Comparison of forest protection between regions in Europe is extremely difficult, because there is such wide variation of strategies, procedures and constraints; the way forests have been used historically and their present closeness to nature also varies, and furthermore so does the definition of what constitutes a forest. For the European Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe (MCPFE) in 2003, forest protection has been harmonised into three categories for the sake of comparison: protection to safeguard biodiversity, protection of landscape and specific natural features, and protective forest functions. There is no single, uniform and universal model and no internationally agreed target with respect to the percentage of forests which should be protected. What is more important than a fixed percentage level of forested area (e.g. 5 or 10%) is that the protection network should be biogeographically and ecologically representative and accordingly distributed on a regional basis. Long-term practical experience and research have proved that conservation of different species of organisms can be assured by appropriate silvicultural management of multifunctional production forests. Consequently, the focus of debate in Europe appears to shift more and more from total protection in segregated areas to ‘precision protection’ and to combining protection and timber production in the holistic, integrated concept of modern management of forest areas. Advances in regional ecological planning and the growing adoption of naturalistic forest management practices have slowed the decline of the biological diversity in the multifunctional production forests. However, this fact is not yet widely and sufficiently acknowledged and appreciated. There is consequently a political and scientific need for continued study of the effects of naturalistic silvicultural management on the biodiversity of forests. Information from such research is crucially needed before new and additional protection networks and schemes are set up on a large-scale. Protection by voluntary contracts between parties is a workable model concept for European forestry based on private forest ownership. In small private forests, patches of forest worth protecting are often small and located within production forests. Forest certification can contribute to the efforts of maintaining biodiversity in multifunctional production forests and offers an instrument of independently monitoring and verifying that forests are managed according to the agreed criteria. Forest certification is not an alternative or a means of increasing forest protection, because as a voluntary process it cannot guarantee the permanence of protected areas or deal with issues of finance and compensation.
Journal of Environmental Management – Elsevier
Published: Jan 1, 2003
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