The forest-based sector contributes to the mitigation of increasing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere by, among other things, storing carbon in sustainably-managed forests and increasing forest biomass production. The intelligent and efficient production and use of biomass are core activities of the European forest-based sector.
State of the Art 2012
From a biomass and CO2 perspective Europe’s forests are managed sustainably. Biomass increment has exceeded biomass extraction for many years, resulting in a net storage of CO2 in European forests. Biomass production is increasing steadily mainly due to modern forestry practices, including the selection of suitable tree species and improved planting materials. In some areas fertilisation is practised. Planted forests represent today around 7% of the world’s forest area and contribute 36% of the annual requirements in roundwood. The results of traditional tree breeding are commonly implemented. Emerging biotechnologies are at the edge of application, for example, in mass propagation of planting material. The use of genetically-modified trees is so far prohibited outside of a pure research context.
Expected achievements by 2020
We have new, flexible and adaptive systems for achieving sustainable forest production for higher yields, improved wood quality and stress tolerance in changing environmental conditions.
Europe leads the world in quantitative and biological sciences related to tree breeding. We have a better understanding of benefits and risks related to economic performance, social acceptance and environmental effects associated with the use of genetically-improved trees, as well as how wood and fibre properties in growing trees can be modified to better meet the requirements of end products. Fast growing, currently low-value tree species are being harvested and grown for special wood properties and compounds for high-value wood-based products.
We have developed strategies for sustainable forest plantations and tree farming which is a prerequisite for the optimal use of genetically-improved trees for increased growth, quality and changing environmental conditions. This has resulted in a large increase in productivity and reduced losses due to improved resistance and tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses (e.g. climate change and nutrient constraints) in selected traits.
We know how to introduce managed forests in order to guarantee biodiversity and multi-functionality at landscape level.
We aim to establish forest production on marginal or depleted sites as well as on land that today is not used for production.
Required Research and Innovation Activities
A. Improve monitoring, empirical modelling and space technology tools for assessing forest growth and biomass production trends on different spatial and temporal scales.
B. Improve existing and develop new techniques for silviculture and efficient forest management systems to reduce vulnerability to climate change including changing fire and storm patterns.
C. Develop decision support tools to help forest managers optimise growth, resource efficiency and water productivity in changing environmental conditions.
D. Develop new tree breeding strategies that include quantitative and molecular genetic tools aiming at sustainable and high yield of biomass, improved wood quality and resistance to stress.
E. Develop tailor-made biomass production systems for specific uses.
F. Study molecular, biochemical and physiological processes, determining wood and fibre properties and matrix architecture, as well as pest and disease resistance, water efficiency and nutrient biology.
G. Develop new, innovative technologies for mass propagation of seedlings.
H. Develop new tools to carry out performance and risk analysis for novel varieties or genotypes including exogenous genetic resources introduced in regions different from their origin.
I. Assess the economic, social and environmental benefits and risks associated with the use of genetically-improved trees.
J. Translate scientific information into a risk-management framework for resource managers.
K. Improve sustainable short-term rotation management schemes for woody biomass production.