Natural management of Finnish commercial forests and voluntary conservation methods are in a key role in METSO

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A new Forest Biodiversity Programme (METSO ll) will be submitted to the Government in early 2008 at the same time as the new National Forest Programme. 

Forestry is typically practiced on a small scale in southern Finland and average cutting areas are only 1-2 ha. METSO is piloting new ways to increase biodiversity under such conditions, complementing the work done through several other programmes starting with the Environmental Programme for Forestry in 1994 and also included in the Forest Act from 1997.

The METSO Programme was carefully prepared through processes involving many stakeholders such as forest industry associations, forest owners’ organisations, the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation and WWF Finland, as well as three ministries.

Natural management of commercial forests promotes effectively biodiversity

Finnish forestry is based on indigenous tree species and most of the forests are in commercial use. This is why the natural management of commercial forests, which one of means in METSO, plays a key role in developing forest biodiversity. The natural management methods practiced in commercial forests have been found reasonably effective and their results quite encouraging during the first period of the METSO Forest Biodiversity Programme for Southern Finland.

The natural management practices utilised in commercial forests are diverse and they have become an integral part of forestry and harvesting. Ecologically valuable habitats in commercial forests are protected and structural characteristics typical to natural forests are preserved and even increased. Selection of tree species, increasing the amount of decaying wood by leaving retentions trees and controlled burning are some examples of natural management of forests.

 "Even though the results of natural management are slow to become evident, research has also identified some rapid positive effects on species occurrences. The methods employed to safeguard the biodiversity of forest environments should be developed further in cooperation with other interest groups” says Anders Portin of the Finnish Forest Industries Federation. He is in charge of the unit responsible for questions associated with forest, environment and energy policies

Second METSO programme should be based on voluntary initiatives and cost-effectiveness

 Almost two million hectares of forest is under strict conservation in Finland. This means that 8.3% of our forest area – Europe’s biggest proportion by far – is already under strict conservation. 

The most valuable natural habitats have been comprehensively included in national conservation programmes and the EU’s Natura 2000 network. There is, however, a need to improve the conservation of biodiversity of forests in Southern Finland. This should be implemented by natural management methods in commercial forests as well as through the voluntary conservation initiatives that achieved such good results in the first METSO programme.

The follow-up and evaluation results of the METSO programme demonstrate that voluntary initiatives can protect valuable and ecologically representative locations. Voluntary conservation initiatives are needed also because around 70% of the forests in Southern Finland are owned by private individuals. Use of voluntary initiatives is further supported by the fact that conservation proposals and decisions are made on the local level, as close to the citizens as possible. This promotes positive attitudes towards conservation.

"A new METSO Forest Biodiversity Programme for Southern Finland for the years 2008 – 2016 is being finalized at the moment. Funds reserved for safeguarding biodiversity must be spent cost-effectively and all measures must be prioritised carefully. Instead of protecting large areas we should pay attention to those areas which are the most valuable in the terms of adding or promoting biodiversity in forests,” Portin continues.   

For more information, please contact

Anders Portin, Senior Vice President (Sustainable Development and Resources), Finnish Forest Industries Federation, tel. +358 (0)9 132 6610, +358 (0)40 586 6179