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State of Finland's Forests 2012: Finnish forests and
forest management in a nutshell

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History of forest management

Areas in slash-and-burn agriculture in Finland in 1860 and 1913.
Source: Heikinheimo 1915. Acta Forestalia Fennica 4.


The history of human influence on Finland’s forests is long and varied. People have lived in forests, using forests in many ways. Game, berries and mushrooms used to provide an important source of food. Here, the livelihood and cultural development of humans has been more dependent on forests than anywhere else in Europe: initially on hunting, slash-and-burn agriculture and tar burning, later on forestry and the forest industry, and more recently also on forest-based and wood-based bioeconomy and related businesses.

Hunting and the bartering of furs were the main livelihoods in this part of the world for thousands of years. Agriculture was first introduced in the form of slash-and-burn cultivation 4,000 years ago and developed into permanent agriculture 3,500 years ago. Along with the spread of slash-and-burn cultivation, human settlements spread to central and eastern Finland, especially from the 16th century onwards. In the 18th and 19th centuries, forests in Finland were also used for tar production, to meet the needs of the mining and shipbuilding industries, for home use and construction, and also for agriculture and grazing within the slash-and-burn culture.

Between 50% and 75% of the forests in southern Finland, depending on the area, had been subjected to slash-and-burn cultivation by the beginning of the 20th century. Since then, the greatest impact on the structure of forests has come from use of wood as raw material for the forest industry.

Owing to the various uses of forests, there are no completely untouched natural forests in Finland except for remnants of natural forests in certain protected areas in Lapland and eastern Finland. However, there are no intensively managed tree plantations either, because forest management in commercial forests makes use only of native tree species, and the development of mixed stands is actively promoted in management and harvesting.

Slash and burn agriculture on forested areas was practiced in Finland since 16th century until 1900´s, which led to devastated areas nearby the small villages. (photo: © Metla/Olli Heikinheimo, Heinävesi 1880). Rye cultivated after a slash and burn on the ash and humus mixture of boreal forest in Koli National Park, 1994).


  Updated: 27.02.2012 /MLier |  Photo: Erkki Oksanen, Metla, unless otherwise stated | Copyright Metla | Feedback