Danish forests and Denmark’s stance on sustainability


Following on from our series about forest policy and legislation in Scandinavian countries, today’s post takes a closer look at Forestry in Denmark,  the country’s 2012 EU Presidency and the contribution Denmark has made to creating a roadmap for a sustainable European economy. The total forested area of Denmark amounts to around 534.500 ha (2006). Just south of the boreal coniferous forest zone, Denmark is the most northerly country in the central European temperate forest zone and more than 40% of forest land in Denmark has been PEFC certified.

Common species of tree include the oak which comprises around 9%, pine which makes up 12%, beech which makes up 13% and the Norway spruce which have all been planted and this species makes up 19% of tree species. Other species of trees are planted for greenery production and Christmas trees. In total, the growing stock in Denmark’s forests tallies up to approximately 106 million m³.

Although Denmark is one of the most deforested countries in Europe, the forested area and growing stock have been steadily increasing since 1800. The levels have risen from around 3% to today’s annual increment, which has been calculated to be 5.45 million m³, and the felling amounts per annum come to 2.2 million m³.

This has been hugely beneficial in terms of carbon storage and it has been estimated that the annual increase in stored carbon in Danish Forests amounts to 1.34 million tonnes, which amounts to 4.90 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

So who owns forest land in Denmark? The State owns around 23% of forest land, private foundations own around 4% of Danish forest land and 8% is publicly owned.

Forestry and Danish Culture

Denmark also has a high percentage of forest land (around 65%) that is owned by private persons. The private persons and citizens who own forest land in Denmark are often farmers, who also happen to be forest owners. In instances such as theirs, it is likely that the forest land has been owned by the family for generations.

Other citizens who are new forest owners will have bought the land for hunting and mainly as a place for recreational activities. However, generally it is accepted that forest owners see their forest land as being a legacy to leave to their children. Their objective is to manage the forest effectively, so that when they leave it to their children, it is in the same condition that they found it in, or in an even better condition. A great emphasis is placed on conservation as well as production values.

Danish family forestry has been under considerable pressure in recent years, with the economic sustainability of forestry being brought into question. Finding another stream of income has offered a solution for some, and more forest owners have been pushing the recreational value of their land. There is a relatively high ratio of Danish people per hectare of forest land (10-1), so there is a high demand for recreational pursuits within Danish forests.

The Danish Forest Association, looking after the interests of Danish forest owners

Forest owners are well represented by the Dansk Skovforening, The Danish Forest Association. Their objective is to promote the professional and political interests of the country’s forest owners. The Danish Forest Association is also an advocate of sustainable forest management and it seeks to promote the protection of nature and conservation with Danish forestry.

The DFA also provides valuable information to forest owners concerning the non-wood and wood markets, as well as protecting the interests of Danish forest owners. This political supervision of forest owner’s interests occurs in tandem with the provision of public information on forests. In addition to owning their own international wood trading company, the FDA also has its own monthly publication, Skoven (The Forest).

Forest Protection and biodiversity

Around 5% of Denmark’s forest land falls under some sort of specified restrictive protection, and approximately 4% is now protected under the Sustainable Forestry protection scheme or Natura 2000 scheme. Danish forestry and Danish Nature protection legislation takes care of the general conservation and protection of Denmark’s wetlands and forests, and changes in land use and conditions are regulated by these laws.

The Danish government formulated an Action Plan for Biodiversity and Nature Conservation in Denmark from 2004 to 2009. The Action Plan presented the Danish government’s plans and proposals to safeguard and preserve the ongoing development of biodiversity in Denmark. The primary objective was to halt the loss of biological diversity within the country by 2010. Although this represented a significant challenge to the government, it was met by plans for targeted efforts that were to be implemented in many different areas. The Action Plan was intended to act as a framework for this and give an overall description of how the protection of biological diversity and nature should be carried out well into the future.

The Action Plan came about at a time when the fruits of certain conservation efforts were already evident. Denmark had already ceased using certain dangerous toxic chemicals, air pollution had been reduced and efforts to halt the decline of natural areas had been successful. Government initiatives such as the establishment of national parks, the designation of natural sites of international importance and their adoption of a national forest program had achieved a great deal in terms of nature conservation and the protection of biodiversity.

Rare species of orchids, insects, tree frogs, deer and birds were on the rise. This was only part of the solution however, as there were further challenges to be faced. Denmark is a densely populated country, so there is a high demand for resources which invariably impacts upon the environment.

The basic concept behind the Danish government’s action plan was to increase biodiversity by investing resources in the country’s most valuable natural areas. Denmark was already committed to such activities under EU Regulations and international agreements such as the FSC, or Forest Stewardship Council.

Fast forward to 2012 and there are still notable efforts to preserve biodiversity in Denmark. Earlier this year, WWF Denmark and Birdlife Denmark took the step of hiring their own fulltime lobbyist to target both European and Danish politicians. These activities were in relation to the EU’s Danish Presidency to the EU (Jan-June 2012).

WWF Denmark and Birdlife Denmark recognised the importance of seizing the opportunity of raising awareness of nature conservation and the protection of biological diversity during Denmark’s EU Presidency. With the Danish government and EU becoming more supportive of sustainability and conservation issues than ever, this was an ideal time to influence the process.

The message was very clear. A greener EU was called for which involved making room for nature, and this extended to the EU budget.

Other interesting developments in 2012 included the Danish Ministry of the Environment organising a workshop with the EPBRS and the University of Copenhagen with support from the Global Biodiversity Information facility (GBIF) and the European Environment Agency.

The workshop of the European Platform for Biodiversity Research Strategy (EPBRS) saw in excess of 80 experts including members of the IUCN members, people from the IUCN Secretariat attended the workshop. The intended goal of the workshop was to determine ways in which the TPBES could cooperate with existing mechanisms to ensure that its initial actions were both effective and timely.

This meeting of European policy makers, natural, political and social scientists and government officials identified that Europe was ready for the IPBES work programme and that it could make an active contribution.

In fact, Denmark’s EU Presidency’s Programme emphasised four main areas of interest, Growth, the Economy, Security and of course, the Environment. There was no doubt that conservation featured highly on the agenda and there was a particular focus on sustainable growth. New legislation on the 7th EU Environment Action Plan, the 2050 Energy Roadmap and energy efficiency was pushed. It was agreed that increasing investment in renewable energy and green technologies is desirable, and that integrating sustainable development and energy efficiency into the EU’s agricultural and transport policies would contribute to the EU developing a more resource efficient economy.

Denmark was highly vocal in its commitment to establishing the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), and to supporting the EU target to stop the loss of ecosystem services and biological diversity by 2020.

The Danish Programme stated that in order to transform the economy, polices had to recognise the fact that natural capital, well-being and economies are interdependent. With this being the case, biological diversity concerns would need to be fully integrated throughout policies concerning the production sectors that make the biggest impact upon biodiversity, including, fisheries, agriculture and forestry. The Presidency advocated actions such as setting a proactive agenda for supporting and promoting sustainable growth, such as turning waste into resources and more in the way of recycling and re-using resources and products.

Other exciting developments included Denmark continuing work to minimise and eliminate man-made mercury emissions, where appropriate, and a new regulation concerning Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s). Carbon targets were also agreed upon, with the Danish Programme urging decision makers to drive low carbon investments and to agree upon a 30% reduction in the 2020 targets, as well as the clear carbon targets for 2030 and 2040. Additionally, Denmark was also in favour of working towards making Common Agricultural Policy and public procurement more environmentally friendly. The need to encourage private and public purchasers to change their consumption patterns was recognised as an effective way of contributing towards resource efficiency. Mobility, housing and nutrition are actually responsible for 70-80% of all impacts upon the environment. Using sustainable European timber would make a positive contribution in terms of housing and modern methods of the construction of timber buildings.

Denmark enjoyed the accolade of leading the EU to June’s Rio+20 or United Nation’s Conference for Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro. It brought the EU’s stance on the creation of a roadmap for a sustainable global economy.

Sustainable Forest Management in Denmark

Sustainable forest management (SFM) has been high on the agenda Denmark’s agenda for the last decade or so. It has become increasingly recognised that SFM should be integrated into the country’s national forest programmes and national forest policies as a whole.

Despite the fact the total area of forest land in Denmark is relatively small; the nation still considers its forests to be of great importance. They represent islands of natural habitats in a landscape of agricultural and urban areas. Aside from this, they also provide many high quality and valuable industrial raw materials, and they are also safe havens of Danish cultural heritage. The biological diversity that is to be found in Denmark’s forests and the landscape amenities are intrinsically linked to national identity.

Danish forest policy hopes to achieve the ambition overall goal of balancing production, recreational activities and nature in such a way that biological diversity protection is increased.

Danish Strategy for Sustainable Forest Management

The basic principle behind Denmark’s strategy on forest management is that economic, social and ecological objectives can all be accommodated simultaneously, and it is possible to achieve this balance without any major conflicts arising.  This leads to an interesting concept that is known as multiple-use forest management. In a country with low forest cover such as Denmark, there are only small areas of forest available for each necessary function, if the forest area is divided up and then allocated for specific purposes only, the total area for each function is severely restricted. There are exceptions to this methodology though, such as protected areas.

The country’s Strategy for Natural Forest from 1992 provides guidelines for the preservation of biological diversity of forests. This includes untouched forests, coppice forests and grazing forests.

Although Denmark is still struggling to meet its targets and to balance the needs of a large population with preserving biological diversity, their efforts to increase the area of forest land within the country have been consistent. It is also worth noting that the Danish government has been instrumental and proactive in terms of contributing towards EU 2020 targets on sustainability.

Timber frames in Passive Houses

What is a passive house? Passive house construction and technology was born around 20 years ago in Germany. The concept is actually very simple, but it remains a revolutionary idea throughout many cities in Europe. A majority of houses and commercial units in European cities were built using traditional construction methods. Unfortunately, many of these buildings waste a significant percentage of energy and can also have inadequate insulation.

Passive houses have a great deal to offer, and people’s interest in them has been gathering momentum in recent years. The ‘Passive House Standard’ is part of the European Union’s efforts to reach its ambitious 20-20-20 sustainability targets:

  • Reducing the emissions of green house gasses by 20%
  • Increasing the share of renewable energy consumption by 20%
  • Improving energy efficiency by 20%
  • To achieve all of this by the year 2020

Passive houses and insulation

The design and construction of passive houses focuses on insulation. Buildings account for around 40% of the world’s energy consumption. Until recently, they have been inadequately insulated and ‘leaking’ energy. If we are to meet sustainability and climate protection targets, everyone can agree that we need to start building more energy and resource efficient buildings.

This doesn’t involve expensive materials either. On the contrary, a majority of the materials used for passive houses are actually conventional building materials. Concretes, bricks, polystyrene and timber can all be used, but the key difference lies in the design. It’s not so much what you use, it’s all about how you use it.

Passive houses also give occupants an economic advantage. The energy efficient design drastically cuts heating bills. EU climate targets mean that stricter rules on sustainability will be imposed over the coming decades. Buildings that are built to a high energy efficiency standard will have a greater market value.

Are passive houses expensive?

The Passive House institute defines a passive house as “a building that is truly energy efficient, comfortable and affordable at the same time.”

The idea of passive houses is to reduce or eradicate the need for conventional heat sources. Instead, they use the sun or ‘solar gain’, alongside sustainable heat sources such as heat recovery. This is then combined with highly efficient insulation. This is where the timber frame comes in to play.

Timber frames and building envelopes

The ‘building envelope’ in a passive house separates the indoor climate from the outdoor climate. Generally, the building envelope consists of a timber frame structure, which supports the wall, roof and floor insulation panels and high energy performance doors and windows. This can be thought of as a ‘thermal envelope’. In addition to retaining energy from the sun, it also captures the heat given off from white goods and lighting. So, nothing gets wasted in terms of energy!

The building envelope is designed and constructed with ‘airtightness’ in mind. Air from a moist room can penetrate into the structure of a building if it is not sufficiently airtight. This can then cause condensation and damage. Airtightness is important in all climates. Room moisture can be a problem in colder locations, where internal heating is required. In warmer, more humid climates, moisture can infiltrate a building from the outside. So, the design of a passive house depends upon the environment in which it is built. Airtight design and construction are essential if you want to create good quality, permanent structures that will stand the test of time.

The building envelope keeps heat in, but it can also keep the interior cool. Other design elements help ensure that the building is kept at a pleasant ambient temperature all year round. They remain warm during the winter months because of the energy efficiency design. However, passive cooling techniques are also used, such as strategic shading.

A constant stream of fresh air can be supplied through a ventilation system, which cuts out draughts. The efficient heat recovery systems often used in passive houses ensure that heat is contained, whilst exhaust air is re-used.

Local, sustainable timber frames

Timber frames from local, sustainable sources add to the environmental credentials of a passive house. As the European Union moves towards a more sustainable future, we are seeing an increasing number of passive housing projects. Sustainability can also be thought of in an economic sense. Using timber that is produced within the EU protects our climate, but it also contributes towards creating sustainable jobs for local economies. So, passive housing can have a positive impact upon communities.

The 17th International Passive House Conference, organised by the Passive House Institute, took place on the 19th and 20th of April (2013) in Frankfurt, Germany. Over 100 experts gathered together during a series of lectures, to highlight how passive houses can offer a practical solution for buildings in all climates. In fact, the Passive House Standard makes “Nearly Zero Energy Buildings” possible, which has far reaching implications for worldwide energy efficiency building legislation. The International Passive House Conference attracted passive house experts from over 50 countries, including large delegations from Mexico and China.

People often think of passive houses in terms of new, residential builds like the ones availble here. However, the conference also covered retrofitting. Experts emphasised the fact that passive house principles can also be applied to schools, offices and other buildings.

In essence, this is a new way of building that effectively addresses the issues of energy transition and climate change. Construction is now about more than just the built environment. We also need to consider how it affects life on Earth. Experts at the International Passive House Conference outlined the responsibilities of the construction industry. Even if the necessary steps aren’t a legal requirement just yet, those involved must start thinking about how they can produce “Nearly Zero Energy Buildings”.

A Passive House Institute “Certified Passive House Tradesperson” qualification is already available. It is gaining popularity at the international level, as energy efficient construction gathers momentum.

Can we expect passive houses to become commonplace in Europe over the next few decades? It’s highly likely that we will.

The new EU Timber Regulation and its impact on illegal logging

The European Union created new legislation intended to combat the trade in illegal timber back in 2010. Known as the “EU Timber Regulation”, this measure prohibited illegally harvested wood from being sold on the European market. It outlined how operators would need to be diligent when assessing the risk of purchasing illegal products from their suppliers. This would become easier, as provisions would be put in place to facilitate the traceability of timber and timber products within the European Union, from the time they first entered the EU market. The new regulation covers a diverse range of timber products from paper pulp to wood flooring.

The regulation (Regulation (EU) No 995/2010 of European Parliament and of the Council of 20 October 2010 laying down the obligations of operators who place timber and timber products on the market), came into force earlier this year on March 3rd 2013. All member states have been affected and the EU Timber Regulation covers a majority of wood products, including paper and pulp. Operators must now be able to verify that all timber originates from legal sources. So, this involves ensuring that records are kept, as well as all details of their suppliers. If they cannot confirm that their timber is from an approved source, they will face sanctions.

Illegal timber accounts for 30% of the global timber market

The international police organisation INTERPOL, estimates that illegal logging supplies up to 30% of timber in the global market. It costs businesses over £13 billion (€15bn or $20 billion) per year. So, the European Union has taken action in response to demands from various stakeholders and EU Member States who had all called for measures to be introduced that would put an end to illegal timber entering the European Union. The new EU Timber Regulation and other similar laws are now having a significant impact on the world’s timber producing nations.

Although the European Union adopted this law back in 2010, it has taken until March 2013 for it to come into force. The reason being, that private companies and Member States have needed sufficient time to put effective measures in place.

Due Diligence System

Operators are now required to exercise “due diligence” under the EU Timber Regulation, using the due diligence system (DDS). This means that those who originally place a timber product on the EU market are responsible for the traceability of that wood. Law now requires them to “make every effort” to ensure that the timber they trade in is legal under the new regulation.

The DDS is made up of three elements. These consist of the following:

  • Access to all information: This includes information on suppliers’ details, quantity and the country of origin.
  • Companies must evaluate whether the timber has been produced in accordance with the laws in the country of origin.
  • Companies must also take all necessary steps to ensure that timber is legal, if there is any doubt about its origin.

However, the new EU Timber Regulation also applies to traders who buy or sell any timber that is already on the EU market. They must also be able to ensure the traceability of the timber and keep “adequate information”.

The EU has stated that it has a responsibility to safeguard the world’s most valuable remaining forests and those who are reliant upon them. Illegal logging has severe consequences in an environmental, economic and social sense. The term “illegal logging” refers to any timber harvested that breaches the regulations or laws in the country of origin.

Project Leaf

The United Nations and INTERPOL, the international policing agency, launched Project Leaf in 2012. Project Leaf (Law Enforcement Assistance for Forests), is a climate initiative created to tackle organised forest crime and illegal logging. Nearly 200 people involved in an international, organised illegal logging operation were arrested in February (2013). The three month operation involved 12 countries in South and Central America. This resulted in a total of £5.2 million worth of timber being seized.

According to The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Central Africa and South East Asia are hotspots for illegal timber trading. They noted that Hong Kong and China processed a significant amount of this illegal timber before shipping it off to Europe and the UK in particular.

Although many environmental organisations have welcomed the new EU timber Regulation as something of a landmark piece of legislation, the WWF pointed out that the legislation doesn’t address forest management systems. Whilst a timber product may be legal under the new regulation, that doesn’t mean that it has actually been produced in an ecologically sound way in the first place.

Unfortunately, the demand for cheap wood has driven the illegal timber trade. The EU Timber Regulation now requires companies to ensure that they are procuring sustainable timber and timber products. All timber that originates from tropical rainforests should be checked to ensure its legality, as timber from these sources carries the highest risk. Companies are advised that should they be in any doubt, they should leave well alone.

Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) join the global effort against illegal logging

The fight against the illegal timber trade is a global effort. Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), is one of the world’s leading pulp and paper companies throughout Indonesia. It has been clearing natural forests across its supply chain, which raised some pertinent questions about its environmental credentials. However, it announced in February that the company will stop this, thanks to pressure from environmental campaigns.

Director of sustainability and stakeholder engagement in Europe at APP, Jacek Siwek, publicly backed the EU. He said that the new EU Timber Regulation and other similar measures would have a significant effect on timber producing nations. It would reduce the trade in illegal timber and could potentially eliminate it altogether. He went on to say that Indonesia was on board and that it would play its role in ensuring the supply of legal timber to the EU market. Part of this is making sure that all timber products that are exported from Indonesia are fully traceable. For example, EU Member States will be able to verify the origin, transportation and processing.

The new EU Timber Regulation should go a long way towards conserving and protecting natural forests. The illegal timber trade is also an economic drain on legitimate companies that buy and supply timber products. Money is currently being lost to organised crime, which has a serious impact upon all timber producing countries, socially, economically and environmentally; not least, the countries from which the illegal timber originates.


Swedish forest ecosystem management

Essentially, well-managed woodlands and forests are an important renewable resource. They produce vital raw materials, while creating minimal waste and energy use. When rich in species, diversity and habitat, forests make a positive contribution towards increased ecosystem stability. Properly managed forests absorb the effects of disturbances and unwanted depositions. They help to prevent soil erosion, degradation and maintain stable nutrient and energy cycles, so neighbouring ecosystems are protected. In addition to the aforementioned benefits, forests provide invaluable recreation opportunities and they contribute to the economic and social stability of rural communities.

Sweden’s forests are managed for biological diversity, conservation and timber production. A subtle shift towards ecosystems management has been quietly under way for some time now. This approach to multi-functional forest management is an ecological perspective that uses the principles of the dynamic equilibrium of primary and secondary production, elasticity, stability and ecosystem diversity. These values are at the heart of forest ecosystem management in Sweden and worldwide.

SLU – Department of Forest Ecology and Management

Sweden’s SLU (Swedish University of Agricultural Science) has its own department to oversee matters relating to forest ecosystem management. Established in January 2007, The Department of Forest Ecology and Management was created by a merger of three existing departments; Ecology and Silviculture, Forest Vegetation Ecology and Forest Ecology. Now consisting of around 90 staff, including 14 professors, they have access to ground-breaking field studies and technical facilities. This is a solid foundation for all research concerning the management and dynamics of forest ecosystems. The department makes a highly valued contribution to Sweden’s forest industry.

The Department of Forest Ecology and Management have conducted studies and carried out extensive research in the following areas:

  • Forest Soils
  • Forest Landscape Biogeochemistry
  • Forest Vegetation and Ecology
  • Forest History
  • Tropical Forestry
  • Silviculture
  • Forest Growth and Yield
  • Forest Regeneration
  • Ecophysiology

For a deeper understanding of the research conducted by the Department of Forest Ecology and Management and forest ecosystem management it is useful to take a closer look at their research.

Forest Regeneration Research

This research aims to gain a better understanding of forest regeneration in Sweden’s Boreal forests, and the fundamental processes underlying this regeneration. Other desired outcomes of this research include gaining a more comprehensive understanding of controlling factors that may limit the performance of seeds and seedlings in managed and natural forests. The nature of unde rstory vegetation such as lichens, mosses and ericaceous dwarf shrubs, natural and anthropogenic disturbance and feedbacks and interactions between the growth of seedlings are some of the primary areas of interest.

Ultimately, The Department of Forest Ecology and Management hopes that its research in this area will produce valuable data that can be of practical use in terms of forestry and forest management. The aim is to gain deeper insights into how forest resources can be used sustainably.

Forest Growth and Yield Research

The overarching goal of research in this area is in yield and growth with the aim of quantifying wood and timber production under various conditions. The soil and climate of sites, genotypes of plants and tree species, as well as stand types including old-growth forests and plantations, are examples of such conditions.

Studies and surveys of these types, experimental studies and long-term field experiments make up the majority of research in this area, but simulations and models are also used.

The results form the basis for future decisions about silviculture and estimate the properties and quantity of wood production, leading to a greater understanding of tree growth and stand dynamics.

Forest and Health Research Program

The Department of Forest Ecology and Management are currently conducting innovative research in a variety of connected areas and this includes the ‘Forest and Health’ thematic research program. This fascinating research program in short, examines whether a link exists between human health and nature. Does being in a forest environment have an effect on Human health? If so, how?

This research area is a new addition to the SLU’s Faculty of Forest Sciences. Researchers Ylva Lundell and Ann Dolling are leading the program, while projects are being coordinated by graduate students Patrik Umaerus and Elisabet Sonntag-Öström and also Magnus Wilhelmsson, who is an experienced forester.

What makes the ‘Forest and Health’ research program all the more interesting is the fact that this interdisciplinary program that also works closely with the University Hospital of Umeå’s Stress Clinic, Department of Psychology and the Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine. Physiotherapists, psychologists, doctors and others will be contributing to this research program which is being funded by the SLU, governmental organisations and NGO’s.

Future Forests Research Program

The ‘Future Forests’ research program is another of the several current research programs being carried out by the Department of Forest Ecology and Management. Globalisation, increased consumption and climate change all mean that more pressure is placed upon forest resources. As the population grows, forestry will inevitably need to be intensified in order to produce more energy, paper and timber. However, it is also essential to ensure that ecosystem services such as recreation and biological diversity are protected at the same time. This will undoubtedly lead to some difficult decisions having to be made in the future, in order to balance these conflicting demands.

The Future Forests program examines these issues from a long-term perspective. The goal of the study is to provide the knowledge and tools for subsequent generations to manage future forests more effectively.

This interdisciplinary program uses the approach of combining synthesis work, scenario analysis, modelling and empirical research in order to produce world-class science and applications. In the long-term, the aim of the program is to build a platform where researchers from a variety of disciplines including humanities, political science, ecology, forest management and other practitioners from different sectors can collaborate and interact.

This study was initially set to run from 2009 to 2012, but a 4 year extension is a possibility. The annual budget so far has been in excess of 40 million SEK and it has been funded by the Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research, also known as MISTRA, involved research institutions and the Swedish forest industry.

There is no doubt that forest ecosystem management has a huge part to play in Swedish forests and the Department of Forest Ecology and Management at SLU has so far made a huge contribution to this new approach to multi-functional forest management. They aim to ensure the present and future sustainability and success of some of Sweden’s most precious natural resources.

Swedish Primary Timber Trees

Sweden’s forests benefit from the Gulf Stream, because its warming effect permits forest growth at northerly latitudes that would otherwise be associated with treeless tundra in other regions. Additionally, eight vegetation zones can be identified in this Scandinavian country:

  • Arctic Alpine
  • Alpine
  • North Boreal
  • Boreal
  • North South Boreal
  • South Boreal
  • Boreo-Nemoral
  • Nemoral

The majority of the country is dominated by the coniferous forests of the Boreal zone and its sub-zones. Not surprisingly, the most common species of tree grown for timber are the coniferous Norway spruce (Picea abies) and Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris).

This was confirmed by the Swedish National Forest Survey 2010, revealing that the Norway spruce and Scots pine are the two dominant tree species in Sweden. At the time of the study, the Norway spruce contributed 40.5% to the total volume of Swedish forests, while the Scots pine contributed 38.9%. The rest of the tree species included the lodgepole pine, birch and some broad leaved trees.

According to Skogsstyrelsen, the Swedish Forest Agency, the total standing volume of trees on productive forest land in Sweden in 2011 was about 2.9 billion cubic metres. In 2011 39 % of trees on productive forest land consisted of Scots pine, the Norway spruce contributed 42 % to the total number of trees and 12 % of productive forest land consisted of birch. The remaining 7% consisted of broadleaves and other coniferous species of tree.

The Swedish Forest Agencies’ annual 2011 survey by questionnaire on seedling production for use in the country revealed that seedling production in Sweden was higher than in previous years. 384 million plants were produced in 2011, with the Norway spruce being the commonest species of tree, closely followed by the Scots pine.

59 % of all seedlings produced in 2011 were Norway spruces. This coniferous tree is native to Scandinavia and well known in the timber trade. Scots pine accounts for 35 % of the seedlings produced in 2011. Again, this species is native to Sweden and it is used extensively for timber.

The fast initial growth of the Scots pine means that it is categorised as a pioneer species, while the Norway spruce with its slow initial growth is categorised as a late succession-al species. The Scots pine will establish quickly after fire, extreme wind and other disturbances in natural stands. The late succession-al Norway spruce will dominate undisturbed stands for long periods of time.

The Scots pine will also fare better than the Norway spruce on sites with a low availability of water and nutrients. Therefore, the volume production on sites such as these will be much higher for Scots pine. It will also generally grow faster than the Norway spruce in northern Sweden, since the availability of nutrients is linked to temperature. However, the Norway spruce grows more quickly than the Scots pines in southern Sweden.

Aside from the fact that the Scots pine and Norway spruce are native to Sweden, they are also very important to the timber trade. These coniferous species produce superior timber when grown at northerly latitudes. Norway spruce grown in the UK for example, will have been subject to shorter, warmer and wetter summers, which increases the width of the tree’s growth rings. This makes for a weaker timber with reduced load bearing properties that is more vulnerable to pests.

Norway spruce – Picea abies

Considered to be Sweden’s most important plant in both an economical and ecological sense, the Norway spruce is essentially the feedstock for Sweden’s forest industry, which is one of the country’s most important export industries as a whole.

This softwood has a medium density and a straight grain with a regular thin texture. Although it is not the strongest of woods, it is easy to hand work, machine and saw. Assembling, jointing and gluing can also be easily accomplished with timber from the Norway spruce.

The Norway spruce is also known as the European Whitewood due to the colour of the timber. This lightweight inexpensive lumber is extensively used in pallets and packaging. It is the most important timber in Europe in terms of construction and building. In fact, Swedish Norway spruce lumber is extensively exported as structural lumber for use in external joinery, interior construction, external panelling and flooring. It does need treating in some cases to make it stronger and more resistant to decay, but this does not detract from its value. In fact, once treated, it is a lightweight and extremely durable wood. Other uses include carpentry, furniture, doors, musical instruments, pulp and paper.

Much of the Norway spruce lumber produced in Sweden comes from trees of high grade that are between 75 and 100 years old. These trees from Scandinavia are superior to Norway spruce from elsewhere in the world because the trees come from their native range.

The Scots Pine – Pinus sylvestris

Sweden’s second most important timber producing species is more prevalent in the north of the country. Like the Norway spruce, the Scots pine is another lightweight wood that is valuable to the building and construction industry. It is very durable once treated and prized for its attractive colour and grain of the timber.

Pine is used all over the world in numerous parts of the home including studs, beams, skirting, doorways, stairs and roofing. The timber is also highly popular for making furniture. Other common uses for pine include fencing, pulp and paper and it also makes good firewood with a pleasant smell.

The Scots pine was traditionally considered to be a good tree in terms of coming into contact with water. Ships, boats and water wheels are some of the traditional uses for this timber. It is also interesting to note that both the Scots pine and Norway spruce were used in the past to make turpentine, tar and resin. The waste from Norway spruce and Scots pine timber is also used as biomass for pellet boilers.

The Exports of Swedish forest products in 2010 amounted to a solid volume of 1.3 million m3 of round wood, excluding bark. 99% of that was from coniferous species. This coniferous wood volume consisted of around 39% Scots pine and around 42% Norway spruce, making these two tree species extremely important to Sweden’s economy.

Nordic Forest Legislation

Scandinavian Forest Legislation

This is the first post in a series in which we will be examining Scandinavian forest legislation. Today’s post gives an overview of the history of Nordic forestry and sustainable forest management practices, before giving a quick overview of forest policy in Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway. Subsequent posts in this series will take an in depth look at forest legislation and other information about forests such as forest management practices, and forest news in each of these countries.

Scandinavian Forest Management

Sustainability Forest Management (SFM), or sustainable forestry, has a long tradition in Scandinavia. Scandinavian foresters employed long-term thinking and sustainable practices long before the word ‘sustainability’ became linked to environmental concerns in a modern context.

Sustainable Forest Management, as we understand it today, is documented as far back as the 18th Century. The German mining industry was consuming vast amounts of timber, and J.L.Carlowitz developed the ideas behind managing forests sustainably in order to support a steady and renewable supply of wood for future generations. This is also known as sustainable yield management or traditional sustainable forestry. This practice was introduced to Finnish forest management during the early part of the 20th century as a means of safeguarding a secure and continuous supply of timber.

Today’s concept of SFM has grown to encompass the economic, cultural, social, and of course, ecological aspects of forest management. This was launched in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro by the UN Conference on Environment and Development. The ‘Forest Principles’ were adopted at the conference, and they have now been developed to evaluate success with regards to Sustainable Forest Management within a global community.

Denmark, Sweden, Finland Iceland and Norway faced an alarming situation at around the end of the last century. Increased demand for agricultural land had led to substantial areas of forest land being felled in order to accommodate the need for grazing and farming.  This led to Scandinavian countries implementing forest legislation to restrict the volume of timber that could be harvested, while placing woodlot owners under obligation to plant more trees so as to ensure regeneration after felling. Denmark has implemented long term strategies for reforestation, and Norway, Sweden and Finland remain some of the most important producers of forests and forest products in Europe today.

In order to establish a context for subsequent posts on Scandinavian forest legislation, we shall now briefly cover forest policy on Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway.
We have decided to break down the individual nations forest policy into different posts

These can be found by clicking below

Norwegian – Forest Policy

Finnish Forest Policy

Swedish Forest Policy

Danish Forest Policy

Hopefully, this post has given an overview of forest policy in Scandinavia. The next post in this series will explore Danish forest legislation in greater depth, along with a history and overview of economic, cultural, social and environmental concerns related to Danish Forest Management. News and developments in Danish forest management and forest legislation will also be examined.

Although Denmark has the lowest percentage of forest land of all the Scandinavian Countries, forests still make up around over 10% of the country’s total land. Considerable efforts have been made regarding reforestation and we will also be covering this is more detail in the next post in our Scandinavian Forest Legislation series.


Swedish Forest Policy

Swedish Forest Policy

The Swedish Forest Agency is Sweden’s national authority that is responsible for all forest related matters. The agency endeavours to ensure that Sweden’s forests are managed sustainably and that harvests are abundant, while biodiversity is simultaneously supported. The Swedish Forest Agency also strives to promote increased awareness of the importance of the nation’s forests, and this covers areas such as ecology, economics and outdoor recreation.

The Agency is also responsible for the supervision of compliance with Sweden’s Forest Act, giving advice on matters pertaining to forests, providing services to the forest industry and supporting conservation.

In fact, Swedish forest legislation considers environmental concerns such as conservation to be of equal importance to timber production. The co-operation of forest owners and the state form the cornerstone of Swedish forest policy, and this is viewed as a crucial factor in achieving long term sustainable forestry practices. This is a holistic approach to managing forests with a view to cultural, social, environmental and economic concerns.

Norwegian Forest Policy

Norwegian – Forest Policy

The foundation of Norwegian forest policy is built upon promoting resilience and long term stability of resources. Policies for Norwegian forest management aim to promote sustainability and to meet cultural, social, ecological and economic needs in the present and the future. Norway has signed resolutions on the sustainable management of Europe’s forests and has also ratified the Rio Convention on biological diversity and the climate. Norwegian forest policies uphold the principles declared in these documents.

In 2005, Norway’s Forest Act was brought up to date to promote sustainable forest management. The aim was to balance the need for economic development at a national and local level with ecological concerns such as securing biodiversity. Considerations such as the cultural value of forests and the opportunity for outdoor recreation are also strongly emphasised in the Forest Act.

The Forest Act applies to all forest land and forests. The term “forest land” refers to land that is either under forest production, or is suitable for forest production according to an overall assessment, and is not under use for any other purpose. The Forest Act also applies if an area of land is pursuant to the Planning and Building Act, is already protected under the Nature Conservation Act, or is already designated for purposes other than agriculture, unless provided otherwise by planning, or protection decisions that are associated with such decisions.

Forest owners are obliged to ensure that all activities taking place in forests are in compliance with regulations and statutes. They must also take into account environmental values and pay proper attention to these when carrying out any activities within the forest. These considerations may prevent carrying out certain activities within the forest, but the owner is otherwise free to practice forest management with a view to their own objectives.

The Forest Trust Fund was set up as an obligatory reserve. It provides forest owners with a means for financing measures that are aimed at sustainably managing forest resources. The fund is intended to be used for long term investments covering timber production including forest management and planning, infrastructure such as roads and securing environmental values in forests. A proportion of the landowner’s income from harvests is allocated to the trust, and the Norwegian Forest Fund then returns service to the landowner.

Danish Forest Policy – Overview

Danish Forest Policy – Overview

The Danish Forest Act, passed in 2004, has ensured the ongoing protection and conservation of Danish forests. The act supports the promotion of sustainable forest management (SFM) and increasing the area of forested land, with a view to encouraging ecological, social and economic values.

Sustainable management refers to the fact that the management of areas of designated forest reserve land and the administration of The Forest Act should strive to:

  1. Establish and promote robust forests
  2. Support the production of forests
  3. Increase biodiversity and uphold conservation of forests
  4. Ensure that proper attention is given to cultural history, natural history, recreation,   environmental protection and the landscape

The Danish National Forest Programme was developed in 2000, the purpose of which was to address changing conditions within Denmark’s forest sector. These changes included obligations that arose from international conventions and agreements.

Sustainable forest management that is based equally upon social, environmental, ecological and economic concerns is at the heart of the Danish National Forest Programme. The long term aim is to move towards a forest management regime that uses and supports the natural processes of Denmark’s forests.

Finnish Forest Policy

Finnish Forest Policy

Finnish forest policy experienced a complete overhaul in the 1990’s at the same time as The Nature Conservation Act was being created. The new Forest Act focussed on sustainable forest management, which encompasses ecological, social and economic aspects of forest management.

Prepared as an open process between stakeholders in Finnish forest issues, the National Forest Programme (NFP) is instrumental in ensuring forest-based livelihoods and employment, biodiversity and social opportunities such as recreation for all Finnish citizens. The NFP essentially forms the foundation of all Finnish forest policy.

The NFP was first approved by the Finnish Government in 1999, and was implemented in 2000 and coordinated by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry with the assistance of the Forest Council. The Forest Council is an advisory board that has been set up to support the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. NGO’s, forest industries and other administrative sectors have representatives within the Forest Council.