Q&A: Utilizing Europe’s Forests

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Europe’s forests provide a renewable resource that, when managed properly, can be used as a low-carbon material for a wide range of products. To learn more about the forest industry, as well as the potential uses for wood in industry, Revolve talked with Per-Olof Wedin, President of the European State Forest Association (EUSTAFOR) and Chief Executive Officer of Sveaskog.

Per-Olof Wedin.

Per-Olof Wedin.

 What products can be made with wood?

Wood is a great material for making products of various forms and aesthetics that are of high quality and resistant to damage. Nowadays, innovation and technology allow us to make almost anything out of wood. We all know that paper, panels and furniture are made from wood. But not everyone is aware that wood fibers can be used in many other products such as cosmetics, textiles, bio-plastics and even medicines. In the future, we will be able to make things from wood that are unimaginable today.

Why should we use wood?

Why not? It is a feedstock that we have in Europe and it would make us less dependent on imports. Wood from sustainably-managed forests is a renewable and environmentally-friendly material. Forests grow by consuming atmospheric carbon, while wood products store carbon and together with bioenergy are a substitute for non-renewable materials and fossil fuels. Using wood instead of other materials and fuels is very good for the climate and actually by using more wood we contribute to mitigating climate change, allowing us to develop a low-carbon economy.

Pilke Science Center and Metsähallitus premises in Rovaniemi, Finland. The carbon emissions of Pilke, which is made of wood, are only one-third of those of a steel or concrete building of the same size. Source: Tiedekeskus Pilke. Jussi Tiainen.

Pilke Science Center and Metsähallitus premises in Rovaniemi, Finland. The carbon emissions of Pilke, which is made of wood, are only one-third of those of a steel or concrete building of the same size. Source: Tiedekeskus Pilke. Jussi Tiainen.

Are there enough trees to do all this?

European forests are constantly growing both in size and in the volume of wood they can make available for use. As foresters, it is our duty to carry out long-term management planning in order to ensure the production capacity and resilience of forest ecosystems as a whole, including many other forest ecosystem services such as regulating the water cycle and climate and providing biodiversity as well as cultural and landscape services and values. Constant innovations in sustainable forest management and wood mobilization will continue to ensure a sufficient wood supply to support the development of the bioeconomy in Europe.

What are the specific contributions of state forest managers?

European state forests belong to all citizens and it is our mission and duty to manage these incredible and diverse resources on their behalf. State Forest Management Organizations manage over 49 million hectares of land, which represents around 30 percent of EU forested land. We are committed to responsible forest management, which will fulfill the various needs of society at large. Employing approximately 100,000 people, EUSTAFOR members together provide about 120 million m3 of wood to downstream value chains.

Biodiversity enhancement in forest management near Křivoklát, Czech Republic. State-owned forests managed by Lesy České republiky, s.p. Source: Eustafor.

Biodiversity enhancement in forest management near Křivoklát, Czech Republic. State-owned forests managed by Lesy České republiky, s.p. Source: Eustafor.

What challenges lay ahead for the forestry sector?

Moving towards a low-carbon economy, we need to shift from non-renewable to renewable materials and energy. Therefore it is important to allow for the mobilization of our forest resources. In this regard, forest owners and managers are key actors of the economic transition because they provide raw materials for the bio-based industries.

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This interview was first published in the Spring 2017 issue of the Revolve Magazine as part of the Forest City Project.

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