Forests and the forestry sector
Forests and other wooded areas cover a little more than a fifth of Belgium¿s total land area and the country has one of the smallest forested areas per inhabitant in Europe. More than half the forest land falls into the category of semi-natural forest, with the remainder - a high percentage in comparison with the European average - consisting of plantations, especially of poplar (Populus spp.). Almost all the forests are available for supplying wood. Most of the forests are found in the more mountainous southern part of the country (the Ardennes). Deciduous species make up more than half the standing stock, the main species being oak (Quercus spp.), silver birch (Betula pendula), poplar and beech (Fagus sylvatica). The main conifer species are pine (Pinus spp.), common or Norway spruce (Picea abies) and Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga taxifolia).
About 60 percent of forests are privately owned, belonging mainly to individuals. Most of the public forests belong to public institutions other than the Belgian State, especially the three regions of Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels-Capital, which are also responsible for all aspects of their respective forestry policies.
The net annual growth rate per hectare is one of the highest in Europe and felling is slightly lower than this growth, resulting in a steady increase in the volume of standing stock. On the other hand, the total forested area is slightly reduced each year.
Besides wood production, recreation and hunting are two major functions of forests.
Belgium does not produce enough roundwood for its vigorous domestic industry, and raw materials and primary processed products are imported to meet the demand. Most of the roundwood is imported from neighbouring regions in France and Germany. The country has a fairly large wood-based panel industry that produces mainly particle board for export and for the local furniture industry. Belgium also imports large volumes of recycled paper, which are then re-exported to other countries in the European Union.
Non-wood forest products (berries and mushrooms) are gathered in forests on a very small scale.
Last updated: January 2004