In 2011, the overall global area of poplars was estimated at 87 million ha (78.5 million ha in 2007). 88% consists of natural poplar forests, 9% of planted poplars and 3% of agroforestry projects or trees outside forests.
Indigenous poplar forests cover significant areas in Canada (30.3 million ha), the Russian Federation (24.7 million ha), the United States of America (17.7 million ha) and China (2.5 million ha).
As far as poplar plantations are concerned, China is the leading country (7.6 million ha), followed by France (236,000 ha), Turkey (125,000 ha), Spain (105,000 ha), and Italy (101,430 ha).
China also accounts for the largest area of poplars used in agroforestry systems and trees outside forests (2.8 million ha in 2011, compared to 2.5 million in 2007 and 1 million in 2004).
These areas should be increased and transposed to other Member States in order to better respond to the expectations and requirements which will rise from the challenges posed by climate change. This is even more true, as poplar plantations show a negative trend in eight country, including Belgium, Croatia, Italy, France and Romania.
According to the data presented in the “Synthesis of country progress reports on the activities related to poplar cultivation and utilization from 2004 through 2007” of the International Poplar Commission (23rd session in Beijing, China), forest products remain the main purpose for poplar cultivation, with 52.7 million ha globally. Some 21 million ha of poplars are moreover being used for various protective systems.
The most important impact of harvested forests for wood production is the possibility to limit removals from natural or primary forests. This both contributes to their conservation and helps meeting the global demand for wood. The goal of a harvested forest is to produce enough wood to meet an increasing global demand in line with the principles of sustainable management from an economic, social and environmental point of view.
In this context, the development of poplar cultivation is a major element. Moreover, it falls within the “EU 2020” strategy. It also offers many answers to the various European policies in terms of sustainable development, in particular as regards:
All advantages of poplar in the context of sustainable development are described in our "Poplar: the tree of the 21st century", which is available for download in our "Publications" section.