UPM participates in the recovery of sun-exposed habitats

UPM has joined a co-operative project with other quarters in the forestry and environmental sector that aims to assess the state of esker forests on sun-exposed slopes in southern Finland. The current state of sun-exposed forests is poor, and their preservation requires immediate and extensive measures, the most important of which is to maintain the brightness of esker forests by thinning the tree stand. A co-operation network consisting of experts in forestry and nature conservation in esker forests was formed during the project, entitled ‘State and Management of Sun-exposed Esker Forest Habitats’. The goal of the network will be to save the threatened special species of esker forests also in the future.

In total, about 30,000 ha of esker forests, mainly in Natura 2000 areas, were inventoried during the project. The aim of this work was to find, on the basis of direction and topography, sun-exposed slopes where special plant species such as wild thyme (Thymus serpyllum) and mountain everlasting (Antennaria dioica) still grow and whose state could be improved through management operations.

The total area of the esker slopes found suitable for management is about 120 ha. Only a few of these slopes were natural or semi-natural, and all were small in size, ranging from a few square metres to dozens of ares. Nearly all esker slopes found during the inventory work were full of vegetation. In the near future, these sites must be improved by means of management operations.

‘UPM's own esker nature project started in 2003 and is still ongoing. In 2006–2008, the esker nature project was integrated into a very successful co-operation project. The project is an example of the new practice used in the METSO II programme and beyond in order to ensure biodiversity. The project operations can also be integrated into forestry-wood production,’ says Timo Lehesvirta, Director, Sustainable Forestry, UPM.

In its forests, UPM implements an international biodiversity programme whose aim is to ensure biodiversity as part of the sustainable use of forests and to promote best practices in forestry. The programme is based on six main areas of focus, which are all important for biodiversity. The subjects in question are native wood species, decayed wood, valuable habitats, forest structure, aquatic ecosystems, and pristine forests.

In addition to the esker nature project, the habitat-specific projects implemented by UPM have included a fire environment project, a grove project, and a restoration project for small bodies of water.

Esker forests are an important part of the Finnish cultural and natural landscape. Many special plants and insects live on these slopes. They withstand dryness well and need plenty of light and heat. These species have declined sharply in recent decades, because of, for example, the effective prevention of forest fires and the thickening and increase of vegetation caused by general eutrophication.

The co-operation model implemented in the sun-exposed esker forest habitats project is being made a standard model also for practical nature conservation operations related to other forest habitats. Sun-exposed esker slopes and forests that are homes to important species are among the possible nature management targets included in the METSO 2008–2016 action programme.

The Finnish Environmental Institute, Forestry Development Centre Tapio, 10 Forestry Centres, UPM, Metsähallitus’s Forestry division and Natural Heritage unit, and the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences of the University of Helsinki have participated in the project. Many private forest-owners who felt it important to help the threatened esker species joined the project for practical work.

The project results and the most important development needs in nature management of sun-exposed esker forests have been collected in the publication Sun-exposed Esker Forest Habitats – State and Management, which can be found on the Web site of Finland's environmental administration at www.ymparisto.fi/julkaisut.

For further information, please contact:
Timo Lehesvirta, Director, Sustainable Forestry, North Europe and Russia, UPM,
tel. +358 204 163 794