Forests cover 41% of Europe's mountain areas. Mountain forests provide many ecosystem services, such as protection against natural hazards, conservation of flora and fauna, regulation of water supply and carbon storage. Forests are also sources of renewable raw materials that, if used sustainably, can contribute to environmental transition. However, they are threatened by the effects of climate change, in particular the increasing number of forest fires.

Protecting mountain forests

Forests cover 41% of Europe’s mountains and are the most common land cover in our territories, followed by mosaic farmland and natural grasslands. The Carpathians, with 62% forest cover, are a real green lung for Europe. Mountain forests are rich in different habitats and species, including endemic ones, especially in Mediterranean countries. However, the forests face a number of threats, including climate change and illegal logging.

We call for

  • Developing a comprehensive European strategy for forest fire resilience. Exacerbated by climate change, more and more fires are devouring mountain forests every year. Most of the affected areas are Natura 2000 sites, which are rich in biodiversity and at the same time difficult for firefighters to access due to the geographical constraints of the mountains. Building on research projects such as FIRE-RES, the European Union must provide an integrated policy response.
  • Establishing a European mechanism to compensate for all ecosystem services, not just carbon storage. This would promote the protection of forests and their ecosystems, initiatives to help forests adapt to climate change, and the fight against natural hazards in forests.
  • Combating illegal logging, which is particularly prevalent in Eastern European forests and contributes to the loss of old-growth forests and pristine ecosystems.
  • Tackling uncontrolled afforestation in mountain areas. Euromontana warns against the temptation to reforest certain natural areas, as uncontrolled afforestation of grasslands could damage this specific habitat and increase the risk of forest fires. A place-based approach to afforestation is essential to ensure the preservation of habitats and the suitability of the species planted.

Promoting a sustainable timber industry

Euromontana recognises the multiple use of mountain forests, including wood production. Forestry is a traditional sector in mountain areas that can contribute significantly to the objectives of the Green Deal, to the emergence of bio-economy and circular economy businesses, and to the transition of certain sectors such as construction. However, this can only happen if forest resources are used sustainably and if multi-stakeholder governance takes into account the different uses of mountain forests.

We call for

  • Promoting sustainable timber certification and the use of non-agricultural Geographical Indications in the wood supply chain. These labels help to promote local and sustainable production and raise consumer awareness. Public procurement should also take these certifications into account.
  • Supporting sustainable harvesting techniques, such as cable skidding, through further promotion of the sector and improved training, in particular through the European Social Fund and Interreg programmes.
  • Encouraging the sustainable use of wood, particularly in the construction of public buildings, where this renewable resource can help to drive the sector’s transition. In order to ensure sustainability, it is essential to always ensure a cascading use of wood.