Forest biodiversity, WWF Finland, controlled burning

Forest biodiversity increased with controlled burnings

WWF Finland and Metsä Group ensure in cooperation the biodiversity of forests by for example controlled burning of forests. Various kinds of fungi and an already robustly growing new generation of trees have found their way into the areas, that underwent controlled burnings four years ago.


The sunny autumn morning in Rovaniemi in the Finnish Lapland makes Panu Kunttu, WWF Finland's forest expert, Jussi Ripatti, Metsä Group's environmental director, and Jouko Sarajärvi, Metsä Forest's operational supervisor of wood supply, eager to venture into the forest. Opening up in front of them is a group of retention trees burnt four years ago, now containing both standing dead, charred trees and decayed, fallen wood.

"We've tried to ensure continuity in the burn blocks by performing a number of controlled burnings in the same area. The idea is to get more burnt wood in the area and thereby ensure the retention of habitats for species dependent on burnt wood," says Ripatti.

Controlled burnings in Finland are already performed in accordance with PEFC™ and FSC® criteria, and Metsä Group has performed several controlled burnings in Rovaniemi in recent years. Metsä Group's FSC licence code is FSC-C014476. 

Forest home to different species at different stages

Kunttu, Ripatti and Sarajärvi are taking a look around.
"The last time we came here together was a year after the controlled burning. At the time, we didn't find that many species."

Today, though, they expect to find a lot more of them.
"Different species favour different degrees of humidity, for example, so a standing charred tree will become home to different species from those inhabiting a tree decaying on the ground," says Panu Kunttu, whose recent doctoral thesis focused on decayed wood fungi. He  sayst that the significance of burnt groups of retention trees to fungi does not materialise until after a decade. But Kunttu reminds us that a forest is home to different species at different stages of its life.


WWF Finland's forest expert Panu Kunttu doing what researchers do: researching and collecting samples. In the middle is Stereum sanguinolentum with blood-red knife cuts.




Clearly enthusiastic about his work, the researcher determinedly charts the species of fungi that have found their way into the burnt area. His tools include a knife, sample cases and a log lifting hook. Although Kunttu identifies some species on the spot, more than 50 samples will be sent to a lab for closer inspection.
"This Stereum sanguinolentum, for example, is one of the first species to appear on decaying wood," says Kunttu, pointing out a fungus and demonstrating how a blood-red vein appears on its surface when he cuts it with his knife.
"And this is a very common fungus species on softwood," he adds when moving towards the next fallen, decayed piece of wood, from which he carves a sample.

Forests regenerate naturally

Meanwhile, Sarajärvi and Ripatti are examining the situation from the perspective of the forest's regeneration and growth. The burnt area's new generation of trees is already growing robustly. "These two- and three-year-old seedlings are a good example of how forests regenerate naturally. In a matter of four years, both spruce and pine, as well as a number of hardwood species, have started to grow in the burnt area," says Sarajärvi, who is in charge of managing the forests of Metsä Group's contract customers in the Rovaniemi region.

In addition to natural regeneration, pine and spruce seedlings are planted in conjunction with regeneration fellings.
"We plant approximately four new seedlings for each felled tree. Last year, we delivered more than 30 million tree seedlings to Finnish forest owners," adds Ripatti.

WWF Finland's Kunttu and Metsä Group's Ripatti will visit and survey several burnt areas, and Kunttu identified 11 species of fungi. Determining the species of the collected samples will be completed towards the end of the year.
"The species that have arrived in the area over the past four years meet my expectations pretty well. The fungi I identified in the terrain represented very typical species of fungi. Let's wait and see whether the results we'll get from the laboratory will yield some species that we don't get to see every day," says Kunttu.


Various cooperation with WWF Finland

In addition to controlled burnings and the related species monitoring, Metsä Group and WWF Finland have organised forest biodiversity training on themes such as herb-rich forests and sunlit slopes since 2011. To ensure biodiversity of forest nature in addition to controlled burnings, Metsä Group leaves retention trees and decayed wood in the forest in every regeneration felling. Also, with the consent of the forest owner, Metsä Group leaves two high stumps that are several metres tall in every hectare subject to intermediate and regeneration felling. As they gradually decay, these high stumps provide a home to many different species, from fungi to birds of various sizes. 


Panu Kunttu, WWF Finland's forest expert, Jussi Ripatti, Metsä Group's environmental director, and Jouko Sarajärvi, Metsä Forest's operational supervisor of wood supply eagerly examining a burnt tree.

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