Spring pascue flower (Pulsatilla vernalis) is a rare vascular plant in Finland, and protected by the nature conservation decree.
Safeguarding and protecting biodiversity of
The biological diversity of forest ecosystems encompasses 1) the
abundance and diversity of different forest habitats, communities
of organisms, and ecosystems; 2) the abundance and diversity
of forest organisms; and 3) the diversity within the genotype
of each organism.
The principal instruments for safeguarding biodiversity are protection
of the most valuable forest ecosystems through the establishment
of protected areas, and the management of forests
at stand and regional level in a way that takes biological
diversity into account.
International and national agreements and programmes
Finland has ratified several international conventions whose signatories
are committed to promoting the protection of biological
diversity and sustainable management. These conventions
include the Convention on the Conservation of European
Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern convention 1979), the
United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD
1992), the Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity
Strategy of the co-operation process between European
environmental ministries (PEBLDS 1995), and the resolutions
of the Ministerial Conferences on the Protection of
Forests in Europe from 1993 to 2011 (FOREST EUROPE).
The first extensive national programme addressing biological
diversity was the National Action Plan for Biodiversity in
Finland 1997–2005. The National Strategy for the Conservation
and Sustainable Use of Biodiversity in Finland
2006–2016 was adopted by the Government in 2006. One of
the aims of this strategy is to halt the decline of biodiversity in
Finland and establish a favourable development of biodiversity
in the long term. The strategy was updated in 2011.
Since the 1970s, the Government of Finland has adopted seven
programmes for the conservation of nature covering national
parks and strict nature reserves, mires, waterfowl habitats,
eskers, herb-rich forests, shorelines and old-growth forests.
The programmes set out the objectives for the establishment of
conservation areas. The degree of implementation of the programmes
varies: the programme for national parks and strict
nature reserves is almost completed, while there is still work
to be done on, for example, the old-growth forest conservation
programme. Compensation issues concerning private lands and
conservation programmes have been almost fully resolved. In
the next decade, programme sites in State ownership and earmarked
for protection will be converted into statutory conservation
areas totalling about 0.7 million hectares, or 16% of the
overall area target for conservation programmes.
The Natura 2000 network safeguards the biotopes and habitats
of species defined in the Habitats and Birds Directives of the
EU. The European Commission has accepted the Natura 2000
areas of Finland: the alpine zone areas in 2003 and those of the
boreal zone in 2005. With the exception of the northernmost
parts of Lapland, the majority of areas in Finland belong to the
boreal zone. The majority of the Natura areas – 97% – are nature
conservation areas established under national decisions,
or they are part of national conservation programmes or areas
protected in some other way.
The Forest Biodiversity Programme for Southern Finland
2008–2016 (METSO programme) is implemented along with
Finland’s National Forest Programme, and its objective is to es
tablish the positive trend of forest biodiversity by conservation
methods voluntary for forest owners. The total target for areas
voluntarily offered for conservation by the landowners is 96,000
hectares by 2016. Moreover, the total area of sites safeguarding
biodiversity in private forests will be increased by 82,000
to 173,000 hectares, including 400 to 800 nature management
The administrative and executive powers in safeguarding biological
diversity belong to the Ministry of the Environment and
in part also to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. The practical
execution is the responsibility of the Regional Centres for
Economic Development, Transport and the Environment, as well
as the Finnish Forestry Centre. In matters pertaining to biodiversity, all
these centres are under the performance guidance of the two
ministries mentioned above.
|According to the forest law the natural characteristics of habitats of special importance, such as this small waterway in forests, must be
preserved during silvicultural works and fellings.
The central legal instruments safeguarding forest biodiversity
are the Nature Conservation Act, the Act on Wilderness Reserves
and the Forest Act.
The Nature Conservation Act aims to achieve and maintain a
favourable level of protection for habitats and wild species. To
achieve this aim, nature conservation areas can be established
to conserve protected habitats, three of which are forests: wild
woods rich in noble broadleaves, hazel woods and common alder
woods. The act also includes provisions on threatened species,
their protection and international trade in them.
Under the Act on Wilderness Reserves, 12 wilderness areas
have been established in northern Finland. Some of the areas
are completely protected from harvesting, while limited forestry
is allowed in others.
The Forest Act defines habitats of special importance to forest
biodiversity – areas whose natural features must be conserved.
These habitats are clearly delimited and generally fairly
small areas in natural or semi-natural state, including the following:
1) the immediate surroundings of springs, brooks, rivulets
constituting a permanent water flow channel, and small
ponds; 2) herb-rich and grassy hardwood-spruce swamps, ferny
hardwood-spruce swamps, eutrophic paludal hardwood-spruce
swamps, and eutrophic fens located to the south of the Province
of Lapland; 3) fertile patches of herb-rich forest; 4) heathland
forest islets in undrained peatlands; 5) gorges and ravines; 6)
steep bluffs and the underlying forest; and 7) sandy soils, exposed
bedrock, boulder fields, peatlands with sparse tree stand
and flood meadows which are less productive than nutrientpoor
According to the national land use guidelines (VAT 2000) adopted
by the Government under the Land Use and Building Act,
land use planning is used to promote the conservation of the
biodiversity in areas which are important for nature and susceptible to damage. Another aim is to preserve ecological corridors
between conservation areas. One particular aim is to prevent
the fragmentation of large forest areas by other land use without
a special reason.
Under the Act on Environmental Impact Assessment Procedure
and the Act on the Assessment of the Impacts of the Authorities’
Plans, Programmes and Policies on the Environment,
the impacts of certain plans, programmes and policies on biological
diversity must be assessed.
The Act on Metsähallitus defines the tasks of Metsähallitus
as including the sustainable and profitable management, use
and conservation of natural resources and other property under
its care. There are various possible uses for State land, including
nature conservation, forestry, recreational use, nature tourism,
property development and land extraction. The use of land
and water areas under the care of Metsähallitus is planned in
regional natural resources planning (see the fact box on Forest
The Forest Biodiversity Programme for Southern Finland
2008–2016 (METSO) offers voluntary measures for forest owners
to protect their forests or to enhance natural values of the
forests by management and receive compensation for these activities.
The options the METSO programme offer are permanent
protection, temporary protection and management of forest habitats.
Permanent protection can be implemented by establishing
a private conservation area, by selling the area to the State or
by exchanging the area with the State. If protection is agreed
on a temporary basis, an environmental support agreement is
made for the area in accordance with the Act on the Financing
of Sustainable Forestry for a period of ten years at a time.
Typical sites covered by environmental support include valuable
habitats protected under the Forest Act. With the help of
the support, the area protected can form a more extensive entity
than what is protected by the law. Temporary protection
can also be implemented under the Nature Conservation Act,
in which case the maximum term of the protection agreement
is 20 years. Management of forest habitat can be maintaining
or enhancing natural values, or restoring the forest to a more
natural state. The management work is planned in cooperation
with the forest owner, and the management will not cause costs
to the forest owner.
The Act on the Financing of Sustainable Forestry promotes
sustainable forest management by granting government support
for private forestry measures which aim at the maintenance
of forest biodiversity and ecosystems. Financing is also used
to support projects for the management of forest ecosystems.
These include ecosystem surveys, management and restoration
of habitats extending over the area of several forest holdings,
and landscape management projects.
Special support under the agri-environmental support system
for sites other than agricultural land is available for farmers who
undertake to maintain traditional biotopes, wetlands, or forest
edges bordering on fields.
Under the Nature Conservation Act, landowners are compensated
for the establishment of conservation areas on their
lands. A conservation area can be established in three ways: 1)
by establishing a private conservation area under the Nature
Conservation Act, in which case the area remains property of
the landowner, who receives compensation which corresponds
to the economic loss caused by conservation; 2) by purchasing
the area for the State; or 3) by exchanging the area for an area
owned by the State.
Active information services
Safeguarding forest biodiversity receives special emphasis in all
forest management recommendations and guidelines prepared
for the various actors in forestry. Along with promoting wood
production, safeguarding biodiversity is an integral part of forest
planning undertaken on different levels and in different ways.
The requirements regarding voluntary forest certification also
contain several measures designed to safeguard biodiversity,
such as increasing the number of prescribed burnings, leaving
retention trees in forests and safeguarding the characteristic
features of valuable habitats.
A National evaluation of threatened species has been conducted
four times by the Ministry of the Environment, in 1983–
85, 1987–91, 1997–2000 and 2007-2010. The last two evaluations
are based on the IUCN criteria by the International Union
for Conservation of Nature, and therefore the results from these
evaluations are comparable. The evaluations produce information
about the number of threatened species, the causes of decline,
risks, and proposals for improving their protection.
One key way of safeguarding forest biodiversity outside conservation
areas is to maintain the natural characteristics of valuable
habitats. Habitats protected under the Nature Conservation
Act have been mapped by the regional Environment Centres.
Surveys of habitats of special importance mentioned
in the Forest Act and of other forest habitats are conducted by
Forestry Development Centre Tapio, the Finnish Forestry Centre, Metsähallitus
and the forest industry companies. A nationwide report
was completed in 2005.
Finland’s first assessment of natural habitat types was conducted
by the Finnish Environment Institute in 2008. The purpose
of this assessment was to find out how habitat types had
changed due to human action or other reasons over the past 50 years. Two thirds of the 76 forest habitat types were considered
to be threatened on the basis of qualitative or quantitative
changes. These habitat types are typically small in size. The
Nature Conservation Act and the Forest Act specifically list the
habitat types and habitats identified as having special importance
that must be left untouched in forest management. The
expert groups also compiled the first list of the habitat types for
which Finland has a particular international responsibility.
The preservation of biological diversity in private forests, forests
owned by corporations and those administered by Metsähallitus
has been monitored regularly since 1995 in conjunction with the
monitoring of the quality of nature management in commercial
forests by Forestry Development Centre Tapio. The National Forest
Inventories conducted by the Finnish Forest Research Institute
(Metla) also produce data on forest biodiversity.
Forest tree breeding and the management of the genetic
resources of forest trees are the responsibility of the Finnish
Forest Research Institute. The Institute maintains a register on
forest genetics which covers information about selected trees
and plus trees, experimental plantations, gene reserve forests
and gene resource archives. The purpose of long-term forest tree
breeding programmes is to identify and enrich genes that influence
desirable properties in tree species, and also to maintain
a sufficient level of genetic diversity in the material being bred.
Compliance with the Act on Trade in Forest Reproductive
Material is monitored by the subsection for forest reproductive
material of the Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira to
ensure that the basic genetic material used to produce reproductive
material for forests is of a high quality.
In addition to universities, forest biodiversity is studied in research
institutes operating under the Ministry of the Environment
and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. The principal
research organisations are the Finnish Forest Research Institute
(Metla) and the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE).
Steered by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the Biodiversity
and Monitoring Programme MOSSE was implemented in
2003–2006, and it contributed to the informational needs during
the preliminary phase of the METSO programme (2002–2007).
The research programme of deficiently known and threatened
forest species (PUTTE) was coordinated by the Ministry of the
Environment, and it was implemented during 2003–2007. The
second stage of this programme started in 2009, and it includes
10 research projects. A large research programme of the Finnish
Forest Research Institute (Metla), Safeguarding forest biodiversity
– policy instruments and socio-economic impacts (TUK,
2005–2010), was completed in 2010, but the Institute continues
to monitor the METSO programme and related research with
help of separate funding.