Resources and ownership

12.6.2019 / Forest Facts

Volume of timber in Finnish forests increases every year

Forestry land covers 86 percent of the land area of Finland. There is 4.6 hectares of it per every Finn.

In practice, ‘forestry land’ means all rural land that has no use other than forestry. When speaking of forests, Finnish forest and environment professionals in fact mostly mean productive forest land and poorly productive scrub land, the combined share of which of Finland’s land area is 81.5 percent. Productive forest land refers to land where the annual increment (tree growth) is more than one cubic metre per hectare. On scrub land of low productivity the annual increment is 0.1–1 cubic metres per hectare.

In addition to forest and scrub land, forestry land also includes waste land of no productivity, where the annual increment of forest is below 0.1 cubic metres per hectare.

The area of productive forest land increased from the 1950s to the 1980s, because mires were drained for forestry use.

Calculated as stemwood, the total volume of timber in Finnish forests was 2,500 million cubic metres in 2018. Trees only grow during the growth season, the length of which is about 80 days annually in Finland. In 2018 the trees grew by 107 million cubic metres, which means that the average daily increment was over 1.3 million cubic metres. In one day, then, Finnish forests grow as much as a pile of timber 1,300 kilometres in length, one metre in width and height and excluding the empty spaces between the logs.

When removals are subtracted from the annual increment, the result shows the volume by which the timber stock increases per year. The removals figure includes loggings, the parts of logged trees that remain in the forest, and natural removals, that is, trees that have died naturally. The annual increment is greater than removals for all species of trees and in all parts of Finland.

Compared to the early 1900s, the amount of growing stock in Finland has increased by over 60 percent, despite the fact that more than one tenth of Finland’s area and of the most productive forests was ceded to the Soviet Union in the 1940s.

The average volume of timber on forest and scrub lands is 94 cubic metres per hectare, whereas it was only 57 cubic metres as late as the 1970s. It is due to the higher volume per hectare that while the harvesting volumes are growing, the number of hectares logged does not necessarily grow proportionately.

Finnish forests are owned by Finns

In terms of botanical geography most of Finland belongs to the northern coniferous zone, also called the boreal forest zone. It is only in the Åland Islands and the furthest south-west corner of mainland Finland that there are mixed forests of the temperate zone. In the northern coniferous zone the soil is acidic and poor in nutrients, and there are few forest tree species.

97 percent of the timber in Finnish forests consists of Scots pine, Norway spruce or downy and silver birch. Half of the forest trees are pines. In all, about 30 tree species grow in Finland.

The majority of Finnish forests are mixed forests, with more than one species. Forests with several species and several layers are also what the forest policy aims at.

Private individuals and families own about 60 percent of the productive forest land in Finland. There are about 620,000 forest owners in Finland; this figure includes the owners and their spouses, as well as the shareholders of consortia and death estates, with holdings of larger than two hectares. This means that almost 14 percent of the population are forest owners.

Forests owned by individuals are often inherited from the preceding generation; for this reason, Finnish forestry is spoken of as family forestry. The state owns 26 percent, companies (including forest industry) nine percent and other entities five percent of productive forest land. State forests are mainly located in northern and eastern Finland, and 45 percent of them are under strict protection. State forests are managed by the state enterprise Metsähallitus.

There is no such thing as a typical forest owner

A few decades ago, a typical family forest owner was a male farmer living in the country and with little education. Today, a typical forest owner cannot be defined. The structure of forest ownership is primarily affected by the ageing of the population, and the biggest group of forest owners are, in fact, pensioners.

The rapid urbanization of the forest owners is a cause of much thought in Finland. The phenomenon is very real, but still, 55 percent of forest owners lived outside urban areas in 2009, while one fourth lived in towns of more than 20,000 residents. Over 50 percent of the forest owners lived on their holdings. The structure of forest ownership changes continuously, and new data on it will be available in the early part of 2020.

A typical Finnish forest holding is small in size. The number of holdings over two hectares in size is about 344,000, and the average size is 30.5 hectares. The share of forest holdings over a hundred hectares in size is only five percent.

The structure of forest ownership is polarized in that the number of both small and large holdings is increasing.

Forest holdings often have several owners, which is why the number of owners is about twice that of holdings. Nine percent of forest holdings are owned by death estates, and consortia mainly owned by private individuals own 17 percent.

About half of the forest holdings have passed to their owners thought inheritance. A private forest holding changes owners about every 30 years on average.

The share of productive forest land owned by families and individuals is higher than that owned by other groups, because lands owned by the state and partly also those owned by companies are mainly located in less productive areas in north and east Finland. As a result, the share of harvesting of private lands is clearly greater than their share of the ownership, or about 80 percent

Sources: Union of family forest owners MTK, state forest company Metsähallitus, Natural Resources Centre Finland

Updated: June, 2019

Hannes Mäntyranta

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