The Syväsalo estate in Masku is a traditional grain farm in Southwest Finland, which was transferred to the present owner, Lauri Syväsalo, in 2005. The urban landscape isn’t far away: the church tower of the neighbouring town of Naantali is dimly visible on the horizon.

The farm has a total area of around 200 hectares. Fields account for nearly a third of it, and forests cover approximately 130 hectares. The forests are divided into two areas located around the original estate and the first parcel purchased in the 1960s. The share of forestland has been systematically increased since the 1960s and 1970s. Large continuous forest areas offer advantages in the form of combined felling operations.

“In recent years, the parcels have been smaller, and it has been impossible to get deals as good as in the past. Prices have risen too much,” Syväsalo admits.

Small-scale final cutting for the estate’s needs

Over the decades, forests have been an important financial cornerstone for the Syväsalo estate. Income from wood trade has been used for agricultural investments and to purchase more fields or forest.

The Syväsalo estate has signed a forest asset management agreement with Metsä Group, with Mikko Kaamanen from the Turku district office as the estate’s trusted forest specialist. Forests are used in accordance with the estate’s forest plan and based on the estate’s needs.

While the focus has been on thinning, final cutting of two to three hectares has also been carried out several times in recent years. The stands had reached an age where there were too many standing dead trees. The fate of one of the stands was sealed a couple years ago, when a new bark beetle species, a pine tree pest, was found there.

“We’ve followed the traditional periodic cover forestry. Around here, forestland is pretty rocky, trees grow slowly, and the forest rotation periods are really long, which is why we also opt for natural regeneration, thinning from above and continuous cover forestry. This also helps us meet some of the requirements of the FSC certificate,” says Syväsalo.

Lauri Syväsalo and Mikko Kaamanen
Lauri Syväsalo (left) favours a mix of spruce and pine, which reduces the risk of pests. Mikko Kaamasen says that a healthy and strong forest is more resistant to threats. 

Mixed forests offer protection against pests

Syväsalo says he mainly does preliminary clearing, removes storm-damaged trees, plants trees and does young stand management within reason.

“In the forest, you can earn a decent daily income by planting trees or using a clearing saw, but not by handling a chainsaw. It is a source of recreation and physical work, and you also get to see the concrete results of your work.”

Syväsalo describes his land as traditional commercial forest, without any special natural sites. However, there is a small bog area and a few oak trees that have been intentionally saved among the pine, birch and spruce trees. A few common hazels can also be found in the forest

According to Syväsalo, forest management methods have become softer and more diverse over the years. More attention is also paid to various aspects of nature. Young stands increasingly feature a mix of spruce and pine, which reduces the risk of pests.

More undergrowth is preserved now during thinning than in the past, and this is expected to lead to fewer windthrows. The forest is also livelier in terms of its fauna, but admittedly, the region’s abundant deer population occasionally causes considerable damage to young stands.

“A healthy and strong forest is more resistant to threats. Correctly timed forest management work is the best way to guarantee this,” says Kaamanen.

Financial and nature values work side by side

In recent forest discussions, financial values have often been pitted against nature values, but in these forests, both work harmoniously side by side, as the FSC certificate recently awarded to the Syväsalo estate demonstrates.

Recommended by environmental organisations, FSC certification means a higher wood price for forest owners, but it also comes with additional requirements. As Kaamanen explains, at least five per cent of the forest area must be excluded from forestry use, sturdy retention trees and decaying wood must be left in the forest, and buffer zones around waterbodies must be kept wooded. “On valuable bird sites, felling must be avoided in the summer, and the habitats of endangered forest species must be safeguarded.”

“I must admit I used to be more money-oriented in this respect and gave more thought to euros than to nature values,” Syväsalo chuckles. The requirement to protect at least five per cent was relatively easy to fulfil. On the Syväsalo estate, poorly growing rocky pine forests that are difficult to renew were allocated to this purpose. “Now they can be populated by crested tits, and income will instead be obtained from better growing stands,” says Syväsalo.

Logo license of Metsäliitto Cooperative's FSC group certification: FSC-C111942

This article was originally published in issue 2/2022 of Metsä Group’s Viesti magazine.
Text: Timo Sormunen
Photos: Timo Jakonen