"The single most important aspect affecting biodiversity is the volume of decaying wood. The goal is to leave high biodiversity stumps in place on 90% of our thinning and regeneration harvesting sites, as well as retention trees on all our regeneration harvesting sites,” says Vesa Junnikkala, Director of Sustainability at Metsä Forest.
Combating biodiversity loss
“Forest use obviously has an impact on biodiversity, but we strive to minimise any negative impacts and enhance positive impacts. Retention trees and high biodiversity stumps introduce decaying wood of various types and ages into forests,” says Silja Pitkänen-Arte, Sustainability Manager at Metsä Forest.
High biodiversity stumps are voluntary for forest owners. Since they do not have a significant economic impact, many forest owners choose to leave them in the forest.
In turn, retention trees are required in forest certification schemes.
“The share of certified forests is high in Finland, and last year, around 88% of the wood we use is certified. Certification sets minimum requirements, but in our case, the volume of retention trees, for example, exceeds the requirements set in PEFC. We have decided to leave sturdy aspen and other rare broadleaved trees in forests,” Junnikkala explains.
Various ways of promoting biodiversity
“We aim to renew forests as soon as possible after harvesting to ensure that the trees begin to grow quickly and bind carbon in the process. Protective thickets are left for animals on the edges of forest and alongside groups of retention trees,” says Pitkänen-Arte.
Peatland-related training is organised for our personnel in the field.
“Research indicates that continuous cover forestry is a good solution from the climate and waterways perspective. Through their competence, our employees can have a long-term impact on the actions and thinking of forest owners. Together we carefully assess the need for drainage repair and consider whether continuous cover forestry would be a suitable approach,” says Pitkänen-Arte.
Many of our threatened species live in forests. Various measures aim to increase welfare of these species.
“It is extremely important that our forest specialists identify the forests of greatest importance in terms of biodiversity, such as herb-rich forests and mature forests. Herb-rich forests are quite rare in Finland, and they have previously been used for agriculture,” says Pitkänen-Arte.
Our primary recommendation for herb-rich forests in the commercial forests of our owner-members is nature management and, for the best sites, voluntary conservation. Recommending nature management means putting an emphasis on management measures that improve biodiversity instead of tree growth.
Climate change will also challenge biodiversity in the future
“We prepare for climate change by planting more mixed forests and broad-leaved trees. So far, we have been spared from major problems caused by climate change, such as the extensive forest damage experienced in southern Sweden and Central Europe. There have not been any large forest fires in Finland either,” says Junnikkala.
“However, due to extreme weather phenomena, forest fires may become increasingly common here too, even though we have waterways close by and a good road network in view of fire-fighting. Large forest fires destroy biodiversity or cause changes in it across the entire area affected.”
“Forest management is long-term by nature. By engaging in good forest management, we help forest owners maintain their forests so that they can serve as vital and diverse carbon sinks,” says Pitkänen-Arte.
Metsä Group’s strategic sustainable development goals for 2030 create a path towards a sustainable climate-neutral future. In this series of articles, we will introduce our targets in greater detail and describe how we promote them in our daily work.