Researchers have calculated Estonia has approximately 90,000 hectares more forest than previously thought by using a new measurement system.
Forest researchers at Estonian University of Life Sciences used an alternative method for determining the types of trees, reserves and age of Estonian forests for the international Biomass Atlas.
Previously, the area of forests has been calculated on the basis of the statistical forest inventory (SMI) or a network of sample plots, but this time the maps of the Land Board were used for remote sensing and were then merged with the forest survey data for the whole Estonia.
Chair of Forest Management Planning and Wood Processing Technologies Allar Padari said forest areas were taken from the main map, then power line routes, ditches, and rides - 'corridors' without trees that separate plots of forested areas - were removed.
This technique estimated the total area of forests to be 2.42 million hectares. The area of forests calculated according to the previous system is 2.33 million hectares.
Based on the new data, it can be estimated that 53.3 percent of Estonia's land area is forest.
Padari said 37.8 percent of managed forests meet the mature criteria set by Estonian law. A large portion of mature forests are made up of fields and grasslands which were abandoned after the war.
The age structure of forests allows for an increase in regeneration cutting if desired. Over the next 10 years, the average cutting capacity will be in the range of 11 to 16 million cubic meters per year, plus thinning volumes of approximately two million square meters per year. Thus, the recommended total cutting capacity over the next ten years could reach 13-18 million cubic meters per year. Of course, it is up to the forest owners to decide on the scenario or pace at which the cuttings are to be carried out.
Padari said the result obtained is in very good accordance with the SMI assessments made so far. "Consequently, the results obtained with the SMI methodology used so far are quite accurate and once again the necessity of SMI for the assessment of Estonian forest resources has been proved," he added.
Measurements were made for Biomass Atlas, the database developed by the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke). The working group included Allar Padari, Tauri Arumae, Mait Lang, and Ahto Kangur.
Editor: Helen Wright