forest cover is thought to exist in primary condition (outside Russia) – with more in Turkey and the Caucasus.  Adding this would bring the total of primary forest to just 4% of total forest cover.

Even though the majority of primary forest is nominally under some form of protection, only half is strictly protected.  The remainder is under threat, particularly from illegal logging and the rapidly growing use of wood for bioenergy.

With only around a quarter of primary forest so far mapped in Europe (outside Russia), further mapping and recording of status is a vital first step in establishing full protection.

Funding for this third stage is now being sought.

Definitions

Primary forests have no clearly visible indications of human activity, should have no current intervention and are subject to natural ecological processes. They represent an overall category encompassing old growth forest – a late successional stage – and, where applicable, virgin forest. Generally small and fragmented, they tend to occur in remoter areas and on steep slopes where logging is difficult.
The definition used in the mapping exercise is from FAO (FRA 2015 Forest Resources Assessment Working Paper 180).

The original mapping exercise

The original mapping exercise for primary forest was unveiled at Wild Europe’s Brussels conference in 2017, and published in 2018 by Francesco Sabatini and his Humboldt University team. 

Known primary forests in 2018 – the original map

The mapping covered 1.4 million hectares in 32 countries (0.7% of Europe’s forest area). 

Protection levels for forest mapped in 2018

The mapping exercise determined that, even though 90% of primary forests are nominally under some form of protection, over half (54%) do not have strict protection.

European Natural Forest School project cancelled

Yet another victim of the Coronavirus pandemic, the inaugural programme of this pioneering educational project has been cancelled.

Due to run in Lubeck, Germany from 30/08/20 – 10/09/20 the Summer School was designed for advanced students and young professionals in conservation and forestry.

Involving a partnership between Frankfurt Zoological Society and the Natural Forest Academy together with Wild Europe, the programme covered natural forest ecology, protection and management from those with a practical understanding of the challenges involved.

There has been great interest, and the programme should be re-established soon. 

Wolf Mountains: a trans-frontier wilderness in the making

The Wolf Mountain project, in the Eastern Carpathians, straddles the borders of Slovakia, Poland and Ukraine. It comprises a mosaic of some of the most intact montane grassland, old growth forest and wetland habitats remaining in Europe.

These areas harbour a rich biodiversity of endemic flora and fauna together with still healthy populations of wolf, bison, bear, lynx, beaver, eagle and black stork.

The core area, covering some 100,000 hectares, includes three national parks and three landscape parks. Despite nominal protection, the area is under pressure from logging and hunting.

The aim of the project is to increase levels of protection and promote connectivity between key ecosystems, supporting local non-extractive enterprises, such as ecotourism and branded products, to provide more sustainable income and employment for local communities and landholders.

The stunning landscape of Cisna-Wetlina, Kamil Soos

Wild Europe, in tandem with the European Nature Trust, originally introduced Frankfurt Zoological Society to the project, and has provided support for strategy promotion and enterprise development.

Currently overseen by Aevis Foundation from Slovakia, alongside the Natural Heritage Foundation of Poland, the project is underwritten by long-term support from FZS.

Creating a new wilderness national park for Romania

Wild Europe has been involved in this vision for the South Eastern Carpathians since its inception in 2009

Established by Fundatia Conservation Carpathia with its directors Christoph and Barbara Promberger, the project aims to create an initial 50,000 hectare wilderness reserve adjacent to the Piatra Craiului National Park, and extending Westwards into the Fagaras Mountains. The eventual objective will be to provide a new National Park for Romania covering some 2050,000 hectares.

Project activities include acquisition of extensive tracts of forest, much of it being old growth or virgin (a Romanian definition), as well as Alpine grasslands. Some 22,000 hectares have been purchased to date, with plans for leasing where ownership is not feasible.

Large hunting concessions have been bought, aiming to boost chamois, red deer and boar numbers, which in turn enables enriched populations of wolf, bear and lynx.

Boia Mica Valley in the Fagaras Mountains, a so-far untouched haven of virgin forest, Matthias Schickhofer

Alongside this are programmes for LIFE+ funded restoration of clear felled or degraded forest and riverine habitats, with reintroduction of ungulates including bison and raptors.

Ecotourism and other forms of non-extractive enterprise are also helping to bring income and employment to local communities. FCC additionally manages two model farms that can provide support with husbandry and other management aspects.