Our new programme reinforces ecological
Mettsä Group renewed its strategic, Group-wide sustainability goals in the spring of 2019. The goals, which extend up to 2030, cover all the Group’s operations and are also reflected in the supply chain.
Metsä Group wants to advance sustainable forestry and forest certification in both PEFC and FSC with its own operations. We also want to point the way in ecological sustainability and this is why Metsä Group’s Wood Supply and Forest Services have drawn up a programme of ecological sustainability.
The most important goals of the ecological sustainability programme are the strengthening of forest growth and carbon storage, the protection of biodiversity in forest nature and the improvement of water protection in forest work.
Finland is part of the boreal forest zone, which contains the world’s greatest forest reserves. With forests covering 75 per cent of its land area, Finland is the most forested of the European countries. For the sake of comparison, 45 per cent of Europe’s land area is forest. Finland has more than four hectares of forest per resident.
The state of Finland’s forests has been monitored since the 1920s. We know our forests. Finland has more wood than in a hundred years, and the volume of wood in the forests increases every year. Forestry in Finland does not cause deforestation.
Thanks to sustainable forest management, our forests have grown more than they are used for decades now. And due to this, there has been a 1–7-fold increase of the volume of wood in them over the past hundred years. The annual growth is greater than the annual drain, which is why Finnish forests are a carbon sink.
New generations of trees are planted as soon as possible
It does not pay off to delay the establishment of a new forest. For the efficient storage of carbon, the most important thing is to plant the new generation of trees as soon as possible. Improved forest reproductive material accelerates growth and partly enhances carbon storage as well. The tree species planted and sown in the forests are those that occur naturally in Finland: spruces, pines and birches. This ensures that the living conditions of other natural forest-dwelling species are retained. The particular species is always selected according to the growth location's nutrient content.
Decayed wood promotes biodiversity in commercial forests
In commercial forests, nature is managed in such a way that the living conditions of endangered species are preserved as well as possible. The retention of decayed wood already in the forest during all stages of forest management plays a key role in this,
given that roughly a fourth of Finland’s forest-dwelling species, 4,000–5,000 species, are dependent on decayed wood. Decayed-wood species include many fungi, particularly conks and Piloderma, as well as lichens, mosses and insects, especially beetles. Woodpeckers and tits are examples of birds that usually make their nests by excavating dead stumps. The cavities made by woodpeckers are subsequently used as nests by Tengmalm’s owl (also known as the boreal owl), the common goldeneye and the Siberian flying squirrel as well as the redstart and the European pied flycatcher, among others.
It is important for the survival of such species that forests contain decayed wood of varying ages or, in other words, a continuum of decayed wood. As the decaying process advances, the trees are used as nutrition or shelter by one new species after another. A decaying trunk serves as host to as many as hundreds of different species over time
While some species are happy with dead stumps that are still standing, most species need sturdy decayed wood that has toppled down. This is why both standing and fallen decayed wood is retained and left in the forest during harvesting.
We increase the volume of decayed wood in forests with high stumps and retention trees
Metsä Group has made two high stumps per hectare in all felling operations as of the autumn of 2016, provided that the forest owner has permitted it. As of the beginning of 2020, we have left four high stumps on each hectare.
High stumps are an indication of forest owners’ will to improve the biodiversity of forests. Metsä Group has been leaving high stumps in forests for more than three years. They are made for the diversification of decayed wood and, in growing stocks, for increasing decayed wood.
A high stump is usually made from a pulpwood-sized broad-leaved tree by cutting its trunk at a height of 2–4 metres. A high stump made from a broad-leaved tree that begins to decay in a few years benefits hole nesters, decay fungi and insects. In a regeneration felling, high stumps are left within a group of retention trees.
More than 500,000 high stumps had been made in forests by the beginning of 2020. The making of high stumps is voluntary for forest owners, and in 2019, 80 per cent of forest owners chose to leave high stumps in their forest.
Protective thickets provide animals with shelter
We are leaving brush that offers protection for animals in forests at all stages of forest management. These thickets are about an acre in size, and we are leaving one of them for each beginning three hectares.
Protective thickets composed of different tree species provide good shelter for animals. Places such as ditch banks, stony ground, the edges of stands and clear patches within stands make for good locations for protective thickets.
A protective thicket is created when brush and small trees are left untouched in the clearing preceding a felling. Protective thickets are also left in the management of seedling stands and young forests, and if they are located in the most difficult spots, it also reduces costs.
Improving water conservation in forest work
Waterways and their protection are the third important aspect of the ecological sustainability programme.
Methods related to the protection of waterways are developed continuously. Metsä Group participates in the PuuMaVesi project led by SYKE (the Finnish Environment Institute), which has yielded promising results in the effectiveness of snags in cleaning the runoff of forest drainage.
We are also involved in a project led by Luke (Natural Resources Institute Finland) named “Towards sustainable peatland forestry”. The project produces research-based data for practical operators that enables the improvement of the ecological and commercial sustainability of peatland forests.
We will be updating our instructions on the handling of peatland during 2020 and will train our personnel and contractors accordingly. In practice, the updating of the instructions means a critical evaluation of the need for ditch improvement and recommending continuous cover methods for some types of bogs. The aim is to keep the water surface level stable and to handle peatland forests sensibly, also from the perspective of climate change.
Text: Annamari Heikkinen