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State of Finland's Forests 2012: Criterion 2 Health and vitality

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The long-term monitoring of air quality and meteorological characteristics is crucial in a changing climate. Especially in the northern part of Finland this information is required to follow possible changes in forests near the timber line. A Global Athmospare Watch (GAW)- monitoring site in Pallas (Sammaltunturi), Finland maintained by the Finnish Meteorological Institute and the Finnish Forest Research Institute (Metla). Photo: © Metla/Päivi Pietikäinen.

Maintenance of health and vitality of forests (B.3)

Forest health is affected by several factors simultaneously. Forest health can decline due to abiotic agents such as atmospheric pollutants, exceptional weather conditions or careless harvesting or timber storage. Deteriorating health can also be due to biotic agents such as diseases caused by fungi and insects. Climate change is expected to increase the risk of local damages caused by snow, storms and insects.

International treaties for reducing atmospheric pollutants and for curbing climate change

Atmospheric pollutants present a global problem, because they are transported far and wide across borders and have a detrimental effect on many things, including the vitality of forests. The Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP) entered into force in 1983. It seeks to reduce the emissions of substances that have deleterious effects, such as sulphur, nitrogen, heavy metals, volatile organic compounds and persistent organic pollutants, or to restrict their use.

In 2002, the Finnish State adopted the Air Pollution Control Programme 2010 implementing EU Directive 2001/81/EC on national emission ceilings for certain atmospheric pollutants.

At the Earth Summit in Kyoto in 1997, an agreement was reached on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Finland also participates in the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the body of climate experts established in 1988. The EU Climate and Energy Legislative Package adopted by the European Parliament in December 2008 contains several legislative decisions pertaining particularly to reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases.

International climate policy has significantly helped the environment recover from acidification. However, climate change places additional demands on research and monitoring, as global warming will cause complex new trends in the natural environment and ecosystem balance.

Crown defoliation indicates reduced tree vitality. From the left to the right degree of defoliation (the loss of needles): no defoliation 0- 10%, slight 10-25%, moderate 25-60%, and severe >60-99%.


Legislation, national programmes and other instruments for the protection of forests

The Act on Protection of Plant Health (702/2003) provides for measures aimed at maintaining a good state of plant health and preventing the use and spreading of herbicides. The Act applies to forests and forest trees too.

The Forest Insect and Fungi Damage Prevention Act (1991) restricts the storage of coniferous timber in forests and other permanent outdoor storage areas in the summer. It also stipulates that damaged coniferous trees must be removed from the forest whenever their amount exceeds a certain minimum, and it provides for the possibility to control damage caused by insects and fungi in conjunction with fellings and the tending of seedling stands. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is revising the legislation on forest insect and fungi damage prevention during 2012. The Forest Insect and Fungi Damage Prevention Act working group appointed for this purpose is exploring issues such as how energy wood harvesting and the fact that insect swarming is occurring earlier in the spring because summers are now warmer will be taken into account in legislation.

The Act on Trade in Forest Reproductive Material (2002) applies to the production, sale, import and export of seedlings and seeds of forest tree species. The Act requires producers and marketers of forest reproductive material to give forest owners sufficient information on the origin and characteristics of such material.

The importance of using indigenous tree species in forest regeneration after harvesting is stressed in the Forest Act Seeds and planting stock must be suitable for the intended site in terms of their species and origin, as well as viable and otherwise suited to the purpose. Under the Act on the Financing of Sustainable Forestry, funding can be granted for forest remedial fertilisation, afforestation of areas suffering from natural catastrophes, and for the control and prevention of root-rot fungus in risk areas.

Under decisions of the EU Commission (2001–2009), efforts are made to prevent the spread of pine wood nematode (PWN) from Portugal and from outside the EU along with imports of coniferous wood products, sawn wood or coniferous packing material. Under the decision, all coniferous goods imported into the territory of the EU are inspected by the plant inspection authorities of the Member States. Finland has been granted a derogation concerning the inspection of coniferous wood coming from the European part of Russia. Coniferous wood coming from that area is inspected by taking samples from at least 3% of the goods.

The National Plant Protection Strategy 2004–2013 includes an estimate of the current status of plant protection as well as changes and development needs in the operating environment. The Strategy provides the basis for the setting of protection goals for forest trees as well as determining actions for their attainment.

The moose population is regulated regionally under a system of hunting permits. Under the Hunting Act, moose populations must be kept at a level where the damages caused by the animals to traffic, agriculture and forestry remain moderate. The income from game management and hunting permits is used by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to compensate damages to traffic, agriculture and forestry.


Monitoring systems

The Finnish Meteorological Institute has 14 stations that monitor long-term changes in air quality, and the Finnish Environment Institute has 29 stations for observing the quality of precipitation and depositions. Since 1985, Finland has participated in the International Co-operative Programme on Assessment and Monitoring of Air Pollution Effects on Forests (ICP Forests). In the EU countries, monitoring is based on EU regulations (Forest Focus programme). In 2007, Forest Focus was converted into a monitoring programme (FutMon), which in addition to forest health also monitors biodiversity indicators and is eligible for Life+ funding. Continuation of the monitoring is being explored. The EU Standing Forestry Committee set up a working group in 2011 to find out what forest-related information it would be feasible to compile for the needs of the EU and how information collecting and reporting could be harmonised. The results of the working group will be published in 2012. The Finnish Forest Research Institute (Metla) conducts annual inventories of the health of individual trees in about 850 permanent sample plots following internationally agreed methods. The effects on forest health of atmospheric pollutants as well as other stressors are studied in detail in 18 stands across Finland.

Forest health is also monitored continuously in the National Forest Inventories. The Finnish Forest Research Institute (Metla) prepares annual forecasts on changes in the populations of certain insect pests and voles, and provides expert assistance in matters involving forest damage.



  Updated: 19.03.2012 /MLier |  Photo: Erkki Oksanen, Metla, unless otherwise stated | Copyright Metla | Feedback