Safeguarding biodiversity is a lot more than just strict protection.
Natural values of Finnish forests have been conserved by the exclusion of large areas of forest from commercial use. In fact, compared with the total forest area, Finland is at the top of European countries as to the area of such conservation areas.
During the 1990s the conservation principles were revised and augmented, and currently more and more attention is paid to the ecological management of commercial forests. The rationale is that the more considerately the commercial forests are treated, the smaller the area which will later have to be placed under strict protection.
This policy has brought results, too. The survey on threatened species in Finland in 2010 found out that the status of forest species has developed in more favourable manner as with species living in other ecosystems. According to the researchers the largest individual reason for this are the retention trees that are left in the forest in connection with regeneration fellings.
Next survey on threatened species in Finland will be published latest in 2020.
Strict protection through designated programmes
Strict forest protection is implemented by means of designated protection programmes. These are based on decisions taken by the Government, setting the boundaries of areas to be protected.
In practice, all such areas have immediately been excluded from commercial use, but they can only be regarded as protected after they have been bought by the Government or they have been formed into a private protection area. According to a schedule adopted by the Government, the acquisition of these areas was to be finalized by the end of 2009, but that turned out to be impossible.
The next target was is in the end of 2014. However, according to estimates there were some 6,000 hectares of these land areas not to be acquired in the end of 2015. In the beginning of 2013 there was still some 10,000 hectares unfinalized.
In Finland, the areas under strict protection are often situated in peripheral areas and forests of low productivity in northern and eastern parts of the country. The greatest deficiencies in protection are found in Southern Finland. Nevertheless, the share of strict protection in southern Finland is above the average of most other European countries.
Voluntary protection with the Metso Programme
The natural values of commercial forests in Finland are protected in several ways. As an example, the Forest Act defines a range of habitats of special importance.
These are often small in size, the deterioration of their characteristics through forestry measures is prohibited by the Act. In practice this means that they must be excluded from forestry measures. The vicinity of springs and other small-scale waterways in forests, for example, are spared from felling.
The recommendations for good forest management, drawn up by Tapio, direct an even stricter protection of natural values than that required by law.
In 2014, continuation of the Forest Biodiversity Action Programme Metso until 2025 was adopted. Its aim is to improve the biodiversity in southwestern Lapland, in northeastern Kainuu region and in the areas south of them. The programme is based on voluntary conservation methods.
Almost all Finnish forests are certified
Close to 90 % of Finnish commercial forests have been certified under the PEFC certification system (Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification). Certification criteria are much strickter than decrees or legislation, which means that in practise, certification determines the standard of silviculture in Finland.
Also forest certification improves the status of forest biodiversity in many ways. It is forest certification that demands to leave a certain amount of retention trees unfelled in connection with regeneration felling.
Certification is voluntary for the forest owner. Some Finnish forests have also been certified under another international system, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The area of these forests is arounf six percent of the area of commercial forests.
Sources: Finnish Forest Research Institute, Ministry for Agriculture and Forestry, Ministry for Environment, PEFC Finland, FSC Finland.
Updated on the 14th of January, 2016.