Elisabeth Pötzelsberger1, Katharina Lapin2 and Giuseppe Brundu3
1Department of Forest and Soil Sciences, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), Vienna, Austria
2Austrian Research Center for Forests (BFW), Vienna, Austria
3Department of Agriculture, University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy
Non-native tree species (NNTs) are of considerable importance in European forestry, but can also pose various ecological risks to ecosystems. National and subnational legislations deal with non-native tree species in many different ways. In this study we (i) identified the most relevant legal instruments dealing with NNTs, and (ii) analysed and mapped the range of national and subnational legal strategies pertaining to the regulation of NNTs in EU and non-EU European countries. We focused on legislation with a high relevance for the management of NNTs in forests and non-forest plantations, including legislation prohibiting the use of NNTs, as well as laws governing introduction and species selection for plantations.
The method for data collection included questionnaires sent to over 60 experts from almost all European countries; in addition, the FAOLEX and ECOLEX databases were searched. We reviewed around 400 legislative acts to identify relevant information on NNTs.
Our study revealed that forest laws and/or nature conservation laws of almost all European countries deal with non-native tree species. We detected a remarkably broad range of regulatory intensity within the European legislative landscape, ranging from not dealing with non-natives at all to total prohibition against the introduction and use of NNTs. Two thirds of the European countries deal with the question of invasiveness and either ban specific tree species or prohibit the use of invasive tree species in general, without listing them. About one third of European countries apply the logic of a legally binding black list, which prohibits the use of listed NNTs in forestry. Not allowing for the unauthorized import of new NNTs into the country and introduction into nature is another general approach that a third of European countries follow, mainly Eastern European countries. Authorization, in these cases, often involves a risk assessment. In addition, most countries define special sites or conditions where NNTs are not allowed to be used. Some countries may include a recommendation in their legislation to preferably plant native forest tree species. This circumstance becomes more relevant in those countries where forest management plans authorized or developed by an authority are mandatory. Besides legislative acts and degrees (orders), certifications or guidelines have a significant influence on the management of NNT in European forests. The concern about potential harm from non-native organisms is thus clearly discernible in European national and subnational legislations.