Annular Further – Finland – Forestry, Forest, Wood, Trees

University and other state funded researchI

The section’s focus is the country’s Forest Science, Forestry and Bioeconomy and related research centres. It is organised around Finland’s three main forest related research bodies. An overview provides an introductory sketch of the research landscape.

There is also a section on the Government’s commercial Technical Research Centre (VTT), a brief history of the origins of Finnish forest research, and a footnote Oddities and One-off’s section.


Forest science and forest related research in Finland can be divided into two main streams, the Government’s Natural Research Centre, known as Luke, and two Universities with specialist research in the Forest Sciences: the University of East Finland and the University of Helsinki.

Luke, the Natural Resources Institute, with research facilities in both Helsinki and Joensuu, is also joined by the Technical Research Centre (VTT) which is the state centre for materials research. In the wake of adopting the Bioeconomy Strategy, both organisations have been intensively focused on different respective aspects of the strategy to their research resources, strengths, and backgrounds.

The two universities – Joensuu’s University of East Finland is the home of the Department of Forest Sciences, which conducts a significant amount of research. It is dwarfed however, by the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry with its broad roster of research groups.

Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke)

Luke in Joensuu: the Natural Resources Institute’s Metla House restaurant area – PhotoErkki Oksanen/Luke – for further info see here.

At the Natural Resources Institute – Photo Luke

Luke was formed from a merger between the former Finnish Forest Research Institute (METLA) and three other institutes. Luke is the main organisational hub for research in the country’s bioeconomy, with a focus on four core themes including the Boreal Green Bioeconomy. Forests, including wood quality for construction, are part of Luke’s Natural Resources focus and the institute carries out statutory government work, such as monitoring natural resources, storing genetic resources, and producing statistics.

The Forest Research Institute or Metsäntutkimuslaitos, METLA in Finnish, originally opened in 1917. In 2015, Metla was transferred and subsumed into Luke, along with other research institutes. The old Metla website remains live at present.

Luke, the Natural Resources Institute’s Joensuu’s site is housed Metla House, the first three-storey timber office building in Finland, completed in 2004.

Further – see feature on Metla House in Annular Archive here.

Luke Research – a sample of current research:

Sustainability Assessment of current and recommended methods: TECH4EFFECT project report (2021) Tuomasjukka, D., Routa, J., den Herder, M., Kunttu, J., Serrano L., et al, in Natural resources and bioeconomy studies, no. 48, p112.

Quantitative analysis of feedstock structural properties can help to produce willow biochar with homogenous pore system (2021), Jyske, T., Kimmo, R., Kaseva, J., Suhonen, H., et al, in Industrial Crops & Products, volume 166.

Effects of intensified silviculture on timber production and its economic profitability in boreal Norway spruce and Scots pine stands under changing climatic conditions (2019), Routa, J., Kilpelainen, A., Ikonen. V-P., Venäläinen, A., Peltola, H., in Forestry: An International Journal of Forest Research, Volume 92, Issue 5, p648–658.

Roundwood and Biomass Logistics in Finland and Sweden (2017), Routa, J., Väätäinen, K., Anttila, P., Laitila,J., et al,
in Croatian Journal of Forest Engineering, Vol 42, issue 24, p24.

Forest Energy Procurement: State of The Art In Finland And Sweden (2015), Routa, J., Asikainen, A., Laitila, J., et al, in Advances in Bioenergy: The Sustainability Challenge, ed: Lund, P., Byrne, J., Berndes, G., and Vasalos, I. A., chapter 17.

Luke Publications – for forestry related publications see here.

University of Eastern Finland (UEF)

Headquartered in Joensuu in the eastern region of Karelia, UEF was formed in 2010 from the merger of two universities. The Faculty of Science and Forestry is one of the university’s four faculties and has 560 staff members and 63 professors.

UEF School of Forest Studies offers undergraduate and postgraduate courses, its research is split across five core themes: Forest Mensuration, Information Technology and Planning, Forest Management, Soil Science, Ecology and Health, Forest Economics, Policy and Foresight, and Wood Materials, Wood Procurement and Bioenergy Systems.

There are the following research communities/competence centres/networks:

Forest and the Bioeconomy (FOBI)its research programme is divided into four primary themes: utilising forest resource data to focus connection to remote sensing, climate intelligent forest management and the development of tools and solutions, improving uses of biomass and industrial waste wood in products, processes and services, and identifying markets for bio-based products and services.

UNITE Forest-Human-Machine Interplay (part of the Academy of Finland Flagship for Science programme) – the UEF is a partner (with Luke and Tampere University) in this interdisciplinary research project to link ‘gamification’ to forest and forest science practice, with the aim of developing new technologies, creating agile knowledge creation, and cultivating informed decision making processes.

UNITE related research:

Terrestrial laser scanning intensity captures diurnal variation in leaf water potential (2021), Junttila, S., Hölttä, T., Puttonen, E., Katoh, M., Vastaranta, M., Kaartinen, H., Holopainen, M., and Hyyppä, H., in Remote Sensing of Environment, 255, p112274

Assessing the effects of thinning on stem growth allocation of individual Scots pine trees (2020), Saarinen, N., Kankare, V., Yrttimaa, T., Viljanen, N., Honkavaara, E., Holopainen, M., Hyyppä, J., Huuskonen, S., Hynynen, J. and Vastaranta, M., in Forest Ecology and Management, 474.

FORBIO – drawing together data provided by the Finnish Meteorological Institute, the Finnish National Forest Inventory, and data on the use of woody biomass for energy and industry by Natural Resources Institute Finland, the objective of the FORBIO research is to develop the conditions for the sustainable increase of climate-neutrality and resource-efficiency in the forest bioeconomy, and to provide approaches, tools and solutions for effective decision making.

FORBIO research papers include:

Effects of forest conservation and management on volume growth, harvested amount of timber, carbon stock and amount of dead wood in Finnish boreal forests under changing climate (2017), Rahahleh, L., Ikonen, V-P., Kilpeläinen, A., Torssonen, P., Strandman, H., Asikainen, A,. Kaurola, J., Venäläinen, A., Peltola, H., in Canadian Journal of Forest Research 47(2), p215-225.

Effects of using certain tree species in forest regeneration on volume growth, timber yield, and carbon stock of boreal forests in Finland under different CMIP5 projections (2018), Rahahleh, L., Kilpeläinen, A., Ikonen, V.-P., Strandman, H., Asikainen, A., Venäläinen, A., Kaurola, J., Kangas, J., Peltola, H., in European Journal of Forest Research. Vol 137, No. 5, p573-591.

Effects of CMIP5 projections on volume growth, carbon stock and timber yield in managed Scots pine, Norway spruce and Silver birch stands under southern and northern boreal conditions (2018), Rahahleh, L., Kilpeläinen, A., Ikonen, V.-P., Strandman, H., Venäläinen, A., Peltola, H., in Forests, 9(4), p208.

The school includes forest laboratory facilities for use by researchers and others involved in the Forest sciences.

The school’s publications can be found here and a data base of dissertations here.

Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, University of Helsinki

Finland’s largest and most internationally visible university includes the high-profile Department of Forest Sciences, within the Faculty. The department states its aims are advancing the ecological, economic, and socially sustainable use of forests and peatland.

Forest Science Research Groups

There are a tranche of Forest Science research groups associated with the Faculty, covering a broad span of research fields.

This next section features the research groups, and outlines its research areas, as well as providing links to recent research publications.

Boreal Forest Dynamics and Biodiversity Research Group (BoForDyn) – conducting research into the structure, dynamics, and biodiversity of boreal forest ecosystems with the objective of contributing effectively to forest restoration and sustainable ecosystem-based management.

Current projects:

Dead Wood Dynamics in Fennoscandian Boreal Forests

Using large dead wood datasets compiled since the 1990s the research aims to model dead wood decomposition, site properties and climatic conditions, uncovering dead wood dynamics which will help with enabling the prediction future climate scenarios where dead wood is integrated into forest wood planning.

Distdyn – long term research into natural disturbance dynamics (Distdyn) and how different forms of felling, including partial and clear felling, affects the forest. Research includes a focus on how natural disturbances can be integrated into forest-ecosystem management given that mid- to small-scale disturbances are a part of unmanaged Fennoscandian forests.

Ecosystem Processes

The research group studies ecosystem processes in boreal forests, including tree, stand and landscape responses to changing climate. It also looks at whole forest ecosystems’ responses to a changing environment, with a primary focus on the role of vegetation in the fluxes of energy and matter in-and-between forests, atmosphere, and water bodies.

Specific research themes within the Ecosystem Processes group:

Tree Ecophysiology – within Tree Ecophysiology there are four fields of research: Gas Exchange and Carbon Balance, Optics of Photosynthesis, Water & Carbon relationships, and Root Processes.

Each is described in some detail on the Tree Ecophysiology page.

The Optics of Photosynthesis research includes its own blog page here. See also their vision/mission page and for publications here.

Images – Optics of Photosynthesis blog page

Tree growth and development – research exploring theories and models of tree function, structure, and growth, and their use to forest management in a changing environment. The groups work with models based on carbon balance.

Soil Processes – examining the processes underlying the material and energy fluxes in the soil, and between the soil and the atmosphere. Including the budgets, fluxes and processes of carbon, nitrogen, and water within boreal ecosystems.

Viikki Urban Tree Laboratory – at the University of Helsinki’s Viikki site is a joint research effort with Helsinki City Public Works Department and others and is involved in conducting research into the conditions which make for healthy environments for the whole life-span of urban trees.

Lakes and forest catchments  – research into carbon transfer and carbon dynamics in the terrestrial-aquatic continuum through both the eddy covariance method and CO2 concentration measurements at interannual and seasonal scales.

Disturbance and biogeochemistry

Research is on biogeochemical cycles in boreal and sub-arctic forests and the consequences of their disturbance by an increasing variety of factors; from drought events, and forest fires to permafrost melt. They also study the effects of these disturbances, e.g., on regional mammals. As well as Ecosystems Processes the research group also comprises members of the Forest Soil Science and Biogeochemistry group and the Biogeochemistry Research group.

Current and recent projects include:

Reindeer damaged forest – Photo Ecological Processes Research Group

Photo – Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry

Carbo Fire – Short and long term effects of forest fires on the stability of carbon pools in boreal forests (2016-2021).

ARCTICFIRELong term effects of fire on carbon and nitrogen pools and fluxes in the arctic permafrost and subarctic forests (2015-2018).

REINDEER“Reindeer grazing vs changes in above- and below ground biota and soil carbon dynamics in subarctic boreal forests – guilty or not?” (2015-2016).

Research papers can be found here.

Boreal Trees – focused on changes in the Boreal forest due to changing climate, research encompasses tree structure and physiology, and works with the Institute of Atmospheric and Earth System Research (INAR).

Winter eco­physiology – impact of the decrease in snow cover during winter on tree physiology and soil on carbon sequestration.

Biogeochemical and biophysical feedbacks across various contexts including forest harvesting and climate change.

Roots technologies – a minirhizotron camera disappearing into the earth
Photo: H-S. Helmisaari.

Ecology research in the forest and on the screen – Photo: Heljä-Sisko Helmisaari.

Forest Soil Science and Biogeochemistry

As the ground upon which forests grow, forest soil is critical to understanding and maintaining forests. Forest soil research includes the whole living environment for the tree and understory roots, fungi, bacteria, and soil animals. Research is into the properties and processes in forest soils, and their interactions with the ecological systems above and below ground, as well as the biogeochemistry of forest ecosystems.

Forsoil – this is the Forest Soil Science and Biogeochemistry blog. There are details of its research reach on it, which include:

Soils and Climate 

Root Ecology – research papers on Root Ecology and Mycorrhiza are here.

Forest biomass harvesting and biogeochemistry – research projects include this PhD:

Comparing the impact of continuous cover forest management and rotation forest management on long-term soil carbon storage (2018), Kaarakka, L. PhD

For other research publications see here and further down.

Forest Ecology and Management

Drawing forest ecology and management together, the research group looks at approaches to advancing knowledges of ecological processes within forests while improving sustainable forestry practice and organisation.

Recent research publications can be found here.

Forest genomics mapping project – Photo Forest Genomics/Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry

Forest Genomics

Molecular research into the evolution and adaptation of trees


Forest Tree Evolution via Expression Regulation – examining how gene expression affect physiological responses driven by the environment and their differences in two tree species, Scots pine and silver birch, due to their significant evolutionary distance between the species. Further focus on different populations from a number of European locations respond genomically to environmental change. In partnership with Luke (the Forest Research Institute) and the University of Oulu.

Ad­apt­ive breed­ing for pro­duct­ive, sustainable and re­si­li­ent forests un­der cli­mate change – developing new genotyping tools for Scot pine, also involves genomic prediction of the species.

A video introduction by the head of the Forest Genomics group, Professor Tanja Pyhäjärvi can be found further down the research page, while a list of publications can be found here.

Economic-ecological optimization group

Focusing on interdisciplinary approaches, integrating economics, ecology, mathematical methods, and new computational methods to assist understanding into the management of biological natural resources like forests or any natural populations.

Current and recent research projects:

Eco­nom­ics of con­tinu­ous cover and ro­ta­tion forestry – research into the economics of optimal choice between rotation and continuous cover forestry.

In­clud­ing forest car­bon sinks in the in­ter­na­tional cli­mate agree­ments – developing an economic, interdisciplinary understanding of the consequences of forest carbon sinks inclusion in international climate agreements.

Op­timal car­bon stor­age in het­ero­gen­eous forests – insight into the economics of carbon storage in heterogenous forests, and optimisation of benefits to both timber production and carbon storage.

Eco­nom­ics of forestry un­der cli­mate change – application of new interdisciplinary research approach including analytical methods to the economics of forestry under climate change.

Research publications and other related links here.

Forest Health Group

Using disturbance dynamics modelling, forest inventories, remote sensing, GIS, and spatial modelling, the Forest Health Group focus includes damage mapping and monitoring related approaches to forest health management. The research group are developing tools for predicting and monitoring outbreaks of forest insects as well as the effects of insect driven disturbance on forest ecosystems across scales and environmental contexts, including future disturbance scenario projections.

Current and recent research includes:

Damage spot dynamics and management of the European spruce bark beetle

Effect of abiotic and biotic disturbances on carbon balance of forest ecosystems

Forest regeneration after the storm event

Research publications can be found here.

Forest Modelling Group

With a research agenda engaging ecological and physiological research questions related to forest growth, production and material balances, the Forest Modelling Group develop theoretical and numerical simulations that enable research into the impacts of environmental changes on forest growth and functioning.

Regional modelling simulations of pine wood growth based on differing indicators – Render – Forest Modelling Group

The Boreal forest’s annual cycle – Image Forest Modelling Group

Visual representation of the PREBAS mathematical model – Image Forest Modelling Group

Current research projects:

Un­typ­ical forests – in place of the usual rotation forestry, which data and modelling is based on, this research investigates untypical forests including old-growth and continuous cover forests.

Regional pro­jec­tions – the Forest Modelling Group are involved in projects which are trying to reconcile different objectives, e.g., sustainable forest use and carbon sequestration. This research extends to new situations, using multisource forest inventory data, enabling different forest management approaches to be compared against various indicators. Annual cycle – research into annual rhythm of Boreal forests and their plant life, including modelling the annual cycle of photosynthesis, organ growth and carbon and the storage of non-structural carbon compounds in trees.

Dis­turb­ances – quantification of the impact of disturbances on the carbon sink balance and growth of forests, in order to uncover disturbance modules for a range of influence, wind, snow and root rot, before applying these to the PREBAS climate and management sensitive growth model.

Model Data Fusion – application of Big Data to the modelling approaches undertaken by the Forest Modelling Group. Data typologies include field measurements, eddy-covariance measurements, optical and radar remotely-sensed data which can be drawn together in model-data fusion work, integrating these into extant forest models.

Mechanistic modelling in tree ecophysiology – developing of a stomatal behaviour optimisation model describing gas exchange and stomatal control, since expanded to the whole-tree scale using Big Data tech.

Current and recent research publications can be found here.

Modelling Principles – the Forest Modelling Group microsite also feature a helpful introduction to modelling principles and approaches used in the groups’ work, in addition to the mathematical models used by the team, including PREBAS modelling.

Forest Pathology Research Lab

Applies biotechnology knowledge and tools to assist in preventing and controlling tree diseases, particularly emerging fungal and forest pathogens, as well as those caused by air pollution and climatic diseases. Also included is protection for wood materials used in construction and buildings.

Research includes:

Tree-Microbe Interaction – research into tree pathogen systems, and forest pathology.

Clonal Forestry Project – examining clonal propagation methods, including variation within and between clones and factors responsible for the observed variation.

Current and recent research publications can be found here.

Precision forestry – Image Forest Resources Management and Geo-Information

Image – Forest Resources Management and Geo-Information

Forest Resources Management and Geo-Information

A lab for managing Forest 4.0, through Airborne Laser Scanning (ALS) to provide detailed spatial geoinformation and data. Research investigates the use of 3D data sets, and 4D Geoinformatics, providing new resources for understanding the past, and expands the capacity to model the future.

Research projects include:

Pre­ci­sion forestry – wood raw ma­ter­ial quant­ity and qual­ity es­tim­a­tion for en­hanced wood pro­cure­ment.

To­wards com­pre­hens­ive tree at­trib­ute mod­el­ling us­ing point clouds.

Forest health, above ground bio­mass and biod­iversity as­sess­ment by im­proved map­ping and mon­it­or­ing.

Recent and current research publications can be found here.

Image – International Forest Policy

International Forest Policy

The recently established research group (and chair) has been created to generate policy making supporting research, including critical analysis of politics and power in highly contested domestic and international policy arenas, including those explicitly beyond the forestry sector.

Research projects include:

SEQUAL – So­cial-eco­lo­gical re­la­tions and gender equal­ity: Dynamics and pro­cesses for trans­form­a­tional change across scales.

Fair for whom? Politics, Power and Precarity in Transformations of Tropical Forestagriculture Frontiers. Whose voices are heard and why? Exploring LULUCF negotiations in the European Union (EU).

Forest Bioeconomy, Business and Sustainability

Sustainable business management in the forest sector context, research areas include bioeconomy and other sustainability vis­ions: Forest products in­dustry, trade and mar­ket­ing and Eco­sys­tem services, and so­cio-eco­lo­gical sys­tems.

Photo – Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry

Research projects include:

PERFORM Per­ceiv­ing the Forest-based Sec­tor in the Bioeconomy.

OPES 2019-2022 – Op­er­a­tion­al­ising eco­sys­tem ser­vices in busi­ness sus­tain­ab­il­ity, draw­ing from green and cir­cu­lar-bioeconomy.

WOOD VISION 2025 Com­par­ing co­her­ence and ef­fi­ciency of policies around wooden multi-storey con­struc­tion between Fin­land and Aus­tria (2018-2020).

Forest Economics and Marketing

Engaging in sustainability in business and value chains in the forest industry sector. Research groups are involved in new business models, entrepreneurship, investing and disruptive digital technologies in relation to the forest bioeconomy.Recent research publications can be found here.

VTT – the Technical Research Centre of Finland

Bio-based earphones from VTT – Photo VTT

VTT, is the state funded innovation and incubation research company operating under the auspices of the Ministry of Employment and Economy.

Research sectors include the bioeconomy and circular economy (bio-based materials) Smart Cities, (built environment) Smart Industry (future factories) and AI (Adaptive Manufacturing.) VTT’s research platform’s crossover into Forest Industries and Construction. There are a number of collaborations with start-ups and larger private sector partners and VTT offer services and R&D to relevant industry. Current and ongoing focus includes the following.

High impact renewable materials

Sustainable bio-based materials

Foam forming platform

Biomass Processing


Forest Research in Finland - origins and history

The beginnings of forest research are generally traced back to the second half of the 19th century, with research being undertaken at the University of Helsinki and at the State Forest Service. The founding of the Finnish Forestry Association in 1877 was also significant. The Forest Research Institute (Metsäntutkimuslaitos METLA in Finnish) was opened in 1917. A brief history of Metla, the Forest Research Institute can be found here. The most recent in-depth study of the history of forestry in Finland is by Karl-Erik Michelsen, who published his History of Forest Research in Finland. Part 1. The Unknown Forest in 1995 (no part 2 is known to have appeared).

Oddities and one-offs

University of Turku

Myanmar Timber Elephant Project – this less than obvious research project at Turku University is into the health, survival, and reproduction of timber elephants in Myanmar. Together with current physiological, physical, behavioural data and information the objective is to offer new solutions to elephant management and healthcare in order to help the survival of the elephants and to create a self-sustaining working population.

Intelligent ForestryStora Enso is collaborating with as part of the Combient Foundry led joint venture engaging in research and knowledge-sharing related to artificial intelligence, deep learning, big data and automation. Combining AI with satellite imagery analysis, the Stora Enso research aims to develop what is described as ‘Intelligent forestry’.