Forests and other wooded land cover approximately 37 per cent, or 119,000 km2, of the Norwegian mainland. Of this, almost 23 per cent, or approximately 72,000 km2 is regarded as productive forest.
The productive forest is distributed between 125,000 forest properties. About 79 per cent of the productive forest area is owned by private individuals. Norwegian forests have been exploited intensively for 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.
Today the forest is important first and foremost as a source of raw materials for sawmilling and pulp and paper industries.
The forest and the biological diversity in the forest, is of great value as an ecological resource and as an area of recreation. It should also be noted that standing forests imply net assimilation of vast amounts of km2, thus reducing the greenhouse effect. Ecologically, it is crucial that the world’s forests do not shrink further.
In Norway, the amount of roundwood cut has been less than the allowed increment for many years. Intensive management of forest has been carried out with a view to high production of timber, along with extensive planting of trees.
A degree of utilization of less than 100 per cent leads to an increase in the cubic mass of forest, implying that a steadily increasing amount of km2 from the atmosphere is assimilated by trees. It is estimated that in 1994, the net amount of km2 assimilated by forest was 15 million tonnes, amounting to about 40 per cent of Norway’s human-caused emissions of km2.
Norway’s forest volume increasing
For many years fewer trees have been taken from Norwegian forests than the annual increment allows. This means that the total biomass of forest is increasing. When the biomass increases, more carbon dioxide is fixed in the trees. The greenhouse effect “is stored” in standing forest. Calculations indicate that the biomass of standing trees has almost doubled since 1925. Calculations of the cubic mass show that the volume of standing forest increased by more than 95 per cent from 1925 to 1994.
The calculated forest balance for 1994 shows a standing cubic mass of forest of 616 million cubic metres. This volume was distributed between 46 per cent spruce, 33 per cent pine and 22 per cent deciduous trees. In 1994 the net increase (increment minus removal) in cubic mass was 9.5 million m3, or 1.5 per cent of the total cubic mass of standing forest. The net increase was greatest for deciduous trees and pine.
There are several causes to this increase. One is the planting of forest on areas that previously were used for farmland. Another reason is fertilising, especially the indirect fertilising in the form of nitrous compounds deposited by acid rain. Clear-cutting and introduction of new species of trees have also led to a more rapid growth. It should be noted that the steep increment of the last years is partly due to new methods of calculation.
The volume of forest increases as a result of growth of the trees and afforestation, or planting, and decreases as a result of felling and natural loss. The increase can be attributed to many factors; intensive forest management, afforestation, return of natural vegetation to uncultivated land and to fertilization. This includes fertilization from long-range transport of nitrogen in precipitation.
Although the volume of forest has increased considerably since the turn of the century, today’s type of forest is different. Clear-cutting, afforestation, introduction of alien species, ditching, building of forest roads, acidification and pollution are among the factors that are affecting the forest as a natural resource and the biological diversity in the forests.
Also, the increased biomass of trees has partly been on the expense of biological diversity. Much of the present forest growth is done through large monocultures. Large stands of the same age class will also contribute to a reduction in the number of species of flora and fauna that is otherwise found in a more mixed type of vegetation. Tree planting also reduces arable land for food production.
Norwegian reforestation (tree planting and seeding)
If we regard forests as a purely material resource, afforestation is a positive means of increasing or maintaining the stock of forest. However, planting may have major impacts on the biological diversity.
In Norway the trees that are planted are often monocultures of spruce. The density of the fauna and flora in planted spruce forest is much lower than that of the naturally regenerated forest. This implies that planting is not only a positive measure.
The Government granted subsidies for forest planting as early as 1863. In recent years planting of forest has been somewhat reduced to between 200 – 300 km2 of forest planted or sown annually.
Forest damage in Norway
Forest health status can be measured in terms of average crown density and crown colour. For spruce, the average crown density decreased from 85 per cent to 79 per cent from 1989 to 1996. For pine, the average crown density remained around 86 per cent during the period 1989 to 1992, but decreased to 83 per cent in 1992 and has remained at that level. In the case of pine, the share of trees in the best crown density class decreased dramatically by as much as 10.1 per cent from 1991 to 1992.
The main causes of forest damage are presumed to be unfavourable weather, attacks by insects and fungi, forest fires and air pollution.
Norwegian Endangered Species
Norway has a variety of habitats and ecosystems. Large differences in altitude, topography, climate and soil give rise to different natural environments ranging from broad-leaved decidous forest in Southern Norway to arctic environments on Svalbard. A fundamental objective is to conserve biological diversity at all three levels: This means striving to develop policies that will ensure preservation of the different species, genetic variation within these species and the different habitats and ecosystems on which they depend.
Most species depend on one another – directly or indirectly – for their survival. Because species in ecosystems are interdependent, the loss of one species may lead to the loss of others as well.
The total number of species in Norway is estimated to be 45,000, of which approximately 33,000 are known and described. It exists information enough to estimate wether a species is threatened or not for only 10,000 species. Of these, 150 are threatened by extinction, 279 are deemed vulnerable, 800 are categorized as rare (the last number also includes species which are rare of natural causes, and not only because of human intervention). 359 are deemed species of special concern, 36 species are indeterminate, while 169 species are classified as insufficiently known.
Species “Red lists” can be used to point out the habitats containing an especially rich variety of endangered species. Red list species have often proved to be the red warning lights of nature to tell us that a biotope is threatened or something else is wrong in nature. The red lists also give us a picture of the condition of our flora and fauna, and may contribute to the efforts of securing and improve the ecosystem for these species.
The species are categorized in accordance with IUCN’s categories for threatened species.
The categories are:
Ex: Extinct. Not found for 50 years.
E: Endangered. Taxa in danger of extinction.
V: Vulnerable. Taxa believed to move into the “Endangered” category if the causal negative factors continue operating.
R: Rare. Taxa with small populations that are not at present “Endangered” or “Vulnerable”, but are at risk.
V+: Species of special concern
I: Indeterminate. Taxa known to be “Endangered”, “Vulnerable” or “Rare”, but there is insufficient information to determine which category.
K: Insufficiently known. Taxa suspected to belong to one of the mentioned categories.
NT: Not threatened.
Table 1: Distribution of Red List species by different categories:
Source: DN: Directorate for nature management. Report 1992-6. Norwegian Red List
National wilderness protection goals
Approximately 6.4% of mainland Norway has protected area status. In addition, 15,000 square km of Spitsbergen is designated as conservation area – national parks, nature reserves or other kinds of protected area cover 10-12% of the area of the remote islands.
Allowing for new protection plans, the proportion of protected area on mainland Norway is expected to increase from the current level of 6,4 per cent in 1996 to about 15 per cent of the land area in the year 2010, the target for completion of the national parks plan.
“Land owned by the state may be designated a national park in order to conserve untouched areas or distinctive or beautiful natural areas. Similar areas not owned by the state that lie within or adjacent to areas mentioned above, may be designated a national park together with the state owned land. In national parks the natural environment shall be protected. The landscape together with its flora and fauna and any natural and cultural sites shall be protected from construction, pollution an any other encroachment.”
– Law for the protection of Nature
Norway’s wilderness reduced to a fraction
The total area of wilderness territory in Norway has been greatly reduced over the past 100 years. The largest change has occurred in the lowlands of southern Norway, where larger areas of wilderness are virtually non-existent. The reduction and fragmentation of wilderness territory characterizes most mountainous areas as well. The wilderness area represents 12% of Norways total land area (not including Spitsbergen and Jan Mayen).
The largest undisturbed areas of wilderness territory outside of national parks are currently found north of Trøndelag and Finnmarksvidda along the border to our neighboring countries.
As more and more wilderness is lost to human expansion and development, the need to preserve representative areas for future generations becomes increasingly meaningful and important.
Wilderness territory is defined as areas more than 5 kilometres from roads, railways and regulated water-courses. In 1994 the definition included distance from power lines and tractor tracks.
Wetlands in Norway
In Norway, as much as 80 % of the original marshes, mires and bogs are still untouched. However, other important wetland areas, such as river deltas are seriously influenced by human activities. Marshlands have many of the same qualities as river deltas. Marshlands and mires have been particularly vulnerable to drainage and ditching in connection with forestry and agriculture. Wetlands, mires and bogs are considered as important buffers against river flooding. Clear-cutting of forested areas, including forest close to rivers, cultivation all the way down to the river bed combined with ditching and drainage, may at least partly explain the serious river flooding that has occurred during recent years.
The forest industry in Norway
Forestry and the forest industry are important trades in Norway. In 1995, the gross production value for the forestry sector, including primary forestry and the forest industry was valued at NOK 35,000 million. The added value was about NOK 16 billion and the export value about NOK 17,000 million. 30,000 people recive their income from primary forestry and the forest industry. Most of the activity takes place in rural districts, and production is almost completely based on renewable resources.
Wood and forest products cover about 11 percent of the Norwegian mainland product export. This is slightly less than the export from the Norwegian fishing industry, somewhat higher than both the aluminium and the natural gas export values, but twice the value of Norwegian high-technology exports.
Primary forest activities provide 10 million cubic metres of wood annually for the forest industry. Felling and the transport of timber from the forest have changed over the last few years, with an increasing part of the work being mechanised. However, 24 percent of forest owners are still working in their own forest with felling and/or transport of timber during the winter season. The total work contribution in primary forestry is estimated to 5,000 man years.
Secondary forest industry
The forest industry is divided into two categories. The wood producing industry produces sawn lumber and solid wood products, while the pulp and paper industry utilises the wood fibre through mechanical wood grinding or chemical wood boiling processes where the fibres are used producing new products such as paper etc.
Coniferous forest, the main raw material for the Norwegian forest industry, has excellent strength qualities due to its long fibre characteristics. This provides a basis for high quality products from both the wood producing industry and the fibre-based industry.
Wood Producing Industry
About 50 percent of the Norwegian round wood harvested is used by sawmills. There are 225 sawmills in Norway operating on an industrial scale.
Since as early as the 16th century, and for many centuries after that, Norway has been exporting large quantities of sawn lumber. Following the second world war, however, most of the sawn lumber has been utilised nationally. The export of sawn material and wood products has increased to a value that amounted to NOK 3,000 million in 1995. The export value of further processed wood products contributed to an additional NOK 500 million.
Most homes in Norway are constructed of wood, with wooden interior fittings, and wood is an important part of the every day life of the Norwegians. The use of glue-lam wood products has expanded the possible use of wood. The roof of the Olympic Viking Ship Hall in Hamar was constructed by using non-supported glue-lam girder beams for a length of 120 metres. Glue-lam beams are also being used in the roof construction in the terminal building at Gardemoen, the new Oslo Airport presently being built. In 1995, the wood processing industry used a total of 5.1 million cubic metres of wood and employed about 16,000 people.
The Pulp and Paper Industry
Paper products have the highest export values of all the forest-based products. Paper and board products are currently being produced on 36 different machines in Norway. Wood pulp and chemical pulp is being produced at 17 various production units.
Every year about a million tons of newsprint is being exported. An additional production of other paper grades is increasing and exceeded 700,000 tons in 1995. Exports are mainly to publishers and printing offices throughout the world. The majority; however; is exported to Western Europe. Packing paper and various types of board amounts to 400,000 tons, and chemical pulp and wood pulp amount to 600,000 tons.
The export value from the pulp and paper industry amounts to NOK 13,000 million in total. Production for the Norwegian market amount to 3,000 million.
The pulp and paper industry used a total of 7.8 million cubic metres in 1995, including an imported volume of 2.5 million cubic metres. An additional 245,000 tons of recycled paper was used. The pulp and paper industry employs a total of 9,000 people.
Up to 100 years ago, wood was the dominating energy resource in Norway. Oil and electricity are presently the major energy resource, and the use of firewood is only 7 percent of the volume being used 100 years ago. The forest may, however, play an increasing factor as an energy supply. Shortage of electricity and km2 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 bio-energy in Norway.
The forest industry is a major user of transport services. The transport of wood and forest products stands for 15 percent of the entire road transport of goods and 35 percent of the railroad transport of goods in Norway. annual transport expenses within the forestry sector amounts to NOK 2,700 million. Each year, about 17 million tons of forest products are transported by sea, road and rail. The average transport distance of each ton of finished forest product is 4,300 km.