Sustainable forest management (SFM) is management that requires human interference to the maintenance of a forest ecosystem functioning. The concept of sustainable forest management was defined for the first time in Europe in 1993 at the pan-European Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe (MCPFE).
According to the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe (MCPFE), a set of tools for implementation and promotion of sustainable forest management is provided to the member countries through a process that establishes the SFM Criteria and Indicators among pan-European countries. The same protocol provides valuable information for forest policy development and evaluation, national forest policies, the establishment of cross-sectoral forest programs as well as communication of related data to the broad public. By using SFM criteria and indicators it is possible to manage, assess and monitor sustainable forest management on the national level.
Forest degradation and greenhouse gas emissions
Due to the fact that there is no uniform EU policy on the state of forests, each EU country is solely responsible for the implementation of forest policies and for reporting on the state of their forests.
When the forests are unsustainably managed, as can be seen in many tropical countries, it comes to forest degradation and deforestation which has so far contributed as much as 17.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions. The EU members pursue to manage such impacts through the EU FLEGT Action Plan and the United Nations’ Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD).
The European Commission has also established a monitoring system for forest management called “Forest Focus”. The main monitoring activities according to this system are:
- monitoring and protection of forests against atmospheric pollution;
- monitoring and protection of forests against fires;
- monitoring of biodiversity, climate change, carbon sequestration, and soils.
It also supports the establishment of forest fire prevention measures.
Forest Focus has been organized in conjunction with the International Co-operative Programme on Assessment and Monitoring of Air Pollution Effects on Forests (ICP Forests) which is a programme aiming at a comprehensive compilation of information on the condition of forests in Europe and beyond.
The importance of Sustainably managed forests
Healthy forests are sustainably managed forests. This kind of human cared forests are major role players in creating clean fresh water supply, by both creating and attracting clouds, and by streaming rainwater into rivers, lakes, and underground water reservoirs. Repairing currently damaged land by reforestation is one the most efficient actions to secure a continual supply of fresh water for drinking, agriculture, and to support all life.
● Sustainably managed forests add humidity to the atmosphere and help create cloud systems
Trees bring water up from their roots all the way to the tree canopy and into their leaves where it becomes water vapor and is released into the atmosphere. Simultaneously, the tree leaves produce friendly bacteria which engage the airborne water vapor to cluster, thus forming clouds.
● Trees protect from heavy rainfall
When rain falls on a forested area, the leaves and needles of the trees will significantly slow the raindrops down, kindly bringing the rain down to the forest floor. Without trees or plants, it swiftly runs into the rivers skimming topsoil with it, diminishing an area’s fertility and increasing chances of landslides and erosion. Deforestation has had tremendous effects on the human and wildlife environment as the worldwide forest areas have been diminished by over 80 million hectares since 1990 – just from 2015 to 2020, the rate of deforestation was 10 million hectares per year as published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of UN.
● Trees help absorb the water into the earth
The rain descends on the forest floor, then absorbs into the top layer of dirt, which the trees have helped keep healthy and permeable. The water collected by this absorbent soil progressively filters down through channels shaped by the tree’s roots, deep into the underground chambers and arteries of the water table. Then, natural force, gravity continues to pull the water through the earth until it surfaces naturally, or until it is utilized by people with the help of wells and pumps. Growing and planting new trees each year will prevent these wells to dry up. Additionally, responsible and efficient underground water management is very important.
● Trees shield rivers and streams from the heat of the Sun
As the rivers make their way to the ocean, the shade provided by the surrounding tree canopies keeps the water cool, which helps it from evaporating too quickly, allowing the rivers to flow more generously, which enlarges the value of the river to all dependent life. The root systems of the trees keep the river banks together, minimizing erosion and holding the integrity of the habitat intact.
COP26: Reverse deforestation by 2030!
Reforestation is a crucial element of sustainably managing the forests. That is why the topic has been dominant at the COP26 Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, which was held from October 31st to November 13th of 2021. There, the Declaration on Forest and Land Use outlining the most critical items in terms of the sustainability of forests was signed by the representatives of 141 countries.
The highlight of this event has been a promise of the more than 100 world leaders to end and reverse deforestation by 2030. The UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has been a host of the meeting in Glasgow, said:
“We have to stop the devastating loss of our forests and end the role of humanity as nature’s conqueror, and instead become nature’s custodian”.
The same declaration sets forth initiatives such as conservation of forests; expedition of trade and development policy enhancements; improvement of rural livelihoods; initiating a profitable and sustainable agriculture as well as the adequate agricultural policies and programs that would allow the same; defining clear local and international financial policies representing foundation for creation of the sustainable agriculture, sustainable forests and sustainable conservation of forests; expediting transition of economy that will promote sustainable land use, biodiversity and climate goals.
Representatives of 28 countries furthermore committed to remove deforestation from the global trade of food and other agricultural products such as palm oil, soya and cocoa. (These industries drive forest loss by cutting down trees to make space for animals to graze or crops to grow).
Experts around the world have welcomed this initiative on sustainable forest management, but warned that a previous one from 2014 had “failed to slow deforestation at all” and pointed out that commitments needed to be delivered on.
Let’s hope that initiatives defined at the COP26 Conference in Glasgow, 2021 will significantly improve our forests to become more sustainably managed by performing reforestation processes wherever possible, making a positive impact on climate change, ecosystems and environment in general.
Natural mineral water and spring water producers – 100 years of protecting the environment
Natural mineral and spring water producers all over Europe have different projects on reforestation. They plant hundreds of trees in their catchment areas to maintain healthy ecosystems, create robust forests that are protected for future generations. Natural mineral water producer “Gerolsteiner” is just one of the examples that cooperate with local forestry and authorities through tree planting campaigns. Until April 2020 more then 45.000 trees from 6 different species have been planted in the Eifel.
Natural mineral and spring water producers’ connection with forests and environment in general is based on a very long tradition – over a hundred years of protecting the land, ecosystems and biodiversity where natural mineral and spring waters are produced.