What is deforestation?
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) defines deforestation as “the conversion of forest to another land use or the long-term reduction of the tree canopy cover below the minimum 10 per cent threshold”.
They also note that it “implies the long-term or permanent loss of forest cover and implies transformation into another land use” and that “such a loss… includes areas of forest converted to agriculture, pasture, water reservoirs and urban areas”. Importantly, they also state that it “specifically excludes areas where the trees have been removed as a result of harvesting or logging, and where the forest is expected to regenerate naturally or with the aid of silvicultural measures”.
The global decrease in forests in recent decades is principally due to human activities related to clearance of forests for agriculture and other uses, resulting in significant negative effects on natural ecosystems, biodiversity, and the climate.
Does felling cause deforestation?
Felling should not be confused with deforestation, since sustainable wood harvesting – as part of sustainable forest management - is always based on the regeneration of forests.
There are two types of sustainable forest management: even-aged forest management – the dominant method in Finland, where the majority of UPM’s forestry operations are located – and continuous cover forestry. Even-aged forest management refers to the regeneration of forest areas with final felling and planting new seedlings, while continuous cover forestry means that only individually selected trees are harvested at a time and the forest is regenerated naturally.
UPM strictly condemns deforestation. Our own forest management and additional wood sourcing does not cause deforestation anywhere in the world. Our long-term view ensures that forests grow more than we harvest. We plant 50 million new seedlings every year – that’s 100 new trees every minute.
How does UPM’s sustainable forest and plantation management prevent deforestation?
In Finland, the growth of forests always exceeds the removal of wood. Timely forest management accelerates tree growth, and therefore increases the storage of carbon in the forest and helps to prevent forest damages such as bark beetle or root rot outbreaks. The typical forest cycle in Finland includes planting, sapling management, thinning and regeneration felling at around 80 years.
In addition to our Finnish forestry management, we also own and manage significant areas of sustainable eucalyptus plantations in Uruguay. Eucalyptus is an ideal fibre for producing pulp, as the trees grow fast, and seedlings will provide wood within 10 to 12 years.
These plantations also cause zero deforestation, because they are established on former grazing land that does not replace native forests. It should also be noted that Uruguay does not have rainforest ecosystems that are synonymous with ‘South American forest’ perceptions.
The land where our plantations are located is mainly sandy soil, with low fertility for traditional uses of land, but very productive for tree plantations. Thus, tree plantations do not take land away from, for example, food production.
All valuable biodiversity “hotspots” and native species on our land holdings are protected and excluded from plantation establishment.
What systems are used to ensure the sustainability of UPM’s forest management?
UPM uses ISO 14001 environmental management systems and GIS (Geographic Information Systems) for harvesting operations, and FSC™ and PEFC certification and “Chain of Custody” systems for forest management and wood sourcing. This allows us to monitor operations and ensure that no deforestation occurs.
UPM knows the origin and supply chain of all the wood we use. All of our wood is legally procured from sustainable sources, i.e., it is not illegally felled, does not violate social rights, and does not pose a threat to high conservation areas. It is not from forests converted to other land use, does not use genetically modified trees, and is not harvested from areas where indigenous people's rights are threatened.
How does forestry affect biodiversity?
Unsustainable forestry methods can destroy habitats, cause deforestation and thus negatively affect biodiversity. In general, forestry has also reduced the occurrence of natural disturbances such as forest fires.
UPM safeguards biodiversity globally in its own forests and plantations through the implementation of its biodiversity programme. Established in 1998, the programme includes, for example, leaving retention trees and dead trees in forests, protecting valuable habitats, and having structural variation and mixed tree species composition.
Biodiversity is also one of the focus areas of our new UPM Forest Action programme. The global forest responsibility programme was launched earlier this year and is targeted at increasing actions related to climate, biodiversity, water, soil and social contribution.
What is the role of the forest industry in promoting sustainable development?
Well-managed forests and tree plantations play an essential role in natural carbon and water cycles, biodiversity and the wellbeing of local communities. UPM is both a major forest owner and a purchaser of wood. Our land use and forestry planning are based on the comprehensive evaluation and preservation of ecosystem services. With sustainable forest management, we are able to safeguard and increase the multiple benefits that forests provide.
Global population growth and related consumption is placing increasing pressure on the planet’s ecosystems and natural resources. The use of fossil fuels (for both energy and the production of plastics and chemicals) has also continued to grow, despite their impact on both climate change and the health of ecosystems.
While reducing consumption and waste and utilising resources more efficiently are critical actions to achieving sustainable outcomes, the world also needs sustainable resource solutions. The aim is to provide new materials in a sustainable way, as we transition towards a future beyond fossils.
We believe that sustainably managed forests and plantations, and their wood-based products and byproducts, all play a role in moving towards this new future. At UPM Pulp, we provide renewable raw material for millions of everyday applications, while making sure it is produced in a responsible way.
 FSC™ and PEFC are independent global forest management and chain of custody certifications.