Growing bioenergy demand has no negative impact on Latvian forests
Indufor, one of the world's leading forest and natural resources consulting service providers, has put together in-depth report to provide the consultant’s view on impacts of wood-based bioenergy demand on Latvian forest resources, management and market trends.
The analysis states that Latvian forest area along with the forest cover has increased throughout the last two decades and there is no evidence of deforestation. The main driver of the forest area increase is the natural afforestation of the agricultural lands that have been left uncultivated under and after the Soviet occupation.
The forest total growing stock is expected to continue to increase since the harvesting levels have accounted for only 65% of the annual increment. Latvian forest stock is not threatened even if harvests would be increased to the maximum level seen in the past decades.
Over half of Latvian land is classified as forest, which makes it one of Europe´s most forested countries. Intensively managed monoculture forests are not a trend in Latvia because of long forest rotations and large share of natural regeneration. The share of natural regeneration has remained steadily at around 65% of the total reforested area during the past decades, but sowing and planting have become more popular in recent years. Best management practice is driven by the State-owned sector with an increasing proportion of corporate owners improving management standards in the private sector.
Markets are dominated by domestic saw-timber demand and pulpwood exports
The main driver for forests harvesting level is the roundwood demand from sawmills, panel mills and export. There are limited markets for structural timber, therefore hardwoods produce a lot of low-grade wood fibre. There are no domestic pulp markets in Latvia and only limited markets for panel board. Therefore, much of the low-grade wood fibre can only be used for firewood and biomass.
Collection of wood residues from harvesting operations has been increasing for the last 15 years as a result of increased capacities and demand from heat and CHP plants. Increasing wood pellet exports have had limited impact on wood prices. The feedstock for this market (fuelwood & forest chip) has limited competition and therefore remains fairly stable.
The report states that there is a slight shift in species composition from pine to spruce and broadleaved forests due to afforestation of agricultural lands. The increased demand for small-diameter hardwood has increased harvesting in previously unmanaged afforested agricultural lands, which usually overgrow with broadleaved trees.