Representatives from Europe's seven alpine nations say urgent action is needed to protect forest ecosystems. The statement came at the end of a three-day meeting in Switzerland, convened to review measures to strengthen and extend alpine forests.
The experts, meeting in Maienfeld, canton Berne, said action was needed immediately to regenerate alpine forests and that they would be drafting a resolution to that effect.
Key threats to forests were identified as pollution - specifically the emission of harmful gases - and populations of game.
Peter Greminger, spokesman for the Swiss Environment Ministry, told swissinfo that although the issue of wildlife had been controversial, everyone present "had agreed that it is necessary to reduce the game population to achieve a natural regeneration of trees in these forests".
Greminger added that steps needed to be taken to encourage communities living near forests to maximise the use of wood as a source of building materials and energy.
He said wood was a renewable resource and that using it close to its source would reduce the need to transport it, which in turn would save energy and cut down on emissions.
The experts said forests played a vital role in lessening the effects of natural disasters by acting as barriers against mudslides and avalanches. They said forests also had a beneficial effect on the environment by breaking down carbon dioxide, generating oxygen and providing wood.
Their comments come less than two weeks after floods and mudslides swept through canton Valais, killing at least 11 people and causing widespread destruction.
The importance of protecting mountain forests has been enshrined in a protocol to the Alpine Convention, which came into force in April 1999.
The countries attending the meeting included Switzerland, Germany, France, Italy, Austria, Liechtenstein and Slovenia.
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