Forest management from sapling to log in Finland

Harri Nikkinen

Harri Nikkinen

The correct management of a forest throughout its rotation period is important to ensure its optimal growth. That is why Koskitukki offers comprehensive tailored forest management services from soil preparation to thinnings and felling, in addition to wood procurement. The goal is to take care of all forest management measures in a financially feasible manner and with the forest owner’s objectives in view.

Proper soil preparation is necessary for sapling growth

Before the saplings are planted, it is important to prepare the soil in order to enable the trees to grow as well as possible. Next comes the selection of the ideal species of tree for the type of soil in question. The most common choice in southern Finland is conifers, but birch is also suitable for southern Finland’s fertile areas plagued with rot. Eastern Finland also has some good areas for growing birch.

Koskitukki supplies birch, spruce and pine saplings as well as special saplings, if needed. The other option is to regenerate the forest by planting seeds. Koskitukki offers pine and spruce seeds for planting. Often, forest owners themselves take care of the planting but Koskitukki also has around ten professional lumberjacks and a large number of sub-contractors who can take care of the planting process.

Tending to saplings is all about timing

Once the sapling stands have been planted, it is important to ensure that their growth continues in the best possible way. The prerequisite for this is that the saplings must be cleared some five years after the planting. The sapling stands are tended thoroughly around 5–10 years after the planting. This means that poorly growing saplings are cleared so that the stronger ones have sufficient space and nutrients to grow.

“Timing is everything in tending to saplings. If brushwood is allowed to grow too long it can mean the loss of many good growth years and therefore a slowing down of growth in the forest,” says Harri Nikkinen, an experienced lumberjack. “Tending to saplings also requires determination. You need to have the courage to clear away enough saplings.”

Nikkinen knows what he is talking about because he has been working as a lumberjack since 1976. He came to Koskitukki in 2007 when Christian Stjernvall, a forest owner for whom he managed forests, transferred his forest management to Koskitukki. At the moment, Nikkinen is carrying out the first round of clearing sapling stands in a spruce forest planted in 2007. 25 hectares of work await him.

The circular clearing of brushwood, and, perhaps, also rosebay willow-herb and raspberry bushes, from around the saplings is necessary in order to provide the saplings with enough room to grow. The cleared brushwood is left on the ground because it provides excellent nutrients for the young trees.

A forest takes decades to grow

It takes decades for a forest to grow so that it is ready for felling. Birch trees reach maturity at 50 years, spruce forests at 60 and pine forests may take even more than 80 years. That is why growing a forest takes both patience and responsibility.

Even when the sapling stands have begun growing well it is important not to forget to tend to them. Forests require improvement every 10 to 20 years. If the saplings or young forest has been allowed to become overgrown it is possible to carry out a young stand improvement in which the brushwood is cleared away prior to felling. After this, energy wood can be collected from the forest as either delimbed or undelimbed small-diameter timber. Usually around two to three thinnings are carried out in forests before it is mature for regeneration felling. Thinnings that are carried out too often make the forest susceptible to decay, particularly in the case of spruce forests. This is due to damage to the roots, through which the rot spreads.

Forest management has improved over the years

At Koskitukki, forest management services are often coordinated with the sale of wood. Forest management agreements have been drawn up for some forests, which state that Koskitukki is responsible for the managing the forest from regeneration to felling.

“The present trend is for forest owners to outsource their forest management to an increasing extent,” explains Harvesting and Forest Management Supervisor Antti Poikela.

Usually, forest owners are offered regeneration measures and the planting of new stands of saplings in connection with regeneration felling. It is Koskitukki’s standard procedure to evaluate the forest owner’s needs in connection with fellings.

“Most customers value a flourishing forest. That is why tending to sapling stands is one of the most popular services because it is an essential part of guaranteeing good growth. If a sapling stand is poorly tended, the end results will not meet expectations,” Poikela points out the importance of forest management.

Nikkinen has also noticed that tending to saplings is considered important because he spends up to ten months a year doing sapling-related work. In addition, he carries out some planting and takes care of other general forest management tasks.

All in all, Nikkinen believes that Finland’s forests are in good shape and that their future looks bright.

“A lot is up to the forest owner but forestry methods have also improved significantly from when I began working as a lumberjack,” says Nikkinen.

For example, soil preparation methods have changed so that the forest’s rotation period is now much faster. Usually, sufficient investments in forest management at each stage of growth reward the forest owner with a plentiful, good-quality harvest of logs at felling time.

Antti Poikela, Harvesting and Forest Management Supervisor

Antti Poikela, Harvesting and Forest Management Supervisor.