Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Europe's forests flourishing, but fire remain a threat: study

Terra Daily, via Agence France-Presse: Fires pose a major threat to Europe's woodlands, but the continent remains the world's only area where forest ecosystems are undergoing a revival, an international study said Monday. "Forest fires continue to be a major challenge," said the study by two United Nations agencies and an international forest body. "Hundreds of thousands of hectares of forest are burnt annually," the study said.

However, it noted that despite a rising number of fires, the actual area burnt did not increase from 2000-2005, mainly due to "more effective fire suppression in many countries".

The report was released during a two-day international conference in Warsaw which was due to highlight the danger by adopting a declaration of solidarity with Greece, where forest fires in August killed 67 people and ravaged 150,000 hectares. Conference participants hailed the report's findings that Europe's total forested area has grown by 13 million hectares over the past 15 years to reach more than a billion hectares. Some 80 percent of the total is located in the European part of Russia.

Forestland now covers 44 percent of Europe, and accounts for a quarter of the global total, the report said. The volume of wood in Europe has reached a record 112 billion cubic metres, and is growing by 350 million cubic metres a year, the study added.

At the conference, the European Union's agriculture commissioner, Mariann Fischer Boel, said the continent's lumber industry is currently exploiting 60 percent of available renewable forest resources, and that there was room for development. The study was prepared by the UN's Economic Commission for Europe and its Food and Agriculture Organisation, as well as the secterariat of the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe.

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