Forestry in Estonia

Today forests cover around 50% of the territory of Estonia contributing to approximately 2.2 million hectares with the growing stock around 468 million m3. Estonia is in the fifth position in Europe based on forest coverage (share of forestland area in mainland territory) after Finland, Sweden, Slovenia and Latvia.

mets_06-04-14_42Estonia lies within the latitude of 59° 00’N in the temperate zone of the Northern Hemisphere. Due to moderate maritime climate conditions for forest growth are very suitable. Estonia belongs primarily to the northern area of the nemoral-coniferous or „mixed forest” belt. Of all the woodlands, 51% of stands are dominated by deciduous species and 49% by coniferous species making landscapes very diverse. Without the limiting influence of humans forests would cover most of Estonia’s mainland. In fact, 3,000 years ago more than 80% of the mainland was covered with forests. Due to human activity, 100 years ago forests covered only 30% of 4.5 million hectares of the total area of Estonia.

The diversity of forests in Estonia provides habitats for a large number of species. Forests are also a source of valuable raw material – wood, which is an important building material, the basis for a wide variety of industrial and consumer goods as well as a renewable energy source of increasing importance. Forests play an important role in the carbon cycle, through the sequestration of carbon from the atmosphere into soil and woody biomass. Wood products act as temporary carbon sinks and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Sustainable management of forests has to consider the needs related to the protection of biological diversity, soil, water and air. Forests provide 35,000 jobs in the forestry sector and also many jobs indirectly (in transport, tourism, sports and other sectors). Forests are invaluable as recreation and sports sites and vital for hunting.

Finding a balance between the different interests in forests is the biggest challenge in forestry. “Estonian Forestry Development Program until 2020” is the framework document for the development of forestry in the current decade. The principal goals are to safeguard the productivity and viability of forests and ensure the varied and effective use of forests. In order to achieve these aims, it is important to procure wood in the amount of the increment, to increase the volume of reforestation, to keep at least 10% of forestland area under strict protection and to enhance the variety of protected forests. The share of strictly protected forests in the total area of forests was 10% already in 2010, but further efforts are required to ensure that a variety of forests are represented in the strictly protected areas. (Statistical Yearbook of Estonia 2014 – Statistics Estonia)

Private forestry

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Private forest owners manage around 1.01 million ha (47%) of forest land in Estonia with the growing stock of around 275 million m3. The average area of private forest land is 10.4 hectares. Only around 40% of all private forest owners live near their property. By the end of 2015 approximately 10 000 of the total of 97 000 private forest owners are members of local private forest owners’ associations. It is beneficial for private forest owners to join local forestry associations responsible for organizing joint activities, managing advisory services and providing private forest owners with information. Learn more about support system provided for private forest owners from HERE.