FO20 Restoration and management of protected forests

This is a response (R) indicator. DPSIR= drivers, pressures, state, impact, responses.
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Restoration aims at accelerating the process of recovery of human modified ecosystems into a natural like state. In forests main restoration methods include burning of the stand, creating small openings that mimic natural gap dynamics and increasing the amount of dead wood.

In Finland first restoration projects were carried out in the late 1980s. Annual restoration areas remained very small until the turn of the millennium. Years 2004-2007 marked a peak in restoration efforts with more than 2 000 hectares being restored annually. In 2008 approximately 1 200 hectares were restored and this is approximately the level at which restoration efforts have been planned to remain in the near future. Altogether some 13 500 hectares have been restored since 1990.

Nature management in protected areas aims at sustaining some of the characteristics of forest habitats that are especially important for threatened species and at risk of disappearing. Measures include removing coniferous trees and promoting deciduous trees in both herb-rich forests and birch-dominated breeding habitats of the White-backed Woodpecker.

The areas treated with nature management measures are quite small, which reflects the rarity and size of habitats requiring such management. In general, the annually managed areas in protected forest by Metsähallitus Natural Heritage Services have been increasing in the 2000s.

Impact on biodiversity

On the whole, the restoration and nature management of forests have increased considerably during the past decade. Yet the volume of these operations remains far from the volume of operations that decrease the structural diversity of forests. The total area of protected forests evaluated to be in need of restoration was estimated at 38 600 hectares in 2003.

The amount of dead wood has increased very significantly in restored sites. Metsähallitus has set a goal of 30 m3/ha of dead wood in protected forests. This amount would improve the habitat of many endangered saproxylic (dead wood dependent) species.

The burning of whole forest stands creates suitable conditions for insects and vascular plants which life cycle depends on the presence of fire. These species have become very rare during the past decades in the absence of natural forest fires. Burning of the trees normally also creates large quantities of dead wood.

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