The countries of the Nordic and Baltic Sea region have large forest covers and are highly regarded for their sustainable forest management. Iceland is an exception regarding the forest cover, but has lots of experience regarding rehabilitation of forests. The forestry sector is important for regional development and plays a crucial role in maintaining sustainable employment in rural areas. In former times, firewood, charcoal and tar were extracted from the forest, whereas today most of the raw material is used for producing pulp and timber.
NATIONAL FOREST INVENTORIES
Forests are usually divided into four groups according to ownership status: private forests, state-owned forests, community forests and company forests. Through National Forest Inventories (NFIs) several Nordic countries have a 100-year history of detailed data from surveys on the status, condition and trends in forest composition, growth, quantities and qualities.
NORDIC AND BALTIC COLLABORATIONS
Forestry is a cornerstone of the economies of Sweden and Finland. Together, these two countries have less than 2 percent of the world’s forest assets, yet account for nearly 10 percent of the world’s forest-related products. There is a tradition of cross-border Nordic and Baltic projects in which stakeholders at all levels exchange best practice, also incorporating the latest research findings. An example of this is the project Sustainable Forest Management in the Baltic Sea Region, coordinated by EFINORD. These projects, as well as new initiatives, will make a crucial contribution to the program of the XXVI IUFRO World Congress.
The boreal forests have much to offer in the form of unique ecosystems of great importance to the global climate. The management of ecosystems and cultivation practices vary widely from the open countryside of the south to the mountainous regions of the northern parts.The Nordic and Baltic region is characterized by long coastlines, large forests and numerous lakes. The coniferous forests (Picea abies and Pinus sylvestris) dominate, which in the south are often mixed with deciduous trees, such as aspen (Populus tremula) and birch (Betula pubescens and B. pendula).
Other hardwoods, such as oak (Quercus robur), beech (Fagus sylvatica), linden (Tilia cordata), maple (Acer platanoides) and elm (Ulmus glabra), are found up to the border of Limes Norrlandicus. North of this line, the landscape consists of large forests and river valleys, hills and mountains.
This northern land is used for both forestry and reindeer husbandry that is of particular importance for the Sami culture, and some Sami have the exclusive right to herd reindeer. The southern part of the region has a varied terrain of fields, hills and lakes. It is located on the border between the more temperate Atlantic climate zone and the more extreme continental climate zone.
RIGHT OF PUBLIC ACCESS
The region is famous for its long light summer days and dark winter nights, especially in the North where the winter is long and cold, and yet the Northern lights attract lots of tourists. In the south, the winter is milder. The numbers of wolves (Canis lupus), bears (Ursus arctos) and lynx (Lynx lynx) are increasing and there are large numbers of wild boar (Sus scrofa), roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) and moose (Alces alces). There is a long tradition of establishing National Parks to protect sensitive natural habitat, scenery, and cultural heritage and they can be found all over the region. Everyone is entitled to visit forests and fields, also on privately owned land, to pick mushrooms and berries under the customary right of common access. Hunting is not only important from an eco- nomic point of view, but also from cultural aspects. Still, hunting is strictly regulated and many species are fully protected.
RELEVANCE TO POLITICS
The governments in the Nordic and Baltic countries emphasize the importance of utilizing natural resources in accordance with the bioeconomy concept to create growth and jobs throughout the countries. Thus, resources must be utilised in a sustainable manner so that they are not depleted and with due consideration of environmental and ethical standards. This is completely in line with the central theme in IUFRO’s strategy, which involves a holistic approach to forests and society. In light of the Governments’ forest policy objectives, it is clear that the region aims to continue to be at the forefront of international forestry. A World Congress attracts extensive media interest both in the region and abroad, and will provide a great opportunity to share experiences from the Nordic and Baltic forestry models.
RESEARCH AND BUSINESS
The Nordic and Baltic countries are active in, and support, international research cooperation, and also stress the importance of aid and the exchange of knowledge. IUFRO is by far the largest organization in forest research cooperation and a strong platform for major joint research and innovation programmes. Major international events have a positive societal impact and are important sources of income for the tourism industry. In addition, major international events have an impact on the region’s image overseas and raise international awareness of the collaborating countries. Technological universities, the forest industry, and outdoor associations are well placed to further strengthen their research cooperation with IUFRO. In an increasingly globalized world, research and innovation are essential in order to compete, both for low income countries in the south and for countries in the boreal region in the North.