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1.1 Overall land classification, including forest and other wooded land

Forests cover 2.7 million ha or 42 percent of the total land area (64 thousand km2). During the last 70 years this percentage has had a stable trend of growth. Increase was from 24.7 percent in the year 1923 to 41 percent in 1991. Dynamics of forest covered area is shown in Graph 1. The territorial distribution of woodlands in Latvia is not even. Areas with higher forest coverage are the central part (Riga region), the southeast area (Cesis and Madona regions) as well as the western parts (Ventspils, Liepaja,Talsi regions). The highest forest coverage is in the Ventspils region - 60 percent; the lowest in the Bauska region - 28.8 percent.

Graph 1. Dynamics of forest covered area

All forests in Latvia are divided into three forest categories, according to their function and importance from the ecological, economical or from the point of view of some specific function:

Class I - protected forests (in state reserves, national parks and wildlife parks, and anti-erosion forests, as well as forest parks in the green zone), 12.6 percent;

Class II - restricted management forests (in protected landscape areas, in the green zone and other forests which are significant to environmental protection), 38.5 percent;

Class III - exploitable forests (all other forests), 48.9 percent.

1.2 Ownership and management status

Historically, large private forest estates were socialized and divided among small farmers' estates in the 1920s, during the first land reform in newly independent Latvia. Another part, previously owned by the Crown of the Russian Empire, passed to the State. After the land reform the largest part of the forests was under state ownership. Private persons and legal entities owned no more than 30 percent. After the Second World War farmer forests were managed by State of collective farms. The situation in the year 1988 was:

Since Latvia has gained its independence again and after the land reform process was started, Latvia's forest ownership pattern is undergoing essential changes. After the land reform and restitution of land (and also forest) ownership rights, Latvia will have an essential part of privately owned forests. The percentage of those forests will be, according to different estimates, from 30 to 50 percent. The State will be owner of all state forests of the First Latvia Republic and also forests without heirs.

1.3 Area change and reforestation

Latvia's forests are regenerated either naturally or artificially. Natural regeneration of pine, spruce and deciduous species take place according to the site conditions on wet mineral and wet peat soils. Artificial rejuvenation involves the use of genetically improved seed and planting stock; forest seed orchards cover a total area of 965 ha. The main forest tree species are: pine (697 ha); spruce (170 ha); larch (57 ha); birch (10 ha); aspen (11 ha); and others (11 ha).

The annual yield of seedlings is produced by 27 nurseries. The overall area of 426 ha has 15.4 million for pine and 28.3 million for spruce, thus completely satisfying the demand for planting stock. Annually the area under clear cuttings comprises 13 thousand ha, which is reforested with man-made stands.

Woodland drainage is a potential source for increasing forest productivity. The area where drainage is necessary is estimated at 950 ha, of which 450 ha has already been drained. Up to now the rate of drainage was 7 ha per year, which is insufficient. Besides, the bigger the area already drained, the greater the demand for the maintenance and reconstruction of the existing drainage systems. At present, 42 000 ha of forest land once drained is in need of repeated drainage.

Proper management and exploitation of forest resources are impossible without an adequate system of forest roads. Presently the overall length of forest roads is 13.1 thousand km or 0.75 km per 100 ha of forest, which does not comply with the optimum of 1 km of road per 100 ha of forest. Thus, it is necessary to build 17.4 thousand km of roads or an increase of 4.3 thousand km.

1.4 Standing volume, tree biomass, increment and stand structure

The entire standing volume (above-ground volume of standing trees including bark) of 426 million m3 is distributed according to ownership as follows:

A comparison of the above-mentioned two percentages shows higher standing volumes in the state-owned forests which are the result of higher levels of silvicultural treatment.

The mean volume of the mature stands in the year 1988 was 258 m3. The changes in the mean volume during this century demonstrates also changes in forest management. The trend of the average volume of all stands as well as the average volume of mature stands are ascending (Graph. 2). Also, as is evident from the Figure, the only case of a decrease in stand volumes was after the Second World War. Latvia's forest resources are greater now than in the first half of the century.

Natural die back is estimated at 2.4 million m3 per year, including 1.4 million m3 in coniferous stands. Current rates of removal of the dead and sick stems are inadequate; the accumulation of the dead and fallen stems in stands cause the spread of pests and disease.

Graph 2. Mean standing volume of all stands

The species composition is as shown in Table 1 and Graph 3.

Table 1

Species composition

Tree species

Area in 1 000 ha



1 030.8





Oak, Ash









Black alder



White alder



Other species




2 606.1


Graph 3. Forest tree species distribution (all forests according to area)

Species distribution according to forest site types do not in all cases correspond to the optimum growing conditions for particular tree species. As an example, 3 306 ha of spruce, 661 ha of grey alder and also 47 ha of oak stands are growing in the poorest dry forest site types normally suitable only for pine. Also, species composition for forests with different origin and history (state owned and belonging to agricultural enterprises) shows different models.

The forest growing conditions in Latvia are various. They are subdivided into five edaphic rows: the woodland with dry mineral (55.7 % of state-owned forests), wet mineral (12.0%), wet peat (12.1%), drained mineral (10.6%), and drained peat (9.7%) soils. The distribution of the tree species over the edaphic rows is also not homogeneous.

The distribution of the age groups for the main tree species is given in Table 2.

1.5 Fellings and removals

The volume of annual cut in final felling in Latvia is estimated at 6.2 million m3, which is 2.3 m3/ha or 85 percent of the average annual increment. Therefore, the potential allowable drain of forest resources on a yearly basis, including slash, totals 8.5 million m3. Annual allowable cut is estimated in forest management plans and current planning methods ensure sustainable management of Latvia's forest resources.

Table 2

The age structure of state-owned forests, 1988

Tree species

Age groups (thousand ha)


Young stands

Mid-aged stands

Premature stands

Mature stands





















Black alder





White alder















1.6 Environmental and other non-wood goods and services (non-wood benefits)

Forests are an important component of Latvia's environment. Therefore, the aim of forestry is also to preserve the diversity of nature. For this reason a certain part of the Latvian land area is subject to some form of nature protection (Table 3).

Economically important forest by-products in Latvia are resin, sap, branches and Christmas trees. Also of interest are medicinal plants, buds, stools, bast fibres, bark birch-boughs and other decorative forest materials. Forests are providing also possibilities for hay-making, cattle grazing, positioning of apiaries, collection of forest seeds for reforestation, collection of berries, fruit, nuts, mushrooms, and other raw materials found in the wild.

Latvia's forests are rich in game animals. Winter populations of 1989/90 were approximately as follows: moose - 13 200 (during the hunting season 7 800 moose were shot); deer - 21 600 (5 100); roe - 64 00 (10 300); wild boar - 28 250 (l8 300); beaver - 16 300 (5 787); fox - 11 900 (4 300); wolf - 250 (115); lynx - 330 (47). Hunters can meet small game such as wild ducks, geese, woodcocks, black grouses, capercailzies and other forest birds and waterfowl in wetland sites, lakes and ponds.

Table 3

Nature protection

Type of object

Number of objects

Area (ha)

National Parks


92 048

State Nature Reserves


39 261

Complex Nature Reserves


48 353

Botanical Reserves


4 367

Bog Reserves


29 785

Cranberry Reserves


21 611

Zoological Reserves


18 362

Nature Parks


25 602

Protected Landscape Areas


152 018

Geological and Geomorphologic Objects


1 007

Parks and Dendrological Plantations


2 364




Plant, Fungus and Lichen species



Wildlife species



1.7 Forestry administration and institutional systems for management of forest resources

The basic principles for forest administration are settled in the law of "Forest management and utilization". The head state authority is the Ministry of Forest of the Republic of Latvia. Under its supervision and management are 34 regional forest districts, 230 district forest districts and 1841 forest rangers. They carry out the forest management in the state-owned forests and perform general control over all of Latvia's forests. One regional forest district covers approximately one administrative region; one district forest district covers nearly the territory of one local community. In some cases (Agre regional forest district), this division nearly matches the local administrative organizations. In further development this seems to be reasonable to adjust borders of these units of the State Forest Service with local administrative units (or two or three in regions with a small percent of forest covered area). The responsibilities of the Ministry of Forest are forest inventory, forest monitoring, and control of forest reproductive material.

1.8 Inventory systems and methods in use on the national, regional and management level

Forest inventory, forest management planning and all other project activities are currently performed by the State Forest Inventory Institute. It is financed from the state budget through the Ministry of Forest and works under its supervision. According to the law "On Forest Management and Utilisation", the forest inventory is financed by the state budget. The forest inventory was previously done at a 10-year period through all state forests.

Currently the forest inventory and forest management planning are two parts of one process. The main steps for a forest inventory are: preparatory work; field work; and cameral work.

Forest inventory and management planning covers the following activities:

The present forest inventory and management planning systems are functional and more or less matching the situation we have. Of course it is necessary to improve inventory technology and equipment but functionally it works. The biggest problem for forest inventory service now is to make an inventory and forest management planning for the enormous number of new and potential forest owners. According to some estimates in Latvia this will reach l20 thousand small or middle forest owners.

by A. Ozols

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