European forest types

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Courtesy of European Environment Agency (EEA)

Exectutive Summary

The European forest types — Categories and types for sustainable forest management reporting and policy presents the findings of a study carried out by an international consortium of experts aimed at providing the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe (MCPFE) with an user‑friendly forest types classification. The primary goal of the scheme is to improve the MCPFE reporting on sustainable forest management (SFM) in Europe, with special regard to forest type based SFM indicators.

The document is divided into seven chapters plus a reference chapter, the main contents of the first seven chapters are summarised below.

1. Reporting on sustainable forest management in Europe introduces the forest type issue within the overall political framework of the MCPFE process. The seven MCPFE sustainable forest management (SFM) indicators to be reported by forest types are presented (forest area, growing stock, age structure/diameter distribution, forest damage, tree species composition, naturalness, deadwood). Definition and requirements of forest types for the MCPFE indicator reporting are provided and the key‑factor concept for forest types delineation is introduced: a suitable forest type classification for MCPFE reporting should identify and reflect those, natural and anthropogenic, sources of variation of forest condition that cause major shifts in state of forest type based indicators. In this respect, limitations of the forest type categorisation currently applied for MCPFE reporting (coniferous forest, broadleaved forest, mixed coniferous and broadleaved forest) are discussed.

2. The diversity of European forests outlines the main (historical and present) natural and anthropogenic factors that help in explaining the variety of forests conditions (structural, compositional) found nowadays throughout Europe.

3. Current and potential forest vegetation in Europe: an assessment seeks to give a quantitative evaluation of the anthropogenic footprint on forest physiognomy, through a cross‑analysis of potential and current forest vegetation maps. Detailed statistics on the current extent and physiognomy of European forests by potential forest types are presented. This technical chapter is mainly designed to provide readers with specific interest in this issue with updated figures on the major differences between current and potential forest vegetation in Europe.

4. European forest types: the classification system deals with the presentation of the main features of the scheme of European forest types proposed for MCPFE reporting. Limitations of alternative forest classification schemes are discussed. The methodological approach used for the development of the classification is outlined. The hierarchical classification scheme consisting of 14 categories further subdivided into 75 types is introduced. Criteria applied for the delineation of categories and types are given, which could be synthesized in the principle of increasing similarity in the natural conditions and levels of anthropogenic modification affecting the values taken by forest type based MCPFE indicators. As most compilation of national data on MCPFE indicators use National forest inventories (NFIs) European forest types ground plot information, the use of types is recommended for stratifying NFIs plots and of the fourteen categories for reporting data on forest type based indicators.

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