The Finnish Forest Industries Federation’s new action programme helps improve sunny and dry (xerothermic) habitats in commercial forests as well as the status of endangered and near-threatened species dependent on these habitats. The programme aims at highlighting the significance of sunny and dry slopes for biodiversity and increasing different forest-related parties’ knowledge and skills in recognising and managing such habitats. The programme partners are Tapio Palvelut Oy and Häme University of Applied Sciences.

Today, the Finnish Forest Industries Federation introduced its action programme for the management of sunny and dry slopes in the Forest Biodiversity Round Table chaired by Minister Maria Ohisalo and Minister Antti Kurvinen.

The action programme to be launched is part of the forest industry’s extensive biodiversity work and the implementation of the Forest Environment Programme that was launched in 2016. The goal of the Forest Environment Programme is to further develop the forest industry’s actions in forest-related biodiversity and environment issues and increase active and open communications.

The action programme for the management of sunny and dry slopes provides forest industry companies with additional cost-effective means to safeguard biodiversity. At the same time, it links the forest industry more closely to the implementation of the goals of the Helmi habitats programme as well as improves the ability to carry out the METSO biodiversity programme and to work towards the fulfilment of forest certification requirements.

- The goal is that companies can, more easily and more uniformly, offer forest owners actions that promote biodiversity on sunny and dry slopes, explains Jimi Rajajärvi, Senior Advisor – Forestry at the Finnish Forest Industries Federation.

Sunny and dry habitats are special locations for biodiversity

Sunny and dry (xerothermic) habitats are home to organisms that are adapted to demanding conditions and rare anywhere else. On many ridges, sunny and dry slopes suffer from being gradually overgrown with trees and bushes, due to the more efficient prevention of forest fires, for instance. As a result, many species living in sunny and dry habitats are endangered.

Of all endangered forest species, 7 per cent are species of sunny and dry forests, although such habitats account for only a very small share of the total forest area. With specifically targeted actions, significant biodiversity benefits can be achieved in sunny and dry habitats.

The sector’s employees play a key role

Producing positive impacts on nature in sunny and dry habitats requires that the forest industry’s field personnel are aware of the habitat’s significance for biodiversity, recognise areas that are suitable for improving the habitat’s status and are capable of planning solutions that safeguard and increase biodiversity.

To ensure this, Tapio Palvelut Oy and Häme University of Applied Sciences are creating a comprehensive guide on sunny and dry habitats as well as an online course and a test based on the guide.

- In addition, field training is arranged on the practical application of different action and treatment options. Training deepens the skills and knowledge acquired on the online course and teaches participants to apply guidelines in practice, says Rajajärvi.

The guide and the online course will be available in April 2023, intended for forest industry companies and everyone interested in this topic.

Together with the forest sector and other partners, the Finnish Forest Industries Federation has worked to improve the biodiversity of forests for decades. Last year, the forest industry launched a similar biodiversity programme for groves. The significance of groves for biodiversity is particularly large as almost half of the endangered forest species live in groves.

The forest sector analyses the effects and development of its biodiversity work in a comprehensive research project. The information gained from the study will be utilised in the industry’s biodiversity road map, which will be ready next summer.