The balance between the demand for wood and the supply of wood from Dutch forests appears to be becoming increasingly disrupted. Despite the increasing demand for wood, no timber has been harvested in nearly half of the country's forest over the past 10 years. And while two-thirds of the demand for wood for industrial applications consists of coniferous wood, these days it is primarily deciduous trees that are being planted. This is the finding of the Sixth Netherlands Forestry Inventory conducted by Alterra Wageningen UR, Probos, Silve and Bureau Daamen.
A large proportion of the Netherlands' forest was planted as coniferous forest on heathland and sand drifts in the first half of the 20th century. An important objective was to produce wood for the mines in Limburg. In the 1980s, policy changed, with a greater focus on other functions of the forest, such as recreation and nature conservation. Despite the fact that today there is again increased interest in wood production, as a result of the cuts to nature management and higher wood prices, no timber has been harvested over the past 10 years in 43% of the forest.
Partly as a result of these developments in management, the forests have become denser, they are more mixed, there are now approximately equal amounts of coniferous and deciduous forest and the average age has increased. The average age of coniferous forest is now 67 years, while the figure for deciduous forest is 58. There is more wood in the forests than ever before, while the rate of growth appears to have dropped off slightly. The quantity of dead wood has also increased compared to previous inventories. Dead trees are part of a natural forest and provide food and nesting opportunities for many forest dwellers.
Shift from coniferous forest to deciduous forest
The most recent forest inventory clearly shows that the shift from coniferous forest to deciduous forest is set to continue in the coming years. Alterra researcher Mart-Jan Schelhaas: "Currently, approximately 1.3 million cubic metres of wood are harvested annually, of which two-thirds consist of coniferous wood (pine, fir, larch, Douglas spruce). This is much in demand by industry. But the youngest generation of trees is made up of 75 percent deciduous varieties, such as birch, oak and beech. So while industry is calling for coniferous wood - and there is ever increasing demand for wood for energy - for example, there are few locations in the forest where trees are being harvested and we are heading for a forestry sector that will not be able to meet the demand for wood in the time to come."
Sixth Netherlands Forestry Inventory
Over the past two years, the Sixth Netherlands Forestry Inventory (NBI6) has been conducted by Alterra, Probos, Silve and Bureau Daamen, commissioned by the Ministry of Economic Affairs. Such inventories are held every ten years and provide a picture of the current state of the forest and developments since the previous inventory. Examples of the uses to which the results are put include reporting on carbon capture in forests for the Kyoto Protocol and international forestry reports as conducted by the FAO. Forests cover 11% of the Netherlands' land area. Measurements were taken at nearly 3200 locations on a total of over 85,000 trees. Because some of the measurements were taken in the same places as during the previous inventory, it is possible to obtain a good picture of how fast the forest is growing and how much is being harvested.