3.3. Correlation Factors
Correlation analysis of forest holding sustainability scores and its influencing factors (Table 3
) was performed. The characteristics of the indicators, which have been used for modeling the influence on the sustainability of forestry, are expressed in numbers. Three different types of values are used to show the data sizes or values. Some indicators, such as age, forest holding size, and distance, were directly expressed in numbers. The other part of the data (dichotomous indicators) was classified and expressed as 1 or 2, such as gender and education. The third part shows numbers of the ordinal n-point scale, such as the importance of objectives for forest owners and the prospects for holding usage. Based on the numerical values of these variables, the mean values of the variables and the standard deviation (SD) were determined. Table 3
(forest owners) reports the socio-demographics of the analyzed sample. Slightly more than half (50.3%) of the respondents were women, and the average age of respondents was 62 years. About 24% of the respondents had higher education. According to the level of forestry knowledge, the respondents are distributed as follows: 10.2% had working experience in forestry, 8.1% graduated in forestry studies, 15.9% participated in courses and seminars, and 27.6% had no knowledge of forestry. Sixty-one percent of the respondents lived in rural areas.
Respondents indicated the relative importance of the three main forest functions: economic (5—very important (50.8%), 4—important (22.4%), 3—neither yes nor no (12.8%), 2—not important (6.3%), 1—not important at all (7.8%)), ecological (5—very important (58.7%), 4—important (15.7%), 3—neither yes nor no (11.7%), 2—not important (4.4%), 1—not important at all (9.4%)), and social (5—very important (38.5%), 4—important (20.6%), 3—neither yes nor no (13%), 2—not important (9.9%), 1—not important at all (18%)). The most important objectives for forest owners were using wood for personal use (45.1% of the respondents indicated that it is very important) and handing it down to their heirs (33.1% of the respondents indicated that it is very important).
The second part, “Holdings,” describes the forestry holdings. The average size of respondents’ holdings is 18.94 ha, and the average distance between the forest and the living residence is 26.42 km. The characteristics of forest stands are as follows: almost 38% of the forest stands area is mature, 69.64% is commercial, 28.71% is protected, and 1.39% is recreational. About two-thirds (67.2%) of forest holdings are located on one compact piece of land. Three main types of forest holding acquisition (restitution, inheritance, and donation) were predominant among respondents. The forest holdings resituated, inherited, or donated were reported by 78.1% of respondents. Further disposal of forest holdings was reported as follows: 11.4% of respondents plan to sell all or some forest holdings, 77.1% will pass it on to heirs, and 11.5% plan to expand their forest holdings. Most forest owners (84.4%) know the boundaries of their forest holdings, but there are owners (15.6%) who do not even know where their forest is located or are not sure about their forest holding boundaries. About one-fourth (25.3%) of respondents reported that they visited a forest holding on a weekly basis during the last 12 months prior to the interview, 21.1% went to a forest one to two times a month, and 53.4% stated that they visited a forest less than once a month or not at all during that time period. The average income per hectare was 74.07 (EUR/ha), and the average common income of holding owners was 346.84 EUR/month.
Most respondents (78.8%) incur costs or do not have any income from the forest holding, some of them have basic or additional income (7.3%), and 14.1% rarely receive income.
Respondents reported how they use their wood from their forest holding: only for own use—70.7%, mostly for own use and the rest sold—9.3%, most sold and the rest is for own use—10.2%, or everything is sold—9.8%.
We can divide the interviewed forest owners into several groups according to the intensity of forest management: very active (31.5%), active (51.3%), passive (12.8%), and private forest owners who had no management activity in the forest holding (4.4%). Respondents indicated how many different activities they carried out with their forest holding, and the average number was 3.01.
Forest owners’ attitudes towards private forest ownership and state regulation differed: 22.9% of respondents believed that strong regulation and forest management control are needed from state authorities, 17.7% said neither yes nor no, and 59.4% believed that minimal state regulations and control are needed.
About one-third (34.9%) of respondents manage forest holdings together with co-owners, and for 65.1% of respondents, the forest holding is personal property.
Respondents indicated membership with different organizations: 2.6% are members of organizations representing forest owners (forest owners associations), 12.0% are members of other organizations not related to forestry or the environment, and 85.4% do not have memberships with any organizations.
Our correlation analysis found mostly weak but reliable (p
< 0.05) relationships with 23 independent variables (Table 4
). Moderate and strong correlations were associated with the following variables: the owner’s view of the forest’s economic importance (0.862), income per hectare (0.840), the importance of forestry in the common activity of the owners (0.525), the percentage of mature stands (0.476), the diversity of activities in forest holdings (0.361), and how the wood is used (0.328).
The principles and methods for assessing the sustainability of forest management, developed in Europe and elsewhere in the world, can be applied to assess the sustainability of private forestry in Lithuania. The study results indicate the sustainability of Lithuanian small-scale forestry and its peculiarities. The 2.39-point result of the average sustainability of selected forest holdings indicates a low level of sustainability. It is lower than that assessed for the sustainability of the total Lithuanian forestry, which was 3.31 points [23
The lowest scored indicator was 3.2—share of recreational forests—with an average of 1.14 points, and the highest scored indicator was carbon in stands with 3.06 points. Indicator 1.1, annual income per hectare, was assessed as 2.41 points, Indicator 1.2, the ratio value of income/growing stock, at 2.48 points, Indicator 2.1, the share of protected and protective forests, at 2.40 points, and Indicator 3.1, the annual number of working days in the forests, at 2.65 points. The evaluation of forestry sustainability is determined by different factors. A reliable but weak correlation was identified for many factors. This was also found in a study of factors affecting sustainable forest management performed in Iran [13
]. However, the set of factors in this survey is different.
It was found that the strongest influencing factors of Lithuanian small-scale forestry are the owner’s view of the forest’s economic importance (correlation coefficient: 0.862), income per hectare (0.840), the importance of forestry in the common activity of the owners (0.525), the percentage of mature stands (0.476), the diversity of activities in forest holdings (0.361), and how the wood is used (0.328). A correlation coefficient measures the strength and direction between two variables. The scales of positive correlation coefficient values are as follows: very weak is represented by a range from 0 to 0.2, weak from 0.2 to 0.5, average from 0.5 to 0.7, strong from 0.7 to 1, and very strong is represented by 1 [26
]. The correlation coefficient shows the existence of the relationship and its strength. The strength of the correlation shows the influence of the variable on the assessment of sustainability.
The information obtained from this study is relevant for stakeholders involved in the formation and implementation of the Lithuanian private forestry policy. Many problems were encountered in assessing the sustainability of the Lithuanian private forestry. The Lithuanian National Forest Strategy does not contain strategic objectives and indicators describing private forestry that could facilitate the creation of the list of criteria and indicators for assessing the sustainability of forestry. There is no systematic monitoring of the objectives and problems experienced by private forest owners in Lithuania. Another problem with assessing the sustainability of Lithuanian private forestry is the lack of data. Even if Lithuanian forestry statistics contain considerable data on general wood resources and their use, data on the financial, ecological, and social indicators of private forestry are still lacking.
Due to information provision problems, the application of the full list of European criteria and indicators for the assessment of the sustainability of small-scale forestry in Lithuania is complicated, and the option of key indicators has to be applied. However, as our previous studies on the impact of the number of indicators on the assessment of forestry sustainability have shown [32
], due to the use of a range of from 1 to 9 indicators for each criterion (economic, ecological, and social) in assessment scenarios, the assessments differ slightly, from 3.03 to 3.46 points on a five-point scale. Further research and activities will be required in the future, both to support the target indicators and for the development of private forestry statistics.