Issues Facing the Cultivated Forest of Southern Europe

The 24th Forexpo will take place on June 6 – 8, 2012, in the heart of the Landes de Gascogne forest, in Landes. In Mimizan, the European silviculture and forestry development show will celebrate its 50th anniversary.

The outstanding feature of the Aquitaine event remains the same: Forexpo, sponsored by the Union of Foresters of Southern Europe (Union des Sylviculteurs du Sud de l’Europe), has become the emblematic event of the cultivated forest of Southern Europe.

The main issues facing the cultivated forest of Southern Europe will therefore be “in action” in Mimizan: reforestation, the certification of sustainable management, the protection of forests against fire, the forest industry, silvicultural strategies, forest mechanisation, energy wood, new uses of wood...

More than 200,000 hectares to be reforested

This Aquitaine forest, devastated by the storms Martin in 1999 and Klaus in 2009, is now the scene of the biggest reforestation project in Europe. It’s a commitment, a gamble on the future for the foresters of the South-West who, for many generations, have invested in and believed in the future of wood in general and of the pine wood of Landes in particular.

On their part, the industrialists in the transformation sector need to secure the supply of their factories, to operate them and to reinvest. Society’s expectations put pressure on a forest which is vitalised by its economic importance, in terms of added value and jobs.

Finally, for the regional authorities, it is of utmost importance to continue supporting this forest, which is essential in terms of the spatial development of the territory. The challenge of reforestation therefore goes far beyond the simple replacement “down to the last m2” of the trees destroyed by the storm then devastated by bark beetles.

The Aquitaine forest, whose development has been based on a tradition of innovation, with ruptures: from resin tapping ... to green chemistry, from mine posts to conventional sawing methods, to the modules destined for wooden constructions, etc., is not afraid of change.
Which species? Which strategies?

After the storm in 1999, the forest was reforested to bring it back to exactly how it was prior to the storm. For the foresters, Klaus challenged many conventional ideas. With regard to reforestation, Forexpo will provide the Aquitaine foresters with solid solutions to the problem of the reconstruction of the forest, supported by the GIP ECOFOR and INRA reports.

Foresters are faced with an investment choice for the next 40 years if they opt for the maritime pine, which remains the native species which is the most suited to the Landes forest ecosystem. The first criterion for selecting a species is its suitability to the location, which eliminates species which are more demanding.

Foresters may also opt for shorter energy wood production strategies, which enable them to limit the climatic and economic risks. Forexpo will present the choices which are possible with the cultivated forest showcase: species, varieties, silvicultural strategies, equipment, opportunities, partners, services, advice ... the entire range of tools will be on offer.

A favourable general context: “bio-pines”

In the midst of the global crisis, wood and more generally wood products and derivative products are striving. Global demand is booming, both in terms of quality and quantity. The material is entirely renewable, all the more so since it comes from plantation forests. It is well placed among the solutions which are an alternative to petrochemical products from fossil fuels, in green chemistry and in the production of renewable energy. It offers a solution to all those who have a need for biosourced materials. Finally, because it is able to improve energy efficiency in buildings, its use is being developed in the construction sector.

Q&A with Cyril Monneyron, Event Manager of Forexpo 2012 “In the face of an unprecedented challenge”

What specifically characterises this 24th Forexpo?

Forexpo 2012 comes at a time of total upheaval for the Aquitaine forest, which is still suffering the consequences of Klaus in January 2009, and for the forest economy on a global level. The cultivated forest is under threat: we are seeing a decrease in plantations in France, while we increasingly hear of French production and French use. However, the forest and the wood sector remain one of the first employers, creating jobs which cannot be outsourced. In Aquitaine, we are now faced with the biggest challenge for sixty years, since the large fires of 1948. We are experiencing a veritable turning point which gives rise to a multitude of questions: which forest should we choose? Which operating methods should be used? Meanwhile, we are faced with the soaring cost of commodities (fuel in particular). This will be one of the biggest challenges of the new mechanisation. Forexpo 2012 will offer solutions to all of these questions.

This year, Forexpo celebrates its 50th anniversary. How are you going to mark the occasion?

Forexpo is going to present a panorama of the past and present practices of the cultivated forest, in an event developed and staged by the Aquitaine CRPF1. There will also be an overview of mechanisation in partnership with the ASCODIF2, an evolution which has seen much growth over the past fifteen years.

We want to stimulate an intergenerational exchange, to show this evolution in real terms.

Can you give a few examples of this evolution?

With regard to felling, fifty years ago, we saw the introduction of the chain saw; today, we can fell and process a tree of one m3 (i.e. a forty-year old pine) in less than a minute with combined machines which can cost up to 400,000 Euros. With regard to reforestation, in the space of half a century, we have gone from the single-furrow plough to three-furrow or even four-furrow machines. At the same time, we have multiplied the labour capacity by 4 (currently around 4 hectares a day). The transport of wood has also evolved, from manual loading to the autonomous crane.

Who is Forexpo for?

Forexpo is aimed at everyone from forest and silvicultural professionals to those in the delivered wood industry. In other words, it is for all those involved in the forest: foresters, cooperatives, companies involved in the operation of the forest and forest works as well as employees in the wood sector, i.e. all of the professionals upstream in the sector down to the transporters.


Aquitaine, the first forest region in France in terms of surface area

  • Almost 1.8 million hectares, i.e. 42 % of the regional territory (60 % for the department of Landes, ahead of Gironde, 46.4%).
  • A forest which is largely privately-owned, with almost 92% of private ownership. 128,000 owners hold more than one hectare of forest, i.e. 1.64 million hectares. Three quarters own more than 10 hectares. 2700 owners hold more than 100 hectares.
  • 3 forest areas: the cultivated forest of Landes de Gascogne, the entire Dordogne Garonne with its woodlands, the Adour Pyrénées zone with its mountain forests.
  • A species which is largely dominant, the maritime pine represents 49 % of the volume of standing timber and 91% of felling in the region. The regional hardwood forests have made progress, while the storms in 1999 and 2009 have impacted the softwood forest.

Aquitaine, the first French region for forest production

  • 70% of the national harvest of softwood in private forests.

Aquitaine, the first French region for forest certification

  • 11 250 owners have obtained the PEFC certification, i.e. a total surface area of certified forests of 918,000 hectares (figures from the Aquitaine PEFC).

Aquitaine itself represents half of the certified surface area of private forests in France.

  • 932 works and exploitation enterprises are employed in the Aquitaine PEFC, which is a particularity of the region.

The Aquitaine paper wood forest activity: 34,000 employees, in addition to the foresters, mainly in rural areas

  • 34,000 industrial jobs, which makes it one of the major regional economic sectors.
  • 32,000 owners holding more than 4 ha, means that many people are committed to ensuring the continuity of forest investment, the upkeep and the protection of the forest.
  • 15% of the national lumber production. The region represents 75% of national maritime pine lumber.
  • A complete range of transformation industries: lumber and parquet and panelling production units, which often constitute the only employment opportunities in rural areas; factories producing packaging, panelling, paper pulp, paper and cardboard, woodwork, furniture and, more recently, products destined for wood construction, energy wood and green chemistry, including the first French biorefinery in Tartas, the Tembec factory.

(Source: The Regional Department for food, Agriculture and the Aquitaine Forest, Dossier “the forest wood industry in Aquitaine”)

Download this article as a PDF: