Harmonising, improving and using social and recreational data in National Forest Inventories across Europe

Mark A. Atkinson*, David M. Edwards, Frank Søndergaard Jensen, Alexander P. N. van der Jagt, Ben R. Ditchburn, Tuija Sievänen, Patrizia Gasparini

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
19 Downloads (Pure)


Key message: National Forest Inventories (NFIs) hold promise for monitoring and valuing of non-productive forest functions, including social and recreational services. European countries use a range of methods to collect social and recreational information within their NFI methodologies. Data collected frequently included general and recreation-specific infrastructure, but innovative approaches are also used to monitor recreational use and social abuse. Context: Social and recreational indicators are increasingly valued in efforts to measure the non-productive value of forests in Europe. National Forest Inventories (NFIs) can be used to estimate recreational and social usage of forest land at a national level and relate this use to other biophysical, spatial and topographical features. Nonetheless, there is little information concerning the extent. Aims: The study aims to identify the coverage of social and recreational data present in European NFIs including the types of data recorded as part of the NFI methodologies across European countries. It also aims to examine contrasting methods used to record social and recreational data and present recommendations for ways forward for countries to integrate these into NFI practice. Methods: A pan-European questionnaire was designed and distributed to 35 counties as part of the EU-funded project Distributed, Integrated and Harmonised Forest Information for Bioeconomy Outlooks (DIABOLO). The questionnaire probed countries on all social and recreational data that was included within NFIs. Qualitative response data was analysed and recoded to measure the extent of social and recreational data recoded in European NFIs both as a function of the number of variable categories per country and the number of countries recording particular variables. Results: Thirty-one countries reported at least one social or recreational variable over 12 categories of data. The most frequently recorded variables included ownership, general transport infrastructure and recreation-specific infrastructure. Countries collecting data over many different categories included Switzerland, Great Britain, Czech Republic, Luxemburg and Denmark. Conclusion: The study proposes a specific set of indicators, based upon countries with well-developed social and recreational data in their NFIs, which could be used by other countries, and report on the extent to which these are currently collected across Europe. It discusses results and makes a series of recommendations concerning priorities for the inclusion of social and recreational data in European NFIs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number76
JournalAnnals of Forest Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jul 2020


  • Indicators
  • National Forest Inventory
  • Recreational use
  • Social data

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Ecology


Dive into the research topics of 'Harmonising, improving and using social and recreational data in National Forest Inventories across Europe'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this