In the new scenario review by the Natural Resources Institute Finland, the amount of both decaying stemwood and retention trees will considerably increase over the next few decades. The volume of broad-leaved tree stock will also see favourable development. The positive development of the structural features essential for biodiversity requires active measures as part of day-to-day forestry. In order to gain as comprehensive a picture as possible of the change trends of forest ecosystems, the tracking and collection of data must be constantly developed.

Research focused on the preparation of a biodiversity roadmap for the wood processing industry is on the home stretch. As part of the research, the Finnish Forest Industries Federation and the Finnish Sawmills Association commissioned the Natural Resources Institute Finland to simulate the development of structural features essential for forest biodiversity. The scenarios depicting the state of forest ecosystems span until 2055.

- The results reinforce our understanding that it is possible to produce timber and promote forest biodiversity at the same time. It is extremely motivating to see that great things can be achieved through market-based activities and that the biodiversity efforts of the forest sector yield results, says Karoliina Niemi, Director, Forest Affairs at the Finnish Forest Industries Federation.

According to the scenarios, the amount of decaying stemwood, a feature vitally important for biodiversity, continues to rise. Moreover, the number of retention trees left behind from felling will increase due to the PEFC and FSC forestry standards entering into force this year. As a result, the total number of retention trees in forests will increase by up to 50% by 2055. The number of broad-leaved trees, a feature important in adapting to climate change, will also increase as part of active forestry.

- The scenarios show that new forestry standards enable us to further increase the amount of decaying stemwood. However, the changes in our forests happen slowly, says Hannu Salminen, Principal Scientist at the Natural Resources Institute Finland.

- There are various types of decaying wood. Decaying wood plays various roles in biodiversity, depending on its species, degree of decay and size. The related diversity index of decaying wood sees positive development in the scenarios, says Salminen.

In addition to decaying stemwood, a considerable amount of decaying branch and crown biomass as well as stumps and roots are left behind in the forests. As a result of this, the decaying wood stock of commercial forests should be examined as a whole from the perspective of the species dependent on it.

Forest health and biodiversity go hand in hand

The scenario reviews of the Natural Resources Institute Finland were presented today in an expert webinar organised by the Finnish Forest Industries Federation and the Finnish Sawmills Association. Markus Melin, Research Manager at Natural Resources Institute Finland, also held a presentation on the importance of biodiversity in adapting to the climate of the future.

Melin emphasises that ongoing climate change will increase the risk of forest damage but that the realisation of the risk depends on the characteristics of the forests.

- Biodiverse forests with a wide range of tree species are better able to handle the challenges they face. The ability to adapt to changing circumstances is absolutely essential, he says.

Members of Parliament Saara-Sofia Siren (NCP) and Piritta Rantanen (SDP) spoke at the webinar. Sustainability Manager Janne Yrjönen from Stora Enso also demonstrated what biodiversity efforts in forests mean in practice.

Biodiversity roadmap for the wood processing industry to be completed in the autumn

The Finnish Forest Industries Federation and the Finnish Sawmills Association, together with the Natural Resources Institute Finland, the University of Eastern Finland, Metsäteho Oy, the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute and Tapio Palvelut Oy, started a research project in November 2022 to determine the short- and long-term effects of the forest sector’s biodiversity work. The data collected in the project will be used in the sector’s biodiversity roadmap to be released in September 2023.

- We are passionate about promoting biodiversity. The roadmap will provide development tools based on scientific data for the wood processing industry, says Anniina Kostilainen, Manager of Public Affairs at the Finnish Sawmills Association.

In addition to members of the Finnish Forest Industries Federation and the Finnish Sawmills Association, the research project has been funded by the Union of Industries and Employers Foundation, the Marjatta ja Eino Kollin Säätiö Foundation and the Puumiesten ammattikasvatussäätiö foundation.