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

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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 and fauna.

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 hectares altogether.

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 vegetation zone.

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.


  Updated: 10.12.2012 /MLier |  Photo: Erkki Oksanen, Metla, unless otherwise stated | Copyright Metla | Feedback