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Federal Research Center 
"Krasnoyarsk Science Center of the Siberian
Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences"

 Федеральный исследовательский центр «Красноярский научный центр Сибирского отделения Российской академии наук»

Federal Research Center 
"Krasnoyarsk Science Center of the Siberian
Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences"

The current state of affairs in the forest sector of the Russian economy requires changes in forest policy

26 January 2022 г.

Ученые: актуальное положение дел в лесном секторе экономики России требует изменений в лесной политике
Continued active deforestation, which is not accompanied by full-fledged reforestation, will inevitably lead to a shortage of quality wood in Siberia and to a decrease in the ecological function of forests. To maintain the effective functioning of the forest industry, a transition to sustainable management and intensive reproduction of forests is necessary. Krasnoyarsk scientists have proposed a set of measures to solve resource and environmental problems, which in the future will make it possible to obtain additional several million cubic meters of wood per year without cutting down natural forests. A report with recommendations provided by the strategic objectives of the transition to sustainable forest management was presented at the Scientific Council of FRC KSC SB RAS.

Russia has large forest resources. Forests cover about 50% of the country. At the same time, the forest is harvested with minimal efforts for its reproduction and protection. In the near future, this will lead to a lack of quality raw materials, a decrease in the area of valuable forests, and to a violation of their environmental role, for example, in the absorption of carbon dioxide and release of oxygen.

Scientists of the V.N. Sukachev Institute of Forest KSC SB RAS revealed the main conditions for a successful transition from an extensive model to sustainable forest management and their intensive reproduction. According to experts, the dominance of the extensive development model, as well as the Forest Code adopted in 2006, led to negative changes in the structure of the forest fund. In the near future, this will entail a shortage of high-quality raw materials and a decrease in the ecological functions of forests. Since the second half of the twentieth century, the share of areas with the most valuable and ready-to-use trees has decreased by almost one and a half times, despite rather large reforestation activities. According to the researchers, the decrease is mainly due to intensively cutting down coniferous stands, forest fires, and damage to trees by pests or diseases. At the same time, only a third of the lost forest reserves are replenished.

“Prognostic estimates of the dynamics of the forests of the Krasnoyarsk Region indicate the prospect of degradation of the forest resources in Siberia. Miscalculations in the forest policy in the near future may lead to loss of income from the export of forest products and an aggravation of the shortage of forest resources in the domestic market. This forces us to accurately assess the benefits of sustainable forest management. In order to move to sustainable forest management in the near future, the Siberian forest industry needs to focus on a wider implementation of the model of intensive use and reproduction of forests, which involves increasing forest productivity and integrated use of forest resources. Moreover, with proper natural regeneration and effective forest care, there is no need to make new plantings of trees to replace those cut down earlier. A simple replacement of the trees cut down in 100 hectares with new plantings does not adequately replenish the forests, as a third of the newly planted trees will certainly die. It is better to take care of the forest that we already have. Proper thinning can give a much larger increase in a forest area than planting a new forest. For example, in the north, where trees grow slowly, for about 200-300 years, it makes little sense to introduce modern growing technologies; such forests should perform ecological functions. It means that it is necessary to grow forest for timber where forests grow fast, that is in the southern regions,” said Doctor of Biological Sciences, Director of the V.N. Sukachev Institute of Forest SB RAS, Alexander Onuchin.

The intensive forest management model is part of the sustainable forest management system. Such a system should combine intensive and extensive forest management models. According to scientists, we should start with the zoning of the areas. According to expert estimates, the share of forests of intensive farming in Siberia is about 15% of the area of the forest fund, in which 45 to 60% of the total volume of required forest products can be harvested. In the forests of extensive farming, whose share is from 25 to 30%, the volume of logging is 35–45%.

As the first stage of the transition to sustainable forest management and solving resource and environmental problems, scientists propose to use technologies for deep processing of low-quality wood and its further use in industry. An example of the successful implementation of this approach already exists in Russia at the Pavlovsk woodworking plant in the Altai Region.

“The enterprise, built within two years, makes it possible to obtain high-quality products from logging and sawmill waste - MDF boards, which are in demand in furniture production and housing construction. The volume of processing of low-value wood is 500 thousand cubic meters per year. This approach allows us to reduce the future shortage of forest resources” noted Alexander Onuchin.

Another option for implementing the model of intensive use and reproduction of forests is the transfer of agricultural lands which are not used by forest management authorities. The area of forested agricultural land in Russia ranges from 30 to 70 million hectares. On agricultural lands overgrown with forests, in the future, up to 200 million cubic meters of wood can be harvested annually. However, in order to avoid the emergence of "private forests" in such areas, it is necessary to develop rules and regulate forest management.

“Experience in the development of technologies for intensive forest growing shows that in the best forest conditions, with proper care, it is possible to obtain additional growth in the amount of up to 14 cubic meters per hectare per year. Thus, the average annual increase during the period of intensive growth of forest stands over 25 cubic meters per hectare is quite a realistic task. At the same time, the average increase in Russia, taking into account losses from fires and forest pests, is 1.5, and in Siberia 1.3 cubic meters per hectare. Intensive forest growing technologies can and should be used not only to obtain high-quality timber but also to implement forest climate projects. It is necessary to form and implement a forest policy meeting the state interests, taking into account the long life cycle of forest ecosystems rather than the immediate interests of individual corporations and departments.

In the short term, the intensification of forest management can be ensured mainly by involving low-value wood in the economic turnover through its deep processing. In the long term, the solution to the problem of supplying the timber industry complex with raw materials should be solved by increasing the productivity of forests through forestry activities, including plantation methods, effective conservation, and protection of forests. At the same time, the practical implementation of the model of intensive use and reproduction of forests is impossible without the widespread application of the achievements of forest science, the latest technologies, and technical means. In this regard, special attention should be paid to the creation of experimental farms, where advanced technologies should be tested,” concluded Alexander Onuchin.