Editorial: “Forest Inventories at the European level”

Jean Michel Leban and Jean Daniel Bontemps, Inra and IGN.

In 1949, Egon Glesinger, the deputy director of the FAO Forestry and Forest Products Division, published his famous book entitled “The coming age of wood,” translated in French in 1951, “Demain l’âge du bois.”Glesinger, 1951 This book depicts the technical possibility and the perspective for a massive shift from fossil to renewable resources, mainly from forests, for producing with a low carbon footprint and wide spectrum of end products needed worldwide. As an example he wrote,

“… forests can be made to produce fifty times their present volumes of end products and still remain permanently self-renewing source for raw materials. Only forests – no other raw material resource – can yield such return. The forest can, and so must, end the chronic scarcities of material goods that have harassed man’s experience since the beginning of history.”

This early vision formulated by a scientist from the forest and wood science community is nowadays increasingly accepted in the society: the new emerging challenge is to decouple the economic growth from the environmental degradations.

The world’s forests, by their ability to provide renewable products and other social services, have and will have an increasing contribution to this challenge, as soon as they are managed in a sustainable way and face the challenge of climate change. Such perspective implies one very accurate knowledge, understanding, and quantitative description of the forest resources and their evolution and dynamics.

As a consequence, there is an increasing demand on the monitoring of forest resources, on forests statistics, and on projections of future forest resource availability under various scenarios of management and environmental changes, for public policymakers, for industry as well as for scientists. These needs are traditionally fulfilled by the National Forest Inventory (NFI) programs, whose scope and methods have evolved continuously to meet these demands. It is noteworthy that the users of these outputs are not always aware of the underlying scientific achievements and technical complexity.

Information on forest resources is also needed at wider continental scales, in view of the different international reporting processes that aim at orienting forest policies (FAO 2015; FOREST EUROPE 2015, Keenan et al. 2015). Here, the European space faces the basic reality and major difficulty that the NFIs have developed on national bases, with their own purposes and methodologies. As a consequence, NFI data harmonization has been the main topic for two successive European COST actions involving most European NFIs (E43, http://www.metla.fi/eu/cost/e43/, Tomppo et al. 2010), and more recently by the elaboration and launch of the EU-funded research project “Diabolo” (http://diabolo-project.eu). Such effort may also constitute a possible benchmark for future harmonization efforts in other regions of the world.

Annals of Forest Science is therefore proud to lift the veil on what was recently done within the very active European National Forest Inventory community. This issue is based on results gained between 2010 and 2014 within the COST action FP1001 “USEWOOD” entitled “Improving Data and Information on the Potential Supply of Wood Resources. A European Approach from Multisource National Forest Inventories.”

Read the full paper


Leban JM, Bontemps J-D 2016. Editorial: “Forest Inventories at the European level”. Ann. For. Sci.: 1-4. 10.1007/s13595-016-0586-x.

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