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Forest specialists from all continents meet in Bulgaria

Forest specialists from all continents meet in Bulgaria to debate green economy

Sofia, Bulgaria — 70 WWF forest specialists from over 20 countries come together this week in Sofia to debate how to globally address future land use challenges in a world of 9 billion people and growing demand, laid out in WWF’s Living Forests Report. Particularly global challenges to forest ecosystems and related environmental services such as their importance to curb greenhouse gas emissions and water quality will be in the focus of strategic discussions. The choice of Sofia for this meeting emphasizes the importance of Bulgarian natural resources, its unique forests and rivers and the importance to preserve these from increasing pressures through human activities.

In the coming years, forests will come under pressure like never before as more wood is used for energy, more land is cleared for agriculture, new roads bring settlers and industry beyond today’s frontiers and climate change causes more frequent extreme weather events. “WWF experts from around the world come together here in Sofia to find strategies on how society can work together worldwide to achieve zero net deforestation and forest degradation by 2020, which means no overall loss of forest area or forest quality,” says Rod Taylor, Director of WWF’s Global Forest Programme. “It is possible to achieve this. The key challenge for forest-based industries in a future “green” economy based on resources that can be renewed will be how to supply more wood products with less impact on nature. This challenge spans the whole supply chain, from where and how wood is grown and harvested to how wisely and efficiently it is processed, used and reused”.

Central and Eastern Europe continues to be a priority for WWF´s conservation work in this context, finding solutions that link a vibrant wood products industry that meets people’s need with better preservation of unique natural values found in this region. Through its Green Heart of Europe initiative WWF works to preserve the natural riches of Bulgaria and other countries in the region.

Bulgarian forests cover 37% of the area of the country and shelter more than 40 globally threatened animal and plant species. WWF’s work in Bulgaria has led to the FSC certification of 400,000 ha of forest. Less than 4% of all forests are old-growth. “WWF has recently launched an online GIS tool mapping the old-growth forests of the country (gis.wwf.bg/forests). Many of them are inside protected areas or part of the European network of protected sites Natura 2000, which have lately been targeted by developers of tourist facilities and infrastructure,” says Vesselina Kavrakova, WWF’s country manager for Bulgaria. A new road and tunnel at Shipka in the Balkan Mountains could destroy a virgin forest with important bear and wolf habitats in Balgarka Nature Park. In Strandzha Nature Park the largest intact oak and beech forest complexes in South-East Europe are threatened by a new mass tourism masterplan. Last year 4,500 ha of Danube river forests were preserved after WWF and partnering environmental organisations intervened against a controversial legal amendment.

ENDS

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