Forest cover and erosion – Romania

Alternative: Forest cover and erosion in Romania
SDG: Life on land


Share of forest area (changes due to fire and logging) (ESS code: 15_10  ) Close UN indicator: 15.1.1

Estimated soil erosion by water  (ESS code: 15_50 ) Close UN indicator: 15.3.1

Copernicus components that will be used:       

Area description: Romania covers a surface of about 238’000km2, including mountains, hills, plateau and plains, reflecting the variety of rock substrata. The climate is temperate continental, wetter in western regions and more arid eastwards. More than 50% of the territory is devoted to agriculture, 10% to pasturelands, while almost one-third is occupied by forests, around 7M ha. Of these, ca. 70’000 ha are primary forests (Catalogue of virgin and quasi-virgin forests in Romania, 2021), more than any other EU country excluding Scandinavia, and some belong to UNESCO heritage. Such forests host ancient and protected tree species and provide habitat for wildlife (wolf, bear, lynx). One of the regions of particular interest for the issues described below (erosion, illegal logging, fires) is the Olt river basin, the longest river flowing exclusively in Romania.


Rationale: The Pilot will address SDG 15 “Life on Land” and, specifically, two interconnected SDG indicators: 15_10, share of forest cover; and 15_50, soil erosion by water. Forests in Romania are highly impacted by both climate pressures (e.g. fire regimes) and human behaviours (e.g. illegal logging). The latest JRC Report on forest fires (JRC, 2020) shows that Romania was the most affected country in 2020, followed by Portugal, Spain and Italy. Being Romania among Europe’s main timber producers, a critical issue is the illegal logging, affecting wide surfaces but whose volume is still not officially recognised. The EU Timber Regulation (2010), enforcing timber firms not to source and place products made from illegal logging on the EU market, seems unsuccessful in Romania, so that after complaints, the EU announced an infringement procedure in 2020. Beside negative effects on the ecology and economy, this environmental crime affects political, personal and community safety (workers, foresters and activists beaten in the last years, or victims of blackmail), and has international consequences due to the export of illegal wood. Last but not least, both fires and unregulated logging favour erosion, for which Romania is among the most affected EU countries after Italy and Spain (Panagos et al., 2018), and most of the erosion control works, completed during the communist period, have been destroyed or are no longer operational.
Applications: (currently not applicable)

Leader: Forest Design


Main stakeholders involved

Romanian authorities, the PEFC-Romania, Green Energy Romanian Innovative Biomass Cluster, ICAS, IFN, MMAP, WWF

International associations that might exploit the methodology outside the Pilot, such as the Confederation of European forests owners (CEPF), FAO, Global Forest Observations Initiative (GFOI), CI, WBCSD.

National associations outside the pilot, such as CREA, ISPRA, INRAE, CNVP Albania. Forest Service Ireland, Thunen Institute Forestry Germany

Objectives: Valuable tools (SUMAL/Forest Inspector) to keep under control illegal logging have been supported by Romania’s Ministry of Environment, Water and Forests (MMAP), but such tools have a troubled history with intermittent operation and use satellite mostly for GPS-based tracking of wood loading, transport and unloading. If not relying on wider monitoring with very high spatial detail from last-generation satellites, extensive mapping and verification of forest logging is time consuming, and in particular detecting unauthorised logging in small patches or through highly fragmented patterns is difficult. The role of high resolution satellite monitoring is also important in case of forest fires, whose careful characterization of the extent and number can benefit from a short revisiting period. Moreover, the high potential soil loss by erosion assessed for Romania (Panagos et al., 2015; Patriche, 2018) asks for enhancing both the spatialized monitoring of such a phenomenon and the methodological framework, due to limited (in space and time) measurement plots.

Expected results & outcomes: The Pilot will deliver a Copernicus-based tool generating maps of the two SDG indicators over the Olt river basin; maps will be available on the project Service and feed the DSS to explore and analyse data through user friendly tools (e.g. doing spatial aggregation or trend analyses).

Target users and their extended network will learn how to use these results and will be made aware of the potential of Copernicus data for such a SDG monitoring service, fostering the replicability for other periods towards operationalization, the transferability to other regions, as well as further development in Romania to improve/upgrade existing tools (SUMAL/Forest Inspector) and creating synergies with foreseen purposes and related investments, e.g. under the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, with 1.5 billion euros foreseen for reforestation and biodiversity conservation, including “Digital means of surveillance and control of illegal forest activities, in particular, illegal logging”.

References: Catalog of virgin and quasi-virgin forests in Romania; Moţoc et al. (1979) Metode de estimare a eroziunii totale și efluente pe bazine hidrografice mici. ICPA, Romania; Panagos et al. (2015) Doi:10.1016/j.envsci.2015.08.012; Panagos et al. (2018) Doi:10.1002/ldr.2879; Patriche (2019) Doi:; Planul Național de Redresare și Reziliență (2021); Renard et al. (1997) Agriculture Handbook 703; San-Miguel-Ayanz et al. (2021) Doi:10.2760/059331

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