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Protected forest areas in Europe need harmonisation

The COST Action E27 “Protected forest areas – analysis and harmonisation” has given its attention to the provision of better understanding the diversity of national and international distinctions of protected forest areas in Europe.

Having common standards and harmonised protection categories allows for a more reliable overview of the protection status within European forests. Therefore, an analysis of a whole range of protected forest area categories was done in compliance with existing international categories for protected areas.

The results show a clear separation between restrictions, which pertain to timber resources and silvicultural management, and those relating to non-timber production and public access. These differences are in parallel between North and South: in Northern Europe, with a high share of forested areas and relatively low population density, the restrictions affect the harvesting of timber resources and the forest infrastructure. In the Mediterranean and Atlantic countries, with a high population density and low forest cover, this applies to access restrictions and non-forest products, such as mushrooms and berries.

Direct and indirect benefits were assessed as well and it was concluded that restrictions and compensations varied depending on the individual stakeholder (forest owners, visitors, hunters, fishermen, scientists, beneficial owners, communities). It appears that the actual beneficiaries of protected forest areas are local although not the forest owners themselves, whereas less strictly protected areas benefit a larger number of people.

No comparable data on Protected Forest Areas in Europe

Results showed considerable variation between two international classification systems assessed. They are namely The World Conservation Union (IUCN) ‘Protected Area Management Categories’ and the ‘Assessment Guidelines for Protected and Protective Forest and Other Wooded Land in Europe’ of the Ministerial Conference on the Protection in Europe (MCPFE). A considerable confusion exists and, to date, no harmonised and comparable dataset on Protected Forest Areas in Europe is available. To start with, the definition of forest alone varies quite considerably across Europe.

Based on the results of the evaluation, a number of recommendations to improve the quality and comparability of the statistics have been compiled. On the basis of the recommendations of COST Action E27 the Liaison Unit of MCPFE has developed an Information Note of MCPFE Assessment Guidelines for the use of TBFRA country correspondents for their data collection for the fifth MCPFE Conference in Warsaw 2007.

A joint effort in the field of forest protection

About 100 experts, representing 25 European countries, contributed to the Action. A number of international organisations had official observer status (the European Environment Agency and the MCPFE) or have been in direct co-operation with the Action as e.g. the IUCN. The COST E27 Team consisted both of scientists from universities and research institutions and of specialists in charge of the selection, management and monitoring of various categories of protected forest areas. Specialists from forest inventories and administrative bodies completed the group.

The final publication is now available

The final publication entitled ‘Protected forest areas in Europe – analysis and harmonisation (PROFOR): Results, conclusions and recommendations’ has been published in March 2007 and is now available. It can be acquired directly at:

Bundesforschungs- und Ausbildungszentrum für Wald, Naturgefahren und Landschaft (BFW) - Bibliothek Seckendorff-Gudent-Weg 8 A-1131 Wien; To attention of Ms. Gudrun Csikos: firstname.lastname (at)

The COST Action E27 clearing house mechanism can be found on the Internet at Documentation of the COST Action E27 are available at .

Anu Ruusila | alfa
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