Forest biodiversity

A national action programme has been drawn up to safeguard the biodiversity of Finnish nature, the basis of which is a UN convention concerning biodiversity. The safeguarding of the natural biodiversity of forests has been made more effective by increasing the amount of protected forests, improving and restoring the quality of protected forests and developing the natural care of commercial forests.

Areas of conservation are needed to preserve living environments and species that cannot thrive in commercial forests. Finland has 4.8 million ha of protected areas in restricted commercial use reserved for this purpose, 3.0 million ha of which is forest (both high- and low-productivity), i.e. 13% of the entire area of forests. There are 2.2 million ha of actual protected forests, more than 90% (2.0 million ha) of which is strictly protected, i.e. completely outside logging activity.

Through the Natura 2000 network, efforts are being made to nurture natural biodiversity in the EU area. Natural habitats and species of animals and birds that the community considers important have been selected as targets of conservation. Most of the areas contained in the Finnish Natura network (covering 3.6 million ha) already previously belonged to some conservation programme or reserve.

The amount of rotting wood is considered to be one of the key indicators of forest biodiversity. Living conditions for threatened and sensitive forest species can be helped by increasing the amount of rotting wood by means of nature management in commercial forests. It is estimated that Finland has 4,000 – 5,000 species dependent on rotting wood, which is about one-fifth of all forest species. Moreover, some species are indirectly dependent on the protection and nutrition provided by rotting wood, such as the white-backed woodpecker and other birds that nest in hollows.

Apart from being an indicator of biodiversity, rotting wood is also very important as part of the forest’s carbon store. In accordance with present forest management recommendations, retention trees or groups of retention trees must be left to grow and decay in areas of renewal, on average 5-10 trunks per hectare. In felling, efforts are also made to save dead standing trees, rotting trees, individual trees brought down by the wind and brushwood.

According to the national forest inventory (VMI10), the amount of rotting wood (dead standing trees and brushwood) in Southern Finnish forests has increased. In Northern Finland, too, the amount of dead standing wood has increased, but less brushwood was found than in the previous inventory.

The aim of the protection of species is to preserve the living populations of original and established species as well as their areas of distribution. The EU has regulations concerning the protection of species, namely the Bird Directive and the Directive on the Conservation of Natural Habitats of Wild Fauna and Flora. They require that species and their natural habitats are protected and that forestry in them and other forms of utilisation are regulated.

In commercial forests, the diversity of fauna is nurtured by preserving in their natural state especially important living environments in accordance with the Forest Act, natural forest habitats in accordance with the Nature Conservation Act, and other valuable natural sites. More than half the species classified as endangered because of forestry primarily live in these places. Biodiversity is also being taken into account in forest management by preserving the existing rotting wood, leaving living retention trees, favouring mixed deciduous forests and by burning.