Intensive forestry – more efficient production of forest-based raw materials

The timber harvest in Finland could grow by 50 per cent with more intensive forest management. Intensive forestry will enable sustainable production of domestic forest-based raw materials.

The EffFibre programme assessed the long-term availability of domestic forest-based raw material. One of the programme objectives was to find out how more intensive and cost-efficient forest management would affect the potential for raw material acquisition.

The programme studied the current forest management methods and forest use, and employed scenarios to analyse more intensive wood and biomass production methods. A scenario for declining forest utilisation was also studied. A new method was used to analyse the results, and the scenarios covered the whole country. This is the first time such a consistent and extensive study of this type has been conducted.

“Finnish forests provide enormous potential for increasing the utilisation of renewable natural resources.”

The scenarios showed that Finland’s annual timber harvest volume could be increased by more than 50 per cent, from approximately 55 million to more than 85 million cubic metres. With more intensive forest management, this increase can be achieved sustainably.

Sustainability was an important consideration in the research project. One of the initial requirements was that the total volume of the growing stock should remain unchanged in order to maintain sustainability in production. The results also showed that well-managed forests grew faster and absorbed more carbon. This means the forest carbon stock will remain unchanged even if timber harvest volume increases.

A significant increase in cutting volumes

In the EffFibre programme, scenarios were analysed from the forest industry, production, political decision-making and forest ownership perspectives. “The results showed that our forests offer far more potential than we ever expected,” says Jorma Länsitalo, Senior Vice President for Wood Supply at StoraEnso.

At the moment, the annual wood removals from forests represent approximately 70 per cent of the volume that could be cut sustainably. Although forests offer even greater potential, higher cutting volumes would require significantly more intensive forest management, such as planned forest regeneration and timely young stand management practices, thinnings and regeneration fellings.

Intensive forestry requires investment in forest management, but this investment will pay off in the longer term. “Abandoning the forests creates the highest costs, with extensive repercussions on the industry and the entire production chain,” Metsä Group’s Risto Lilleberg comments.

Future competitive edge for domestic wood

The results of the studies are significant both for forest owners and for political decision-makers. “It is important to offer decision-makers research evidence to allow them to prepare policies on the basis of best available knowledge” Lilleberg notes.

If the scenario were to materialise, this would have a major effect on Finland’s gross domestic product. The results indicate that more intensive forest management would dramatically improve the profitability of forestry. “Finnish forests provide enormous potential for increasing the utilisation of renewable natural resources. We will need a more professional approach to forestry in order to release it,” Länsitalo concludes.

One of the competitive assets of Finnish wood is the adequate supply of high-quality raw material. Furthermore, Finland boasts a solid infrastructure and strong traditions in forest utilisation. “Finland needs to improve its competitiveness and become a more attractive environment for industrial investments,” says Länsitalo.

“We possess unique forest assets, and we should focus on the appropriate, sustainable and economic utilisation of those assets. For example, forests provide an incredible source of raw materials for the bioeconomy. Finnish forests are an opportunity that we simply must make use of,” Lilleberg summarises.

Sustainable forestry

Sustainability plays a major role in present and future forest management. “Sustainability is one of the key criteria that have long been applied to forest management and bio-based raw material production in Finland,” Lilleberg says.

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