The biodiversity of natural habitats and species is a topical issue in Finland – and not without reason, as three quarters of the surface area of Finland is covered by forest. One way to protect biodiversity in our forests is to simply retain them as forests.
From deforestation to record growth
During the time of the first Finnish Forest Act in 1886, art and cultural influencers, as well as a forester from Germany, were concerned about the destruction of forests, and this worry was visible in the first forest legislation. The prevailing practices of slash-and-burn cultivation and harvesting the best trees had resulted in significantly lower amounts of trees and the reduced quality of forests. Therefore, the main messages of the legislation focused on prohibiting forest destruction and promoting natural renewal.
Fortunately, times have changed and currently the annual forest growth in Finland has reached a record level of 110 million cubic meters. Therefore in Finland the destruction of forests has not been a problem for some time. However, elsewhere in the world, the observation about disappearing forests, which the originators of the first Forest Act made, is still a very important and a topical issue, particularly from the perspective of biodiversity.
Everyone’s future at stake
Changing the way land has been used, for example from forest to agricultural land, results in dramatic changes in the lives of the animal and plant species living in the forests. The changes in land use are unfortunately still a part of our reality, especially in the areas with the richest selection of species, such as tropical rainforests. The most common reason for decreasing the size of the rainforests is to harness the land for agricultural use. Since the 1970s, in Brazil alone, tropical rainforests have decreased by an area equaling the size of Turkey. The majority of this area has been taken into agricultural use.
Retaining forests as forests is a crucial factor for the future of our entire planet. You could say that the forest industry that utilises natural wood types in a sustainable manner is actually a guarantee for keeping forests as forests into the future. When a forest is managed in a sustainable way it has a monetary value which decreases the probability of losing the area to other uses. This is clearly visible in the history of Finnish forest use – new markets for wood from privately owned forests increased forest resources significantly more efficiently than the legislation forbidding slash-and-burn cultivation ever did by itself.