In Europe, 25 mill. ha of forest is managed as plantations, typically with timber production as the main goal, and as conifers in even-aged monocultures with large standing timber volumes. This type of forest management is especially pronounced in NW Europe incl. UK, Ireland, Denmark and NW-Germany.
Conifers are high-yielding regarding biomass production having a high capacity to consume carbondioxide. The wood is valuable as construction timber and as substitutes of fossil fuels and as polymers for textiles. Consequently, conifers are expected to play an increasingly important role in the future bioeconomy. Large scale re- and afforestation with conifers is therefore expected to accommodate increasing demand and to act as a carbon-sink to mitigate climate change .Thus healthy/productive conifer forests are vital.
In recent decades, severe disturbances have intensified across Europe causing increasing damage from wind, bark beetles, wildfires. The trend towards more climatic unreliable conditions is expected to have strong detrimental effects on stability, economic yield, forest carbon storage and other ecosystem services.
For this reason Close to Nature Forestry (CNF) practices were introduced, to increase adaptability/resilience through species mixtures and structural variation. However, the shift towards CNF has taken place in a small scale only and mainly in State forests. Many experiences on CNF during the past 20 years are available, but they are commonly of a local nature, and not well documented. Appropriate planning tools for management are required too, and due to the long-term nature of forest production (50-100 years in northern Europe), economical effects on land value, cash flow, rate of return are not documented, nor are effects on ecosystem services.
LIFE ForFit focuses on a substantial implementation of CNF in a range of private and state owned forests, combined with parallel collection of data and development of planning tools for ecosystem services and a no. of supporting activities. Furthermore, LIFE Forfit focuses on collection of knowledge about carbon sequestration and biodiversity in forest managed according to CNF principles.