Growing stock in Finland's forests has increased more than 40% in 40 years, far outstripping wood use: Finnish Forest Research Institute

VANTAA, Finland , June 14, 2011 (press release) – Over the last two decades, the state of Finland's forests has improved, while growing stock has increased by over 40% in the last 40 years. During this time, it has been possible to harvest and use wood equivalent to the current tree stock volume of 2,200 million cubic metres. Nature management measures have been carried out in commercial forests in order to safeguard biodiversity. Over the past 35 years, the area of protected forests has tripled. Thanks to these measures, the decline in certain forest species has decelerated or halted, although it has not been possible to halt the decline in forest species overall. Efforts to preserve biodiversity must be continued.

Apart from the severe storm damage during the summer of 2010, no widespread forest damage has occurred in Finland in 30 years. While it is estimated that climate change will increase forest growth, extreme weather phenomena are likely to become more common and may cause local damage.

These trends have been identified by an assessment of the state of Finland's forests, based on indicators for sustainable forest management. The State of Finland's Forests 2011 publication was drawn up by the Finnish Forest Research Institute (Metla), under an assignment from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. Previous reviews were performed in 1997, 2003 and 2007. The publication will be distributed to the participants of the 6th Ministerial Conference of the European ministers responsible for forests, on 14 June 2011 in Oslo.

Forests constitute Finland's most important carbon sink

Since annual forest growth far outstrips wood use, forests serve as a so-called carbon sink, binding carbon from the atmosphere into trees and soil. The amount of carbon bound by forests is equivalent to approximately half of the carbon dioxide emissions annually generated by Finnish industry. As wood is a renewable, low-energy and carbon-neutral raw material, the use of wood in construction is promoted by construction regulations and policy measures. There is also growing demand for wood in the production of renewable forest energy and new bioeconomy products. Wood-based energy accounts for 20% of total energy consumption and is expected to increase to 30% by 2020.

The forest sector accounts for 4% of GDP. In regional terms, its share is highest, at over 10%, in South-East and Eastern Finland and in Kainuu. The share of people employed by the forest sector has stabilised at 3% of all employed people. The economic downturn in 2008–2009 caused a decline of almost 20% in the production of pulp and paper and job losses in the forest sector.

Finland is a forerunner in Europe

A new perspective was gained by comparing the state of Finland's forests with European developments. "In Finland, the ecological, economical and social sustainability of forests has been handled exceptionally well,” says Professor Jari Parviainen, Regional Director at Metla. He was the writer-in-charge of the State of Finland's Forests 2011 publication and of the chapter on diversity in the State of Europe's Forests 2011 publication.

In Finland, the forest sector's share of GDP, the share of strictly protected forests, i.e. those left untouched, and wood-based energy's share of total energy consumption are the largest in Europe. Forestry is also of major importance to Finnish society. People's relationship with the forests is largely reflected in forest debates, and in the promotion of forest policy by a national forest programme and other policy measures, for instance.

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