Forestry is the nurturing and harvesting of forests with a view to exploiting it economically. Nature and geography set the framework for Norwegian forestry. The country extends over several climate zones, from the Arctic zone to the far north to the temperate zone to the south, and the variations in climate and growth conditions are large. The forest image changes character from region to region, as different plant species have found their place in the geography for millennia.
Bjørk is the dominant tree species north of Saltfjellet. In northern Norway, the forest scene is a place where ice-striking elements of pine occur, which typically occur in southern Varanger, with Pasvik as its core area. South of Saltfjellet takes over Norwegian spruce , with elements of imported conifers, especially in Western Norway – with the original North American sitkagran as the most important.
Throughout the country, Norway is a good wooded area, with spring forest to the mountains. Climate change has, over the last couple of decades, led to the forest boundary having moved several hundred meters up the snowy mountain. In the valleys and flat countryside of eastern Norway, the spruce forest, with deciduous trees of suitable quality and noble deciduous trees furthest south, dominates on both sides of the Oslofjord.
Productive forest accounts for about 86,000 km 2 or about 22 per cent of the land area.
About ten percent of the area of productive forest is not economically viable. Wooded, non-productive area below the forest boundary is 17 185 km 2. In addition, 830 km 2 of productive forest have been registered in Finnmark. The standing volume, ie trunk mass under bark, is 686 million cubic meters (m 3), with an annual growth of 23 million m 3 in 2000.
Registered forest area increases due to overgrowth and rising forest boundaries. Both standing volume and growth have doubled over the past approx. 70 years. The annual harvest volume from Norwegian forests is 9–11 million m 3 industrial wood and firewood. Including trees that die from natural causes, the annual turnout of timber will be about 50 percent of the growth.
Until 1950 logging was largely done by hand, the local transport up to the river or road by horse, and the long haul by float and to some extent by truck and rail. Almost all the wood was barked in the woods. Within a few years this changed. The chainsaws took over most of the trapping, twigs and cutting work. At the same time, barking ended in the woods, and around 1970 the chainsaw was the only worker’s hand tools. From the 1950s tractors took over more and more of the terrain transport.
Initially, agricultural tractors were used, but later also custom-built forest tractors that towed logs or entire trunks came to a motorway, where cutting, sorting and so on were carried out. Since the 1980s, more and more of the logging work has been taken over by cutting machines such as traps, twigs and cutting trees. The cutting takes place after optical measurement of the stem held up against a calculation of what gives the best financial utilization. The calculation is done on a separate computer in the harvesting machine. The timber is most often driven to a road with load-bearing machines. These are powerful, off-road tractors with hydraulic loading crane and trolley that can hold 12-15 m 3 timber.
Some of the forest operations continue to be carried out with lighter equipment, such as chainsaws and agricultural tractors, especially in farm forestry. Cable cars are used in steep slopes, where wheel implements do not appear. Forward transport of timber from the forest to industrial land, where the barking has also been moved, is mostly done with timber cars. The mechanization of forestry led to an extensive development of forest roads, which accelerated in the 1950s and lasted into the 1900s. The private forest road network consists of a total of approximately 45,000 km of car roads and approximately 50,000 km of tractor roads.
While the degree of mechanization in forestry was still low, it was common for forest owners to manage forestry themselves, and many also worked manually in the forest. An increasing part of the forestry work is now carried out on a contract basis by contractors who own machinery and equipment. This is a new occupational group in forestry.
Certification schemes have been introduced to ensure that forestry meets increased requirements for environmentally friendly operations. For most of the forest area, the criteria for sustainable forestry set out in the project “Living Forest” are used as the certification.