Fires pose a major threat to Europe’s woodlands, but the continent remainsthe world’s only area where forest ecosystems are undergoing a revival, aninternational study said Monday.
“Forest fires continue to be a major challenge,” said the study bytwo United Nations agencies and an international forest body.
“Hundreds of thousands of hectares of forest are burnt annually,”the study said.
However, it noted that despite a rising number of fires, the actual areaburnt did not increase from 2000-2005, mainly due to “more effective firesuppression in many countries”.
The report was released during a two-day international conference in Warsawwhich was due to highlight the danger by adopting a declaration of solidaritywith Greece, where forest fires in August killed 67 people and ravaged 150,000hectares.
Conference participants hailed the report’s findings that Europe’s totalforested area has grown by 13 million hectares over the past 15 years to reachmore than a billion hectares.
Some 80 percent of the total is located in the European part of Russia.
Forestland now covers 44 percent of Europe, and accounts for a quarter of theglobal total, the report said.
The volume of wood in Europe has reached a record 112 billion cubic metres,and is growing by 350 million cubic metres a year, the study added.
At the conference, the European Union’s agriculture commissioner, MariannFischer Boel, said the continent’s lumber industry is currently exploiting 60percent of available renewable forest resources, and that there was room fordevelopment.
The study was prepared by the UN’s Economic Commission for Europe and itsFood and Agriculture Organisation, as well as the secterariat of the MinisterialConference on the Protection of Forests in Europe.