Biodiverse forest ecosystems provide the basis for healthy, resilient and productive landscapes. Integrated forest management that values the multiple functions of forest ecosystems helps better secure the resilience to impacts of climate change, the resilience of biodiversity, and rural communities.

Europe's forest ecosystems

Europe’s forest ecosystems are described according to different classification systems. Some classifications reflect the forest ecosystem structure and functions at the ecosystem level. Others emphasize habitats, species and genetic variation.

The Corine Land Cover classifies forest types at the broadest level: coniferous, broadleaved and mixed forests, and transitional woodland and scrub (“What is considered as a forest”).

Share of main forest types according to Corine Land Cover in 2018, %

 

Characteristic tree species of each of the European Forest types are defined in the European Atlas of Forest Tree Species, which provides information on over one hundred key tree species in Europe using a combination of extensive field observations and habitat suitability modelling.

The European Nature Information System (EUNIS) distinguishes 46 spatially represented forest habitat types.The habitat types are cross-referenced to the European Forest Types. A recent update [1] is available.

Share of the main habitat types of the European Nature Information System (EUNIS) and their estimated areas, kha

The majority of forest habitat types in Europe are broad-leaved deciduous woodlands and coniferous woodlands.

 

Even-aged forests are susceptible to storm damage. Since the begining of this century, there is an increase in the area of uneven-aged forests.

Age structure of Europe's forests in 2020, %

 

Tree species composition in Europe

One-third of Europe’s forest area comprises only one tree species, especially in South-East Europe. The remaining area is covered with 2 or more species. Especially in South-West Europe, a considerable share of the forest area consists of forests where six or more tree species occur.

Monocultures harbour less biodiversity than mixed stands and are more vulnerable to invasive alien species, pest and disease outbreaks, and disturbances.

Europe's forest area by occurring number of tree species in 2015, k

 

Forest deadwood

Deadwood in forests is an important source of habitat, shelter and food source for many rare and threatened species, such as insects (especially beetles), fungi and lichens, birds and bats. Deadwood plays an important role in carbon and nutrient cycles. The volume of deadwood has increased in EU27.

Average deadwood Europe's forests in 2015 (m3/ha)

 

EU27: Increase in total deadwood 1990-2015, m3/ha

 

Average standing and lying deadwood 1990-2015 by main European regions, m3/ha

 

Threatened trees in Europe

According to the IUCN European Red List of trees, almost half of the native tree species in Europe have been assessed as threatened (i.e. Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable) and therefore have high risk of extinction.

Classification of threatened trees in Europem in 2020, trees in IUCN classes

Critically Endangered

Endangered

Vulnerable

Near Threatened

Least Concern

Data Deficient

 

Knowledge of the genetic variety across the many different forest types in Europe is essential for adapting to climate change. The European Information System on forest genetic resources (EUFGIS) acknowledges and seeks to document the genetic variety of targeted tree populations. Although the information is steadily increasing, geographical coverage is still low for a comprehensive description of the genetic variation within forest trees in Europe.