New study reveals: 12 percent of Finnish forests are protected

16.9.2016 / Article
The amount of decaying wood is a critical factor for the forest biodiversity in Finland. Active efforts are carried out to produce decaying wood from different age categories in commercial forest by, for example, leaving large retention trees outside loggings in connection with regeneration fellings. Photo: Anna Kauppi

Even in southern Finland the protection percentage is high, 4.8. New research by the Natural Resources Institute Finland also lists the protection percentages by region.

According to the Institute, there are a total of 2.7 million hectares of protected forests in Finland. This is more than ten times the size of Luxembourg or close to 90 percent of the area of Belgium.

Calculated from the combined area of productive and poorly productive land ‒ which counts up about 20 percent more than the forest definition by United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization ‒ this makes 12 percent. This consists almost entirely of statutory forest protection areas, though it also includes biodiversity protection areas in commercial forests, where forestry activities are forbidden.

However, careful loggings are permitted on a very small area of these forests, provided they do not aim at commercial profit but at safeguarding biodiversity or recreational values, for instance.

The overwhelmingly larger share of protected forests are situated in Northern Finland. There, the area of protected forests is 2.2 million hectares, which is 19.4 percent of the forests in the three regions comprising Northern Finland.

In the rest of the country, the Southern Finland the area of protected forests is 0.5 million hectares. The protection percentage in this part of the country is 4.8. This is 2.4 times the two percent used in previous estimates.

If unproductive forests are included in the calculation, the share of protected forests in Finland increases to 17.2 percent.

Areas of restricted use also support protection

”Some 87 percent of protected forests are owned by the state. However, the significance of private and family-owned protection forests increases the further south we come,” says Ms. Terhi Koskela, research scientist at the Natural Resources Institute Finland.

In addition to strictly protected forests where no loggings are allowed, there are commercial forests under restricted use where nature values must be taken into account. The area of such forests is 0.5 million hectares, making up 2.2 percent of the total forest area.

The conservation statistics reflect the situation in the beginning of 2016. The statistical principles and classifications applied are derived from a proposal by a special working group from 2002, whose work was based on scientific research and extensive cooperation, also involving environmental organisations.

The Natural Resources Institute Finland was responsible for gathering the statistics. Most of the information was supplied by the state forest company Metsähallitus. Other sources of information included the Finnish Forest Centre, the Finnish Forest Industries Federation and the regional government of Åland.

Previous statistics concerning Finnish forest protection were from 2008. Since then, the area of protected forests has increased, especially due to the Metso forest biodiversity action programme for southern Finland on state and private family-owned forest lands and because of the land-use decisions made by Metsähallitus in connection with its Natural Resources Planning.

Another important cause of change has been the establishment of new, state-owned nature protection areas.

At the moment, the website still shows the 2008 information on forest protection in Finland. We will update our pages as soon as possible.

Press release of the Natural Resources Institute Finland

Graphs related to forest protection in


Percentages of protected forests in different parts of Finland

Finland combined 12.0

  • Northern Finland 19.4
    • Northern Ostrobothnia 8.6
    • Kainuu 8.7
    • Lapland 27.0
  • Southern Finland 4.8
Hannes Mäntyranta

Write a comment