LIFE needs fire – experts from 8 countries searched for tools to enhance the use of prescribed burnings in Natura 2000 area management
In recent years ecological research has lifted up the importance of the use of fire in ecological restoration and habitat management in boreal forests. However, natural fires are nowadays practically absent from forests and the controlled use of fire as a tool to improve quality of N2000 areas has not increased as wished. An international workshop was arranged in Lammi, Finland to enhance the use of prescribed fire in restoration of Natura 2000 areas.
The workshop showed that current practices and public opinion with respect to use of fire differ significantly between European countries. Fire has been a common tool for forestry in Sweden and Finland for centuries. Because of the long tradition, the use of prescribed fire in conservation area management is well-understood and accepted by the public. In contrast, legislation and negative public opinion limit the use of fire in e.g. the Baltic countries and Poland.
The workshop showed clearly that fire is needed to maintain the diversity in boreal forests. Good examples from Sweden and Finland show that prescribed use of fire e.g. in forest restoration is a safe and efficient way to mimic natural fires that are currently absent from boreal forests. In addition to maintaining valuable species and habitats, the use of prescribed fire benefits also people e.g. by providing possibilities to train for fighting uncontrolled fires.
The workshop was organized by two LIFE+ projects: LIGHT & FIRE LIFE and LIFE Taiga which aim at improving the state of boreal forests by prescribed use of fire in Natura 2000 areas.
Light & Fire LIFE Project 2014–2020
Light & Fire LIFE Project aims to protect the biodiversity of coastal meadows, dunes, eskers, heaths and other light and fire environments. The methods include environmental management-related burning, clearing of trees, the translocation of endangered species and removal of alien species. For the first time in Finland, a single project will take care of land owned by the state as well as by private landowners and companies.
The Light & Fire LIFE project will carry out work in 69 Natura 2000 areas all over Finland to benefit habitats created through heat or fire and the species which make their home in such environments. Fire will once again spread through these areas, though in a controlled manner, to protect the environment's endangered and dwindling species, such as Pulsatilla patens and Thymus serpyllum. These species will also be reintroduced to favourable growth sites. Bushes, trees, lake reeds and alien species such as Rosa rugosa on the other hand, shall be removed in order to return the original level of heat and light.
Environmental education is also an important goal for the project. Camps for children, young people and adults will be organised in the archipelago and along the coast, and a restoration path will be maintained and extended in the Komio area of Häme. Project sites will also be imaged using technology, allowing us to travel through time and see how nature thrives as a result of environmental management.
The Light & Fire project is one of the LIFE Nature projects financed by the European Union. Half of the project's EUR 4.06 million budget is received from the EU. The project is coordinated by Metsähallitus and project partners include HAMK University of Applied Sciences, the North Savo Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment, The Finnish Forest Centre, UPM and WWF Finland. The project was launched on 1 August 2014 and will continue until 31 July 2020.
Learn more about the areas covered by Light & Fire LIFE (PDF, 2314 kB)
Achievements in 2014–2016 and objectives for 2017
- Summary of all restoration measures (pdf, 79 kb)
- Restoration by controlled burning (pdf, 61 kb)
- Restoration of sunlit habitats (pdf, 59 kb)
- Tree removal (pdf, 58 kb)
- Restoration of Baltic sandy beaches (pdf, 53 kb)
- Habitat restoration and translocation of Pulsatilla patens (pdf, 64 kb)
- Restoration camps for volunteers (pdf, 53 kb)
International co-operation to exchange knowledge
Co-operation and exchange of knowledge is crucial in developing cost efficient restoration methods. Experts from Light&Fire LIFE visited Swedish LIFE Taiga Project (www.lifetaiga.se) to learn their experiences of restoration burnings in March 2016.
The close co-operation continued as the projects organized a joint workshop to develop use of fire in restoration of Natura 2000 areas. The event brought together experts from 8 European countries in April 2017 (see above).
What are light and fire environments?
The flora and fauna in light and fire environments have adapted to dryness, high levels of radiation from the sun, high temperatures and sharp fluctuations in temperature, as well as sparse sources of food.
Previously, light and fire environments were primarily created as a result of forest fires. Nowadays forest fires are dealt with very efficiently, meaning that light and fire environments are not created naturally, and those that are quickly succumb to overgrowth. Several demanding species of plants and insects which suffer in other environments thrive in light and fire environments. Only some light and fire environments which are home to valuable species are protected.
Further information on the Light & Fire LIFE project is available from:
Project Manager Tuomas Haapalehto, tel. +358 206 39 5062, tuomas.haapalehto (at) metsa.fi