The European Forest Institute (EFI) Mediterranean Facility explores and sheds light on the wealth of products that can boost the forest economy beyond wood.
When we think about the value of forests, we normally think about biodiversity, landscape, clear water and fresh air. When it comes to forest management and products, we think mainly about wood. It is easy to overlook the enormous potential of non-wood forest products (NWFPs) and how they can help us face societal challenges.
This is true even in the Mediterranean region, where wood production is limited and wood-based industries are not well developed. Research results from EU-funded projects like StarTree and INCREDIBLE4 are contributing to unveiling the enormous potential of NWFPs. These vital components of better preserved, better managed and better valued Mediterranean forests support more vibrant rural economies and healthier urban citizens. Surprised? We will go into the forest now to unearth some of its treasures.
Value of non-wood forest products
Non-wood products include wild and partially wild pine nuts, acorns and berries, as well as other edibles, such as mushrooms, honey, essential or medicinal herbs and fantastic natural and versatile materials, including cork and resin. Despite poor statistics and grey markets, the marketed value of non-wood forest products in Europe was estimated to be worth an enormous 2.3 billion euros. Even in wood-centred forest economies of northern or central Europe, non-wood forest products account for some 10% of the total value of round wood. Because of relatively weaker wood value chains and their very high biodiversity, these NWFPs represent a larger share of forest production in the Mediterranean region.