Biodiversity and forest ecosystems in Europe
Forests offer much more than Sunday walks, clean air and water, wild birds and mushrooms. In addition to being home to numerous species, forests are vital to the overall health of our environment. The European Environment Agency's (EEA) new short assessment provides an overview of their state and their main threats.
Fifth in the series of '10 messages for 2010', the EEA's assessment on forest ecosystems finds that while their overall area remains stable, woodlands face a variety of threats. Besides unsustainable management practices, air borne pollution and climate change, forests are also threatened by fragmentation due to rapidly spreading urban areas and transport networks. Both the healthy functioning of forest ecosystems and the biodiversity they foster are at risk.
Forests protect soil from erosion, regulate water flows and capture carbon from the atmosphere. Around and within urban areas, they are essential for providing fresh air, reducing dust and noise. They also serve as microclimate buffers against urban heat.
The wellbeing of numerous plants and animals, including many species protected by European Union legislation, is directly linked to forest ecosystems. Moreover, forest patches also play a critical role in facilitating species' movements through their connectivity with other ecosystems.