Ever been driving through or flying over a European country and found yourself gazing at a beautiful stretch of foresty greenery? Well, you’ve at best got a one-in-a-hundred chance of getting that same feeling in Malta. Literally.
On the first weekend of spring 2021 and to mark the International Day of Forests yesterday, new Eurostat figures had some very hopeful news for the continent. With an average of 38% total area being covered by forests, the European Union has actually increased its greenery by around 159 million hectares of forests since 1990.
But while five EU member states have more than half of their land area covered with forests, the situation is drastically different on the other end of the spectrum: Malta.
Finland (66%), Sweden (63%), Slovenia (61%), Estonia (54%) and Latvia (53%) lead the pack with impressive stats that show more than half of the entire countries covered with forests, but in Malta, that percentage is just 1%.
Falling well under even the next country – The Netherlands with 10% – Malta’s percentage of forested land is so minimal, the Eurostat chart switched up its imagery just for the island.
While every single EU country got varying degrees of green circles and trees to represent their forested area, Malta just got a lonely bird at the very edge of the list.
“Forests provide a range of ecosystem services to society; in addition to providing timber for construction or as fuel, their crucial role for recreation, clearing pollutants from air and water, preventing floods and storing carbon has been increasingly recognized,” the Eurostat entry elaborates.
“The potential of forests to supply these ecosystem services depends on forest area and forest condition. Larger forests and in good condition have a higher potential to provide us more ecosystem services.”
Now Malta was never known for its rolling hills of forestry and is only 27 kilometres long, but it is worth noting that, by looking at each individual country’s own area and scaling ratios, this stat only really compares every country to itself.
And maybe, 1% of forest land isn’t what any country should be aiming for.
Of course, it’s also worth noting that Malta’s central Mediterranean climate is not ideal for forests and the island has countryside of other sorts to boast about… even if countries and islands in similar geographic and climatic situations like Cyprus, Greece and Spain all have forests that take up 19%, 30% and 37% of their total land respectively.
Also, it’s pretty ironic that a bird was chosen to represent Malta in any statistic about the environment, but that’s a whole other discussion for another time.
What do you make of this? Are you surprised? Let us know in the comments below