This blogpost presents ongoing research into the opportunities and challenges for the new European Union Forest Strategy for 2030, using the Laurissilva forest situated in Madeira, Portugal, as a case study example. The rationale for the research is highlighted together with key issues that will be explored in the research. 
The recently released documentary ‘Breaking Boundaries: The Science of Our Planet’, featuring David Attenborough and Johan Rockström, on Netflix has once again highlighted the importance of forests and the main threats that they face. Forests are vital for our survival; their benefits range from helping us breathe by absorbing carbon dioxide and providing oxygen, to providing habitats for animals, to preventing soil erosion, and to mitigating climate change.
There has therefore been increasing attention on forests, including within the European Union. In recognition of the increasing strain on this vital resource, the EU committed to publishing a new EU forest strategy as part of its European Green Deal. In a nutshell, the Green Deal is a ‘growth strategy that aims to transform the EU into a fair and prosperous society, with a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy where there are no net emissions of greenhouse gases in 2050 and where economic growth is decoupled from resource use’. The Forest Strategy was published on 14 July 2021, The Forest Strategy: (1) builds on EU biodiversity strategy for 2030, and (2) will contribute to achieving EU’s biodiversity objectives and its greenhouse gas emission reduction target of at least 55% by 2030 and climate neutrality by 2050. It intends to achieve this through:
- Supporting the socio-economic functions of forests for thriving rural areas and boosting forest-based bio-economy within sustainability boundaries;
- Protecting, restoring and enlarging EU’s forests to combat climate change, reverse biodiversity loss and ensure resilient and multifunctional forest ecosystems;
- Strategic forest monitoring, reporting and data collection;
- A strong research and innovation agenda to improve our knowledge on forests;
- Inclusive and coherent EU forest governance framework; and
- Stepping up implementation and enforcement of existing EU acquis.
But, EU forest-related policy instruments have thus far been ‘notoriously incoherent’ and not been coordinated adequately as a result of policy fragmentation. This may in part be because of the inherent challenges of combining economic growth with environmental benefits. Such critiques provide the starting point for our intended research, which is: What are the opportunities and challenges for the EU Forest Strategy in practice?
For the purpose of this overarching research question, we are undertaking a two-step process: (1) identifying opportunities and challenges that have been identified in literature EU forest law and policy through a systematic scoping review; and (2) mapping the results of the scoping review to the EU Forest Strategy to identify which have been recognised, addressed, or side-lined. We will be using the Laurissilva forest of Madeira, Portugal, as a case study throughout the latter stage to demonstrate some of the issues and impacts that have been realised or may arise in practice. The Laurissilva forest is the only natural UNESCO World Heritage Site in Portugal, and it also constitutes a Special Zone for Protection within the European Bird Directive and a Site of Communitary Interest within the Habitats Directive. It has been selected in part because it is facing similar threats as other forests, including invasive species, mismanagement of pastures and grazing, and tourism development.
You can find out more about Katrien’s research through her Pure profile, which sets out her research interests, publications, and contact details. You can also find out more about Coventry University’s research through our dedicated research pages.
 The concept for this piece was originally submitted as part of the assessment for European Union Law by Caroline T Gouveia.
 Many studies exist on the importance of forests in different contexts. E.g. Sigurour Blöndal, ‘Socioeconomic Importance of Forests in Iceland’ in JN Alden, JL Mastrantonio and S Ødum (eds), Forest Development in Cold Climates (Springer 1993) https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4899-1600-6_1; Md Habibur Rahman and others, ‘The Importance of Forests to Protect Medicinal Plants: A Case Study of Khadimnagar National Park, Bangladesh’ (2011) 7(4) International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystem Services & Management 283, https://doi.org/10.1080/21513732.2011.645071; Łukasz Kajtochi and others, ‘The Importance of Forests along Submontane Stream Valleys for Bird Conservation: The Carpathian Example’ (2016) 26(3) Bird Conservation International 350, https://doi.org/10.1017/S0959270915000179; William R Moomaw, Beverly E Law and Scott J Goetz, ‘Focus on the Role of Forests and Soils in Meeting Climate Change Mitigation Goals: Summary’ (2020) 15(4) Environmental Research Letters 045009, https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/ab6b38.
 Commission, ‘The European Green Deal’ (Communication) COM (2019) 640 final.
 ibid 2.
 Commission, ‘New EU Forest Strategy for 2030’ (Communication) COM (2021) 572 final.
 Filip Aggestam and Alexandru Giurca, ‘The Art of the “Green” Deal: Policy Pathways for the EU Forest Strategy’ (2021) 128(102456) Forest Policy and Economics 1, 1. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.forpol.2021.102456
 Andrea Ross-Robertson, ‘Is the Environment Getting Squeezed Out of Sustainable Development?’  Public Law 249, 251.
 Pedro Regato, ‘Madeira Evergreen Forests’ (WWF, 2021) <www.worldwildlife.org/ecoregions/pa0425> accessed 22 September 2022.