Promoting Alpine forests as carbon sink

Basic information:

The spread and growth of forests across the Alps qualifies the region as a potentially outstanding sink for CO₂ emissions in the EU. However, there is no complete understanding and knowledge base on the potential of Alpine forest as C-sinks and on management practices that could increase their storing capacity.

The role of forests as C-sinks is well-known. However, it can be further supported by the use of appropriate and scientifically sound methods, often coupled with tools that allow a fine-tuning of the practices implemented. The pathway aims at providing Alpine forest managers with a set of calculation and management tools that allow a more effective use of Alpine forests as C-sinks.

Sequence of implementation steps:

  • Identification of different types of forests and their age in the Alps
  • GIS-mapping of identified types based on their ability to improve their C-storage capacity and performance
  • Collection of available CO accounting tools for forests
  • Collection of examples of management techniques including management of tree species and age in forest planning, based on their CO₂ storage capacity

Definition of specific targets for CO₂-friendly Alpine forest management and wood production in line with EU Directives (2020-2024) (e.g., forest types more suitable to store CO₂, priority interventions, use of accounting tools or other instruments, etc.).

Adoption of instruments for achieving the specific targets (defined under Step 3a) in the Alps until the achievement of the single targets and general goal of the pathway (2024-2050).

Further Information:

This pathway needs the involvement of the following stakeholder categories:

  • Forest owners, forest professionals, forest services (national and regional), policy makers (national, regional, local), universities/ research institutions, etc.
  • Database of tools to account for CO₂ storage in Alpine forests
    Prioritisation of interventions planned in forests based on the assessment of their fitness in storing CO₂
  • Criteria for use of different forest species aimed at maximising C-storage
  • Step 1: Forest types maps
  • Step 2: Number of tools and management techniques collected
  • Step 3a: Qualitative description of the specific objectives/targets
  • Step 3b: Number of forest managers in the Alps who use the tools as developed in step 3b
  • Statement On the Value of Alpine Forests and the Alpine Convention’s Protocol on Mountain Forests in the framework of the international forestry policies beyond 2015 (2014; Stock taking No. 13
  • MANFRED – Management strategies to adapt Alpine Space forests to climate change risks (Project ASP; Stock Taking No. 70)
  • Several national and regional policies across the Alps




Due to climate change, mountain forests face an increased risk from dry periods and extreme events such as wind gusts and forest fires. Weakened trees also become more vulnerable to pest diseases. On the other hand, the forest cover is growing in the Alps due to the abandonment of cultivated areas and the rise in temperature. Sustainable forest management is key to fully use both the protective and mitigation function of mountain forests, as forests act as a carbon sink, they supply wood as construction material and renewable energy source and they offer natural protection from avalanches, floods and other disasters.