Last November, the European Commission proposed a regulation to establish a coordinated monitoring framework for resilient forests using a combination of imagery from the European Union’s Copernicus Earth-observation satellites and in situ data, mainly from national forest inventories. The proposal is based on the premise that forest monitoring in Europe is “fragmented and patchy”, with no fully developed “consistent, transnational data-gathering approach”.

This premise, however, is misleading. In 1986, the commission launched a coordinated forest monitoring scheme, which evolved in cooperation with the International Co-operative Programme on Assessment and Monitoring of Air Pollution Effects on Forests (ICP Forests), which I currently chair. The programme now covers 37 European countries and has a comprehensive portfolio of harmonized, quality-assured methodologies, databases and governance.

Such infrastructures can provide essential data to explain changes in forest conditions and to understand processes, both key aspects when aiming to build resilient forests. At a time of increased signals of forest vulnerability, it would be a missed opportunity not to take advantage of all the available resources for the future European forest monitoring system.