More than 20,000 species exist in Finland’s forests, half of the known species in our country. Their presence creates an ecosystem that provides us with many benefits. Wood production, carbon sequestration, opportunities for recreational use and many other ecosystem services are realised more efficiently when forest nature is diverse and healthy. Thus, biodiversity is the basis for all economic activity too.
On what basis will we build new ways to improve forests’ biodiversity?
The structural differences between natural forests and commercial forests and their significance in terms of biodiversity have been actively researched since the 1990s. Based on the analyses, it was found that in order to ensure biodiversity, commercial forests need more elements that are found in natural forests, such as deadwood. Forestry operators started to update their guidelines, biodiversity became a part of forest legislation through the protection of valuable habitats and retention trees that are established as a trademark of forest certification appeared at final felling sites.
UPM’s biodiversity programme was also established at the end of the last century. The main themes identified in the programme, such as tree species composition, deadwood and valuable habitats, have guided our development work in nature management and forest protection solutions. We have actively created new procedures by stakeholder projects focusing on biodiversity, and participated in the development of industry standards. Based on these, we have established guidelines for sustainable forestry, and these guidelines are an integral part of UPM’s everyday operations.
Now we are testing a completely new way to increase biodiversity. This year, we are not just planting trees, we are also planting polypores!
This spring, we will be launching a project together with the Natural Resources Institute Finland and the University of Helsinki, in which threatened wood-inhabiting fungi are transplanted into UPM’s forests. Few projects have methods as concrete as this one. The mycelia of different species will be cultivated in a laboratory and transferred to wooden pegs. Then we take the wooden pegs and a drill, and head for the forest. We drill holes into carefully selected deadwood trunks that are suitable tree species and have the right degree of wood decay, and put the pegs with the mycelia into the holes. The aim is to make the mycelia grow in deadwood trunks and later produce sporocarps, which release spores that start to germinate on new deadwood trunks. The successfulness of the project will be tracked for a number of years by performing DNA analyses and field inventories.
Planted species include Amylocystis lapponica, Antrodia crassa and Haploporus odorus among others. The reason for the decline of these species, as is the case with many species living on deadwood, is the decrease in deadwood volumes in recent decades. The amount and quality of deadwood is the most essential difference between commercial and natural forests that affects forest biodiversity. Approximately a fourth of forest species in Finland live on deadwood, so deadwood is very important for the diversity of species.
Measurements indicate that the amount of deadwood in our forests is increasing. The reason for this is the preservation of deadwood and measures for increasing deadwood, such as retention trees, watercourse buffer zones and the protection of valuable habitats. Increasing the amount of deadwood supports the survival of species that are dependent on deadwood, and improves the biodiversity of forest nature with time. However, natural processes are relatively slow and the diversification of species that structural elements generate will only be visible after a delay. One of the benefits of the transplantation project that we are now initiating is that species can be introduced to the forest nature quickly.
In November 2018, we published our ambitious target to increase biodiversity in company forests in Finland. This target is part of our responsibility targets for 2030, and we are fully committed to it. In order to achieve this target, we need an extensive professional toolkit. Our toolkit includes nature-management measures for wood production sites, the protection of valuable habitats and nature conservation networks for areas with significant conservation values, and new, special solutions aimed at increasing biodiversity, such as the latest wood-inhabiting fungi transplantation project.
We are very excited about this unique project! The reversing of biodiversity trends cannot be achieved by individual operators alone. The collaboration of forest experts is essential to achieve this target.
Photo: Reijo Penttilä