National forest and wood meetings: the alert of 600 scientists, associations and actors in the sector

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 5:00 p.m., January 15, 2022

While the arbitrations following the National Forest and Wood Meetings must be made, nearly 600 scientists, associations, players in the forest-wood sector challenge the government in a forum published by the JDD.

The forest of Chantilly, in the Oise.
The forest of Chantilly, in the Oise. (AFP)

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The government of Jean Castex must render in the next few days its arbitrations on the orientation of the French forestry policy following the National Conference on Forestry and Wood which was held at the end of last year under the impetus of four ministers (Julien Denormandie for Agriculture, Emmanuelle Wargon for Housing, Agnès Pannier-Runacher for Industry and Bérangère Abba for Biodiversity). On this occasion, nearly 600 scientists, associations and players in the forest-wood sector are calling on the government to support a policy based on natural ecosystems. They thus support a pragmatic vision of the sector: “Preserving biodiversity and the ecological functioning of forests does not mean giving up on wood production. 

“For a forest policy based on ecosystems”

“While the government is preparing to make decisions following the National Forest and Wood Meetings, we, scientists, associations, players in the forest-wood sector, call on it to make strong choices to finally reconcile a policy of timber production and biodiversity conservation policy in a single forest policy.

Forests provide many services, but the increase in the volume of wood in the forest is slowing down

Our forests are suffering from the effects of climate change and yet we have perhaps never needed them so much.

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Carbon fixation and storage, wood production, soil genesis and stabilization, regulation of water cycles, habitats for flora and fauna: forests provide many services, most often free of charge. However, as shown by the latest statistics from the National Institute of Geographic and Forest Information – and for the first time since the middle of the 19th century – the progression of the volume of wood in the forest is slowing down under the effect of a triple pressure: decline in growth, increase in wood harvesting, increased mortality of certain tree species.

This crisis is not temporary, it constitutes a new deal that destabilizes and questions forest management practices. In a context of growing uncertainty, on what basis should a new forest policy be founded?

Europe opened the debate by adopting a strategy for forests proposing a strong vision: relying on biodiversity to strengthen the resilience of forests. A vision which does not mean a sanctuarization of forests, but which acknowledges that forests are ecosystems whose good ecological functioning must be maintained or restored because it represents the only real guarantee of resilience and resistance in the face of the announced hazards.

An adaptation strategy cannot be reduced to a massive plantation program to replace existing forests.

However, despite Europe’s international commitment within the framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the public policies implemented have not succeeded in halting the erosion of biodiversity or restoring the quality of our ecosystems. If this erosion is particularly strong in agricultural areas, the forest is no exception: according to the latest assessment carried out within the framework of the habitats-fauna-flora directive, more than three out of four forest habitats monitored are in a state of unfavorable storage.

The practices that make it possible to reconcile forest exploitation and biodiversity are known, and the debates during the National Forest and Wood Meetings revealed that they were quite consensual: maintenance of the forest atmosphere, mixture of species, conservation and restoration of mechanisms allowing for genetic diversity, presence of very large trees in stands and, more generally, diversity of diameters, wefts of dead wood, upright and on the ground.

The challenge now is to place them at the heart of a new forest policy by better conditioning public aid, by modernizing forest taxation or by strengthening the biodiversity and climate component of management documents, in public and private forests. .

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The first lessons can be drawn from the experience of the plan for renewing and adapting forests to climate change launched by the government in the fall of 2020. Very insufficient diversification criteria, introduction of exotic species without rigorous scientific evaluation, too fast turnaround times making it impossible to supply suitable seedlings but above all confusion about the objective: an adaptation strategy cannot be reduced to a massive program of plantations to replace existing forests.

We believe that a promising and effective adaptation strategy is to first try to support and improve the stands in place whenever possible. This approach, admittedly more technical, proposes, among other things, to maintain the forest cover and its undergrowth as much as possible, to enrich and diversify the stands considered poor from a productive point of view but which provide other services, those which are homogeneous or monospecific, and to accentuate the soil protection measures which are essential to the sustainability of the forest ecosystem.

Guarantee the production of wood in the long term without excluding the other services offered by forests

Unfortunately, this type of forestry is proportionally very little supported by the public authorities. However, this is not an ideological choice, but a pragmatic one: with increasingly frequent summer droughts, clear cutting of large areas followed by plantations is an increasingly risky bet, as shown by the record rates of mortality in young plantations in recent years.

The climatic interest of this practice raises questions especially when it is associated with working the soil and using only energy from wood, which increases immediate carbon emissions and is therefore counterproductive.

When full plantations are essential, the priority must also be to try to restore a natural dynamic as quickly as possible with a mixture of species adapted to climatic changes and reducing exposure to risks, in particular fire.

Preserving biodiversity and the ecological functioning of forests does not mean giving up on wood production. On the contrary, it is to guarantee it in the long term, without excluding the other services offered by forests.”

First signatories, representatives of structures:

  • Véronique Andrieux, Director General of WWF France
  • Allain Bougrain Dubourg, President of the League for the Protection of Birds
  • Daisy Copeaux, president of the Together collective, let’s save the forest of Chantilly
  • Elisabeth Dodinet, President of the Botanical Society of France
  • Maud Lelièvre, president of the French committee of the IUCN
  • Emmanuel Michau, vice-president of Natural Reserves of France
  • Xavier Morin, president of Canopée and research director at the CNRS
  • Arnaud Schwartz, President of France Nature Environment
  • Evrard de Turckheim, forestry expert, president of Pro Silva France
  • Michaël Weber, President of the Federation of Regional Natural Parks of France

First signatories, individual signatories:

  • Isabelle Chuine, research director at the CNRS and member of the French Academy of Agriculture
  • Guillaume Decocq, professor at the University of Picardie Jules Verne
  • Alexis Ducousso, Research Engineer at INRAE
  • Hervé Jactel, research director at INRAE ​​and member of the French Academy of Agriculture
  • Nicolas Luigi, forestry expert
  • Nicolas Martin-Saint Paul, research fellow at INRAE
  • Serge Muller, professor emeritus at the National Museum of Natural History
  • Didier Paillereau, forestry expert
  • Yoan Paillet, Research Engineer at INRAE
  • Marc-André Selosse, professor at the National Museum of Natural History

Click here for the full list of over 600 signatories .

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