Options Magazine, Summer 2023: Strategic forest management could provide the pathways needed to mitigate climate change while minimizing species loss in the EU.

EU forests provide numerous ecosystem services and are home to a diverse array of plant and animal species. Regional forest conservation policies, such as the EU Biodiversity strategy for 2030, are designed to protect biodiversity within a certain region, but such policies seldom fully consider potential leakages to other regions.

In a recent study, Fulvio Di Fulvio, a researcher in the Integrated Biosphere Futures Research Group of the IIASA Biodiversity and Natural Resources Program, and his coauthors, modeled the potential global species extinction risk in scenarios considering increasing woody biomass demands for climate mitigation. They found that expanding set-aside areas to more than 20% of EU forest land would decrease biodiversity at the global level.

On the other hand, it would be possible to apply closer-to-nature forest management within the EU for up to 50% of forest land, without decreasing biodiversity on the global level. This is because closer-to-nature management allows a combination of wood provisioning and biodiversity protection, which tends to keep the leakage effects of EU forest policies relatively low.

“When planning climate change mitigation policies, it is crucial to define land-management strategies using a regional perspective to preserve local species while simultaneously considering the potential global leakage of impacts,” Di Fulvio explains. “It is imperative for EU policymakers to identify forest management pathways that help to mitigate climate change and the loss of species, both within and outside the EU. Properly defining integrated climate-biodiversity scenarios and policies will greatly impact this effort.”

By Jeremy Summers