Only 1 in 15 of Europe�s remaining forested areas - and only 1 in 2 of Europe�s most natural and biologically rich forests - are adequately protected. Europe�s protected forests suffer from being too small, from inadequate safeguards and do not represent of wealth of forest types in Europe. More than 9 out of 10 protected forests are less than 10 km2. Most of the largest protected forests in Europe are in Russia (39 out of the 50) and in Scandinavia or Finland (6) � only 4 are in southern Europe. Illegal logging, deliberate forest fires, uncontrolled tourism, and inappropriate hunting all undermine Europe�s supposedly protected forests.
Europe�s protected forests are unrepresentative of the fabulous variety of the continent�s forests � and are biased towards forests in mountainous or inaccessible areas or on poor soils. Forests in lowlands and on rich soils are particularly under-represented. �Forests have been selected for protection in Europe for administrative convenience and not for sound ecological reasons� said Duncan Pollard, Head of WWF�s European Forest Programme.
WWF estimates that only 2-3 per cent of forest areas in Western Europe and 5-10 per cent in European Russia are relatively intact natural forests. That represents some 15-20 million hectares of pristine or near pristine forest found especially in Russia, Scandinavia and Finland but also in eastern, central and southern Europe. About half of these forests are unprotected.
Up to 2 in 5 forest dwelling mammals and birds in many European countries are endangered � a direct result of the problems outlined in WWF�s report. Forest species endangered in many European countries include brown bears, lynx, wolves, and various owl and woodpecker species.
�The remnants of the lush and dense forests that once covered Europe are an ecological treasure as valuable as any of Europe�s finest cultural treasures� said Duncan Pollard �and deserve the same effort to protect them. WWF urges European Governments and the private sector to secure as mater of urgency the protection of the remaining old-growth and other high conservation value forests.�
WWF believes proper implementation of the Habitats Directive within the EU and accession countries, and responsible forest management through the FSC certification can help save Europe�s forest heritage.