• In 2015 forests covered 215 million hectares or 33% of Europe's land area
  • Europe's forest sector employs more than three million people
  • The forest sector contributed 103 billion Euros – 0.8% of GDP – to Europe's economy in 2010
  • In 2010 582.3 million cubic metres of European forest are felled, which is 66% of annual wood growth

Forests cover approximately a third of Europe’s land area – 215 million hectares – and have ecological, economic and social functions. Healthy forests are important areas of biodiversity, and they capture and store carbon dioxide (CO2), which mitigates climate change.

Forests are also recreational areas for all kinds of leisure activities and have long provided important economic resources. In Europe more than three million people are employed in the forest sector and it is estimated to contribute €103 billion to the European economy annually, which is 0.8% of its GDP.

Wood is an important resource for the bioeconomy. There is increasing interest in using it as an alternative to fossil fuels, like coal and oil, and it is also a useful raw material for many traditional and new products, such as furniture, paper and woodchip mulch.

But environmental groups are worried that expanding the use of wood as a biofuel will increase pressure on forest ecosystems. They have been calling for more forest reserves and sustainable forest management systems.

Sustainable forest management systems aim to preserve the different functions of our forests. They strive for a reasonable economic use of wood, and look for alternative and more efficient ways to use forest resources, while maintaining vital and healthy forests that can also fulfil their ecological and social functions.

Every year in Europe around 580 million cubic metres of forest are felled. This is around two thirds of annual wood growth. At these levels, experts say Europe’s use of its forest resources is sustainable and with effective management strategies will hopefully remain so. They also recommend increasing harvesting, as it would be beneficial for the forests and the EU needs the raw materials for various products.