Finland’s forests working hard as carbon sink

finland-forest-littleFinland’s forests are absorbing double the amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than they were 20 years ago. Wooded areas in the country can now take up 42 million tonnes of the greenhouse gas annually, over half of the 70 million tonnes emitted by Finland in 2008.

The figures are the latest from the Finnish Forest Research Institute (METLA), who say that even though buildings and transport infrastructure have encroached on forests, the number of trees has still increased. There are around 2.2 billion cubic metres of wood in the country, with around 100 million additional trees growing naturally each year.

According to Helsingin Sanomat, the increase means that 70 million cubic metres of woodland could be felled annually without leading to a net loss. But last year, only 20 million cubic metres were cut down due to lack of demand during the recession.

METLA says Finland is absorbing twice as much carbon from the atmosphere than 20 years ago, leading them to refer to the country’s forests as a “carbon sink”. In addition to the thicker forests, vast areas of agricultural land have also been planted with trees.

Nearly three million tonnes of extra carbon dioxide a year are currently being emitted in Finland, however, as a result of the reclamation of 226,000 hectares of forests for roads and housing. METLA also said that 13 million cubic metres of wood could be used as an energy source. This wood could be taken from the parts of the tree not suitable for making paper pulp, such as branches, tree-tops and stumps.