Press Release March 30, 2005

Spatial analysis methods in use to include ecological objectives in forest planning

Spatial analyses and georeferenced data , when combined with multiple-criteria assessment methods, offer flexible possibilities to develop ecological information for the needs of forest planning. The biggest advantages relate to creating potential for producing ecological models needed to provide decision support for multipurpose forestry. Habitat factors can be viewed using different scales and habitat requirements of different species can be combined on a habitat suitability map. Empirical models and models based on expert knowledge can be combined in the same planning calculations. The quality of ecological information is improved and forest planning becomes more effective when the benefits of spatial analysis methods are applied in the different planning phases and multi-scale analyses are used.

The research initiative “Methods for improving and integrating ecological information into landscape-level forest planning” funded by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry examines and develops methods that can be applied to produce ecological knowledge and to improve it to meet the needs of forest planning and practical forestry. The final report section of the initiative presents, for example, methods and applications developed for the METSO Forest Biodiversity Programme for Southern Finland to facilitate the selection and evaluation of objects for nature values trading in private forests.

It has become an increasingly important goal to include ecological values in various planning tasks related to the use of natural resources. In order to be able to meet the needs of information and planning in practice, it is essential for research that methods be developed that can take advantage of the existing knowledge as efficiently as possible and also to increase the ecological knowledge in the subfields where the demand for information is the most acute.

An essential method in the ecological section of the programme was applying the GIS (Geographic Information Systems) techniques and spatial analyses combined with statistical methods in multi-scale ecological modeling. This section strove to explain the landscape-level ecological processes by using the landscape metrics (such as the size, shape and location of habitat patches in relation to each other) and to integrate the produced information to ecological models. The planning phase of the programme included, for example, simulation and optimizing calculations of forest planning to test ecological models and method development for multi-objective decision support for combined use of different types of information.

The methods and approaches developed during the programme have been used to make habitat suitability evaluations and to execute trial plans for, for example, the flying squirrel, partridge, capercaillie, Siberian jay, redstart and pied flycatcher. Even though only certain species were studied in the research, the results and the developed methods are still applicable for other species as well. Besides, some of the studied species are “umbrella-like”, i.e. they indicate the success of other species with more specific environmental requirements as well. The essential message of the programme’s ecological studies for forest planning and management is that when making environmental assessments for species it is important to consider both the forest indicators of individual forests and structural indicators of wider areas.

The programme was carried out through intensive collaboration between several projects, such as the Metso pilot initiatives, the forest planning development projects funded by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, and research projects of the Finnish Forest Research Institute. In addition, collaboration has been especially intensive with the Finnish Forest and Park Service, and with the Forestry Centres of Northern Ostrobothnia and North Karelia. Research has been executed in the Metla units of Kannus, Rovaniemi and Joensuu, as well as in the Arctic Centre of the University of Lapland.

Publication: Store, Ron and Heino, Esa (eds.) 2005. Ecological knowledge and forest planning – methods, approaches and research results. Metsäntutkimuslaitoksen tiedonantoja 939.

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