iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry


JRC study on harvested forest area: resolving key misunderstandings

Giacomo Grassi   , Alessandro Cescatti, Guido Ceccherini

iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry, Volume 14, Issue 3, Pages 231-235 (2021)
doi: https://doi.org/10.3832/ifor0059-014
Published: May 07, 2021 - Copyright © 2021 SISEF

Commentaries & Perspectives

A recent study on forest harvest in the EU (Ceccherini et al. 2020) reported a strong increase in clear-cut harvested area in recent years, based on remote sensing information. This triggered a heated debate and many critical comments. Apart from several fair and constructive criticisms, which were welcome, we found that some comments have been either not based on evidence or affected by serious misunderstandings. Here we clarify some technical aspects that were omitted or misrepresented in the public debate. Overall, the original study used in a scientifically correct way the best information available at that time. After the study was published, a previously undocumented inconsistency in the time series emerged in the original dataset used. After correcting for this inconsistency, updated results confirm an increase in clear-cut harvested area, but not as abrupt as originally reported. Contrary to what many critics say, this information should be seen as complementing and not necessarily contradicting country statistics, because the latter typically refer to total harvest (including thinning, etc.) and not clear-cut only. Finally, it should not be overlooked that the main aim of the original study was to offer a vision for integrating satellite data into the monitoring of forest resources. This was achieved: the JRC study showed the potential (and limitations) for high-resolution satellite maps to track the temporal evolution of clear-cut forest harvest in EU.


Harvested Forest Area, Remote Sensed Datasets, Global Forest Change (GFC), High-Resolution Satellite Maps

Authors’ address

Giacomo Grassi 0000-0003-0650-0391
Alessandro Cescatti 0000-0002-2769-2591
Guido Ceccherini 0000-0003-1772-9554
European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Directorate D - Sustainable Resources - Bio-Economy Unit, Ispra, VA (Italy)

Corresponding author



Grassi G, Cescatti A, Ceccherini G (2021). JRC study on harvested forest area: resolving key misunderstandings. iForest 14: 231-235. - doi: 10.3832/ifor0059-014

Academic Editor

Marco Borghetti

Paper history

Received: May 05, 2021
Accepted: May 07, 2021

First online: May 07, 2021
Publication Date: Jun 30, 2021
Publication Time: 0.00 months

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Camia A, Giuntoli J, Jonsson R, Robert N, Cazzaniga NE, Jasinevičius G, Avitabile V, Grassi G, Barredo JI, Mubareka S (2021)
The use of woody biomass for energy purposes in the EU. EUR 30548 EN, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, pp. 178.
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Abrupt increase in harvested forest area over Europe after 2015. Nature 583 (7814): 72-77.
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Ceccherini G, Duveiller G, Grassi G, Lemoine G, Avitabile V, Pilli R, Cescatti A (2021)
Reply to Wernick, I. K. et al.; Palahí, M. et al. Nature 592: E18-E23.
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Grassi G, Cescatti A, Ceccherini G (2021)
Note on the JRC Nature paper on harvest, complementing the reply of Ceccherini et al. 2021. JRC-EU, Ispra, VA, Italy, pp. 8.
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Ceccherini et al: Concerns about reported harvested area and biomass loss in European forests. Nature 592: E15-E17.
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Accuracy assessments of local and global forest change data to estimate annual disturbances in temperate forests. Remote Sensing 12 (15): 2438.
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Wernick IK, Ciais P, Fridman J, Högberg P, Korhonen KT, Nordin A, Kauppi PE (2021)
Quantifying forest change in the European Union. Nature 592: E13-E14.
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