Biodiversity actions of forest owners

Forest owners help safeguard the biodiversity of Finnish forests through their daily forest management work. This page contains information about methods currently in use and tips on ways to do even more for the living conditions of forest species. You will also find information about Metsä Group’s sustainable forest management services.

You have helped keep Finland forested

Finnish forest owners have helped keep Finland the most forested country in Europe. Around 75 per cent of the country’s land area is covered by forest. 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.

Finnish forests have been in active use for centuries. They have never been destroyed, because they offer numerous benefits to Finns. Our forests have been a rich source of wood, tar, game, berries, mushrooms and plant dyes, for example. They have also been important for mental and physical refreshment.

Forests play a varied role in the Finnish economy, culture, history and daily life. Every Finn has a personal relationship with the forest, regardless of whether they own a forest.

Let’s keep the forests as forests.

Forests cover most of Finland’s land area.

You renew forests with endemic forest species

After felling, you ensure that a new forest is established in the same place. You plant and sow forest species that occur naturally in Finland: spruce, pine and birch. This ensures that the living conditions of other natural forest-dwelling species are retained. You choose the species based on the growth location’s nutrient content and not on the trends in wood trade, for example.

It does not pay off to delay the establishment of a new forest. Get your new forest growing as soon as possible to give it a head start against ground vegetation competing for the same growth space and nutrients. Rapid renewal benefits both forest yield and the climate by keeping the phase during which no wood is produced and carbon sequestered as short as possible.

What else can I do?

  • Does your forest include an area where you could test continuous cover forestry? The method is most suitable for areas with enough vibrant underwood.
  • Continuous cover forestry can be a good option for peatland. With evaporating trees in place at all times, the need for drainage repair is considerably smaller – in some cases, it can be forgone completely.
Domestic tree species are used in forest regeneration.

You grow mixed forests in suitable locations

Finnish forest management now favours mixed forests whenever they are suitable for the growth location. This was not always the case. In the past, broadleaved trees were cut down far too readily in our forests. Research shows that the presence of birches helps coniferous trees grow better. The leaf litter from birches alters the soil and makes nutrients more accessible to trees. Birch trees also help the air change in old spruce forests in particular.

Read more about mixed cultivation.

What else can I do?

  • You can ensure the presence of broadleaved trees in your forests at all stages of forest management.
  • Extreme tidiness is no good – even experts say the only reason to clean the cupboard for Christmas is if you plan to celebrate Christmas there. In other words, don’t go blunting your saw in stony ground but leave the area as a protective thicket instead. This will benefit all forest animals and birds.
Forest management favours mixed forests

You preserve valuable habitats

As a forest owner, you preserve valuable habitats in connection with forestry, often without compensation. Valuable habitats are small and fairly rare, and they stand out from the surrounding forest. Valuable habitats may be richer or poorer in nutrients, and have more or less light or water than the surrounding forest.

Nine per cent of Finnish forest species are endangered. Most endangered forest-dwelling species live in valuable habitats such as herb-rich forests and sunlit slopes.

What else can I do?

  • You can preserve a larger nature site in connection with a valuable habitat.
  • You can leave shrubs and favour broadleaved trees along the edges of fields and plots.
The characteristics of valuable nature sites are preserved in forestry.

You leave buffer zones along waterways

Buffer zones are left along waterways to prevent nutrient runoff into them. The widths of the zones and the activities permitted on them are defined in forest certification. Soil preparation is not permitted in buffer zones, and the use of machines on them must be avoided. You are usually permitted to remove individual trees from the zone. Forest owners are not compensated for leaving buffer zones.

What else can I do?

  • Exclude buffer zones from all forestry work.

  • Leave wider buffer zones in place.

  • Put up nest boxes on trees along the shores.

Buffer zones are left around natural waterways.

You leave retention trees in regeneration areas

Retention trees have two main purposes: they ensure that forests are populated by trees of different ages and that they decay before long. Decaying wood is important to many forest species. As a forest owner, you do not receive separate compensation for leaving retention trees in place.

Retention trees are best placed in groups and next to a valuable habitat if possible. The practice of retention trees emerged in the 1990s. At first, they were left here and there in felled areas, but now we know that retention trees are most useful in groups. They stay better upright in groups, and a micro-climate that differs from the surrounding regeneration area is created inside the group of trees. Broadleaved trees – such as birch, aspen and alder – are the most valuable retention trees.

What else can I do?

  • Leave more retention trees.
  • Leave more robust retention trees.
  • Map the location of future retention trees when you plan thinning – or even during young stand management. It is difficult to leave broadleaved trees as retention trees in regeneration felling if all of them have been cut down at earlier stages.
  • Enter a note of the location of your future retention trees in Metsäverkko as a reminder for yourself.
Retention trees are left in regeneration areas.

You retain dead and decaying trees in forest management

Dead and decaying trees help maintain the biodiversity of forests, because so many forest species depend on them. Because dead and weak trees fall down easily, the scarce standing dead trees are particularly valuable. Fallen decaying trees must also be retained in forestry. During harvesting, Metsä Group leaves decaying and standing dead trees in the forest. Areas ravaged by storm and snow are another matter.

In connection with wood trade, we always ask the forest owner whether high biodiversity stumps can be left in place. They benefit hole nesters, for example. If allowed by the forest owner, we leave four per hectare.

What else can I do?

  • Do not remove scattered trees brought down by the wind from the forest. They are good for wood decay organisms.
  • Leave high biodiversity stumps in place whenever a forest is felled. They benefit wood decay organisms and hole nesters such as willow tits.
Decaying trees are retained in forestry.

You retain the nesting trees of large birds of prey

The nesting trees of large birds of prey such as the eagle, white-tailed eagle, greater spotted eagle, lesser spotted eagle and osprey are protected. Since large birds of prey are sensitive to disturbances during nesting, we do not carry out felling operations or other forest work in the vicinity of a nest during the nesting season.

An abandoned and clearly damaged nesting tree is also protected even if you can operate normally in its vicinity. Remember to point out any nesting tree of birds of prey when forest management work is being planned – trees whose location is known are more likely to be left in place.

All birds of prey are protected. The numbers of hawks (Accipitridae) nesting in forests have declined continuously. Their nests are lost in felling operations if their location remains unknown. Data on the locations of hawks’ nests were therefore distributed to forest owners in the Metsää online service in a collaboration of the Finnish Forest Centre and Luomus, the Finnish Museum of Natural History, in April 2019.

What else can I do?

  • Provide nest boxes for owls and hawks in the forest. The birds also catch moles on the parcel.
  • If you know of a nest or nest box in your forest that is inhabited year after year by an owl or hawk, for example, let Metsä Group’s expert know so that the nest can be protected during forestry work.
The nesting trees of large birds of prey are protected.

You provide nest boxes in your forest

Forest owners put up nest boxes in the forest. They also feed birds in the winter, and some of them also provide food for game. Putting up a nest box always requires permission from the land owner. Metsä Group has made and distributed tens of thousands of nest boxes to forest owners for free on the condition that they are actually put up in the forest. Metsä Group has its own lathe for nest boxes in Central Finland.

What else can I do?

  • Make more nest boxes. Service the boxes regularly.
  • Indicate the location of nest boxes to your forest specialist and mark them in the information on stands in the Metsäverkko service. This is the best way to ensure they are left in place during felling. You can also remove nest boxes of small birds from the felling area well before the nesting season and harvesting.
Metsä Group has its own lathe for nest boxes.

You save occurrences of protected species

Forest owners save occurrences of protected species, as well as the bed and breeding grounds of the flying squirrel, during felling operations. The protection of animal and plant species is very important to the safeguarding of biodiversity. The Nature Conservation Act specifies species such as the slipper orchid and flying squirrel whose habitats may never be impaired.

What else can I do?

  • Leave an even larger buffer zone around the occurrence.
It is prohibited to damage the slipper orchid’s habitat.

You leave high biodiversity stumps for hole nesters

High biodiversity stumps were made in 84 per cent of Metsä Group’s wood trades in 2021. High biodiversity stumps are made by cutting a tree’s trunk at a height of 2–4 metres. A high biodiversity stump made from a broadleaved tree that begins to decay in a few years benefits many forest bird species, wood decay organisms and insects.

The topic is discussed in connection with wood trade – and the decision is always made by the forest owner. High biodiversity stumps are a forest owner’s voluntary contribution to efforts benefiting forest nature.

Broadleaved trees are favoured when selecting candidates for high stumps. In commercial forests, high biodiversity stumps are mainly made of pulpwood-sized trees. In regeneration felling, sturdy aspens and poor-grade white birches are also good alternatives. 

High biodiversity stumps increase the amount of standing decaying wood in the forest.