Metla Project 8025

LIFE to KOLI- Restoration of the forests and meadows in the National Park

[  Suomeksi  |  Objectives  |  Results  |  Project leader  |  Researchers  |  Publications  |  Metla Research  ]

Duration: 2003-2006   Keywords: conservation areas, decaying wood, ditching areas, forest restoration, natural forests, slash-and-burn cultivation, traditional biotopes
Research project group: Distinct projects 1 - Structure and function of forest ecosystems


The project will draw up a long-term management/restoration plan for forests, meadows and bog woodlands. More specifically, a 50 year controlled burning plan will be drawn up to ensure the continued presence of freshly burnt forests and pastures which are so important to the habitats and their wildlife. A restoration plan will be devised for the cultivated forests and peatlands to ensure there is an abundant supply of decaying wood in the forests and a rewetting of the mires through ditch blocking. Finally, a maintenance plan will be drawn up to manage the meadows and prevent their overgrowth.

A start will be made during the project to implement these plans. By the end of the project it is expected that there will be 45 ha of freshly burnt boreal forest (subtype for boreal forests) and an increase in decayed wood within 50 ha. Also, spruce will be removed in priority areas, meadows restored as a demonstration plot and ditches blocked within 25 ha of drained bog woodlands. Public awareness of these activities will be raised by educational material for schools and a video about slash-and-burn methods. Guidebooks about controlled burning, restoration of economically used forests and meadows will be produced for biotope management specialists and 3 nature trails on these themes as model areas will be built.

Project background

Located in one of the eastern most regions of southern Finland, Koli National Park contains a diverse complex of habitats within its 2900ha. These include boreal forests, Fennoscandian herb-rich forests, meadows, lakes, eskers and bog woodlands. Koli National Park is also famous for its heritage landscapes, which have been influenced by the strongly held tradition of slash-and-burn agriculture for the last 250 years and attracts a steady flow of tourists to the region.

However, the conservation state of this area is not optimal. Over 20 % of the forests of Koli were economically exploited before the national park was established in 1991. These forests lack decayed wood and natural fires, and in herb-rich forests, spruces are inevitably taking over. Overgrowing of meadows and earlier drainage of bog woodlands are also beginning to take their toll. This is further exacerbated by a general lack of awareness amongst local people and general public of these natural values.

Layman's Report

Restoration of the Forests and Meadows in the Koli National Park (pdf)
Restauration des forêts et prairies du Parc national de Koli (pdf)


LIFE EU Metsäntutkimuslaitos Joensuun yliopisto Pohjois-Karjalan ympäristökeskus
Pohjois-Karjalan ympäristökeskus
Natura 2000


LIFE to Koli –restoration project (LIFE2003NAT/FIN/000035) is partially funded by EU/LIFE-Nature. The national funding is provided by Ministry of the Environment, Metla, North-Karelian Regional Environment Centre and University of Joensuu.


The LIFE to Koli project produced four restoration and management plans. The restoration plans comprise a number of measures intended to accelerate the process of restoring to their natural state the forest and mire areas altered by man. The Koli National Park restoration plans span 20 years. The aim is to restore during this time 380 hectares of stands cultivated on mineral soil and established by planting or sowing. In addition, the aim is to restore nearly 80 hectares of ditched bogs. The slash-and-burn cultivation plan was drawn up to span 50 years. The aim is to restore a total of 150 hectares of forest that have previously been in commercial use. Each year 3 hectares will be restored by slash-and-burn methods. A plan for the management of the traditional landscapes of Koli National Park was completed in 1998. To complement this, an updated management plan for 10 years was drawn up by the North Karelia Regional Environment Centre. The plan covers just over 30 hectares of traditional landscapes in the Park, i.e. meadows, forests established on slash-and-burn cultivation lands and wooded grazing land. The management plan for herb-rich forests aims at raising the conservation level of the representative her-rich forest vegetation in the Koli area. At present there are 106 herb-rich forests; their total area is over 100 hectares.

During the project 107 hectares of cultivated forests on mineral soils were restored. On the restoration sites the amount of decayed wood was increased and small clearings were made both by felling trees and by peeling live trees. Altogether 76 hectares of land were treated in this way. Fire treatments were carried out in a number of different-sized target areas which were altogether 31 hectares. A total of 28 hectares of ditched bogs were restored by damming the ditches or filling them mechanically. In addition, to increase the amount of decaying wood, trees were peeled and felled on naturally wooded bogs. Trees that had grown on naturally sparsely wooded bogs due to ditching were removed.

During the project more than 16 hectares of cultivated stands were treated with slash-and-burn cultivation methods. After the slash-and-burn cultivation areas have been burned, traditional Finnish crop plants such as rye and turnip are grown. When the cultivation cycle has finished, most slash-and-burn cultivation areas are left alone to become reforested; in this way they will slowly return to their natural state. Some of the cultivation areas near the traditional farms in the Park have been given over to grazing that will enable them to develop into wooded grazing land. Restoration and nature conservation measures were also carried out on 9 hectares of herb-rich forests. Both natural and planted spruce trees were removed from herb-rich forests dominated by deciduous trees because in these spruce threatens rare and endangered plant species. A particular issue in the restoration of herb-rich forests in Koli was the preservation of littleleaf linden (Tilia cordata).

At the beginning of the project there were 26 hectares of traditional landscapes that were undergoing regular management measures. During the project management measures were initiated in two traditional landscape target areas totaling 4 hectares. This brought the total area of traditional landscapes being managed to 30 hectares.

Monitoring programmes on the effects of restoration measures were initiated as a part of the LIFE to Koli project. The monitoring data collected during the LIFE project was analyzed at the Finnish Forest Research Institute in a research project on the effects of restoration measures. The monitoring of the effects of restoration is based on data from a series of experiments collected into a research register and the establishment of permanent research sites. The aim of the monitoring is to determine the ecological impact of the restoration measures on the forests and trees, and flora and macro fungi species. Any changes in the health of the stands and the risk of forest damage will also be evaluated.

During the project three new signposted nature trails were set up in the Natura 2000 area. These were The Koli Hills and Herb-rich Forests Trail, The Slash-and-burn Cultivation Trail and The Restorer’s Trail. A separate guide was made for each trail. These contain background information on the theme of the trail, teacher’s notes and an exercise intended for schoolchildren. The guides can be downloaded from the Koli National Park’s website. The project produced a leaflet and a poster exhibition on its aims and activities. Two DVD programmes on slash-and-burn cultivation and the management of heritage landscapes were also produced. In addition, three guidebooks concerning slash-and-burn cultivation, the management of meadows and the restoration of cultivated forests and peatlands were published. Finally, an information booth presenting the LIFE project was established in the Koli village centre in conjunction with tourist information services.

The restoration and management measures taken by the project will have raised the share of forests belonging to the western taiga habitat type (HT no 9010) to nearly 21% of the whole Natura 2000 area of the National Park, whereas the area covered by the bog woodland (HT no 91D0) habitat type will nearly double and in time will cover nearly 3 % of the total Natura 2000 area. The LIFE project ensured that the Fennoscandian herb-rich forests with Picea abies habitat type (HT no 9050) will survive by carrying out management measures in more than 9 hectares of these forests, which is more than 8% of the total area occupied by the habitat type. When the project began, the total area of the traditional biotopes on which regular management measures were being taken was 26 hectares. During the project, an additional 4 hectares were restored and are regularly either mown or grazed. Owing to this the share of the traditional biotopes in Koli National Park will remain 1 % of the total Natura 2000 area.

The LIFE-Nature funding received enabled the project to employ several local people, particularly for the construction work and the fieldwork. In addition, a number of mostly forestry students from different educational institutions were employed. Some of the work during the project was contracted to local businesses. The information received during the project on the applicability of various methods, the diversity of local nature and the aims and effects of the restoration measures was transmitted not only to those working in the project, but also to the general public. This was achieved through various theme trails, guidebooks, newspaper articles, radio interviews and newsletters. The restoration of habitats in Koli and research related to it were discussed in many seminars and research meetings. The project and its achievements have also been introduced both to domestic and foreign visitors in many presentations on the National Park. The experiences gleaned from this project and the results of the research spawned by it can be used to plan and execute future restoration and conservation projects receiving LIFE-Nature funding in the Natura 2000 network.

Project leader: Eerikäinen, Kalle
The Finnish Forest Research Institute, Joensuu Office, PL 68, FI-80101 JOENSUU, FINLAND
Phone: +358 29 532 3165

Other researchers: Hotanen, Juha-Pekka, JO (2003-04,2006), Lovén, Lasse, JO (2003-06), Miina, Jari, JO (2003-06), Puustinen, Susanna (2004-05), Salo, Kauko, JO (2003-04,2006), Viiri, Heli, JO (2005-06)

Top of page

Updated 12.06.2012