Protection of old growth forests by EU legislation

The new EU Forestry Strategy 2030 includes an improvement of the quantity and quality of European forests. It is an initiative of European Green Deal, and builds on the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030. The strategy is part of the ‘Fit for 55 Package’ where the objective is to ‘reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 and become climate neutral by 2050’. The multifunctional role of forests, the contribution of foresters and the entire forest value chain are important for sustaining life on earth. In order to protect and preserve this core, a sustainable and climate-neutral economy must be achieved by 2050.

How are old growth forests protected by EU legislation? What is their part in the EU 2030 agenda?

The EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030 proposes a protection (in space and time) of the last old-growth forests in the EU. The target is to protect at least 30% of the EU’s land area and to have an effective management regime in place. Of the 30%, 10% of the land area must be under strict protection. This would mean protecting all of Europe’s old-growth forests (which now only cover about 3% of the EU’s forested area and are fragmented). The real implementation of the strategy is complex, as the subject of legislation is a national entity. The European law would have to be transformed into national laws in each European country.
Furthermore, the Commission aims to agree on a common definition of primary and old-growth forests and an accompanying protection rule by the end of 2021. There is a further need to correctly map old-growth forests with their protected areas and associated level of protection. The revision of the available mapping sources is also required. In order to be able to continue to protect the forests and, for example, to reduce forestry and recreational possibilities in certain places. The aim is also to work more closely with the competent authorities and NGOs at national level. JRC Publications Repository – Mapping and assessment of old-growth and old-growth forests in Europe (

JRC Publications Repository – Mapping and assessment of old-growth and old-growth forests in Europe (