Since 1950, Europe has experienced the greatest proportional gain in tree cover of all continents, expanding by some 300,000 km2, an area the size of Italy. This gain in forest cover is driven by active tree planting and through natural forest expansion, both mainly taking place on former agricultural land. However, European countries have often neglected opportunities presented by cost-effective nature-based landscape restoration through natural forest expansion.
This approach can support key policy objectives of both EU and national policies in the terms of the European Green Deal, including the EU Biodiversity Strategy, the EU Forest Strategy and Natura2000.
Find out more in the newly released BiodivERsA policy brief on “How natural forest expansion in Europe can offer cost-effective benefits to people”. Based on the SPONFOREST project, it is part of a series of policy briefs under production building on results of projects funded through BiodivERsA in 2015-2016.
- Relevant policy sectors such as biodiversity, climate, agriculture and rural development, and forestry could view natural forest expansion as a policy option at all governance levels while considering synergies and trade-offs between the different contributions nature makes to people.
- Decision-makers could better explore and support the cost-effective opportunities presented by the nature-based solutions offered by natural forest expansion to support multiple policy objectives.
- Decision-makers, spatial planners and scientists could recognize self-established young forest as a distinct land use category in support of the integration of natural forest expansion in policy, planning and research.
- Managers are advised to define natural forest expansion management options on the basis of evidence, taking account of land use history, and involving stakeholders.