Metsähallitus is responsible for the protection, management and monitoring of valuable habitats and animal and plant species.
Biodiversity is safeguarded through long-term conservation work, collection of information and a broad range of active habitat management and restoration measures, which also include EU-funded partnership projects.
Nearly 39 per cent (3,523,000 hectares) of all land areas under the management of Metsähallitus and 7 per cent (238,000 hectares) of all water areas are statutory nature reserves and wilderness areas or areas reserved for the purpose in nature conservation programmes.
Metsähallitus must also give adequate consideration to the protection and appropriate strengthening of biodiversity as well as the other objectives set for the management, use and protection of forests, water bodies and other natural resources. Provisions on these general social obligations (in Finnish) are contained in the Act on Metsähallitus (234/2016).
Management and restoration work continued
General social obligations in multiple-use forests
Ecological network helps to ensure biodiversity
The ecologically most important nature sites in multiple-use forests and the nature reserves located on state-owned land and water areas constitute a nationwide ecological network. A wide variety of natural habitats found in Finland are represented in the network and for this reason these sites and reserves are vital to preserving biodiversity in Finland, in terms of species and landscape.
In order to strengthen biodiversity, the information on the ecological network is continuously updated and reviewed. In 2017, the updating of the landscape ecological network covering multiple-use forests was launched in the regions of Kainuu and Lapland as a participatory planning process involving stakeholders. In the planning process, state-owned land is examined as a single entity comprising nature reserves and multiple-use forests.
Decaying wood and mature aspen crucial to preserving biodiversity
The amount of decaying wood (rotten trees) and the number of mature aspen trees are key to ensuring biodiversity in forests. About one quarter or nearly 4,000 of all species found in Finnish forests are directly or indirectly dependent on decaying wood. At the same time, mature aspen trees provide a habitat for a large number of endangered insects, fungi, mosses and lichens.
Changes in their key structural features are monitored in state-owned land on a yearly basis and qualitative indicators are used to describe their benefits.
The long-term target is to have about 10 m3 of decaying wood on each hectare in multiple-use forests. This target can be achieved by leaving retention trees, by inducing gradual changes in the flora and fauna naturally occurring in the forests and by actively generating decaying wood.
State-owned land areas account for more than half of all decaying wood in Finnish forests (about 69 million cubic metres).
Amount of decaying wood in state-owned forest land, as listed in the 11th National Forest Inventory (NFI11)
Most of the retention trees left standing at felling sites in multiple-use forests are living trees, which will gradually decay in a natural process. In 2017, the number of retention trees meeting the requirements laid out in forest certification schemes and the Metsähallitus’ Environmental Guidelines for Practical Forest Management was above targeted levels.
Mature aspen is relatively common at biodiversity sites of multiple-use forests and in nature reserves even though it occurs less frequently in state-owned land than in areas belonging to other forest owners. Aspen is less common in state-owned forests because they are located in areas that are, on average, poorer in nutrients than other sites.
Number of mature aspen trees, as listed in the 11th National Forest Inventory (NFI11)
Few nature sites were affected by regeneration fellings
There are about 100,000 nature sites and about 30,000 habitats where endangered species occur. in the multiple-use forests of Metsähallitus. The nature sites are either completely excluded from fellings, or only selection cuttings or sites-specific forest management cuttings take place at them. Species occurring at the nature sites include critically endangered, vulnerable, regionally endangered and near threatened species.
The state of the nature sites and the species occurring in them are assessed each year by Metsähallitus Forestry Ltd in its environmental follow-up on timber harvesting. According to the 2017 environmental follow-up at regeneration sites, the characteristic features had been preserved in 99 per cent of the habitats at the sites.
Protection of endangered species
Conservation work in cooperation with partners
In 2017, there were also EU-funded conservation projects carried out with partners.
The purpose of the nationwide Light & Fire LIFE project (2014–2020) was to manage light and fire habitats through restoration burning, clearing of trees, translocation of endangered species and removal of alien species. A total of 87 hectares were treated with restoration burning at ten Natura sites, environmental management measures were carried out at 13 light and fire sites and alien species were removed from a number of sandy beaches. Furthermore, pasqueflowers and sand pinks as well as examples of the critically endangered baton blue were moved to habitats that had undergone management measures. The five partners in the project also carried out environmental management measures in accordance with the project plan.
In the WildForestReindeerLIFE population management project (2016–2023), the first wild forest reindeers were moved to enclosures at Seitseminen and Lauhavuori. The purpose of the project is to reintroduce the wild forest reindeer to its original habitats in Pirkanmaa and South Ostrobothnia.
The first wild forest reindeers born in captivity will probably be released to the wild in 2019. This EU-LIFE project is carried out by Wildlife Service in cooperation with nine project partners.
Photo: Mikko Rautiainen