The demand for wood is growing. Yet it is not certain if prevailing forest management methods can provide enough wood to meet the increasing demand. At the same time, the other uses of forests should be equally considered as well.
Natural Resources Institute Finland’s (Luke) Forest 150 (Metsä 150) project, led by Research Professor Jari Hynynen, is trying to address this challenge. Forest 150 brings together the current research knowledge on the most efficient ways to sustainably increase the growth of forests and wood production.
“The means to improve growth should also be as cost-effective as possible”, outlines Hynynen.
In the course of the one-year project, researchers attempt to find the best management methods to improve growth and prepare calculations of the impacts of the various methods on wood production potential. An idea of the possible outcome is already forming.
“If intensive forest management practices were widely deployed, the annual removals of commercial wood for Finnish industry could be increased from the current 50 or 60 million cubic metres to about 80 million”, Hynynen estimates.
Attention to young stand management and fertilisation
Hynynen believes that there is much room for improvement, particularly in the pre-commercial thinnings of young seedling stands.
“It is an urgent problem that seedling stands are tended considerably less than what is recommended in terms of wood production. Tending of seedling stands is expensive, and often it is difficult to find the people who could do it”, says Hynynen.
He says that there is also untapped potential in the fertilisation of mid-rotation forests.
“Fertilisation was cut down dramatically in the 1980s and 1990s with the acid rain and nitrogen deposition controversies. The collapse in the level of fertilisation was also affected by the fact that the State phased out the subsidies to fertilization”, Hynynen explains.
Granulated ash is coming up as a promising new fertiliser, also from the perspective of circular economy.
Biomass from aspen and willow?
The Forest 150 project is also exploring the most feasible management methods for each part of the country, thus taking into account the regional perspective. A pioneering step is to explore the possibilities of a new kind of biomass production.
“We are also studying the feasibility of short rotation management of fast-growing hardwood species, such as aspen and willow, on peatlands that are no longer needed for peat production.”
All this involves a lot of work. Another study topic is the adaptation of forest management for changing climatic conditions. On the basis of the results of the Forest 150, further research efforts will be focused on the areas where they are needed the most urgently.
“Certainly, there is no shortage of research challenges”, Hynynen laughs.
The results of the increased production potential if Finnish forests will also be utilised by one of the priority projects of the government, Puu liikkeelle ja uusia tuotteita metsästä (Mobilising the potential of timber and new forestry products). Its aim is to diversify and increase the use of wood, while keeping in mind increased processing value.
Text: Kari Ahokas, photos: Erkki Oksanen