France Backs Tree Felling & Biomass to Halt Beetle Spread

More than 110,000 hectares of French forests have already been infected by the bark beetle.

Tue 16 Apr 24


France will subsidise tree felling and ease regulations on biomass burning as the government intensifies its efforts to combat bark beetles, which are causing havoc on forests.

It comes as successive droughts and high temperatures in the French northeast have made trees more vulnerable to the beetle’s spread, sparking a massive surge in spruce and fir infected. 

In announcing the reforms yesterday, the French Agriculture Ministry said that more than 110,000 of 520,000 hectares in the region have been infected, with financial losses running into the hundreds of millions.

According to the government resources, “France will finance preventive felling of trees and debarking equipment, make it easier to burn infested wood and help sell timber that has been infested but is still usable” to contain the insects’ spread.

Now, the government is intervening to support timber companies in their fight against the beetles and will now subsidise the acquisition of felling-debarking equipment, funding 65% of the cost, up to 8,000 euros per unit.

The ministry said in a statement that “the more advanced the infestation is, the less effective the control measures are,” adding that the government is now setting up a national and regional crisis unit to better map and control the insects spread.

Despite being smaller than a grain of rice, bark beetles are causing big problems for pine forests across Europe and North America – footage courtesy of @NatGeo.

Spruce and pine are widely used for construction, furniture, and paper – and the ministry said that bark-beetle-infested wood is perfectly suitable for construction when identified at an early stage and felled at the right time; however, when wood can no longer be used for timber, infected timber will be used in biomass-fueled power and heating plants.

The bark beetle crisis coincides with the government’s aims to create a timber-led construction economy, with Wood Central reporting that timber construction is rising ahead of the Olympics later this year.

According to a report commissioned by France Bois Forêt last July, timber construction reached €4.6 billion last year, an increase of 14% since 2020. The number of new non-residential buildings rose from 18.3% in 2022 to 16.8% in 2020, and the industry is now targeting 20% to 30% by 2030 – mainly by wresting market share from concrete.

For more information on how game organisers are building the world’s first timber-led Olympics, click on Wood Central’s special feature.


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