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Logging exceeds sustainable levels in southern Finland, says Natural Resources Institute

The Finnish Association for Nature Conservation has long been critical of the current level of logging (file photo of a clear-cut area in Teisko, Tampere, this spring). Image: Jukka Kuusinen / Yle

Over the past five years, an average of 91 percent of the largest amount of sustainable timber has been felled from Finnish forests, according to the Natural Resources Institute (Luke), which operates under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

Luke has estimated the maximum sustainable harvest of lumber and wood for energy in the nation's forests for the period between 2016 and 2045.

The institute's estimate applies to the balance of material and energy wood over several years. At the national level, there seems to be enough wood to meet Finland's needs, it said. The calculation does not take a position on biodiversity issues.

Felling volumes projected to rise

The estimated harvest potential for the entire period rises by the decade. For the first period, 2016–2025, the average is 80.5 million cubic meters of stemwood per year. Over the long-term average, it is estimated at 86.3 million cubic metres a year.

Felling volumes vary from year to year, said Jukka Torvelainen, a senior statistician at Luke.

Between 2016 and 2021, logging in the whole country averaged 91 percent of the maximum possible, he told Yle. In northern Finland (Lapland, Northern Ostrobothnia and Kainuu), the corresponding figure was just 76 percent.

In southern Finland, however, felling exceeded the sustainable level in many regions, including Pirkanmaa, South Karelia and Kanta-Häme. In these areas, more trees were cut down than were replaced.

Excessive forest use may violate EU law

The Finnish Association for Nature Conservation (FANC) has long criticised the volume of harvesting and demanded that old forests in particular be protected from logging in order to protect biodiversity.

Last week the group, Finland's biggest environmental protection NGO, noted that last year's fellings rose to 76 million cubic meters, the second-largest volume ever recorded, while emissions from the land use sector, including forestry, exceeded the amount of forest sink.

That emissions-absorbing capacity is a cornerstone of the plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035, as pledged by the government of Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP).

“The transformation of carbon sinks into a source of emissions is a result of the forest policy that has been pursued. Deforestation is completely unsustainable in terms of climate and nature. The Marin government must look itself in the mirror. It must find ways to limit deforestation,” FANC Climate Policy Officer Hanna Aho said in a statement.

The NGO warned that Finland is in danger of violating its obligation under EU law to ensure that emissions do not exceed carbon sinks between 2021 and 2025. That requirement is part of the union's Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) Regulation.