Better forest management to boost economy and health

by Lorraine Williamson
Catalan forests

Spain’s forest area is larger than the whole of Uruguay. However, Spain still devotes too few resources to the conservation and sustainable use of ecosystems. This must change, according to the Ministry of Ecological Transition and a forest management plan must be implemented.

During a conference on Thursday, the Spanish Minister of Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera, emphasised nature management must form part of climate policy. Spain is therefore working on planned forest management as an economic impulse and to contribute to healthy environments for inhabitants.  


This conference was part of the virtual cycle of meetings #Biodirectos launched by the Ministry. And it was broadcast live and simultaneously on the different social media channels of the Biodiversity Foundation. In her speech, the Minister emphasised the many benefits that forests provide. They absorb CO2, strengthen the soil and generate employment, clean air, food, water. In short, a healthy forest means healthy people. 

Rural versus urban Spain 

Ribera pointed out that forests help to restore the broken balance between ‘rural and urban Spain’. A big challenge, in times of climate change. We must encourage forests to be well cared for and managed, because the livelihoods of millions of people around the world depend on it,’ Ribera said.  


Improving the systems for using forest products is a pending issue in Spain. The current government must implement measures to prevent forest fires and draw up a new national forestry strategy. Ribera advocated updating the forest inventory, a tradition Spain has had for many years. 

Ribera’s speech was followed by a round table meeting. A number of renowned Spanish specialists in the field of forestry and biodiversity participated. The director of the European Forest Institute, Marc Palahí also attended.

Cogesa Expats

It was emphasised that Spain has approximately 18 million hectares of forests, with extraordinary biodiversity and great variety. Most of the forests have an added value in rural areas and provide wood, fruit, resin, cork and mushrooms.  

Jewels of nature 

Many beautiful mature native forests have developed into ‘jewels of nature’ without human intervention and are of great importance for biodiversity in Spain. Remarkably, Spain also has many urban forests, which fulfil an ‘extraordinary function’ benefiting millions of citizens. Reason enough to carefully plan forest management and to turn the tide and thus improve biodiversity.  

Fossil fuels disastrous 

Marc Palahi, of the European Forest Institute, said the loss of biodiversity and the pandemic were the result of an economy based on fossil fuels. He called for the creation of a new paradigm ‘where life rather than consumption is the driving force in an economy that puts natural and social capital first’.  

Forest management

Another expert noted that Spain is a ‘heavily deforested’ country, where almost 60% of the territory is mountainous or forested, but only 35% is ‘real forest’. Nevertheless, Spain is the country that contributes most to biodiversity within the EU.  

This means that the need to increase and restore the current forest area is great. This can be done by using extensive livestock farming – small groups of animals on large pieces of land – the use of natural and renewable resources and the revitalisation of the countryside, ‘so that people continue to live in the mountains’.  


The organisation FSC Spain has been working on ‘adaptive forest management’ for more than three years and has developed tools for foresters and forest owners that they can integrate ‘into their daily work, to measure the effects of climate change in their forests and implement measures and actions to make them more resilient. The Spanish organisation PEFC, which also works on forest management and certification, sees a ‘lack of knowledge’ of forests and the people who look after them. This ‘disturbs the balance between nature and people, and that is costing us dearly’. The gap between rural and urban forestry must be bridged to secure the future of a ‘healthy and well-managed’ forest.   


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