Nothing goes to waste
In this third article on Södra’s sustainable forestry, we look at harvesting. Södra’s members harvest 70-80% of the annual growth in their estates, so the standing stock is growing continually, at an average of 1.5-2 m3 per hectare per year. One of Södra’s prioritised sustainability targets is that its rate of forest growth will be 20 percent higher by 2050 than it was in 2015.
Forestry in Sweden is a long-term investment and requires careful planning: The shortest normal rotation period in Southern Sweden from seedling to final harvest is for birch and that’s still 40 years; for spruce, it’s 65 years and for pine 75. So, often one generation is planting for another to harvest. A typical cycle can include a first thinning, ash replacement and second thinning before final harvesting, gathering of biomass and regeneration.
The extraction of treetops, branches and roots from the forest is common in Swedish forestry, and all are used for bioenergy. Södra also offers to distribute ash from its pulp mills on members’ forest land to replace valuable nutrients, while thinnings are carefully removed to optimise growth rates for the trees left standing and sent to the pulp mills where they impart particular qualities for certain grades of pulp. Nothing is wasted.
To ensure our members are managing their forests for the best possible outcome in terms of both sustainability and economics, each member is offered an individual forest management plan. These currently cover some two million hectares across more than 24,000 estates. The plan is voluntary and helps members identify and protect areas with high conservation value. Set-aside land currently averages 8% of the total.
Once an area is ready for harvesting, the forest owner hires Södra’s harvesting services. When contracting an independent company to do the harvesting and forwarding, Södra insists upon the drivers having a Green driver’s license - a very important tool to ensure the quality and sustainability of the work carried out.
Since 2013, we have also offered a soil protection guarantee for final harvesting which has reduced soil damage significantly. The guarantee also applies to forest residue handling and land preparation and, since 2016, thinning operations. Some of the ways to minimise soil damage from driving include mounting wide-track plates on forest machines, driving on brush from the trees that are harvested and laying special-access mats for machines working in demanding conditions. Bridges are built over watercourses to prevent negative impacts on water and aquatic environments.
Next time: Certification