We question plans to step up the harvesting of forest biomass, as set out in Italy’s Fourth Report on the State of Natural Capital. Rather than supporting a transition to a green economy, this could translate into more logging and perturbation of forest ecosystems.
The loss of trees in Italy’s forests in recent years (go.nature.com/3yzvdp9) is only partly explained by disturbances such as Storm Vaia in 2018, and salvage logging thereafter. The dominant driver is the production of wood fuel (D. Pettenella et al. [email protected] 18, 1–4; 2021), mainly from coppice. This probably removes about 50% of estimated annual growth (see go.nature.com/3xr1mzc).
The new biomass policy could threaten the functionality of forest ecosystems unless it includes measurable targets and a reliable monitoring system for tracking the impacts of removing wood. In a geographically complex country, rich in biodiversity, this could undermine progress towards the European Union’s 2030 biodiversity strategy.
For Italy’s forests to contribute to the economy, provide ecosystem services, halt biodiversity loss and mitigate climate change, the country needs ecological planning, data monitoring, forest protection, restoration and rewilding.
Nature 595, 353 (2021)
The authors declare no competing interests.