Original Paper

European Journal of Forest Research

, Volume 130, Issue 1, pp 7-16

First online:

The state of forest vegetation management in Europe in the 21st century

  • Nick McCarthyAffiliated withWaterford Institute of Technology
  • , Niclas Scott BentsenAffiliated withCentre for Forest Landscape and Planning, University of Copenhagen Email author 
  • , Ian WilloughbyAffiliated withForest Research, Forestry Commission
  • , Philippe BalandierAffiliated withCemagref UR EFNO/INRA UMR547 PIAF

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COST (COST is an intergovernmental framework for European cooperation in science and technology. COST funds network activities, workshops and conferences with the aim to reducing the fragmentation in European research) Action E47, European Network for Forest Vegetation Management—Towards Environmental Sustainability was formed in 2005 and gathered scientists and practitioners from eighteen European countries with the objective of sharing current scientific advances and best practice in the field of forest vegetation management to identify common knowledge gaps and European research potentials. This paper summarizes the work of the COST action and concludes that although diverse countries have by necessity adopted different means of addressing the challenges of forest vegetation management in Europe in the 21st century, some common themes are still evident. In all countries, there is a consensus that vegetation management is a critical silvicultural operation to achieve forest establishment, regeneration, growth and production. It appears that herbicides are still in use to some degree in all the countries reviewed, although at a lower intensity in many of the northern countries compared to other regions. The most common alternatives to herbicides adopted are the use of mechanical methods to cut vegetation and achieve soil cultivation; overstorey canopy manipulation to control vegetation by light availability; and in some instances the use of mulches or biological control. Any reductions in herbicide use achieved do not seem to have been driven solely by participation in forest certification schemes. Other factors, such as national initiatives or the availability of additional resources to implement more expensive non-chemical approaches, may be equally important. The development of more cost-effective and practical guidance for managers across Europe on non-chemical control methods can best be brought about by future collaborative research into more sustainable and holistic methods of managing forest vegetation, through the identification of silvicultural approaches to reduce or eliminate pesticide use and through gaining a better understanding of the fundamental mechanisms and impacts of competition.


Vegetation management Alternatives to herbicides Forest certification Weeds