The Spanish private research organisation CARTIF has completed the first assessment focusing on the environmental and social performance of Metsä Group’s Kuura textile fibre. Kuura is still in a R&D phase and the production process to make it is currently being tested and further developed at a tonne per day demo plant in Äänekoski, Finland. The outcome of the assessment conducted by CARTIF is very good for Kuura. In regard to environmental performance, when comparing to other commercial man-made cellulosic fibres (viscose and lyocell), and to cotton, Kuura shows the lowest impact on climate change, supporting its viability as a sustainable solution in the market of textile fibres (see Figure 1). More specifically, the use of local, sustainably managed wood raw material combined with the use of fully fossil free energy obtained from the existing industrial mill site and with a novel process for the production of Kuura textile fibre result in a product with a clear climate change mitigation potential compared to the use of existing commercial textile fibres.
Broadleaves trees improve forest growth and yield and increase the diversity of forest species. Biodiversity helps forests to face the changing climate conditions and thrive.
“If we achieve this goal, one fifth of all trees on sites that accommodate birch will be broadleaves. The increased amount will strengthen both tree species and many of other forest species and improve forests’ capacity to endure adverse weather conditions and insect damage caused by climate change,” says Risto Laaksonen, UPM’s Director, Forestry.
According to Laaksonen, increasing the share of broadleaves trees also increases coniferous trees’ strength to grow, at least according to current knowledge. At the same time, the competition within this more diverse group of species will become more intense. This brings balance to the ecosystem and reduces the risk that one species will overpower the others and cause damage.
The number of broadleaves trees will be increased by changing the guidelines for sapling stand management and forest thinning. UPM’s own nursery in Joroinen has been preparing for this change – especially the increase in silver birch sapling production – for several years. In addition to birch, the nursery has been growing a small amount oak and black alder saplings to increase the biodiversity of UPM’s forests.
The guidelines for forest thinning also play a key role, because they determine the volume of tree species allowed to grow in UPM’s forests. In the future, the guidelines will emphasise measures taken on sites with the best growing conditions for broadleaves trees. The nursery and UPM’s own forests have an important role in the development of forest management and personnel training.
A healthy and diverse forest guarantees high-quality wood raw material for wood-based products. This also improves the forest’s biodiversity and the state of forest nature.
According to Laaksonen, smart species decisions ensure a healthy foundation for future bioeconomy. Most species provide opportunities to expand the selection of wood-based products and thriving mixed forests are efficient carbon sinks, which are essential to combat against climate change.
“The environmental guidelines for forests dominated by conifers have previously emphasised the importance of small broadleaves tree populations as retention trees and deadwood, for example. Now the role of broadleaves trees has become crucial as we adapt to a future with changing natural conditions,” Laaksonen highlights.
UPM is the first forest company in the world to set itself the target of being verified for improving the state of forest nature in its own forests in Finland by 2030. Increasing the number of broadleaves trees in its forests promotes this goal.