Growing Non-native Trees in European Forests Brings Benefits and Opportunities but Also Has Its Risks and Limits

Elisabeth Pötzelsberger*, Heinrich Spiecker, Charalambos Neophytou, Frits Mohren, Anna Gazda, Hubert Hasenauer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Purpose of Review: Non-native tree species (NNT) raise a range of different associations and emotions—to many citizens they are just an exotic curiosity in parks, to many conservationists they are an evil to native ecosystems that should be eradicated, to a rising group of foresters they are part of the solution to climate change and an increasing timber demand, and to others they are already daily forestry business. In this review, where we also summarise the findings of the recent COST Action FP1403 (NNEXT) ‘Non-native tree species for European forests: experiences, risks and opportunities’, we highlight opportunities and challenges in the light of climate change, ecological risks and legislative limits of growing non-native tree species in Europe. Recent Findings: Few NNT in Europe show invasive behaviour and are listed as prohibited species or as species to be monitored. A larger number of NNT is utilised in productive forestry and forest restoration due to their superior growth, valuable timber properties and good performance under harsh growing conditions. Current species distribution, experiences with success and failures and environmental concerns differ profoundly across Europe, with Western Europe overall revealing higher shares in NNT and showing a stronger interest of forestry related stakeholder groups to continue planting NNT. Summary: Many more NNT are already used in forestry than previously thought, but relatively few species have major importance in terms of area, mainly in western European countries. Diversification, mixing and avoidance of invasion in relation to NNT are necessities that are relatively new on the agenda. In contrast, provenance research of major NNT has been going on for many decades and now provides important information for climate change adaptation. Despite the limitations to the use of NNT either through legal restrictions or forest certification that differ considerably across Europe, the careful integration of a range of tested NNT also into future forest management planning shows a high potential for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)339–353
JournalCurrent Forestry Reports
Volume6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020

Keywords

  • Climate change adaptation
  • Forest plantation
  • Forest reproductive material
  • Invasive alien species
  • Non-native tree species
  • Provenances

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