Ecological Restoration and Management of Forests
Most of the protected forest areas in Finland are in a natural or near natural state. However, parts of many protected areas have been used for commercial forestry before their protection, and these forests are often homogenous monocultures. Additionally, effective fire prevention has stopped natural forest fires, and natural forest dynamics have been interrupted. Consequently, ecological restoration measures or habitat management are needed in the forests of protected areas.
The objective of habitat restoration is to speed up the recovery of a former commercial forest to a natural state. Restoration creates characteristics of a natural forest that are lacking or absent, such as dead and decaying wood, charred wood, deciduous trees and variation in the forest structure. The goal is to initiate the formation of decaying wood and diversification of the age and species distribution of trees. Habitat restoration also improves the living conditions of rare and threatened species.
Restoration measures include controlled burning and increasing the quantity, quality and continuity of decaying wood. During the past 30 years, Metsähallitus has restored forest habitats with a total area of about 17,000 hectares on Natura 2000 sites and in other protected areas. Ecological management has also been carried out in valuable habitats, including herb-rich forests and sun-lit habitats totalling 5,300 ha so far.
Many of the restoration and management activities have been carried out in a number of LIFE Nature projects since year 1995. At the moment, four LIFE projects targeting the restoration and management of forest habitats are under way (Light & Fire LIFE, Coastnet LIFE, Flying Squirrel LIFE, Beetles LIFE).
The impacts of ecological management and restoration measures are monitored to assess their success. A network of 30 forest monitoring sites around Finland has been set up. The monitored variables include living and dead trees, beetles and polypore species. The monitoring results indicate that while the measures have already had positive impacts on the representativeness of the habitats and populations of several forest species, additional measures will be needed to meet the sites’ conservation objectives.