In Finland, there is more forest than ever and forests are growing faster than ever. Despite this, due to climate change, one of the hottest topics in recent months has been preserving forests as carbon sinks through harvesting restrictions.
The discussion has become stuck on the smaller details of different scenarios. People tend to forget the big picture.
The big picture is that since the emergence of climate awareness, the entirety of Finland’s forests have already been harvested once. In 1990, when climate reporting began, Finnish forests contained 1.9 billion cubic metres of wood, and the same amount was harvested between 1990 and 2017.
However, the forests now contain a record 2.5 billion cubic metres of wood.
The forests’ increasing growth can mainly be attributed to good forest management. This, in short, means sensible harvesting, without neglecting the importance of ditching and fertilisation.
Forest management—from the clearing of seedling stands, to thinning and regeneration cutting, to light selection harvesting—involves the planned removal of wood to improve the quality and growth of the forest’s remaining trees.
Harvesting restrictions would mean restrictions on forest management. That would slow down the growth of forests and carbon sinks.
Final felling is a part of the managed cycle of commercial forests. Lessening the trade of sturdy wood undermines not only forestry, but also carbon sink management.
A forest stand where final felling has been carried out emits carbon for a period of time. This is an undeniable fact, but the fact that forest management and harvesting has improved Finnish forests’ carbon storage capacity is equally undeniable.
Politicians do not decide how much wood is harvested. This is decided by sellers and buyers on the market.
Restrictions on harvesting will probably only be introduced in political rhetoric. At least no one has yet suggested preventing investments in wood-related businesses or scrapping commercial forestry.
In the end, the discussion on carbon sinks, led by researchers and the media, only shows that we know our forests inside out. This makes debate and discussion of different scenarios possible.
Thoroughly considered facts are the best raw material for decision-making for forest owners, forest companies and politicians.
While some are engaged in climate discussion, others are, even today, taking climate action by clearing, thinning and renewing their forests.
These climate heroes should not be accused of destroying forest sinks but thanked for growing these sinks in a sustainable way.
The Finnish editorial is published in the Metsän henki magazine 1 2019.