Indufor, one of the world’s leading forest and natural resources consulting service providers, has put together in-depth report to provide the consultant’s view on impacts of wood-based bioenergy demand on Estonian forest resources.
The analysis states that forest area and cover in Estonia has increased continuously for the last decades regardless of increasing domestic biomass utilization for energy and exports. According to the report there is no negative impact on forest resources or forest management practices.
The report shows that the bioenergy demand has increased the demand for small-diameter hardwood in Estonia, which in turn has the potential of increasing the availability of good quality sawlogs and will also accelerate the carbon sequestration of the forests.
No negative impact on forest resources
The Estonian forest cover has continuously increased from 2010–2018 and the total forest growing stock has been increasing for the last two decades.
The report states that the increase of wood-based bioenergy demand has not shortened rotations in forest and in the sawlog price is more important driver for final-felling decisions than wood-based bioenergy demand.
Since 2008, harvesting and management have increased. Private and corporate forest owners have been harvesting forest that had been mature and ready for clear felling. The longer-term harvesting trend has been considerably lower than annual growth (increment) and the maximum sustainable harvesting level. The report brings out that as a result of low harvesting levels during 2004–2011, the maximum sustainable harvesting level increased for the 2011–2020.
The main drivers increasing the harvesting volumes have been increased sawmill capacity and production, high demand for pulpwood in Finland and Sweden and improved demand for energy wood. This was a temporary peak and demand has already slowed.
Thinnings positively affect wood quality and CO2 sequestration
According to the report the increase of bioenergy demand has increased the demand for small-diameter hardwood, which in turn has increased thinnings in previously unmanaged forest stands.
Thinnings, especially pre-commercial thinnings, have been considered often purely as costs. Recently, however, private forest owners have increasingly taken thinnings into their forest management toolbox.
As thinnings become more common, it positively affects the diameter growth of trees, which in turn has the potential of increasing the availability of good quality sawlogs and will also accelerate the carbon sequestration (tonnes/ha/year) of the forests.