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About Forestry in Northern European countries

Copyright: Metla / Erkki Oksanen The Nordic countries Finland, Norway and Sweden, are among the most important producers of forests and forest products in the world. Denmark and Iceland are in the process of intensive reforestation of their land area and where Denmark now have an important outcome from their forestry. The forestry in the Nordic countries has been based upon the principle of sustainable management - reforestation followed by harvesting. This management is based on forest research of high international quality and recognition. Mostly, the countries have boreal conifer forests, but Denmark and the southern parts of Sweden have some temperate, mixed forests.

Denmark was naturally covered with forest, but around 4000 BC, areas were gradually cultivated for agriculture and the original forests steadily were cut back. By the beginning of 1800, the forest area only covered 2-3% of the total land area. In 1805 the Forest Reserve Regulation was introduced and all forests were declared "forest reserve". Grazing by domestic animals in forests was prohibited and reforestation after harvesting became compulsory. Since then the forest area has increased steadily. Today, forest area covers 11% of total area in Denmark. Forests smaller than two hectares make up 35% of the Danish forest estates, but they only make up 2% of the forest area. 70% of the forest area is privately owned. The development shows that the number of forest estates larger than 20 hectares and smaller than 250 hectares has increased.
Danish forest research in brief in News and Views from Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research

The total area of forest land is 2.27 (±0.05) million ha, i.e. 51.9% of the area of Estonia. The percent of forested are has been on the increase during last fifty years, especially during last decade, due to the forestation of natural grasslands. 37.1% of all forest land is under the management of the State Forest Management Centre, 25.8% of the forest area is under protection. The volume of growing stock on forest land is 451 million cubic metres and is showing a trend to increase as well. Pine stands have the largest area and growing stock (710 thousand ha and 151 million m3) while birch stands take the second place (707 thousand ha and 118 million m3).
Estonian forest research in brief in News and Views from Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research

78% of the land area is forest area. During the last 70 years, the structure of Finnish forests has changed significantly. They have now a more even-aged structure. Scotch pine is the most common tree species with 45% of growing stock. 62% of the forest area is owned by private, non-industrial owners and 8% by private industry. The state owns 25% of the forest area. Finland is among the major suppliers of forest-related products to the world markets, particularly in printing and writing paper.
Finnish forest research in brief in News and Views from Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research


Icelandic forest research in brief in News and Views from Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research

At the turn of the century Ireland's forested land totaled 52,000 ha, < 1% of the countries land cover. State forestry began in 1903 and acquisition and planting of land followed. In 2006 Ireland's total forest estate stood at 700,000 ha; this represents approximately 10% of its land cover. The largest forest owner in Ireland is Coillte Teoranta, a semi-state commercial forest company. It owns over 445,000ha, of which 351,671 ha are classified as productive forests. (This is almost 56% of all forests in Ireland today). In 2002, 42% (or 282,970 ha) of Irish forests were in private ownership. There are over 17,000 private forest owners and the average size of their forest holdings is 10ha. In the region of 75% of the national forest is predominantly conifer, comprised mainly of commercial timber species, but this also includes some native species such as Yew and Scots Pine. The remaining 25% of the forest estate is predominantly broadleaf and mixed forest, of which approximately half is comprised of native broadleaf species such as Oak, Ash, Birch, Hazel and Alder. Of the total area being planted each year, 30% is now accounted for by broadleaf species.

In Latvia the total forest-covered area is 2,9 mill. ha and that means 45% of total territory. State and private owned forest area is almost equal. Latvian forests are pine dominated (48% from total forest area), other most important species are birch (24%) and spruce (21%). The current annual increment of wood is estimated at 16.5 mill. m3 and is only partly used (cutting volume in 2004 was 10,8 mil. m3). Economical importance of forestry sector is great ? in 2004. the wood and wood products accounted for 30% of the total export value of Latvia. Contribution to GDP is over 10% and approximately 7% of the entire labour force is employed. Part of the profit is invested in forest: artificial regeneration in state forests comprises 63%, in private forests 18% of total regenerated area. In 2004, totally 445 km of forest roads were built and 86 km of drainage systems were built or reconstructed. To ensure conservation of forest biological diversity 500 000 ha of forest area is under different kind (nature reserves, woodland key habitats, costal areas) and strength of nature protection.
Latvian forest research in brief in News and Views from Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research

Total forestland area covers 31.7% of the country. During the last 6 years it increased by 1.4%. Coniferous stands prevail in Lithuania (58.9%) followed by soft-broadleaves (36.3%) and hard-broadleaves (4.8%). Among coniferous Scots pine occupies the largest area, among soft-broadleaves ? silver birch, among hard-broadleaves ? common ash. 70.8% of forests are commercial, the rest are under various protection levels. The share of state forests in the total forest area makes up 50%. Private forest area is still increasing each year and now reached 31%. 19% of forest area has been reserved for restitution. Average size of a private forest holding is 4.5 ha. In recent years gross value added in forest sector and forest industry was steadily increasing. Its share has increased from 2.7% to 3.8% in the gross domestic product during five-year period.
Lithuanian forest research in brief in News and Views from Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research

The forests cover 37% of total land area and up 30% of the productive forests can be regarded as mountain forests. Norway spruce is the dominating tree species in the country. Along the long coastline, downy birch is still most common, although large afforestation with Norway spruce and Sitka spruce has taken place in coastal Western Norway since the 1950s. About 80% of forest area is privately owned, mainly by farmers. The private forest owner combine the small-scale forestry with agriculture. The average forest estate is 40-50 hectares. State and the municipalities own 12% of forest area and only 4% is owned by forest industry and private enterprises.
Norwegian forest research in brief in News and Views from Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research

55% of the land area is covered by productive forests. The forests are, to a large extent privately owned (51%). Companies own 39% and state and community together 10 % of the forest area. The forest industry is of vital importance for the Swedish economy. The sector delivers the largest net export value of all Swedish industry sectors. Sweden is the world's third largest exporter of pulp and paper. Two thirds of Sweden's forests are found within the boreal belt and, consequently, 84% of the growing stock consists of conifers with Scots pine and Norway spruce as the most important species.
Swedish forest research in brief in News and Views from Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research

United Kingdom
Following the end of the last Ice Age, the UK was isolated from the rest of Europe as sea levels rose. This halted species migration and resulted in a species poor flora with only 33 native species of tree, of which only one, Scots pine (Pinus sylvestis) is a forest-forming conifer. By 1900 the forest area of Britain had dwindled to just 4%. To stop this decline, the Forestry Commission was set up in 1919. New planting took place mainly on poorer land, less suitable for agriculture, and tended to be with exotic conifers from NW America, particularly Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis), which was found to be well adapted to UK conditions and far more productive than native Scots pine. Currently (2005) 12% (2,900 ha) of the land area is afforested. Of this, 60% is coniferous, mainly located in the north and west of the country, and 40% is broadleaf, mainly in the south and east. Recent changes in UK forest policy have resulted in increased planting of native and broadleaf species. Current timber production is around 14,000 m3, of which 13,000 m3 (93%) is softwood.

Key figures for the Nordic forests (Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research, 2004 Lithuanian Statistical Yearbook of Forestry)

Forest areaAnnual (in mill m3)
mill. ha% of land
Denmark 0.48 11 5.1 1.7
Estonia 2.27 52 12.2 11.5
Finland 20.1 78 75 60
Iceland 0.15 1 - -
Latvia 2.9 45 16.5 10.8
Lithuania 2.1 32 12.5 6.5
Norway 7.5 23 22 8
Sweden 22.6 55 100 75