Typical rural Finnish forest landscape with a private family farm consisting of agricultural and forest properties.
The most extensive forest cover in Europe
Forests are part of the Finnish cultural heritage. The economic
livelihood and material, cultural and spiritual progress of Finns
has been dependent on forests for centuries. Manifold and biologically
diverse forests constitute an important landscape element,
an environment for recreation, and a habitat for flora
The forest cover in Finland is more extensive than in any other
European country. Three fourths of the land area, some 23 million
hectares (76%), is under forests. In addition, there are land
areas under management where there are only few trees, such
as open peatland and areas of exposed bedrock, over 3 million
|Forest cover in Europe, as percentage of land area.
Source: Schuck, A., Van Brusselen, J., Päivinen, R., Häme, T.,
Kennedy, P. and Folving, S. 2002. Compilation of a calibrated
European forest map derived from NOAA-AVHRR data. European
Forest Institute. EFI Internal Report 13, 44 p. plus Annexes.
Because of Finland’s northern location, forest management is
practiced under exceptional climate conditions. Geographically,
Finland lies in an intermediate zone between maritime and
continental climates, belonging for the most part to the boreal
Because of the warming effect of the Gulf Stream, however, the
climate of Finland is in many respects more favourable than in
areas at similar latitudes in Russia and Canada, for instance.
Because Finland is over 1,100 kilometer long north to south,
conditions for growth vary considerably between the southern
and northern parts of the country. Towards the north, the climate
gets increasingly colder and more humid, and precipitation exceeds
evaporation. The growth period is about five months in the
south and three months in the north. The average increment of
growing stock in southern Finland, 6.1 cubic metres per hectare
per year, is twice as much as in northern Finland.
The number of plant species in Finnish forests is low compared
to the boreal zone in North America, for instance, or the temperate
zone in central Europe. This is because of the high European
mountain ranges running east-west, which prevented the
return of plants to the north after the last Ice Age. There are only
four coniferous tree species native to Finland, and fewer than
30 deciduous trees and arborescent shrubs. The majority of forests
in Finland are predominantly coniferous, with broadleaves
often growing in mixed stands.
The timberline in northern Lapland is a hemiboreal zone often
several dozen kilometres wide. To the north of the timberline,
the land is a mosaic of exposed ground, shrub and struggling trees or trees less than 2 metres tall. On the southern edge of
the zone, the timberline is defined as the point where the height
of individual trees exceeds 2 metres. To prevent the timberline
from receding further south, an Act on Protective Forests was
enacted as far back as 1922 to prevent unplanned use of forests
and consequent shifting of the timberline. These provisions
are now incorporated in the Forest Act.