Forests and Forestry in Latvia

titles_forestry agriculture_4

Written for Coursera (MOOC) Class ‘Climate Change‘ by the University of Melbourne (Sept 2013, some data updated May 2014).

Some 1,000 years ago, Latvia was covered with about 80 percent of mixed forest (birch, pine, spruce), with little open land. When the population rose, more land was used for agricultural production and by 1920, as little as 23 percent of Latvia remained forestland. During Soviet times many forested areas were left unkempt and thrived, and by the turn of the century the official percentage for Latvian forest coverage was 47 percent. Currently the figure hovers around 50 percent.  (Professor Zigurds Zalins, University of Agriculture, Jelgava).

Timber and Forest Resources, is the number one industry in Latvia and it continues to grow. Exports of wood pulp and raw timber are a valuable economic asset, with about two-thirds of Latvia’s timber product going to the U.K. [1]

This sustainable resource allows Latvia to offset it’s already relatively low carbon emissions to the point where it is actually a net absorber of atmospheric CO2. [2]

Latvia CO2 LUCF 2002-2012

Latvia Summary (UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, c1990) [3]

  • Forests cover 2.7 million ha or 42% of total land area (64,000 km2).
  • During the last 70 years the area of Latvian forestry has grown steadily.
  • Forest Area (as percent of total land) Increased from 24.7% in 1923 to 41% in 1991.
  • Distribution of woodlands in Latvia:
  • Areas with higher forest coverage are:
    • Central Forests (Riga region),
    • Southeast Forest (Cesis and Madona regions)
    • Western Forest (Ventspils, Liepaja, Talsi regions).
  • The highest forest coverage is in the Ventspils region – 60 percent; the lowest in the Bauska region – 28.8 percent.
  • Latvia Forestry is divided into three 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.

UNFCCC Report 2010 Latvian Annual Submission [4]

“The energy sector is the main sector in the GHG inventory of Latvia. In 2008, emissions from the energy sector amounted to 8,505.63 Gg CO2 eq, or 71.4 per cent of total GHG emissions. 

Since 1990, emissions have decreased by 56.0 per cent. The key driver for the fall in emissions is the decrease in energy demand during the early 1990s and the recent recession in the national economy caused mainly by the international crisis. 

 Within the sector, 42.3 per cent of the emissions were from transport, followed by 23.7 per cent from energy industries, 18.9 per cent from other sectors and 13.8 per cent from manufacturing industries and construction. Fugitive emissions from fuels accounted for 1.3 per cent and other

accounted for 0.04 per cent.” 

UNFCCC Report of 2012 Latvian Annual Submission [5] 

“In 2010, the main greenhouse gas (GHG) in Latvia was carbon dioxide (CO2), accounting for 70.1 per cent of total GHG emissions1 expressed in carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2 eq), followed by methane (CH4) (14.7 per cent) and nitrous oxide (N2O) (14.4 per cent). 

Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) collectively accounted for 0.8 per cent of the overall GHG emissions in the country. The energy sector accounted for 69.8 per cent of total GHG emissions, followed by the agriculture sector (19.3 per cent), the waste sector (5.5 per cent), the industrial processes sector (5.1 per cent) and the solvent and other product use sector (0.3 per cent). 

Total GHG emissions amounted to 12,097.70 Gg CO2 eq and decreased by 54.5 per cent between the base year2 and 2010.”



[1] Seeing the Forest for the Trees – Latvia’s Green Gold, The Baltic Times, 21 April 2011.

[2] UNFCCC Data 2014,

[3] Forests and Forestry in Latvia, UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, c1990

[4] UNFCCC Report 2010 Latvian Submission (13 April 2011) FCCC/ARR/2010/LVA (PDF)

[5] UNFCCC Report 2012 Latvian Submission (12 April 2013) FCCC/ARR/2012/LVA (PDF)

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