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
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
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
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.
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.