Forests are vital to policy discussions on biodiversity and will be one of the key themes in the upcoming international conference on biodiversity, namely the 9th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 9) to the Convention on Biological Diversity, which will be held on 19–30 May 2008 in Bonn, Germany.
Ahead of this conference, Professor McGlade addressed the EU ministers of environment in Brdo, Slovenia, where she outlined future challenges facing Europe's forests. 'There is an increasing demand on forest resources for biomass production. This contribution to Europe's energy supply need not necessarily conflict with biodiversity or ecosystem conditions. However, we must ensure that the way we use forest biomass has minimal negative impact on forest biodiversity', said Professor McGlade.
Forest areas are increasing but remain fragmented. Europe's total forest area has increased over the last decades and around one third of Europe is now covered by forests. Around 25 % of this total is excluded from wood harvesting because of its special importance for biodiversity. The total protected forest area has also increased considerably over the last few years.
Despite these increases, significant areas of Europe's forest remain fragmented into smaller patches. This fragmentation puts animal and plant species at risk and is expected to be aggravated by climate change. Adapting forests to climate change requires strengthening connectivity between forest areas.
What next? The European Environment Agency will present an assessment report of Europe's forests and ecosystem conditions at COP 9 in Bonn.
In the long run, broader discussions will also include research on the economics of biodiversity and ecosystem services. This upcoming study, known as the 'Potsdam Initiative' is supported by G8 and five leading emerging economies: Brazil, India, China, Mexico and South Africa, known as 'G8+5'. It will be one of the issues on the agenda during COP 9.