Nature and Biodiversity

Europe bucks global deforestation trend

An aerial view shows a mixed forest on a sunny autumn day in Recklinghausen, Germany, October 31, 2015.   REUTERS/Ina Fassbender

A green bill of health. Image: REUTERS/Ina Fassbender

Johnny Wood
Writer, Forum Agenda
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Nature and Biodiversity?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Future of the Environment is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Future of the Environment

Around the world, forests are shrinking due to deforestation, urban development and climate change, but in Europe that trend has been reversed.

Large areas of the continent have seen a forest boom that means today more than two-fifths of Europe is tree-covered. Between 1990 and 2015, the area covered by forests and woodlands increased by 90,000 square kilometres - an area roughly the size of Portugal.

Back to nature

Forests cover almost a third of France, due in part to increased protection and a decline in farming. Over the last century, trees flourished as residents left the countryside for life in the city, and intensive agriculture meant less land was needed for farming.

Although the re-wilding process has slowed, the area of land covered by trees continues to expand. France is fourth most forested country in Europe, after Sweden, Finland and Spain.

Sweden has strong protections against deforestation and trees cover around 70% of the surface area, similar to Finland, but not all of the forests are natural. Many of Europe’s forests are managed to produce wood to make paper, or timber for construction, or as fuel. As trees in those forests are felled, more are planted, and European plantations expand by an area the size of 1,500 soccer pitches every day.

The Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) is seen over the sky near the village of Pallas (Muonio region) of Lapland, Finland September 8, 2017.  REUTERS/Alexander Kuznetsov/All About Lapland     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RC1D951D37C0
The Northern Lights dance above the trees in Lapland, Finland Image: REUTERS/Alexander Kuznetsov


Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, storing carbon in their the trunks and branches, helping the fight against climate change.

More trees should be positive news for the environment and to some extent this is true. But while newly planted forests go some way to safeguard the habitats of birds, insects and woodland mammals, they are no substitute for natural forests in protecting biodiversity.

Breaking cover

Deforestation and forest degradation are becoming serious challenges in some parts of the world.

Illegal logging and land clearance for agriculture are devastating parts of countries such as Brazil and Russia.

Image: Statista

As the chart shows, Russia lost more than five and a half million hectares of its forest cover in a single year.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, we’re losing 18.7 million acres of forests each year - or 27 soccer fields every minute.


As forests disappear, the habitats of many species vanish with them. Around 80% of land-based species, including elephants and rhinos, are forest dwellers and face a growing threat from human activity.

In 2012, the World Economic Forum brought together more than 150 partners working in Latin America, West Africa, Central Africa and South-East Asia – to establish the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020: a global public-private partnership to tackle deforestation linked to the production of four commodities: palm oil, beef, soy, and pulp and paper.

Discover

What’s the World Economic Forum doing about deforestation?


The health of the planet is best served by protecting our forests from being cut down, and more needs to be done. But, alongside attempts to curb deforestation, initiatives that encourage the expansion of tree canopy represent a step in the right direction.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Nature and BiodiversityClimate ActionSustainable Development
Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

Critical minerals demand has doubled in the past five years – here are some solutions to the supply crunch

Emma Charlton

May 16, 2024

2:00

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum