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State of Finland's Forests 2012: Criterion 5 Protective forests

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Impacts of forest management on waters (additional indicator)

Figure 5a. The quality of water protection in harvesting, 1996–2010.
Figure 5b. Quality of water protection in soil preparation, 1996–2010.


Because of the great number of lakes, rivers, small water systems and peatland forests in Finland, issues relating to water systems receive special attention in forest management.

The greatest impacts of forest management on waters are caused by ditch cleaning and supplementary ditching, regeneration fellings and related soil preparation, as well as fertilisation. The environmental load from forest management weakens the condition of otherwise clean headwaters, brooks and other small water bodies. Important groundwater areas are taken into consideration in forest management and fellings, and the quality of groundwater is not compromised.

The phosphorus load from forest management accounted for about 6% of the total anthropogenic nutrient load in 2008, and the nitrogen load accounted for about 4.4%. The nitrogen load from forestry has decreased as a consequence of the decrease in new drainage projects. The fertilisation of peatlands has increased the phosphorus load caused by drained mires.

The national water protection programme, Guidelines for water protection to 2015, specifies some targets for the reduction of the environmental load on waters from forestry. The measures for the implementation of the policy guidelines for water protection are defined and targeted in detail in water management plans. Forest management measures included in water management plans include the increased use of surface runoff fields, submerged dams, drainage dams and wetlands in ditch cleaning and supplementary ditching and in the combating of erosion in forests (nature management projects); enhanced waterway protection planning; training for contractors and planners; and advisory services for forest owners in water protection issues.

Forest management measures must be planned so that they do not adversely affect the condition of small water systems, andsmall water systems whose natural values have declined must be restored. A small water system restoration programme is to be drawn up with reference to implementing water management plans, and this will involve forest management measures too.

Finland’s National Forest Programme 2015 sets out targets for the reduction of the environmental load on waters from forestry. Under the Act on Environmental Impact Assessment Procedure, the environmental impacts of large-scale peat production and drainage projects must be assessed. Knowledge about the environmental impacts of forest management and ways for reducing it has increased substantially in the last 30 years, and new information has been applied on a broad scale.


An unbroken riparian zones must be retained along waterways and small bodies of water during fellings and silvicultural measures for the protection of waters.
Natural peatlands are no longer drained in Finland, but the conditions of already drained peatlands is improved in ditch cleaning and supplementary ditching projects. A water protection plan is drawn up in conjunction with these operations.

According to the Act on the Financing of Sustainable Forestry, measures for water management which receive funding must be based on a duly prepared plan. A water protection plan must always be included in plans concerning ditch cleaning and supplementary ditching.

Guidelines and recommendations on water and soil protection in forest management have been prepared by private forestry organisations, Metsähallitus and forest industry companies in co-operation with environmental authorities. In 2011, the Regional Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment of Central Finland will be coordinating the launch of a broad-based three-year project piloting water protection nationwide in peat production and forestry, known as the TASO project. The purpose of this project is to generate new information at the national level and to find practical solutions for the management of water protection problems in peat production and forestry.

Water protection is also addressed in the forest certification standards: an unbroken riparian zone must be retained along waterways and small bodies of water, natural mires are not drained, a water protection plan is drawn up in conjunction with ditch cleaning and supplementary ditching, no chemical pesticides or fertilisers are used in groundwater areas, and the use of chemical pesticides is avoided in general.

In harvesting and silvicultural work, riparian zones with an unbroken forest cover are left along waters, digging breaks and sludge sumps are established in soil preparation, and felling residue is handled so that no nutrients are washed into ditches or waters. Logging roads are planned so as to ensure that no channels for water are created between ditches and small water bodies.

Since 1995, the quality of water protection in harvesting and soil preparation works in private forests and forests of the forest industry companies and Metsähallitus has been monitored by Forestry Development Centre Tapio in conjunction with the assessment of the quality of nature management in commercial forests. The quality of waters is also monitored by the environmental administration. Statistics on the nutrient load, runoff into waters, etc. are compiled by the Finnish Environment Institute.

Water protection in conjunction with harvesting and soil preparation improved during the monitoring period 1995–2010. In 2010, the quality of water protection in private forests was rated either excellent or good in over 95% and over 83% of the assessed roundwood harvesting sites and soil preparation sites, respectively. On average, the quality of water protection has been good or excellent in over 90% of the harvesting and soil preparation sites.


  Updated: 22.02.2012 /MLier |  Photo: Erkki Oksanen, Metla, unless otherwise stated | Copyright Metla | Feedback