Ecological sustainability programme

Metsä Group renewed its strategic, group-wide sustainability objectives in the spring of 2019. The objectives, which extend up to 2030, cover all the Group’s operations and are also reflected in the supply chain. Among other things, the sustainability objectives include increasing the carbon sinks of forests and securing the biodiversity of forests. To achieve these objectives, Metsä Group’s Wood Supply and Forest Services have prepared a programme for ecological sustainability. The programme also includes a third key theme: improving the protection of waterways in forestry work. Here we describe how we apply the objectives of our ecological sustainability programme in our daily work in Finnish forests.

We leave rare broadleaved trees in place in our wood supply

As of 1 June 2022, we will only accept pine, spruce and birch, as well as aspen with a diameter of less than 40 centimetres. Sturdy aspen and other broadleaved trees that are rarely found in forests, such as the great sallow, bird cherry, rowan and aspen, will be left in the forest. They are key tree species that support a diverse range of living organisms.

Pine, spruce and birch account for 97 per cent of the volume of Finnish forests. With all the other tree species accounting for the remaining three per cent, it is important to preserve and increase the volume of rare broadleaved trees – for the sake of forest nature and our adaptation to climate change.

Different trees are favoured by different species. For example, the great willow, which flowers early in the spring, is important to pollinators. The trees that are retained form diverse forest stands that remain in place across rotation periods and contribute to the generation of decaying wood in commercial forests. Read more in our release.

A flowering great willow.

Nature management the primary recommendation for herb-rich forests

From 2022, we will review our owner-members’ herb-rich forests and intensify our guidance for their management. We primarily recommend nature management and for the best sites, voluntary conservation for herb-rich forests. The forest owner always decides which method to use.

Recommending nature management means putting an emphasis on management measures that improve biodiversity instead of tree growth in the management of herb-rich forests.

Although herb-rich forests only constitute 1–2 per cent of Finnish forests by area, approximately 45 per cent of threatened species primarily dwell in them. When we recommend nature management for herb-rich forests, we direct management measures to the places where they have the greatest impact on biodiversity. We have started training our personnel so that they can advise our owner-members on the management of herb-rich forests. Read more about herb-rich forests.

A herb-rich forest with many tree species.

High biodiversity stumps add nesting holes and decaying wood to forests 

Since the autumn of 2016, Metsä Group has left two high stumps per hectare on all its harvesting sites, regardless of the harvesting method. At the beginning of 2020, the number of stumps was increased to four per hectare. A high biodiversity stump made of a broadleaved tree begins to decay in a few years, benefiting hole nesters, wood decay organisms and insects.

High biodiversity stumps are not counted as retention trees. They are a forest owner’s voluntary addition to efforts that aim to benefit forest nature. Forest owners have taken a positive view of high biodiversity stumps, and in 2020, as many as 84 per cent of forest owners gave their permission for making high biodiversity stumps in felling.

Retention trees and high biodiversity stumps increase the amount of decaying wood, which is important to many threatened species. Forests should contain both standing and fallen decaying wood of different sizes and stages of decay. It is also important to preserve existing decaying wood in connection with felling and forestry work. High biodiversity stumps help add more decaying wood to young forests, which often have less of it. Read more about high biodiversity stumps. A study we commissioned in 2021 indicates that biodiversity stumps increase the number of species in the forest.

Where possible, high biodiversity stumps are made from broadleaved trees.

We leave protective thickets for animals

In early 2020, we began leaving protective thickets in forests at all forest management stages. A protective thicket is created by leaving brush and small trees uncleared.

These thickets are about an acre in size, and we leave one thicket per every new three-hectare section. Protective thickets composed of different tree species provide good shelter for mammals and birds. Places such as ditch banks, stony ground, the edges of stands, moist depressions and clear patches within stands are good locations for protective thickets.

A protective thicket is created by leaving brush and small trees untouched in the clearing that precedes felling. Protective thickets are also left during young stand management and the management of young forests. If they are located in very difficult spots, they also reduce costs. Read more about protective thickets.

Protective thickets offer protection to birds and mammals.

FSC® nature site service for forest certification

The FSC nature site service for owner-members means that Metsä Group offers valuable nature sites to its owner-members who have joined the FSC group and whose own estates do not include such sites.

FSC forest certification requires that at least five per cent of the surface area of forestland on certified forest estates is permanently excluded from use for forestry. If a forest owner’s estate does not naturally contain five per cent of protection sites, the forest owner can choose whether to protect ordinary forestland, or whether their protected hectares are located on leased land provided by Metsä Group. The service helps focus the protection required by the FSC on the sites most valuable in terms of nature. Read more about our service here.

Licence number of Metsäliitto Cooperative’s FSC group certificate: FSC-C111942

Natural swamps are valuable in terms of biodiversity.

Mixed cultivation the most reliable way to achieve a dense seedling stand

Metsä Group offers a mixed cultivation service for forest regeneration, in which spruce is planted, and pine is either planted or sown after inverting has been carried out in the regeneration area. Studies have shown that spruce and pine can be grown as a single-storey mixed forest. A mixed forest is more sustainable and diverse than a single-species forest. It also grows well.

The method is suitable for blueberry-dominated heath forests, as well as for lingonberry-dominated heath forests in areas suffering from elk damage. It is also a good choice for stands of varying soil fertility, because the method enables the area’s growth potential to be harnessed more effectively. The method is particularly suitable for areas where there is a risk of moose damage, and it also reduces the risk of other damages. Read more about mixed cultivation.

In mixed cultivation, two tree species are used to establish the forest.

Updated guidelines for peatland management

We updated our guidelines for peatland forest management in the spring of 2020. At Metsä Group, we will continue to develop peatland forest management to ensure profitable forestry operations and minimise any damage from operations.

The key goal of peatland forest management is to maintain a stable and appropriate water level. An appropriate water level is important for tree growth and for reduced emissions. Trees are satisfied as long as most of their roots are above the water level. Drainage repair should only be carried out if absolutely necessary.

Continuous cover growth or fertilisation are other good options for peatlands. Restoration may be the best solution for some previously drained sites. Read more about peatland forestry.

Peatland forest management.

We boost our competence

We continuously develop new forest management methods and train our personnel. We have had METSO specialists for more than a decade. We have expanded and trained the network, and it now comprises 27 specialists stationed across the country.

We have updated our guidelines for peatland forest management using the best research-based knowledge. We also participate in the industry’s joint research projects, focusing on developing the sustainable management of peatland forests.

As well as this, we are developing forest management methods to improve carbon sinks and the quality monitoring of our own nature management.
A new project called Tekopöly was launched in the summer of 2021 to determine the species inhabiting high biodiversity stumps and the kind of stumps that are the most beneficial. The project will run for two years (2021–2022).

Metsä Group is actively developing its forest management competence.