Wageningen University and Research Centre

Improved utilisation of forests to meet demand for wood


Europe has more than 117 million hectares of forest, but the sustainable utilisation – especially in privately owned forests – falls short of its potential. It is becoming more and more difficult to meet the increasing demand for wood. The project SIMWOOD (Sustainable Innovative Mobilisation of Wood) was recently launched in response to this. The project consortium consists of 28 partners from countries such as Germany, Belgium, Finland, France, Great Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, Slovenia and Spain. Alterra is one of the participants.

SIMWOOD is funded by the EU with about EUR 6 million over a four-year period. Gert-Jan Nabuurs is taking part in this project on behalf of Alterra and the project is coordinated by the Bayerische Landesanstalt für Wald und Forstwirtschaft (Bavarian State Institute of Forestry). “Our aim is to improve the availability of wood by adopting an integrated approach,” says Gert-Jan Nabuurs. “Besides topics such as forest ownership and wood harvesting methods, we also attach great importance to the participation of interest groups and the impact of wood harvesting on the forest’s capacity to provide other ecosystem services.”

SIMWOOD will attempt to break down existing social-economic, technical and ecological barriers and identify solutions for ‘wood mobilisation’ in the 14 regions where the project is studying the optimum utilisation of forest. The provinces of Overijssel and Gelderland have been designated as study areas in the Netherlands. With the aid of the ‘mobilisator’, an online information system to be developed by the project, SIMWOOD will evaluate the effect of the new approach.

The timber industry in Europe currently comprises about 600,000 companies, such as sawmills and furniture manufacturers, with 4 to 5 million employees and an annual turnover of EUR 550 billion. They also need a reliable source of raw materials, which is SIMWOOD’s objective. According to Gert-Jan Nabuurs: 'A better utilisation of our forests is needed to meet the growing demand for wood in Europe. We estimate that in 2030 approximately 853 million cubic metres of timber will be required for the industry, and 585 million cubic metres for energy. The sustainable provision of such quantities represents a challenge for the forest and timber industry and, by extension, for research too.'

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