Forest in Finland
Forest in Germany
Comparison of forest cover change
The immense importance of forests as a support to humankind are overarching and far-reaching. Forests with their vast flora and fauna play an essential part in fighting rural poverty, securing food supply and providing suitable livelihoods. They are one of the most relevant factors in delivering vital long-term services of the environment, such as clean air and water, mitigation of climate change effects and preservation of biodiversity. 1.169 million tons of CO2 are bound in living forests or dead wood and hereby help bind one of the most damaging greenhouse gases (BMEL 2016: 40). Further forest functions according to Häusler and Scherer-Lorenzen are the utility function, conservational function (regulation of water balance and climate, protection from avalanches and erosion, protection from noises and protection from immissions), recreational function and nature protection function (species, biotope and process conservation) (Häusler/Scherer-Lorenzen 2002: 19-22).
Global forests cover an area of over four billion hectares of land surface. The three countries with greatest share of forest cover are Canada, Russia and Brazil which make up to 40% of the global forests. Europe’s forests cover 159 million hectares, of which 11% are under special protection (METLA 2014: 426).
While the protection focus of Non-Governmental Organisation mostly lies on regions with rainforest, this paper tries to concentrate on European forests with the example countries of Finland and Germany. As the seventh and eight biggest countries in Europe according to the land surface they play a key role in forest cover change on the continent.
In a first step the status quo shall be described in both countries and only in the second part a comparison of their forest cover change regarding growth and drain of forests will be taken into account.
Forest in Finland
The eight biggest European country with 338.440 km2 of land surface is Finland (Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Department for Communications 2017). 10% of all European forests (excluding Russia) can be found in this country (LUKE 2017a). “Forests cover 75 percent of Finland’s land area. For every Finn, there is around 4,2 hectares of forest” (Finnish Forest Association 2016). This makes forests the most important land use in Finland by far. 67% count as productive forest land (annual wood growth is over one cubic meter per hectare), 8% as poorly productive forest land (annual wood growth is between 0.1 and 1 cubic metres per hectare) and 11% as unproductive forest land (annual wood growth is below 0.1 cubic metres per hectare), while agriculture takes place in 9% and settlements and infrastructure only on 6% of the land area as can also be seen in the following graph:
Figure 1: Land uses in Finland (ib.)
Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten
Ecoregions 2017 states three main types of forests for Finland: Sarmatic mixed forest, Scandinavian Montane Birch forest and grasslands and Scandinavian and Russian taiga; the latter here dominates the biggest part of the country (Ecoregions 2017 © Resolve 2018). While the Finnish soil is mostly acid and poor of nutrition, only few tree species are growing in this area. 97% of the tree species are made up for by only four tree species: pine, spruce, downy birch and silver birch. The first one makes up for almost half of all trees in Finland, but still the majority of the forests are mixed forests (Finnish Forest Association 2016).
A very important because limiting factor is the short growing period of trees, due to the extreme changes of the seasons. While in winter the darkness overtakes most of the days there are some days in summer where the sun does not set. Still the days where trees get enough light and warmth to grow is limited to a mean of 80 days per year (ib.).
2.247 threatened species were listed in the fourth assessment of threatened species in 2010 (evaluated out of 11% of the total species number). Forest is the habitat for 36% of those threatened species, accordingly in need of special protection to conserve those species (METLA 2014: 418).
Over the last 40 years Finnish protected areas have tripled, covering now nearly an area of 2,7 million hectares which makes up for 12% of the forest are in 2017 (LUKE 2017a). 9% of the forests are strictly under protection and therefore not available for forestry human use. There can be seen a clear descent between 16% in northern and 2% in southern Finland, which is mostly owed to the les denser population in the north of the country. Additionally, to protected areas the forest road construction shrank by 5% from 2012 to 2013. Instead of new construction the focus was put onto improvement of already established routes (METLA 2014: 419). Since many years Finnish forests are increasing. With an annual growth rate of 105,5 m3 the logging rates are lower since 1970 (Finnish Forest Association 2016). The revenues won by forests and forest related production surpass the public expenditures on forest related activities by more than double, which makes forestry a profitable economic sector (FAO 2014a: 61).
Finnish forest can compensate about 60% of Finland’s total emissions by an annual net removal of carbon dioxide of over 30 million tons of CO2 (LUKE 2017a). According to the National Resources Institute of Finland the growing stock of forests has increased by more than 40% over the last 40 years. 2,3 billion m3 of wood have been harvested and used for further production of wood products over the same period (ib.).
Forest in Germany
The Federal Republic of Germany has a total surface of 357.340 km2 (FAZIT Communication GmbH 2018). “According to the concept of natural potential vegetation, more than 90% of Germany would have to be covered with forests” (Häusler/Scherer- Lorenzen 2002: 13), of course this scenario excludes all human activities. Regarding the high population density, it is not surprising, that other land uses are of high importance. 82 million inhabitants demand space for settlement and infrastructure (13%) and (mostly intensive) agriculture for food supply (52%). Forests are in the middle of those two land uses and cover nearly one third of German land surface (BMEL 2016: 4).
The National Forest Inventory measured 11,4 hectares of forest in the Federal Republic of which 98% are walkable (ib.: 6). Most of the German forests used to be broadleaf forests, and only after very intensive logging (from the Middle Ages until the 19th century) and following reforestation more conifer forests were planted, because they were to adapt easier on clear-cutted areas (ib.: 18). The current share is 40% broadleaf and 60% conifer forests. Most common trees are: spruce (28,2), pine (23,2%), common beech (14,8%), oak (9,6%) and douglas fir (1,7%) (NABU w.y.). The goal of commercial forest is now to increase the surface of location- and structure-regarding mixed forests, because of their high resilience towards changing environmental conditions (BMEL 2016: 12). According to Ecoregions 2017 there are five main types of forests in Germany: Baltic mixed forest, Atlantic mixed forest, Western European broadleaf forest, Central European mixed forest and Alps conifer and mixed forest (Ecoregions 2017 © Resolve 2018).
Furthermore, the forests in Germany are growing older, mostly because of more consciousness about their significant role for clean air and reducing the damages of climate change. 24% of the forest is older than 100 years, 14% is older than 120 years and the mean is 77 years. In comparison to 2002 that is 4 ½ years older (BMEL 2016: 16).
Invasive plant species in German forests are very rarely documented. Only the Impatiens parviflora and the Prunus serotina were documented in forests, with 3% respectively 0,1% of the complete forest cover (ib.: 26)
The usage of wood and therefore also the deforestation is allowed without restrictions for companies on 91% of all German forests. Exceptions are mostly nature reserves and other protected areas (ib.: 38). Between 2002 and 2012 the forest cover loss was around 58.000 hectares while 108.000 hectares were reforested; this is a gain of 0,4% (ib.: 4). While there is no money amount given for expenditures on forests and forest related products the revenues of forest related products is slightly lower than Finland’s (FAO 2014b).
Comparison of forest cover change
“The growing stock in Finland has steadily increased over the last 50 years, being now 2 464 million cubic meters (annual increment 110 million cubic meters). Since beginning of the 1970’s increment has been higher than the total drain. In recent years, the annual fellings have been on average 68 million cubic meter per year (62 % of the increment)” (LUKE 2017b). The Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations published data for forest expansion, deforestation and reforestation in Finland as can be seen in Table 1.