Balancing forest management and biodiversity in Europe

In recent decades, forest biodiversity has declined almost everywhere in Europe, yet at the same time the public's expectations of the forest environment have grown. Consequently, many forest owners in Europe now use forests in a way that combines timber production with other demands of society. A recently published book on this subject summarises experiences on how to balance forestry and biodiversity conservation.
Species-rich mixed deciduous forest near Brienz (Canton Bern, Switzerland). Photo: Reinhard Lässig / WSL

Experts call the juxtaposition of multiple utilisations, as has long been common in many Swiss forests, 'integrative forest management'. This multifunctional management approach means that those responsible for forests must have extensive experience and knowledge of ecological relationships. An illustration of this is provided by the impact of the dry summer of 2018, when many trees died, bringing about changes since then in timber supply and prices, drinking-water supplies and the public's recreational habits. Severe bark beetle infestations have also raised questions in many places about the continuing effectiveness of mountain forests as protection against natural hazards.

At the final conference of the oForest project How to balance forestry and biodiversity conservation – a view across Europe, experts from 20 countries discussed the issue of integrative forest management. Practical examples of integrative forest management in 15 nations were also presented. The event was organised by the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL) and the European Forest Institute (EFI) and was supported by the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, and the Canton of Basel.

The final report of the same name has now been published, with more than 150 forest and nature conservation experts from 20 European countries sharing their expertise on integrative forest management. The knowledge acquired by the European partner organisations over the past three years provides for the first time a Europe-wide overview of how forests are being managed to meet at least two requirements of society simultaneously. As well as timber production and biodiversity, drinking-water conservation, recreation and the protection of settlements and other infrastructure from erosion and natural hazards can be key management goals.


The first of the 15 practical examples was presented by Kurt Bollmann (WSL), who chaired the conference. He reported that management for species conservation in the special forest reserve at Amden (Canton of St Gallen) offers a compelling example of how forest can be managed while also ensuring the conservation of capercaillie habitats. Uwe Schölmerich (State Enterprise for Forestry and Timber North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany) at the Regional Forest District Office Rhein-Sieg-Erft and Patrick Huvenne (Flemish Agency for Nature and Forests, Belgium) in the Sonian Forest on the outskirts of Brussels found that forests in urban areas may well be used extensively for recreation purposes, while at the same time being tended using an integrative management approach.

First book on near-natural forest management in Europe

This richly illustrated book summarises these and other practical examples from Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Ireland, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden. It brings together detailed field knowledge and experience of forest management and nature conservation in many regions of Europe with fundamental theoretical insights from the natural and social sciences, forest history, forest policy, biology and ecology. "In this joint work we show with examples from 20 European countries how forests can be managed successfully while prioritising at least two of the demands of society," says Frank Krumm (WSL), the volume's lead author. In conclusion, it takes pragmatic, bold and regionally rooted management approaches to enhance biodiversity conservation in Europe's forests – approaches which, as this book clearly shows, have already been adopted in many countries.


Dr. Frank Krumm
Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter
Eidg. Forschungsanstalt WSL
Zürcherstrasse 111
8903 Birmensdorf