Forest dieback in European State Forests and measures for its combat

The survey findings conducted by EUSTAFOR point out that 52% of the damage caused to European forests is due to abiotic factors such as storms, droughts, forest fires and snowfalls.

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Spruce dieback in the Bialowieża Forest, Poland. Photo: EUSTAFOR

According to a survey EUSTAFOR disseminated among its members, more than 1,2 million hectares of forests in 13 European countries have experienced damage, resulting in the loss of more than 36 million m3 of wood over the period of 2018 – 2019. The information received indicated that 52% of the total damage was caused by abiotic agents and 48% by biotic agents.

The main biotic agent was the bark beetle, followed by the pine processionary and pine sawfly, and diseases such as tip blight, root disease, butt rot and ash dieback. Among abiotic agents, storms and droughts caused 61% of the total damage and 35% was caused by fire and snow. Norway spruce was mostly affected (52%), followed by different species of pine (32%). Among broadleaves, beech (32%), oak (25%) and birch (13%) were affected.

Different measures were applied against the damaging agents, of which some are part of regular forest management and its adaptation. Other measures required more specific actions, including the use of chemicals, building additional storage capacities, and engaging additional workforce.  

The scale of the measures undertaken was often very large, even exceeding the financial capacities of the European State Forest Management Organizations who, therefore, require external aid instruments from national and/or EU resources. In total, close to 800 million EUR will be spent to recover.

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