Transformation is underway. Climate change has been recognised as a reality, and also the risks related to the loss of biodiversity are now understood. Our understanding of these phenomena improves as we accumulate more knowledge about them through research and experience. At the same time, various industries are analysing how their operations affect biodiversity.

Almost all human actions have some kind of a connection to nature. As forest industry and wood processing are businesses directly based on the use of natural resources, their link to biodiversity is immediate and easy to understand. Therefore, it is no wonder that our domestic discussion around the nature crisis often becomes a discussion about forest industry, which is the most significant type of land use in Finland.

Fortunately, the Finnish forest industry is not starting from square one in 2023. The nature management of commercial forests has been a part of day-to-day operations in forestry since the 1990s. The most recent example of this are the biodiversity roadmap projects launched by interest groups. At the same time, companies in the forest industry are working to promote increasingly ambitious biodiversity goals and programmes. Their actions are linked to international and national target levels.

These days, various industries are interested in understanding the environmental impact of their operations, and the forest industry is no exception. This will allow them to develop practices that are environmentally sustainable, which in turn will safeguard the economic operating conditions provided by biodiversity in the long run. In matters like these, decision-making must be based on research, not hasty guesses.

How are these strongly communicated intents reflected in the forests where wood production takes place? Nature management is done through the planning and implementation of forestry measures. The individuals responsible for it include wood buyers, forest planners, harvester operators and loggers and, of course, forest owners themselves. Nature management practices are based on legislation, forest certification and recommendations regarding forest management. Guidelines have been updated several times over the years based on new research and knowledge obtained through experience.

However, nature management of commercial forests is not just about meeting the set criteria. The different operators within the forest industry have their own practices that exceed the basic requirements, and they all aim to make a positive impact on biodiversity. The themes are linked to the structural features essential for forest biodiversity, such as increasing the amount of decaying wood and mixed forests, as well as to the management and restoration of special locations in terms of nature management, such as groves and sunny and dry slopes, or projects regarding the biodiversity of species in these locations. These voluntary extra efforts show that the Finnish forest sector is not simply waiting for new requirements to be set. Instead, operators themselves take the initiative to develop nature management.

The motivation to provide better nature management than the bare minimum comes from several sources. Companies and forest owners have their own biodiversity goals. At the same time, companies’ stakeholders, including customers and financers, have expectations and needs regarding sufficient environmental performance. The risk scenarios created by climate change and loss of biodiversity are also an economic concern: how to ensure the viability and hence the productive capacity of forests in the changing conditions?

Nature is constantly changing. And so are forestry practices and the nature management of commercial forests. The changes show slowly in nature, and new methods of operation cannot be implemented within days. We must constantly assess what kind of an environmental impact each method of operation has today and what their impact will be in the future. In order to find the best solutions for the nature management of commercial forests, we need to gather monitoring data as well as model the future regarding the impacts of different operating methods. The purpose of biodiversity roadmaps is to answer these questions.

Matti Maajärvi

Environmental specialist

Tapio palvelut Oy