Contact: Toms Zälïtis
Latvian State Forest Research Institute
Latvia is the fourth country in Europe (after the Finland, Sweden and Slovenia) with the largest proportion of land area covered by forests and other wooded lands (FAO). Forests and overgrown agricultural lands occupy 3.22 million ha or 49.9 % of the country’s territory (Latvian National Forest Inventory).
In Latvia, forests are comparatively natural systems. Most of them are naturally regenerated forests with clearly visible indications of human activities. The forests predominantly composed of trees established through planting and/or deliberate seeding make up 19 % of the total forest area (Latvia Country Report, FAO, 2010). The proportion of primary forests is very small and they are mainly located in the strict and regulatory regime zones of Nature reserves and National parks.
The forests of Latvia are dominated by three tree species – Scots pine, Norway spruce and birch species (silver and downy birch); together they constitute 73.8 % of the total forest area (according to NFI data). The proportion of pine stands is 28.9 %, but the proportion of spruce and birch stands – 17.0 % and 27.9 %. The remaining forest areas are occupied by stands of black alder (5.1 %), grey alder (9.8 %), aspen (7.7 %), ash and oak (1.5 %), and other tree species (2 %). The coniferous stands in general occupy 46 % of the total forest area, but stands of deciduous trees – 54 %.
Most important non-wood forest products include mushrooms and berries, while lesser produced NWFP include birch bark and salix, used for handicrafts, phyto-chemicals from forest plants for pharmaceuticals, essential oils and aromatics and edible nuts and fruits which are mainly collected for personal consumption. There is potential for increasing trade in honey and other bee products, mosses and lichens (for herbal teas, which are traded regionally in Latvia) and birch juice for vodka.