Forest Ecosystem Services

Forest Ecosystem Services 2018-07-27T12:24:21+00:00

Forests’ contribution to people

Forests are essential to life on Earth, providing us with one of our main sources of natural resources.  They are home to many species, from the animal kingdom to fungi, plants and many microorganisms. Forests are complex ecosystems that can host a substantial part of our planet’s biodiversity and store genetic resources.

They also provide multiple goods and services which benefit people in many ways: economically, materially, health-wise, emotionally or socially.  These Forest Ecosystem Services, or forests’ contribution to people, are made up of many elements, some of which might be more obvious than others.

Forests offer us many goods: foods, such as honey, nuts, fruits and mushrooms; timber; cork; wood biomass; aromatic and medicinal plants. These can be a source of income for people, though this is not always the case: most of them are common goods.

Forests can be the perfect place to relax, to enjoy nature and to practice recreational activities, for instance cycling, running, tree-climbing or walking. These activities can support tourism or simply support human well-being, both physical and psychologically. People have cultural and spiritual associations with the forest, which may be formalised or personal.

Forest Ecosystem Services (FES):

Forests’ contribution to people: forest goods and services that bring direct or indirect economic, materialistic, physiological, psychological, emotional or social advantage to the human population.

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After oceans, forests are the world’s largest storehouses of carbon. They contribute to climate change mitigation, absorbing carbon dioxide and storing it in wood, leaves and soil, as well as producing oxygen for people to breathe. Because forests can absorb and store carbon over an extended period of time, they are considered “carbon sinks”.

Forests have an important role in the global water cycle, absorbing water from the soil through tree roots and returning it to the atmosphere. The diversity of trees and plants that make up forests around the world can improve and maintain soil quality, which has a crucial role in the nutrients cycle and in filtering water.

Society benefits from forests in a multitude of ways and we expect our forests to perform multiple functions, simultaneously and sustainably. Balancing the demands for these Forest Ecosystem Services is, therefore, a major challenge for our times.

More about: Balancing the demands

Benefits

Here are just some of the most important contributions that forest ecosystem services offer us, other than the production of goods.

Forest make our lives better through:

Benefits

Here are just some of the most important contributions that forest ecosystem services offer us, other than the production of goods.

Forest make our lives better through:

  • Purification of air and water

  • Mitigation of droughts and floods

  • Generation and preservation of soils and renewal of their fertility

  • Detoxification and decomposition of wastes

  • Pollination of crops and natural vegetation

  • Dispersal of seeds

  • Cycling and movement of nutrients

  • Control of potential agricultural pests

  • Maintenance of biodiversity

  • Protection of coastal shores from erosion by waves

  • Protection from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays

  • Partial stabilisation of climate

  • Moderation of weather extremes and their impacts

  • Hunting, fishing, tourism and other leisure activities

  • Provision of aesthetic beauty and intellectual stimulation that lift the human spirit

  • Jobs and economic value

Forests & Society

In Europe, forests play an important role in environmental functions, which are crucial for human wellbeing, such as fighting climate change, conserving biological diversity, protecting soils or preserving water resources. Furthermore, the productive role of European forests has a relevant value, also offering significant socio-economic benefits.

Facts related to forests in Europe

0%
Forest cover

Forests cover 33% of Europe’s total land area and forest area continues to increase.

0
million tonnes CO₂

The average annual sequestration of carbon in forest biomass between 2005 and 2015 reached 719 million tonnes CO₂ and this corresponds to about 9% of the net greenhouse gas emissions for the European region and the EU-28.

0
million people

More than 16 million private forest owners depend directly from the income generated by forests, and forest activities have a turnover of almost € 500 billion, employing approximately 3.5 million people.

0
million hectares

In Europe, more than 30 million hectares of forests have been protected with the main objective to conserve biodiversity or landscape.

0%
mammals
0%
reptiles
0%
amphibians

Nevertheless, the IUCN estimated in 2009 that 27 % of mammal species, 10 % of reptiles and 8 % of amphibians related to forests are threatened with extinction in the EU.

0
million hectares

More than 110 million hectares of forests in Europe are designated for the protection of water, soil and ecosystems, as well as the protection of infrastructures, managed natural resources and other services.

0%

90% of forest and other wooded land is reported by the European countries as being available for recreational purposes.

0
million

More than 1.25 million cultural sites are located in European forests.

0
billion

Gross value added by the forest sector amounted to €103 billion (0.8% GDP in the region).

0
billion

The total value of marketed non-wood goods reported was almost €2.3 billion.

0
million

The total reported value for marketed services is around €619 million, of which

59%

are social services
(e.g. licenses, renting of huts, sports)

25%

are social services
(e.g. licenses, renting of huts, sports);

11%

are social services
(e.g. licenses, renting of huts, sports);

5%

are social services
(e.g. licenses, renting of huts, sports);

Sources:
Forest Europe, 2015: State of Europe’s Forests 2015; accessed in http://www.foresteurope.org/docs/fullsoef2015.pdf
European Environment Agency, 2014 accessed in https://www.eea.europa.eu/highlights/eight-facts-about-europe2019s-forest-ecosystems
0%
are social services (e.g. licenses, renting of huts, sports);
0%
are social services (e.g. licenses, renting of huts, sports);
0%
are social services (e.g. licenses, renting of huts, sports);
0%
are social services (e.g. licenses, renting of huts, sports);