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©2018 by Janne Eloranta. 

Forest - matter of live and death

In Finland, just as everywhere in the world, our relationship with nature has determined our survival. We have depended upon our knowledge of the threats and the possibilities of nature. Industrialisation gave us the means to make nature to our servant, also in Finland.

We Finns consider ourselves a nation close to nature because we live in “the most densely forested country in the world”. Most of our forest acreage we have submitted to forestry: only about one per cent of the forrest acreage in the south of Finland is in the natural state.  The most important purpose of the forest is to supply uniform timber for industrial use. Large or in some other ways different wood does not serve the needs of the industry. Dead wood is of no use and a sign of bad forest management.  Thus the Finnish forests have been grown to consist of uniform trunks with a record low average age of 44 years. Finland is a land of young forests. We have plenty of forest acreage, but much less timber. In comparison to the forests in Germany, Sweden, Poland or even France, they all have more timber.

Periodic cover silviculture, ie. clear cutting, soil management and planting only one type of tree, has for decades presided over forest management in Finland, and this method is the main reason our forests have become so homogenous. But if we could empty out a whole lake from all of the fish and stock it with only once species, would we? Continuous-cover silviculture, made legal a few years ago, would add to the diversity of the forests. In this method, only the log-sized trees are cut down and the rest, whatever the size, are left to grow and woud diversify the age and size structure of the forests. Let us add to the forestry law, that each acre of forest needs to have a certain amount of trees that are left untouched for the course of their whole life cycle, including dying, falling and rotting. Continuous-cover silviculture as growing method and retention trees would make obsolote the either-or debate over harvested forests and natural state forests. Nature values and the forest industry need not be mutually noninclusive.