Land tenure and management in the boreal region

May 7, 2012, 5:00 pm

This is Section 14.3 of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment
Lead Author: Glenn P. Juday; Contributing Authors: Valerie Barber, Paul Duffy, Hans Linderholm, Scott Rupp, Steve Sparrow, Eugene Vaganov, John Yarie; Consulting Authors: Edward Berg, Rosanne D’Arrigo, Olafur Eggertsson,V.V. Furyaev, Edward H. Hogg, Satu Huttunen, Gordon Jacoby,V.Ya. Kaplunov, Seppo Kellomaki, A.V. Kirdyanov, Carol E. Lewis, Sune Linder, M.M. Naurzbaev, F.I. Pleshikov, Ulf T. Runesson,Yu.V. Savva, O.V. Sidorova,V.D. Stakanov, N.M.Tchebakova, E.N.Valendik, E.F.Vedrova, Martin Wilmking


The influence of climate change on forest values and forest users depends on the amount and initial condition of the forest resource and the uses or intangible values of the forest for people, cultures, and economies. This section reviews forest extent, the overall allocation of forest land to different uses, the main patterns of forest use, the management systems, and the values generated by the boreal forest. Where these characteristics can be singled out by political jurisdiction or other means, the discussion is focused on the northern boreal forest. This discussion forms the basis for considering climate change impacts.

Russia (14.3.1)


caption Fig. 14.3. (a) Russian forest species cover types, with the region of the Central Siberia transect (Krasnoyarsk Kray region) outlined, and (b) vegetation zones and forests of northern central Asia[1].


Russia contains the largest forested area of any nation, amounting to an estimated 763.5 million hectares (ha)[2]. The boreal forest of Russia can be thought of as three roughly parallel belts of southern and middle taiga, sparse northern taiga, and in the farthest north a forest–tundra region extending to the completely treeless tundra (Fig. 14.1). Dominant components of the Russian boreal forest change from spruce in the west (European Russia), to larch in the center and east, to pine at various locations (Fig. 14.3a). In Northern Eurasia, especially in central Siberia (Fig. 14.3b) and the Far East, as much as 70 to 75% of taiga forests appear to be close to a natural state. The remaining forests consist of fragments and other human-influenced forest, and areas dominated by marsh–bog complexes.

The central and especially the southern taiga zones have a long history of quite intensive land use. Although large untouched areas are rare or absent even in northern European Russia, a much greater proportion of these forests exists in a natural state than in similar vegetation zones in the Nordic countries. The Karelian Isthmus region in the St. Petersburg Oblast is a good example. The forests of the Green Belt along the Finnish–Russian (Karelian) border are one of the most important centers of boreal biodiversity in Europe[3]. Many species in the Red Data Book (endangered) lists for Sweden and Finland still exist in relatively healthy populations in northwest Russia. Disruption or decline in the ecological health of these remnant natural forests in Russia. resulting from climate change is very likely to have severe implications for the survival of the listed species, at least within Europe.

Economically exploitable forests total about half of the forested areas under state forest management in Russia, and are generally located in the southern taiga. The northern boreal forest of Russia is generally too distant from transportation infrastructure and consumption centers to repay the costs of timber removal. The Russian forest sector is a major employer, with a work force estimated at 1.8 million people in the mid- and late 1990s. However, during the 1990s, public-sector forest management organizations often did not have enough money to retain employees, fight forest fires, enforce logging regulations, or make periodic inventories. A slow recovery of public-sector capacity has begun in more recent years.

A 1993 reform, the Basic Forest Law, started a movement toward market transactions in this sector. The Basic Forest Law allows forest leasing and auctions of standing timber, and forest leasing is the main market mechanism currently in use. In the early 1990s, rapid and unsustainable cutting of old-growth and mature forests began. After 1996, changes in forest management policy and better information resulted in a slowing of the pace of timber cutting in old-growth forests. The new Forest Code of the Russian Federation was issued in 1997. The Russian forest management system uses the term "Forest Fund" to refer to all forest and related lands under governmental jurisdiction, which in practice is nearly all the forest. The dominant part of the Forest Fund was (and still is) under the management of the Russian Federal Forest Service (Rosleskhoz), which manages about 94% of the total forest area in Russia, with another 4% belonging to agricultural organizations, 1% to the Committee of Environmental Protection, and 1% to other state bodies.

For management purposes, Russian forests have been divided into three categories based on economic and ecological characteristics. The first category comprises forests with a protective function, for example, watershed forests (20% of forested land), which are available for partial tree removal, sanitary tree felling, and small (maximum 10 ha) clear cuts. The second category consists of forests in inhabited areas and forests with low productivity (5.5% of forest area). The vast majority of the forest (74.5%) is included in the third category, industrially exploitable forests, where clear-cutting (up to 50 ha) is the main management practice. In addition to managing nearly all Russian forests, Rosleskhoz is also responsible for about 20% of the logging, in the form of partial and sanitary logging. Climate change impacts that disturb forest cover in category one and two forest are very likely to impose extra costs on managers, local governments, and forest users to stabilize or recover forests. In category three forest, actual or potential forest product values are at risk from climate change. However, because of the economic inaccessibility of the majority of this forest in the northern taiga, direct losses are likely to be relatively small overall.

As of 2000, the Russian Federation had 99 state zapovedniks, or strict scientific nature reserves, totaling 31 million ha or 1.82% of Russia’s territory[4]. Zapovedniks generally meet category I criteria of the World Conservation Union classification of protected areas[5]. During the 1990s, Russia established 35 national parks totaling 6.8 million ha (0.40% of Russia’s territory). There are plans to establish additional zapovedniks and parks[6]. Practically all the national parks are located in Forest Fund areas and are managed by the state forestry authorities. These areas are managed for a range of scientific and biodiversity values, and the main concerns are climate changes that could reduce the chances for survival of the protected species or ecosystems.

The forests of Russia are an important component of the global carbon cycle because of the extensive area of forest land and the high storage of carbon in cold soils. In consideration of its extensive and significant forest resources, Russia has obtained substantial carbon emission credits as part of its participation in the Kyoto Protocol[7]. Fulfilling the potential of Russian forests to offset carbon emissions will require sustaining, and to some degree rebuilding, a land management capability over a vast area with certain fundamental aspects: forest inventory and measurement, surveillance and detection of forest health problems, trained and deployable fire control and management forces, and various resource management specialists. Many of the benefits of increasing carbon sequestration in Russian forests can be obtained as a direct result of implementing policies that are widely agreed to be rational and beneficial[8], including measures such as harvest levels in line with actual growth, effective fire control forces in regions of high-value timber, and adequate regeneration efforts.

Canada (14.3.2)

The Canadian boreal forest represents nearly 6.4% of global forest area according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) definition of forest (Table 14.1). Forests play a large role in the Canadian environment, economy, culture, and history. Forest (tree-covered land with a full canopy) and woodland (tree-covered land with less than a complete forest canopy) cover nearly half (44%) of the Canadian landscape, totaling about 401.5 million ha, according to Canada’s Forest Inventory 2001[9]. Canadian forest land totals about 309.8 million ha, according to the 2001 inventory, and about 294.7 million ha are not reserved and therefore potentially available for commercial forest activities, although much of the land has not been definitively allocated as to use. The large majority of Canadian forest is crown land held for the public, with 71% controlled by the provinces and 23% under federal control[10]. A few percent of Canadian forest land is managed by territorial governments and the balance is in private hands. Of the 401.5 million ha of tree-covered land in Canada, 22.8 million (5.7%) are by law managed to remain in a natural state. On another 27.5 million ha (6.8%), timber harvesting is excluded by administrative policy (e.g., on unstable soils or as habitat buffers along important lakes or rivers). The most accessible forest land, and therefore the most likely to experience forest management activities, covers 144.6 million ha, or 36.0% of the total tree-covered area.

In the Canadian land tenure system, provincial governments are responsible for managing most of the land within their boundaries held for the benefit of the public (crown land). Until recently, the federal government held and managed land north of 60° N (an area not organized into provinces). However, in this area, by progressive steps, ownership and decision-making responsibility are passing to indigenous peoples and territorial governments. Simultaneously, lands of major conservation interest are being established as new national parks and wildlife refuges managed by the federal government. The indigenous peoples of Canada, who meet their cultural, spiritual, and material needs from their forest homeland, have a unique perspective and set of goals in forest management. Canadian land and forest management has changed significantly and is likely to change further as aboriginal title, treaty rights, and governmental responsibility to protect these rights are all more specifically defined.

The large majority of Canadian forest is boreal, with species such as white spruce, black spruce, aspen (Populus tremuloides), and paper birch (Betula papyrifera) having essentially transcontinental distributions. The forests of Canada are naturally dynamic, with large-scale disturbances quite typical. Across all Canadian forest types, insect defoliation affected 18.6 million ha in 2002[11]. Section 14.10.2 details the role of disturbance in the boreal forest with respect to carbon, and section 14.8.1 describes the role of forest insect disturbances in the boreal forest.

In the late 1990s, more than 300 communities in Canada depended largely on jobs in the forestry sector. During that period, the wood and paper industries and associated organizations employed more than 830,000 people, and paid more than Can$ 11.8 billion in wages annually. In 2002, 361,400 people were directly employed in the forest industry[12]. Historically, Canada has been one of the largest suppliers of wood and paper products in the world, with 1995 shipments of manufactured forest products valued at Can$ 71.4 billion. Forest products exports from Canada contributed Can$ 39.6 billion to its net balance of trade in 2003 – almost as much as energy, fishing, mining, and agriculture combined. Canadian forests also contribute to uses and support industries providing billions of dollars in sales, including recreation, tourism, natural foods, furs, Christmas trees, and maple syrup. Much of the rapidly increasing recreation activity is forest-based. The number of visitor-days to forested national parks was 29.7 million in 1994.

Timber is harvested from about one million ha in Canada annually, or 0.7% of the total accessible, managed forest land. Allocations of timber resources are based on long-term goals for land use and forest management established in forest plans, and regional analyses and estimates of wood supply. On public (crown) lands, tenure arrangements with forest companies or communities to harvest timber are usually issued through contracts or licenses. Recent changes to legislation and tenure arrangements include provisions to license the harvesting of other forest resources such as blueberries or mushrooms. All harvest activities must also complement or integrate management objectives for wildlife, water, subsurface resources, hydroelectric energy, and transportation. The northwestern Canadian boreal forests of northern Alberta and British Columbia and the southern Yukon and Northwest Territories are the last regions of Canada to experience large-scale forest products harvest, beginning primarily in the 1980s. The installation of wood products processing facilities stimulated the expanded harvest in the northwestern Canadian boreal forest, and under the leasing system, large areas that are currently primary forest are now committed to eventual harvest.

The new emphasis in Canadian forest management typically includes the identification of objectives for the conservation of forests as a source of economic wealth, of habitat for wildlife and fish, of gene pools for biological diversity, and of water and carbon. Climate change calls into question the ability to adequately forecast future forest condition and growth and thus conduct meaningful planning. However, Canadian forest land managers are considering how to deal with climate change effects with specifically adapted silvicultural techniques for maintaining forest health, managing declining stands, regenerating disturbed areas with desired genotypes and species, and assisting in species migration[13].

Because of the large share of productive forest resources under Canadian provincial jurisdiction, an important source of leadership in developing coordinated forest policy has been the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers (CCFM), made up of the principal forestry officials of the provinces. Faced with public concerns about the extent of timber harvesting, and in response to the 1992 National Forest Strategy and the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), the CCFM developed a framework of criteria and indicators to define and measure progress toward sustainable forest management, in consultation with the entire Canadian forest community. The framework reflects the values of Canadians and identifies the forest features and uses they want to sustain or enhance, including indicators of environmental, social, and economic health.

Canada and 11 other countries have collaborated in the development of criteria and indicators for the conservation and sustainable management of boreal and temperate forests outside Europe (known as the "Montreal Process"). Climate change adds major uncertainty to basic assumptions about future forest condition, growth, and uses that are critical in making decisions in the present. For example, current forest harvest levels developed to meet the test of sustainability must be based on projections of future forest growth and mortality. A major climate shift would alter these factors in ways not fully understood but very likely to be disruptive. The challenge is to decide what forest activities should be allowed today based on an assumed future in which climate change outside the range experienced in previous planning horizons may be having an effect.

United States (Alaska) (14.3.3)

Alaska is by far the largest state in the United States, occupying about 20% of the area covered by the remainder of the nation or an area greater than the Nordic countries combined. The two different types of forest found in Alaska are coastal rainforest in southeast and south-central Alaska and boreal forest in northern and Interior Alaska. The coastal forest in Alaska covers about five million ha, but the most productive areas of this forest type are south of the Arctic as defined in this chapter. However, much of south-central Alaska is either coastal forest or a boreal–coastal forest transition and is within the Arctic as defined here. The amount of land in the boreal region of Alaska that supports at least 10% forest cover is about 46 million ha, or 41% of the state. Statewide, about 6.4 million ha or 16.3% of total Alaska forest land is classified as "productive" forest, that is, land capable of an average growth rate of 1.4 m3/ha/yr[14]. Even less of the Alaska boreal forest (12% or 5.5 million ha) is considered productive commercial timberland[15].

Of the 114 million ha that make up Alaska, the federal government owned over 95% until Alaska became a state in 1959. The state government was granted the right to eventual ownership of 32 million ha (28% of Alaska) as a condition of statehood. To date the state of Alaska has received 27.4 million ha (85%) of its entitlement. Under terms of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, Alaska Native corporations are entitled to receive 13.4 million ha (11.7% of Alaska), and most of that land has been conveyed. Individuals own only about 0.6 million ha (0.5% of Alaska). The private individual ownership category is expected to slowly increase as a result of government land sales and transfers. The federal government retains nearly 68 million ha in Alaska (60% of the state), including about 20.6 million ha in national parks and 31.1 million ha in national wildlife refuges.

National parks and wildlife refuges generally preclude resource development, but there are a few exceptions. In some circumstances, petroleum development can take place in wildlife refuges, and rural residents with a history of local use may obtain resources such as house logs, fuel wood, and poles for fish traps from national parks. Taking all federal land designations together, and including other protected land such as state parks, Alaska has probably the highest percentage (about 40%) of its area devoted to strict protection of natural habitats in the world. At least 25% of the productive boreal timberland in Alaska is reserved by law from forest harvest, and a similar amount is estimated to be reserved by administrative policy[16]. Climate change effects on this strictly preserved land base are likely to involve primarily the temporary reduction or increase in the populations of certain species resulting from land-cover change. The intactness and extent of these ecosystems enhance the prospect of species survival, even following large-scale climate change. The prescription offered by conservation biologists that best equips species to withstand major movement of optimum climate zones is to maintain largescale, topographically diverse landscapes with naturally functioning ecosystems[17]. Such a strategy preserves complete gene pools and specially adapted ecotypes, and provides maximum opportunity for natural migration and disturbance recovery. The current boreal forest is largely the result of such adjustment by the biota to the many cycles of glacial and interglacial climate changes during the Pleistocene. The current land allocation situation matches the conservation biology prescription for climate change resilience better in Alaska than in almost any other major forest region of the world.

The Alaskan boreal forest is currently used for a variety of economic, subsistence, recreational, scientific, and other purposes. Local-scale logging has been a traditional use for much of the 20th century. The boreal region has only small-scale wood products facilities: mainly small sawmills and facilities to manufacture specialty products such as house logs and birchwood items. Employment in forest products manufacturing industries, mostly in the coastal region, peaked in 1990 at just under 4,000 people, constituting 1.4% of total Alaska employment in that year[18], but was only about 600 in 2002[19]. In the 1990s, the two major wood products manufacturing facilities (pulp mills) in the state, which were supplied by long-term (50-year) contracts, permanently stopped operations. Much of the current economic activity associated with the Alaska boreal forest is generated by the basic activities of exercising the rights and responsibilities of ownership. These activities include forest inventory, monitoring conditions and trends, wildland fire management, access administration, and permits for use. Those administrative activities will occur under any scenario for the future, although they might need to be intensified under certain conditions that could be caused by climate change.

In Alaska, there are so few roads that timber removal generally must meet the costs of building or extending surface transportation routes. Much of the productive forest is distributed in scattered small stands across large landscapes. As a result, productive timberland is, with a few exceptions, not economically accessible. If low-cost forms of access (e.g., winter roads on frozen ground) can be used, the area of forest with positive stumpage value increases. Climate change will decrease the amount of time when winter access is safe on ice bridges and frozen winter roads ( section 16.3.6, Fig. 16.21). Even a small amount of additional warming would initiate permafrost thawing across a sizeable portion of the interior boreal region (sections and, severely disrupting the ground surface and causing widespread death of existing forest cover. Over the long term, however, sustained temperature increases are likely to expand the productive forest area significantly as long as available moisture does not become limiting[20].

The contributions of Alaska forests in providing subsistence food, fuel, building materials, and indirect ecosystem services, generally not measured by dollar flows, are very important in Alaska and probably exceed values from commercial timber operations in most of its boreal region. Alaska forests contribute ecosystem services especially important to the cash economy by providing commercial fisheries, sport hunting and fishing, and values of non-consumptive uses of the forest involving tourism, recreation, and enhancement of the quality of life. Scientific research is one of the most important current uses of the Alaska boreal forest, with climate change effects and carbon-cycle investigations major topics of continuing interest.

Over one million nonresident tourists visit Alaska annually, and the number of tourist visits has increased steadily over the last few decades[21]. Forests create specific scenic resources for major segments of the tourism industry, including cruise ships and state ferry routes in Prince William Sound, and near the rights-of-way of the Alaska state highway system and the Alaska railroad. Beginning in the 1990s, large-scale insect-caused tree death and injury related to temperature increases was observed along several of the most popular and heavily traveled tourist routes. Recreation continues in those areas, but the quality of the experience for some visitors has been reduced.

If the assumption is made that demand and prices will rise and the public will allow expanded timber cutting under certain circumstances, the size and economic value of the Alaska forest products sector are likely to increase, and thus the risk of harm to this sector from climate change is likely to be greater. If the assumption is made that access will continue to be expensive (prohibitive), that manufacturing cost disadvantages in Alaska will persist, and that public attitudes about expanded timber cutting on the public lands are negative, the size and economic value of the Alaska forest products sector are likely to remain at current (historically depressed) levels or even decline further, limiting the magnitude of exposure to risk from climate change[22].

Much of recent Alaska forest management has been described as "opportunistic" (i.e., taking advantage of other events or projects to build programs and capabilities). Nevertheless, as inventory data accumulated, publicly built access systems expanded, and new scientific insights and data handling tools became available in Alaska, professional forest managers anticipated they would be able to set and accomplish goals more systematically.

However, the increased uncertainty associated with climate change that has already been experienced in Alaska makes long-term forest planning and management considerably more difficult. It is already unclear whether there is a reasonable probability that the cost of planting or regenerating certain stands in certain regions can be recovered in future forest harvests because of higher risk from climate-triggered insect outbreaks (section 14.8.2) among other climate change effects (drying lakes, shrinking glaciers, and large burned areas) already obvious on the landscape.

Fennoscandia (14.3.4)

Finland, Sweden, and Norway have certain features in common. These nations extend from at least 60° N (or further south) to north of the Arctic Circle. Across that distance, these nations encompass north-temperate deciduous or transition forest and an entire gradient of the boreal forest to treeline and tundra in the north. Despite its northerly location, the climate of the region is the warmest of equivalent latitudes in the circumpolar world, due to the strong influence of the Atlantic Gulf Stream. Annual precipitation varies from 1,500 millimeters (mm) or greater in western Norway, which receives the strongest Gulf Stream influence, to 300 mm in the northeastern portions of Finland. The growing season lasts 240 days in the south and 100 days in the north. Mean temperatures range from 14 to 17°C in July to between -14 and 1°C in January and February. The combination of relatively mild temperatures and a deep, dependable snowpack that insulates the ground even in the coldest northern areas means that permafrost is practically absent in forest regions.

Most of Sweden and Finland is characterized by relatively even topography and is less than 300 meters (m) above sea level. In the west, mainly in Norway, the Scandinavian mountain range reaches elevations of 1,000 to 2,000 m above sea level. These mountain peaks are not forest-covered. The treeline varies from 700 m above sea level in the southern part of the mountains to 400 m in the northern part.

In northern areas of Fennoscandia (and the adjacent Kola region of Russia), the Saami (Lapp) people pursue reindeer husbandry in forest lands on the basis of ancient rights. The Saami are legally entitled to use lands that belong to others in order to feed and protect their reindeer herds. Saami earn their living from reindeer breeding, and reindeer move through different areas throughout the year. The forest owners affected by the herds are under a mandate to cooperate with Saami communities to ensure that reindeer can obtain their life-cycle requirements. However, because these rights are exercised across four national jurisdictions, legal systems, and boundary controls, traditional flexibility is hindered (section This jurisdictional complexity works against adaptability of the herding system that would be desirable in response to climate change.

Due to the generally low buffering capacity of forest soils in the Fennoscandian region, a high level of air pollution, mainly originating abroad, has resulted in widespread soil acidification. Leaching of mineral nutrients has reduced soil-buffering levels by as much as half in recent decades. High levels of acid deposition (both sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides) represent future risks to the growth and health of forest ecosystems. Overall, however, the measured rates of growth of managed and tended stands have increased considerably, which might be due at least partially to the nitrogen input.

Finland (

Finland is the most heavily forested country in Europe, with 16 times more forest per capita than the European average. Forests as defined by the FAO cover 23 million ha or 74.2% of the land area. Finnish forests have been intensively harvested over the last few decades. Despite an active harvest program and the reduction of national territory after the Second World War (territory Finland ceded to the Soviet Union contained over 12% of its forest area and about 20% of the best saw-timber stands), Finnish reserves of wood volume are now greater than during the 20th century, and continue to increase. Today the annual aggregate wood growth in Finland is about 75 million cubic meters, while around 60 million cubic meters or less are harvested or die of natural causes. Of the total logged area, regeneration felling accounts for roughly one-third and thinning two-thirds.

In the boreal region, the most common trees are Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), Norway spruce (Picea abies), silver birch (Betula pendula), and downy birch (B. pubescens). Usually two or three tree species dominate a given stand. Pure pine stands occur in rocky terrain, on top of arid eskers, and in pine swamps. Natural spruce stands occur on richer soil. Birch is commonly found as an admixture, but can occasionally form pure stands. About half of the forest area consists of mixed stands. Various kinds of peatlands are also an important part of the Finnish landscape. Originally, peatlands covered about one-third of Finland. Many peat areas have been drained for farming, forestry, and peat extraction purposes. Bog drainage reached a peak in the 1970s, when nearly 1% of the total land area of the country was being drained each year. About half of the original peatland area has been preserved in its virgin state.

Nearly all of the Finnish forest is intensively managed. In the 20th century, foresters favored conifers, especially pine, at the expense of other species. As the oldest generations of trees have been felled, the average tree age in the forest has become younger. Forest stand treatments and forest roads have fragmented large contiguous wilderness areas, and forest fires are largely prevented. Managed commercial forests of this kind now cover more than 90% of the productive forest land in Finland. About 40% of all endangered species in Finland are dependent on older age classes of natural forest[23]. Any climate change effects (intensified physiological stress, fire) that disproportionately affect the remnant of older forest are virtually certain to have large negative impacts on the survival of the rare elements of biodiversity.

With the implementation of new forest management and protected area programs, the contribution of forest harvest and management to species endangerment will diminish. For the moment, however, forestry is still a greater threat to the preservation of species than any other human activity[24]. One reason for this is that about half of the plant, animal, and fungus species found in the country live in forests. Of the various factors attributable to forestry that reduce biodiversity, the most important is the rarity of larger, old trees – both live and dead[25]. Specialist organisms such as arboreal lichens, wood-rotting fungi, and mosses and invertebrates have declined with the decrease in large old trees, snags, and logs.

Finland has 35 national parks that cover 8,150 km2. Together with other nature reserves, the total protected area amounts to approximately 29,000 km2 or about 9% of the total land area of Finland. The Finnish government adopted a special protection program for old-growth forests in 1996 and for broadleaf woodland in the late 1980s. There are ten programs designed to protect various types of natural features and areas. The goal is to extend protection to over 10% of the national territory. As of March 2003, about 3.57 million ha of land to be protected had been identified. About 2.7 million ha had been included in the programs by the beginning of 1999. Protecting habitats either totally or partially from human activities is the main strategy to recover endangered species and encourage biodiversity. In the case of forests, this mainly means protecting the remaining old-growth stands of both conifer and broadleaf forest growing on rich soil as public reserves, as these habitats have been declining most rapidly. There are elaborate arrangements for consultation with landowners during the planning stages of protection programs. This process of consultation was followed when the areas for inclusion in the Finnish Natura 2000 scheme were being designated. The largest category of protected areas is wilderness in Lapland. Wilderness areas, established by the Finnish Parliament, cover about 15000 km2 of forest, treeline, and tundra habitats. Although strictly limited, some forest cutting is permitted in some parts of these wilderness areas.

Most of the highly productive forests in Finland, especially those in the southern and central parts of the country, are privately owned. Nearly 60% of the Finnish forest is privately owned and one in five people belongs to a forest-owning family, including a broad spectrum of the population. The average size of a private forest holding is 30 ha. Most of the forest in Lapland is publicly owned, and as a result, the northern forests have been managed more uniformly and on a larger scale than those elsewhere.

Until the mid- to late 1990s, one-third of Finnish export earnings came from forests, and the forest products industry as a whole was second only to metal products as an export sector. The economic activity (turnover) of the forest sector was roughly Eur$ 23.5 billion: management activities contributed Eur$ 1.7 billion, the forest industry Eur$ 17 billion, and machines and other equipment EurR$ 5 billion. The Finnish share of the total value of global export trade in forest products was about 7.6%. Forest management and the forest industry employed about 100,000 people while the rest of the sector employed about 50,000 people. About 100,000 timber sales deals are made every year between forest owners and forest industry companies.

An environmental program for forestry was adopted in 1994 based on forest-related principles approved at UNCED in 1992 and the 1993 general principles for sustainable forestry adopted by European forest ministers in Helsinki. The goal of Finnish forestry has become ensuring a sustainable economic return as well as preserving biodiversity and facilitating multiple use of the forests. Management practices that strongly alter the environment, such as bog drainage, deep plowing of forest soil, and use of herbicides to kill undergrowth, have been almost totally abandoned. Habitats important to biodiversity preservation have been excluded from timber operations, and both living and dead trees are now routinely left in cutting areas to support biodiversity. Natural regeneration of trees has increased in importance relative to planting nursery-grown seedlings and more attention is paid to preserving forest landscapes.

The Government of Finland adopted a National Forest Program (NFP) in March 1999. The goals of the NFP are to increase the industry’s annual consumption of domestic wood by 5 to 10 million cubic meters by 2010, double the wood processing industry’s export value, and increase the annual use of wood for energy to 5 million cubic meters. The Finnish government, in collaboration with the forest industry, will also ensure competitive conditions for the forest industry (e.g., supplying energy at a competitive price) and launch the technology and development programs needed for promoting the wood processing industry and wood-based energy production. In addition to wood product utilization, the NFP recognizes and promotes other forest uses, including hunting, reindeer husbandry, wild mushroom and berry picking, scenic and cultural values, recreation, and tourism.

The forest sector in Finland also makes a unique contribution toward the goal of zero net emissions of CO2. At present, about 20% of the total energy production in Finland is based on wood, which is substantial compared to the global average. The forest industry produces about 80% of the wood energy by burning black liquor, a by-product of pulp mills, and sawdust and chips from the wood processing industry. Pulp mills are completely self-sustaining in terms of energy and are even able to supply other plants with energy. Households and small heating plants produce about 20% of the wood energy. They use primarily small dimension wood from thinning, chips made out of logging waste, and building waste.

Sweden (

Sweden is a heavily forested nation. Closed forest and forest plantations cover slightly more than 60% of the nation or about 27.1 million ha. Forested shrubland, which is especially common in the transition between closed forest and tundra, represents another 3 million ha or 6.6% of Sweden. Inland waters make up almost 10% of the country, and the non-forest land base is about 23%[26]. Sweden has 25 national parks that together cover more than 0.6 million ha, or 1.5% of the area of the country. Sweden also has 1563 nature reserves covering 2.6 million ha, or around 5.5% of the area of the country. There are also other nature reserves and protected areas that are increasingly provided by private forest owners, including individuals and large forest companies.

One striking feature in Sweden compared to other timber-producing countries is that the national government owns only 5% of the productive forest lands. In 1993, most government-owned timberland was transferred to a forest product corporation – AssiDomän – of which the national government owns 51% of the shares and the remaining 49% are traded on the stock exchange. Private individuals (families), owning approximately half of Swedish forests, are the largest single category of forest owners. Forest companies own approximately 3% and other owners account for 12%. Forest industry land holdings are concentrated in central Sweden and some portions of Norrland (the northern three-fifths of Sweden), where the industry also operates many large, modern production facilities. Swedish forest companies have globalized their operations and established themselves firmly in the European countries and on other continents. At present, some 8 million ha of forest land have been certified in Sweden. Certification is a process of formal evaluation and recognition by third-party evaluators that forest products have been produced using sustainable management practices, and can be advertised to consumers as such. Forest companies account for most of the certified forest land.

Sweden has the highest population (8.8 million) of the Nordic countries, but is still largely a sparsely populated country, especially in the north. Despite the relatively low population density, Swedish forests show the effects of many centuries of human use. Only in the northern interior are the forests less affected by humans. Today much of the northern Swedish forest is protected, either as nature reserves or by other means.

The average size of a private forest is about 50 ha. Until the Second World War, most private forest owners were farmers who lived on their property and were engaged in crop cultivation as well as harvesting wood products. Since then, the area of forest land devoted to this type of combined agriculture and forestry enterprise has dropped from more than 9 million to less than 4 million ha. Today many individual forest owners do not live on their forest land, but often in communities close to it or in more distant cities and towns. The bulk of forestry work on their properties is now performed by employees of forest owners associations or by other contractors.

Early in the 19th century, Sweden began the process of industrialization by rapidly expanding its sawmill industry. The major Norrland rivers were suitable for floating timber to the Baltic Sea, thereby opening up previously untouched inland forests to large-scale logging. The sawmill companies, which purchased very large tracts of land from farmers until 1905, soon gained a strong position in European timber export markets. Northern Sweden was very sparsely populated until the beginning of the 19th century. At that time, an accelerating agrarian colonization took place, and later in the century, largescale exploitation of the virgin forest began. The first forest resources to be exploited were those close to the Bothnian coast, and subsequent exploitation moved further inland. This exploitation affected almost all forest land in northern Sweden between 1850 and 1950.

The boreal forest landscape in Sweden has changed dramatically during the last 150 years. Owing to the vigorous pursuit of forest management goals over the last 100 years, widespread stands of commercially tended Scots pine of generally similar age and structure make up most of the northern Swedish landscape[27]. Less than 3% of the forest area of Sweden supports trees older than 160 years, and less than 2% of the conifer volume is in trees with diameters greater than 45 cm[28]. The volume of standing dead trees in Sweden has decreased by more than 90% in the last century and the number of large-diameter conifers (>30 cm diameter at breast height) has decreased by more than 80%[29]. Many old-growth specialist species, including arboreal lichens, mosses, insects, wood-rotting fungi, and cavity-nesting insectivorous birds, have become rare in boreal Sweden[30]. All the taxonomic groups that are represented in the 1,487 threatened forest species in Sweden include elements that are largely dependent on old forests or the habitat elements of old forests[31]. Many of these species belong to functional groups, such as insect predators, that perform vital functions for the health and productivity of the forest system as a whole. As a result, the northern Swedish forest is particularly vulnerable to any climate change effects that would accelerate tree mortality in older stands.

About 20% of the energy consumption in the country originates from forest biomass, and there is presently a significant annual accumulation of carbon in standing biomass, equal to approximately 30% of Swedish fossil fuel emissions. The high level of air pollution originating outside the country and the accelerated leaching of mineral nutrients in Sweden has resulted in widespread soil acidification. Forest-damaging amounts of both sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are being deposited. The accelerated leaching of mineral nutrients caused by acid deposition has reduced nutrient levels by half on some sites in recent decades, although nitrogen deposition increases supplies of a critical nutrient. Air pollution poses a serious threat to the health and growth of Swedish forest ecosystems. In general, researchers believe that multiple stresses may act synergistically, resulting in acceleration of change due to other stresses[32]. Climate change, therefore, must be understood to be acting in this context in Sweden, as one among many factors.

The present-day timber stock is 50% larger than it was when detailed measurements began in the 1920s. However, for much of the early and mid-20th century, forests in Sweden were exploited in ways that today, with increased knowledge and insights, are understood to be detrimental to the environment. Clear-cutting was extensive, and little effort was made to protect biodiversity. Since the 1992 UNCED meeting, the concept of sustainability has broadened. This is reflected in the revised Swedish forestry policy that went into effect in 1994. The 1994 Forestry Law states: "The forest is a national resource which should be managed so that it provides a good return on a sustainable basis and ensures the preservation of biodiversity". These two goals have equal priority[33]. Underlying this policy is the conviction that there will continue to be a demand for renewable products in the future and that Swedish forests can remain an important source of natural raw material produced using principles based on ecological cycles. Swedish forest legislation protects key woodland habitats, forests located near high mountains, and wetland forests. Special regulations govern four million ha of low-productivity woodlands that are not included in the productive forest land, allowing only careful low-intensity utilization and ensuring that their basic character remains unchanged. Hydrologic and other possible changes resulting from climate change represent potential risks for some of these protected features.

Swedish forest policy also states that forests should be able to sustain hunting and the gathering of wild mushrooms and berries as well as active silviculture. The "right of common access" is traditional in Sweden. People are entitled to hike through the natural landscape and to pick mushrooms and berries regardless of who owns the land. This tradition broadens the pool of resources and users with specific concerns about potential climate change impacts beyond those of timber and a comparatively small number of forest-land owners. Hunting and fishing remain widespread and significant activities in Sweden, and are considered in forest management since they are connected to key management practices. Sports such as orienteering, cross-country skiing, and other popular outdoor activities that take place in the forests involve a relatively large proportion of people in Sweden. Participants in these sports have a strong interest in the health of the forests and are an important forest and climate change constituency even though they do not remove products from the forest.

Norway (

Forests and other wooded land cover about 37%, or 11.9 million ha, of the Norwegian mainland. Nearly 23%, or 7.2 million ha, is regarded as productive forest. The productive forest is distributed among 125,000 forest properties, and about 79% is owned by private individuals.

The total area of wilderness territory in Norway has been greatly reduced over the past 100 years. Wilderness territory is defined as areas more than 5 km from roads, railways, regulated watercourses, power lines, and vehicle tracks. Although the largest 20th-century reduction in wilderness occurred in the lowlands of southern Norway, where wilderness is now virtually eliminated, mountainous areas and northern Norway have experienced major wilderness reductions and fragmentation as well. Today, wilderness represents 12% of the total land area of Norway (not including Svalbard and Jan Mayen). Approximately 6.4% of mainland Norway has official protected area status. New protection plans, especially for additional national parks, are being developed, and about 15% of the land base will be within protected areas by the year 2010. Both public and private lands that lie within or adjacent to designated national parks are protected from construction, pollution, or any other encroachment.

Norwegian forests have been exploited intensively for the export of roundwood, sawn timber, and wood tar for hundreds of years. In addition, there is a long tradition of using the forests for domestic animal grazing and game hunting. For many years, the amount of wood removed from Norwegian forests has been less than the amount of growth. The biomass of standing trees has almost doubled since 1925, and the volume of standing forest increased by more than 95% from 1925 to 1994, to about 616 million cubic meters. In 1994, the net increase (increment or growth minus removal) in forest mass was 9.5 million cubic meters, or 1.5% of the total volume of standing forest. The 1994 volume of Norwegian forest consisted of 46% spruce, 33% pine, and 22% deciduous trees. The net volume increase was greatest for deciduous trees and pine. Because of their increase in total biomass, Norwegian forests have contributed to a net transfer of CO2 from the atmosphere into storage during the 20th century. It is estimated that in 1994, the net amount of CO2 assimilated by forest was 15 Tg, amounting to about 40% of Norway’s annual anthropogenic emissions.

The increase in wood volume can be attributed to many factors. A sustained effort at intensive forest management has systematically removed older stands that have low rates of net growth, and increased the proportion of stands in the early and most rapid stages of growth. An extensive afforestation effort has established forests on sites such as formerly open wetlands that previously supported no (or only minor) forest cover. Natural forest vegetation has returned to uncultivated land that is no longer farmed, producing a gradual buildup of vegetation mass. Long-range transport of nitrogen in precipitation has had a fertilizing effect on Norwegian forests. Finally, the introduction of new species that grow faster than native species on some sites has also led to greater forest growth. It should also be noted that the particularly large increase reflected in the inventory data for the most recent years is probably due in part to new methods of calculation.

Today the forest is used first and foremost as a source of raw materials for sawmills and the pulp and paper industries. Government grants or subsidies for forest planting began as early as 1863 in Norway. In recent years, forest planting has been somewhat reduced to between 200 and 300 km2 of forest planted or sown annually. Norwegian plantations are often spruce monocultures. The diversity and abundance of the fauna and flora in planted spruce forest is much lower than that in naturally regenerated forest.

Although the volume of forest has increased considerably since the beginning of the 20th century, the present-day forest has been transformed from its original condition. Clear-cutting, plantation establishment, introduction of alien species, ditching, and forest road construction are some of the intensive forest management measures that have been applied. Acidification and pollution have also affected forests. As in the other Nordic countries, management practices applied in order to produce increased tree biomass have caused a reduction in biological diversity. Much of the present forest growth is concentrated in large monocultures. Large stands of the same age class contribute to a reduction in the number of species of flora and fauna compared to what would occur in a more natural, mixed type of vegetation.

Forestry and the forest industry are important sectors of the Norwegian economy. Wood and forest products represent about 11% of Norwegian non-oil exports. This is slightly less than the export value of the Norwegian fishing industry, somewhat higher than both aluminum and natural gas export values, and twice the value of Norwegian high-technology exports. About 30,000 people receive their income from primary forestry and the forest industry. Most of the economic activity in the forestry sector takes place in rural districts and is particularly important in these areas that have fewer economic alternatives than urban zones. Norway began exporting large quantities of sawn lumber in the 16th century and continued this practice for several centuries. However, since the Second World War, most of the sawn lumber has been utilized nationally. Most homes in Norway are constructed of wood, with wooden interior fittings, and wood is an important part of the everyday life of Norwegians. In 1995, the wood processing industry used 5.1 million cubic meters of wood and employed about 16,000 people.

Sawmills use about 50% of the Norwegian roundwood harvested. There are 225 sawmills in Norway operating on an industrial scale. Paper products have the highest export values of all the forest-based products. Paper and board products are currently produced by 36 different machines in Norway. Wood pulp and chemical pulp are produced by 17 production units. Every year, Norway exports about one million tonnes of newsprint. The pulp and paper industry employs 9,000 people.

Until a century ago, wood was the dominant energy resource in Norway. Oil and hydropower are currently the major energy sources, and fuelwood use is only 7% of the volume used 100 years ago. However, the forest may play an increasing role as an energy supply. Shortages of electricity and CO2 taxes on the use of oil have increased the interest in bio-energy. Today, the pulp and paper industry is by far the largest producer of bioenergy in Norway.

Iceland and Greenland (

As a geologically young landform situated along the mid-Atlantic Ridge, isolated from both Europe and North America, Iceland has always supported ecosystems with a restricted set of species (only about 483 native and naturalized vascular species[34]). Iceland is also the area of the Arctic with the most substantial human impact on ecosystems. At the time of Viking settlement in the year 874, vegetation was estimated to cover about 65% of Iceland, while vegetation covers only about 25% of the island today[35]. This reduction in vegetative cover is most likely the result of intensive land and resource utilization by a farming and agrarian society over 11 centuries, although recent investigations also suggest that specific years of low temperature and low precipitation possibly initiated devegetated patches under a traditional winter grazing system that was abandoned in the early 20th century[36]. Estimates vary as to the percentage of the island originally covered with forest and woody vegetation at settlement, but a range of 25 to 30% is plausible[37]. The native forest of Iceland was principally comprised of downy birch and a few tall willow species with a relatively large proportion of the woody stems in a dwarfed and somewhat contorted growth form. Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) and European aspen (Populus tremula) occasionally occur among the birches. Tea-leaved willow (Salix phylicifolia), hairy willow (Salix lanata), and creeping juniper (Juniperus communis) are common shrubs in birch woodlands. Ancient native birch woodlands and scrub are key areas of terrestrial biodiversity in Iceland. The birch woodlands still retain most of their original biodiversity and are a key habitat for a number of threatened and endangered species, while the deforested land has suffered degradation and in some cases has been reduced to deserts.

When Norse farmers, traders, warriors (Vikings), and seafarers arrived in Iceland from western and/or northern Scandinavia, Ireland, and Britain in the 870s and 880s, the land was uninhabited and vegetated from the seashore to all but the glaciated mountains. At higher altitudes, the woodlands gave way to dwarf birch (Betula nana), willow, grasses, and moss. Birch woodlands separated by wetlands dominated the lowland vegetation. The lowlands were the only habitable land areas and were occupied in the first decade or two of settlement. Most of the first settlers were farmers that brought livestock to the island. Forests were cleared rapidly by burning and harvest for building materials and charcoal manufacture, generally within 50 years of the arrival of the settlers. Nearly all of the habitable woodlands were converted to pastures and only the mountainsides and highland margins retained forests, which survived to the early 19th century.

In southern and western Iceland, the land was cleared and barley was grown. Domestic livestock were sustained at numbers that caused landscape degradation, soil loss, and reduced long-term productivity of pastures. A pollen record from Iceland[38] confirms the rapid decline of birch and the expansion of grasses between AD 870 and 900, a trend that continued to the present. As early as AD 1100, more than 90% of the original Icelandic forest was gone and by 1700, about 40% of the soils had been washed or blown away. Vast gravel-covered plains were created where there was once vegetated land.

The exploration of Greenland in 984 by Eric the Red gave the more adventurous Icelanders new farm sites and freedom from limits on establishing themselves in an occupied landscape. The small areas of woodlands in Greenland, dominated by birch and willow in the south and alder (Alnus spp.) in the valleys of the Western Settlement, were highly valued. The Greenland Norse were also farmers, although they supplemented their diets with seal, birds, and reindeer/caribou. For several centuries the Norse remained committed to their farming way of life but gradually experienced various stresses (land degradation, trade and genetic isolation, social and economic challenges), many of which were aggravated by a cooling climate. The Norse settlements in Greenland and Iceland were established shortly after the beginning of a period of relatively warm and stable climate that persisted from the 8th through the 12th centuries[39]. With the gradual degradation of the landscape that reduced its capacity to support livestock and crops, and during a severe cooling period between 1343 and 1362, the Norse presence in the Western Settlement of Greenland ended and the Norse population disappeared. The mid-14th century cold interval in Greenland was probably the period of the lowest temperature in the last 700 years, and the effect of this climate change on the Norse community is highly likely to have been an important factor in its terminal decline[40]. Simultaneously, arctic-adapted Thule people arrived for the first time as the culmination of their historic expansion eastward and may have played a role in displacing the indigenous Norse people who first inhabited the area.

Until quite recently, efforts to conserve and increase the area covered by native woodlands in Iceland were hindered because the majority of woodlands were subject to grazing, mainly by sheep: the total area covered by birch woodlands does not appear to have changed significantly in recent decades. However, the establishment of the Icelandic Soil Conservation Service in 1907 was instrumental in fencing off and halting the most severe erosion processes in lowland areas of southern and northeastern Iceland. This is a unique context in which to consider climate change effects in the Arctic – humans have damaged soils and eliminated so much of the native forest ecosystems in Iceland that climate change represents an opportunity for forest recovery and expansion.

Starting in 1907 but especially since the mid-20th century, efforts were made to establish forest plantations in Iceland. Plantations now total at least 20,000 ha[41]. Until the 1980s, the lands most suitable (from the standpoint of soils and climate) for reestablishing native birch forests remained committed to farming and winter fodder production for sheep and horses. However, since Iceland joined the European Economic Area and the World Trade Organization, Icelandic agriculture has been integrated into a trading and market zone in which many of its products fall under production quotas or price disadvantages. Farms are going out of traditional agricultural production, while other forms of land use, such as afforestation and horse farming, are increasing.

About 130 tree species from most of the cold regions of the world have been evaluated for their growth and survival characteristics[42]. Different types of forest are being established for particular purposes. Native birch forest is often favored in recreation areas near urban centers and private land surrounding weekend recreation cottages in the country. Usually, land that is being converted to native birch forest must be fenced to exclude sheep. Protection forests are designed to prevent erosion of exposed soil, which is still quite common. Species commonly used in protection forests include downy birch, Sukachev larch (Larix sukaczewii), Siberian larch (L. sibirica), lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta), willows, and alder. A program to afforest denuded or severely eroded land has resulted in the planting of about one million trees in 70 areas subject to soil erosion. Production forests are designed to produce timber, fuelwood, and Christmas trees. Planted species include Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis), Sukachev and Siberian larch, lodgepole pine, and black cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa). State-supported afforestation projects were initiated in recent years in all parts of Iceland, starting in eastern Iceland in 1991. The aims of the projects are to create jobs in the rural areas (e.g., in nurseries) and to support jobs on those farmsteads taking part in the project. Farmers who participate in the project can receive a state grant of 97% of the total cost of afforestation on their farmlands[43].

Until the 1970s, most plantations were established within the existing birch woodland, but that is no longer the case. Approximately 2,000 ha of mainly non-native tree species have been planted annually in Iceland since 2003. In the late 1980s, forest and woodland vegetation covered only about 1.33% of Iceland, amounting to about 117,000 ha of native birch woodland and 15,000 to 20,000 ha of plantations. More than 80% of the woodland remaining in Iceland was less than 5 m in height in the 1980s, and 14.2% of the birch woods have trees taller than 5 m[44]. In 2001, Iceland had 3 national parks totaling 189,000 ha and 35 nature reserves totaling 225,000 ha[45].

The main challenge to successful introduction of tree species to Iceland has been finding varieties that can survive and reproduce in an environment of strong, steady winds and growing seasons at the cool margin of tree tolerance. Warmer climate conditions generally increase the planting success and particularly the growth of trees in Iceland. The restructuring of the rural economy to include less production agriculture and more ecotourism, recreation, and amenity-based uses is supporting the trend toward the conversion of the Icelandic landscape from a treeless farming region into one with expanded forest area. The government program to sequester CO2 has increased afforestation efforts. Most of the tree planting for carbon sequestration is contracted to farmers. A national goal is to expand forest cover on 1% of the national area per decade until forests cover about 5% of Iceland, which would represent the greatest forest extent in a millennium. In 1995, the estimated annual carbon sequestration by Icelandic plantation forests was 65 Gg CO2, or about 2.9% of the annual national emissions at the time. By 1999, the annual sequestration totaled 127 Gg, representing 4.7% of annual emissions[46].

Approximately 70% of forests and woodlands in Iceland are privately owned, with the remainder owned by the national government or local municipalities. The Iceland Forest Service, an agency under the Ministry of Agriculture, is primarily responsible for implementing and monitoring government forest policy. The Environment and Food Agency of Iceland, part of the Ministry for the Environment, plays a role in the conservation of protected native birch forests. The main forestry laws in Iceland include the Forestry Law (1955), the Farm Afforestation Law (1991), and the Southland Afforestation Law (1997). In response to a request by the Icelandic parliament, the Iceland Forest Service prepared a comprehensive afforestation plan for all of Iceland as a part of its sustainable development strategy, resulting in the Regional Afforestation Law (1999). The Icelandic Soil Conservation Service, also under the Ministry of Agriculture, is responsible for implementing the Soil Conservation Law (1965), which also contains provisions for vegetation conservation and restoration.


 Chapter 14: Forests, Land Management, and Agriculture
14.1. Introduction
14.2. The boreal forest: importance and relationship to climate
14.3. Land tenure and management in the boreal region
14.4. Use and evaluation of the ACIA scenarios
14.5. Agriculture
14.6. Tree rings and past climate
14.7. Direct climate effects on tree growth
14.8. Climate change and insects as a forest disturbance
14.9. Climate change and fire
14.10. Climate change in relation to carbon uptake and carbon storage
14.11. Climate change and forest distribution
14.12. Effects of ultraviolet-B on forest vegetation
14.13. Critical research needs


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Committee, I. (2012). Land tenure and management in the boreal region. Retrieved from


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