YLE: The decades-long growth of Finland’s forests is slowing down and threatening climate goals

YLE: The decades-long growth of Finland’s forests is slowing down and threatening climate goals

Luke stated a year ago, the growth has slowed down to 103.5 million cubic meters per year, which is a drop of a couple of percent from its previous estimate. Statistics Finland, on the other hand, revealed earlier this year that land use, land use change and forestry seem to have become a source of emissions for the first time, partly due to the slowdown in vegetation.

Lauri MehtätaloThe professor doing Luke’s growth calculations told YLE on Monday that it is possible that the growth will remain below 100 million cubic meters and even shrink closer to 90 million cubic meters for a long time.

Changes in the age structure are the main reason for the slowdown in growth that started in the 1950s. Finland used forests intensively to acquire wealth after the world wars. Clearcutting and sheltering created one generation of productive forests, but one of them is that the forests are roughly the same age, although there are differences between the southern and northern parts of the country.

“The baby boomers have passed the stage of fastest growth and are at a stage where they no longer grow as much as before. Therefore, the combined growth of all age groups must slow down, Mehtätalo explained.

“After the growth of forests has accelerated for 50 years, it has more or less come to an end. The growth is leveling off and it will be interesting to see how much it declines,” he said.

Changes in environmental factors, such as drought and storm damage, may also have influenced the change, but not the extent of changes in the age structure.

A slowdown in growth closer to 90 million cubic meters would have significant effects on the forest industry, the use of forests in general and Finland’s climate goals, YLE emphasized.

The Finnish government has drawn up its national forest strategy assuming that the annual growth is 110 million cubic meters per year. The strategy is supposed to be updated by the next parliamentary election, but according to the estimate made from the strategy work, the growth will remain around 110 million cubic meters in the near future.

The assumption enables the harvesting of industrial wood at the current rate well into the next decade. 76 million cubic meters of timber were harvested last year, which is one of the largest fellings in recent years.

Both Luke and Pellervo Economic Research have predicted that logging will remain at a high level in 2023 as well.

The Finnish government has outlined measures aimed at keeping the carbon sink at the current level and strengthening the carbon sink in the long term. The adequacy of the measures has been questioned by, among others, the Climate Panel.

If the growth of forests slows down by even 10 percent, it would require a correction of about 10 million tons in the carbon dioxide calculation.

Although the difference between annual growth and felling volume remained positive last year, the slowdown in forest growth narrows the difference and weakens future growth, unless felling is reduced from the current level.

“This looks bad, and the only solution is to reduce logging,” Timo Pukkala, recently retired professor of forest planning at the University of Eastern Finland, told YLE. “Everything else is mostly wishful thinking.”

He pointed out that reducing logging cannot reverse the naturally slowing growth of forests. The biggest mistake, he added, would be to increase felling, as this would reduce growth and carbon sink due to the low growth rate of seedlings.

“Whether we cut or not, there is no going back,” he summed up.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

Source: The Nordic Page

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