Hidden inside a wood pellet: Intensive logging impacts in Estonian and Latvian forests


Bioenergy demand from European countries, including the Netherlands, Denmark and the UK, is driving intensive clearcutting in protected forests in Estonia and Latvia, a new report reveals. Hidden inside a wood pellet: intensive logging impacts in Estonian and Latvian forests, published by the Estonian Fund for Nature and the Latvian Ornithological Society, details how intensely managed forests and clearcutting characterise both countries’ forestry industries. This has grave consequences for the climate and forest wildlife, despite laws and standards designed to protect nature.

Find the REPORT HERE! 
(in English, published on 2nd of December 2020)

Find the report in Dutch HERE!
Find the report in Danish HERE!


Estonia and Latvia are important exporters of woody biomass for energy to Denmark, the Netherlands, the UK and other European countries. This report looks at the ecological and climate impacts of intensive forest logging, how demand for biomass contributes to the recent increase in logging intensity, and how the sustainability standards that biomass trade relies upon harbour serious shortcomings.

The key facts to take note of are the following:

• Estonia and Latvia are both heavily forested countries where forest logging intensity has risen in recent times. Clearcutting is the main industry method for extracting wood.

• Evidence suggests that the intensification of logging in Estonia and Latvia is reinforced by biomass demand from abroad.

• The rise in logging intensity has negative consequences for biodiversity in both countries. The last remaining old-growth forests, rich in rare species, are in notable decline. Destructive logging (including clearcuts) is happening regularly also in Natura 2000 network forests, the pan-European conservation network enforced by EU directives. Forest bird numbers are in decline in both countries and the habitat destruction by logging is an important contributing factor.

• Intensive forestry has a serious negative impact on the climate. ‘Business as usual’ logging scenarios are projected to seriously reduce the annual uptake of carbon dioxide by forests in both countries. Loss of climate mitigation opportunity is undermined in favour of wood extraction. The reduction of the forest sink caused by intensive logging has led Latvian Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) sinks and emissions figures to swing from showing a net carbon sink to a net carbon source. The same is projected for Estonia.

• Widely-used sustainability standards based on voluntary certificates do not address the cumulative negative impacts of intensive logging on climate and biodiversity. Even the most commonly recognised certificates allow clearcutting of large areas despite the negative climate and biodiversity impacts.This report illustrates the need for policymakers in countries importing biomass from Estonia and Latvia to acknowledge and act to reduce, through their decisions, the adverse environmental impacts that the demand for biomass has on the exporting countries. The central message is thus to move away from policies that incentivise unsustainable forest management abroad.

This report will also be of interest to MEPs and to policymakers in the European Commission: It shines a light on the ongoing struggle of two Member States to achieve climate and biodiversity targets because of biomass demand fuelled by the classification of bioenergy under the Renewable Energy Directive, and despite the existence of the Natura 2000 network and the Birds and Habitats Directives, which should be acting to protect and restore ecosystems and carbon sinks.