The close connection and interdependence between forests and water, this year’s theme of the International Day of Forests (21 March), has received special attention in the high-level policy process on forests in Europe. FOREST EUROPE joins the worldwide celebration of the International Day of Forests, and takes part in the events organised by UNECE/FAO, Ramsar Convention on Wetlands together with other partners because “water” belongs to the key topics that the process has addressed.
In particular, the Warsaw Resolution 2 (“Forests and Water”) and the Pan-European Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Forest Management, developed and adopted by FOREST EUROPE, emphasise the role of forests and forest management in protecting water quality; their impact on the quantity of water resources and their contribution to flood control.
FOREST EUROPE is a unique forest policy process addressing and developing common decisions on issues of highest political relevance. Having recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, the process has 47 signatories (46 European countries and the European Union), observer countries and a number of other observer organizations also participate. The most recent, Seventh Ministerial Conference was held in Madrid, Spain, on 20-21 October 2015, where the ministers responsible for forests in Europe adopted four ministerial documents, which represent an important basis for actions in coming years.
In the Resolution “Forests and Water” adopted at the Fifth Ministerial Conference in Warsaw, in 2007, the signatories made commitments on (i) sustainable management of forests in relation to water, (ii) coordinating policies, (iii) forests, water and climate change, and (iv) economic valuation of water-related forest services. To facilitate implementation of the Resolution at pan-European level, a workshop dedicated to “Sustainable forest management and influences on water resources – coordinating policies on forests and water” was convened in Turkey, in May 2009. The workshop provided an opportunity to discuss and strengthen cooperation between the sectors and was a good ground for follow-up activities. Reports of signatories on implementation of the Resolution were made at the Ministerial Conferences in Oslo (2011) and Madrid (2015).
The preservation of drinking water resources, the stabilization of stream banks or sand dunes are among key protective functions of forests. Protective functions are very important when assessing sustainability in forests. Therefore, the pan-European Criterion 5 “C5: Maintenance and Appropriate Enhancement of Protective Functions in Forest Management (notably soil and water)” has the indicator of designated forest and other wooded land for preserving water resources, among other protective functions.
Criteria and indicators are the basic tools in implementing and promoting sustainable forest management by providing relevant information for forest policy development and evaluation, national forest policies, plans and programmes and as a basis for cross-sectoral communication. FOREST EUROPE was one of the first regional policy processes to develop and endorse criteria and indicators. The mission of FOREST EUROPE is to enhance the cooperation on forest policies in Europe under the leadership of ministers, secure and promote sustainable forest management with the aim of maintaining the multiple functions of forests crucial to society. All documents can be found at www.foresteurope.org.