Will Storm Damage to European Forests Continue to Increase?

Storms cause more than 50% of all damage to European forests. If they continue to be managed as they are now the intensity and frequency of this damage is expected to increase. Future projections of storm tracks suggest storms will affect larger areas and penetrate further to the east of the continent. Currently the growing stocks and the age of forests are increasing and this will further aggravate the future vulnerability of forests to storm damage.

What can policy and forest management do to mitigate storm damage and help to restore damaged forests? Are the policies that are currently in place effective? Researchers, policy makers, and stakeholders from across Europe discussed whether the current systems are adequate at both national and European level in a workshop last week in Brussels on ‘Policies for Forest Storm Damages Mitigation and Restoration‘.

To help to answers to these questions, partners from a research project on “Destructive storms in European Forests – past and forthcoming impacts” funded by the EC Directorate General Environment, presented the results of their work. They examined both past damage and possible damage in the future, the benefits of active risk management and the implications for policy , presented the main factors that influence storm damage and what foresters can do to modify them, and provided an overview on possible policy options for the forest sector for prevention and post-storm measures. This was complemented by a presentation of the recently launched EC Green Paper “On Forest Protection and Information in the EU” by Ernst Schulte form EC DG Environment.

The project leader, Barry Gardiner, summarized the meeting by stating that there is an obvious need for national and regional contingency plans, improved insurance systems, more flexibility in regulations and access to funds and clear guidelines to help with forest management. Sharing of knowledge and practices between countries should be encouraged and the EU has a role to collate best practice from across Europe and make such information readily available, to translate guidelines and key documents, to help develop consistent standards for transport and machinery, and to provide coordination between countries affected by storms. In addition a valuable role for the EU would be to provide a platform to make available key information prior to and after storms, such as mapping the areas likely to be affected ahead of predicted damaging storms, immediate damage assessments following storms, and global timber prices to help in the marketing of timber from storm damaged forests.

The Workshop was held on 1st July in the premises of Scotland House in Brussels, organized by the European Forest Institute and its Regional Offices EFIATLANTIC and EFICENT-OEF. The outcomes of the workshop will inform the final report of the project and its recommendations to DG Environment.

Further information: Barry Gardiner, firstname.lastname (AT) forestry.gsi.gov.uk

photo: © Gina Sanders - Fotolia.com


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