UPM and the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) have been developing a method for assessing ecosystem services derived alongside the production of wood-based products. This pilot study focused on the environmental impacts resulting from the growth of trees used for the production of one tonne of pulp. In this study, the carbon sink effect, water protection and the sustainability of native forest species were analysed in detail. The study confirmed that the forest area from where pulpwood is sourced yields multiple benefits besides just wood raw material.
The study examined the amount of wood required for the production of one tonne of softwood pulp at UPM in Finland, as well as the time required for the trees to grow. The trees purify over eight million litres of water and absorb over 4,000 kg of carbon dioxide during their lifetime.
The majority of Finland’s 20,000 forest species also inhabit areas used for wood production. Hundreds of species, such as moss, lichen and insects, depend on trees used in pulp production. Forest renewal secures the long-term survival of these species.
UPM’s operations are based on using wood in multiple efficient ways to produce not only pulp, but also sawn timber, plywood, composites, papers and label materials. The company also uses industrial by-products and residues to produce energy, biochemicals and renewable diesel.
Pioneering perspectives on sustainability
“With the help of ecosystem services, the environmental impacts of land management and raw material production can be described in a more diverse manner. For our study, we selected indicators that relate to the most important global environmental issues, such as renewable natural resources, climate change, clean water and biodiversity. All in all, the benefits derived from forests are highly diverse, extending from products we can collect to recreational enjoyment,” says Timo Lehesvirta, Director, Forest Global, UPM.
“Projects like this are essential for the evolving bioeconomy in Finland. Companies should include the evaluation of natural ecosystem services in their management systems, and develop this into a responsible and productive business. The indicators or methods for measuring ecosystem services are not yet agreed upon anywhere in a commensurable fashion. Our research marks one step forward,” says Petteri Vihervaara, Senior Research Scientist specializing in ecosystem services, SYKE.