Metsähallitus manages state-owned commercial forests as multiple-use forests, in which various goals are implemented and coordinated. Multiple-use forests are certified under the PEFC certification scheme. The certification is based on operating methods agreed in national and international cooperation, and regular supervision by an independent external party. Certification proves that wood has been procured from sustainably managed forests. Metsähallitus’ PEFC forest certification, PEFC-monitoring and the ISO 14001 environmental management system are audited by Inspecta Certification.
90 per cent of state-owned multiple-use forests are located in eastern and northern Finland. Thanks to successful forest management, the volume of growing stock in multiple-use forests has increased by more than 50 million cubic metres in 10 years, and now amounts to 308 million cubic metres.
In addition to the forest industry, multiple-use forests are important for the promotion of biodiversity, recreation, reindeer husbandry, the Sámi culture, and employment. In 2016, Metsähallitus invested EUR 56 million in preserving and promoting these important social functions.
Provisions on Metsähallitus’ general social obligations are laid down in the Act on Metsähallitus (234/2016). Accordingly, Metsähallitus must pay sufficient attention to the conservation of biodiversity and its enhancement in the appropriate manner, alongside other objectives specified for the management, use and protection of forests, the marine environment and other natural resources. Metsähallitus must also take account of requirements related to the recreational use of the natural environment, and the promotion of employment.
In addition, the management, use and protection of the natural resources managed by Metsähallitus must be coordinated in the Sámi Homeland, as referred to in the Act on the Sámi Parliament (974/1995), in such a way that the preconditions for the Sámi culture are safeguarded, and in the reindeer herding area referred to in the Reindeer Husbandry Act so that the obligations set out in the Reindeer Husbandry Act are met.
Qualitative indicators are used to describe the benefits of Metsähallitus’ general social obligations. In reporting, the development of structural features critical to biodiversity, including the quantities of decaying wood and mature aspen trees, as well as recreational use, are monitored.
The quantity of dead wood, or decaying wood, is an important structural feature of forests in terms of protecting biodiversity. Approximately one quarter of Finnish forest species, some 4,000 species, are directly or indirectly dependent on decaying wood.
Metsähallitus Forestry’s multiple-use of forests is restricted, in terms of its ability to generate biodiversity benefits, because most of the land in question is situated in northern Finland, such land is more nutrient-poor than average and the most biologically diverse sites are already included in protected areas. The most ecologically significant sites in multiple-use forests, such as herb-rich forests and spruce mires, are excluded from forestry or managed with care, preserving the natural values of the site. These sites contain more dead wood than standard multiple-use forests and the trend is favourable towards species that require dead wood.
In addition, retention trees are left at logging sites. Most of these are living trees, which become dead wood naturally, over time. Naturally dead trees, which are still standing before logging, are also valuable as retention trees.
Aspen trees play a key role in protecting forest biodiversity. They provide a habitat for several vulnerable insects, fungi, mosses and lichens.
Aspen is relatively numerous in ecologically important sites in multiple-use forests. One of the reasons for aspen being less common in ordinary multiple-use forests lies in the fact that state-owned lands are located in areas that are more nutrient-poor than average. In Lapland, aspen is found in the diversity sites of multiple-use forests in particular.
In addition to protected and recreational hiking areas, multiple-use forests provide diverse benefits for recreational use. These benefits were assessed on the basis of the usage surveys, conducted in 2014-2015, relating to the road network in multiple-use forests. For example, the multiple-use forests in Kainuu attracted 500,000 visits in one year. This means that, on average, one person visited for each hectare of multiple-use forests in the region of Kainuu.
Recreational use accounts for 85 per cent of the use of the road network built for forestry use. The road network provides access to multiple-use forests and facilitates their diverse recreational use, including hunting, berry picking, fishing and outdoor activities with dogs. Improved physical fitness is the most significant of the impacts on health and well-being, but enhanced mental and social well-being is also important. The interviewees estimated that the boost to their well-being was worth 200 euros per visit to multiple-use forests.
In 2016, six million cubic metres of timber were sold from state-owned multiple-use forests. Timber was harvested from an area accounting for 2.5 per cent of multiple-use forests. Intermediate felling, which leaves shelterwood as forest cover, accounted for over 58 per cent of all felling. The proportion increased by five per cent from the previous year.
Metsähallitus’ Environmental Guidelines for Practical Forest Management lay down clear environmental requirements for forestry operators and for continuous improvement. Annual monitoring is conducted to assess the implementation of these requirements.
Timber harvesting is monitored with regard to the extent to which the characteristics and species occurrences of valuable habitats remain unchanged during regeneration felling. In 2016, this was highly successful and the characteristics of valuable habitats were completely or almost completely preserved on 98.6 per cent of their total area on regeneration sites (in 2015: 95%).
Retention trees are important for many species dependent on decaying wood. According to monitoring results, an average of 11.7 valuable retention trees, compliant with the target level specified in Metsähallitus’ Environmental Guidelines for Practical Forest Management, were left on each hectare managed through regeneration felling in 2016. The number of retention trees compliant with the requirements of forest certification, 21 trees per hectare, clearly exceeded the requirements specifying 10 trees per hectare.
Special felling techniques were applied on sites that are valuable in terms of biodiversity, recreation or scenery, in order to preserve forest cover and scenic views. Special felling operations accounted for 6.4 per cent of all felling (in 2015: 6%).
Photo: Jari Salonen