Study: "Analysis and Prospects - the Environment Series"

Spain has second-largest forest area in European Union, at 27.7 million hectares

News - 29.10.2014

This study offers an up-to-date snapshot of the situation and current trends in Spanish forestry eco-systems and the main impacts being had on woodland structures and distribution. The study forms part of the publication entitled "Analysis and Prospects - the Environment Series".

The "Diagnosis of the Spanish Forestry Sector" offers a synthetic analysis of the main assets, services and benefits provided by Spanish woodland areas, classified as either 'services with market value' or 'ecological and social services'.

Services with market value

This section refers to the supply of timber, hunting and fishing, tourism and other products, and covers the main socio-economic indicators associated with the forestry sector.

The figures show that the production of timber in the last 20 years has remained stable at approximately 14 million m3, and enjoys growing commercial value. Although occupying less space than leafy trees, coniferous forests play an important role due to the higher timber production from these trees.

It is worth noting the recent trends in forestry and forest development; the timber and paper industry generated a gross added value of 6.64 billion euros in 2009, representing a direct contribution of 0.63% to GDP.

The study highlights a reduction in unemployment in the forestry sector and timber and paper industry in 2013. The forestry sector enjoys relatively low unemployment rates: 12.8% in the timber and cork industry; and 6.7% in the paper industry.

The foreign trade balance for the forestry sector (timber, firewood, paste and paper) shows a positive trend, rising from a deficit of 902 million euros in 2004 to a surplus of 335 million euros in 2013. Almost half of all Spanish exports from the forestry sector travel to France, Portugal and Italy, while most of the imports come from France and Portugal, followed by Sweden, the United States and Brazil.

Ecological and social services

These services are those which have no reflection in the market and are therefore difficult to assess. They include the role played by carbon capture, water and land regulation, the social value of woodland areas and the conservation of biodiversity and landscape.

It is worth noting that 40% of all forest areas in Spain are protected (11.2 million hectares) and 80% of all protected land is covered by forests.

As regards carbon capture by forest areas in Spain, this was estimated at 422 million tonnes (approximately 23 tonnes/hectare) in 2010. This figure represents 4.3% of the total stored carbon from forest biomass within the EU-27, an increase of 46% over the last 20 years.

The "Diagnosis of the Spanish Forestry Sector" also refers to the studies performed by the Centre for Sociological Research (Spanish acronym: CIS), according to which the public believes that forest fires are one of the most serious environmental problems in Spain. In turn, deforestation is listed as one of the main concerns worldwide.

A number of key concepts within forestry policy and management are also discussed, focusing on such issues as: 'What does managing a woodland area mean?', 'Who do woodland areas belong to?' and 'What does owning a woodland area mean from a management perspective?'

Furthermore, the study contains information on the most important activity carried out in the field of forestry management and describes the systems for sustainable forestry certification - the PEPC (Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification) and FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) - which cover 1.7 and 0.16 million hectares in Spain, respectively (9.2% of the total forest area).

Finally, a specific section of the document focuses on the Socio-economic Activation Plan for the Forestry Sector 2014-2020 - presented in February 2014 - drafted by the ministry in collaboration with the regional governments and organisations representing the sector. This plan aims to "promote diversification in the economic activity carried out in rural municipalities in order to improve living conditions for their inhabitants, especially those most closely linked to forestry activity".

"Analysis and Prospects - the Environment Series"

This series, published by the ministerial department through the Subdirectorate-General for Analysis, Forecasts and Coordination of the Subsecretariat, contributes to the generation of horizontal knowledge about environmental issues and policies from a cross-cutting perspective involving all other key areas of competence of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Affairs.

To do so, it offers a general overview of rural development and the environment via a diagnosis of the forestry sector in Spain from a comprehensive perspective - as an eco-system and an economic sector - through quantitative and qualitative analysis of its main indicators.