Agriculture and Forestry in Europe

Europe is one of the world's largest and most productive suppliers of food and fibre; it accounts for substantial outputs of both arable crops and animal products (FAOSTAT, 2001). The agriculture in Europe accounts for a small part of the total GDP and the total employment. Thus, the vulnerability of the overall economy to changes that affect agriculture is generally low (Reilly, 1996), but local effects may be large.

Five major agricultural regions can be discerned in Europe as described by Kostrowicki (1991). These regions are determined by both environmental and socioeconomic factors. Zone I is the northern region, where agriculture is mainly market oriented, with extensive cattle breeding. Zone II includes the Atlantic and Central Continental regions that are characterised mainly by intensive and market-oriented agriculture. Zone III, including the Mediterranean countries, shows diverse patterns of agriculture, ranging from a market-oriented type with mainly typical crop cultivation (e.g. fruit trees, olive and grapes) to considerable areas of traditional type. Zone IV is the eastern region, where traditional agriculture is still predominant, but the proportion of marked-oriented and socialised agriculture has been rapidly changing. Zone V is the European part of the former USSR, which was dominated by large-scale socialised agriculture, but is now slowly adapting to a more quality oriented agriculture. The trends in European agriculture are dominated by the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the European Union. This occurs because the EU member states cover a large proportion of the agricultural production in Europe, and because several countries are currently seeking membership of the EU and in this process are adjusting their policy to match the CAP.

Agriculture in Europe competes with other sectors for land and employees. This has caused in the last 30 years a strong reduction in the agricultural area and employment. Thus, the future of the European agriculture will be related to the need to feed the world's population. The population of Europe is not expected to increase substantially, whereas in the other parts of the world the population and the type of diet are expected to rapidly increase and change, respectively (Penning de Vries et al., 1995).

The forests in Europe range from semiarid condition in the Mediterranean region, through temperate in western and central Europe, to cool in northern Europe. In agreement with these different climate conditions over Europe, the forests may be divided into: (a) Boreal, that are the forests in the European part of the boreal zone; (b) Temperate, that are located in central Europe, and are divided into Atlantic and Continental forests on the basis of the differences in the availability of soil water; and (c) Mediterranean, that are the forests in the dry temperate zone in the Mediterranean Basin (Kellomaki, 2000).

In total, the forest area in Europe is 956 Mha, of which 85% is Boreal, 2% Atlantic, 9% Continental and 4% Mediterranean (Kellomaki, 2000). The stocking and growth per hectare is larger in the Atlantic and Continental forests than in the Boreal and Mediterranean forests. In each forest region, however, growth exceeds cutting with increasing stocking and maturing of forest resources. Throughout Europe, the majority of forests are managed except in north-western Russia where there is a dominance of old-growth natural forests. In northern Europe, forestry is mainly based on native tree species, which invaded this region post-glacially. The role of introduced species is especially large in the Atlantic forests. The productivity of the introduced conifers exceeds substantially that of the native deciduous species making the introduced confers economically attractive (Kellomaki, 2000).

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