Depleting cover

Forest cover in Europe is decreasing at an alarming rate, says a new study

Published: Monday 15 November 1999

europe's forests are deteriorating at an alarming rate despite measures to reduce air pollution, says a new report. About 35 per cent of trees assessed throughout Europe can be classified as "healthy," about 40 per cent are in the "warning stage," while about a quarter of trees are rated "damaged," indicating that they have lost more than 25 per cent of their leaves, says the report published by the European Commission and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.

"The results of the 1998 forest health survey show a general deterioration in the condition of the many tree species," it said. "The main causes of the vitality losses and damage are air pollution and extreme drought." While the condition of pine forests in parts of eastern Europe has recovered gradually, the health of oak forests in western Europe has deteriorated in recent years. This is mainly due to pollution from gases such as ozone and is particularly bad in the Mediterranean region. The report found that 20 per cent of soils in Europe are very acid, with the greatest problem in eastern Europe. Half of the areas surveyed -- mostly in western Europe -- showed increased nitrogen deposits. There was a general increase in ozone pollution.

Over the past few years the European Union has introduced a number of pieces of legislation to reduce air pollution. Environment ministers are scheduled to meet in October-end to debate proposals to reduce emissions of the main gases that lead to acid rain, one of the principal causes of forest degradation.

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