Nature management in commercial forests promotes forest biodiversity

Forest biodiversity is secured through a combination of conservation and natural management in commercial forests.

About 9 per cent of Finland’s forests are strictly protected and conservation areas play a central role in securing forest biodiversity. However, most of Finland’s forest species and their populations live in commercial forests, thus the correct management of these forests is crucial for biodiversity.

Nature management in commercial forests is an integral part of forest management and timber harvesting

Valuable habitats in commercial forests have been mapped and these sites are as a rule left outside the scope of commercial treatment. Furthermore, features typical of natural forests are conserved and enhanced by leaving retention trees and deciduous trees in felling areas and by carrying out controlled burning.

Retention trees left alive in felling areas eventually turn into deadwood. Nature management monitoring results compiled by the Forestry Development Centre Tapio show that the volume of large decaying trees in commercial forests has started to increase thanks to the new methods. The volume of wood in retention trees left in regeneration felling sites totals almost a million cubic metres per annum.

Nature management in commercial forests is carried out in connection with other forest management measures. A few per cent of Finland’s commercial forests are included in forest operations each year. The results of nature management are slow to show in forest environments, thus the impact of nature management can only be seen after years, sometimes decades, have passed.

However, research findings show that there have been rapid positive effects on forest species, especially as a result of controlled burning. Methods for safeguarding forest biodiversity must continue to be developed in collaboration with various other parties.

When the impact of commercial forestry on forest biodiversity is examined, one must remember that biodiversity varies depending on the forest’s development stage. In the early stages of development, the forest is a habitat for very different kinds of species than when it is one hundred years old. For this reason it is important for forest species that forests are diverse in terms of terrain and that they offer habitats for species adapted to different kinds of living environments.

Management measures needed on eskers and in groves

In certain habitats, good management is more effective than conservation in protecting biodiversity. Such sites include, for example, sun-exposed eskers, where species have adapted to sunny, warm and dry conditions. Species that live on eskers are threatened by their habitat becoming overgrown. The habitats of these species can be safeguarded by keeping growth areas open and through soil preparation or controlled burning.

Many grove habitats benefit from forest management that takes their special characteristics into consideration. The biggest threat to groves dominated by deciduous trees is that they will be overgrown with spruce. Well-planned forest treatment helps grove species thrive, for example through harvesting that removes spruce trees while leaving hardwoods intact or through felling that nurtures the various forest layers.

Taking care of esker and grove environments is central to securing the biodiversity of Finnish forests, as over 60 per cent of Finland’s threatened forest species live in these environments. However, eskers and groves account for only about five per cent of Finland’s forest area.

Nature management in commercial forests is considered important

The forest industry has invested a great deal in safeguarding biodiversity in commercial forests by training its personnel and machine entrepreneurs in environmental matters as well as by funding research into forest biodiversity.