Biodiversity, life on Earth, is the foundation of existence, and of the bioeconomy. What happens to the nature in the forest when wood is harvested? Quite a lot of things. Forestry operation on a single forest area inevitably changes the landscape and species of that site. But what kind of new forest is regenerated to replace it? And what kind of areas remain outside forestry operations for conservation reasons? What happens to the site reserved for wood production? And what about the important characteristics of the forests that are essential for species, such as deadwood, the composition of tree species and forest structure variation across the landscape? UPM has just published its target to improve the state of forest nature while still ensuring efficient wood production.
UPM’s most important raw material is wood. The company owns over half a million hectares of forest in Finland. Although a significant share of the wood is sourced from private forest owners, our own forests play an important part in wood sourcing. Our forests and nurseries also have a role in developing operations. Enhancing wood production and environment protection involves research, education for our own personnel, best practices development and showcasing of our actions to stakeholders. Our own forests are an educational centre from which forest management learnings can be shared for the benefit of forest customers, via high-quality forestry services, and of modern forestry standards.
How then do we use the land wisely?
How do we secure the benefits from living nature, i.e. the ecosystem services? Trees, the world’s largest plants, are at the heart of the inevitable shift from fossil fuels to renewable raw materials. Trees have an essential role in the company’s “Beyond fossils” thinking. And wood is not the only ecosystem service provided by the forest. Forests can be managed and wood can be produced efficiently while at the same time they act as a carbon sink, maintain biodiversity, protect water and soil, produce food and create raw materials for medicines. Recreational use of forests has a positive effect on people’s health, helping us to cope with various situations in life. This perspective on the joint production of ecosystem services provides a highly valid set of indicators for land use, when the bioeconomy seeks to respond to global megatrends and to find solutions that are adapted to local conditions.
UPM has been implementing its programme for safeguarding biodiversity for over 20 years. Guidelines and practices from the last century have gone through revolutionary changes alongside tightened and more detailed environmental targets. To increase deadwood, a versatile toolbox was created, mixed forest stands became the target, rather than monocultures, and the presence of uncommon broadleaved tree species was promoted. In addition, aspens became valuable trees. More variation in forest structure was sought after. This variation has been created through thickets for game, by protecting valuable habitats and buffer zones next to water, and by leaving retention trees and tree groups on harvesting sites. We have protected 38,000 habitats that have high value for species. Forest protection has developed alongside these improvements. The Repovesi National Park in Kouvola and 14 WWF Heritage Forests are great examples of voluntary conservation.
In addition to the targets and actions associated with forest operations, we are working on various co-operative projects that are focused on specific habitats. Examples of these include sun-exposed esker slopes, fire habitats, groves, peatlands and small water courses to be restored. Forest renewal methods are being developed for sites where it is justified, aiming for continuous canopy cover through forest rotation. In species projects, practices are developed from the point of view of a single species. Social capital generated by joint ventures and a culture that emphasizes co-operation are the key success factors.
Our biodiversity target will improve the state of forest nature in a verifiable way, and it is one step in our long-term commitment to continuous improvement of our operations. At the same time, we will work with experts to develop monitoring and verification methods in this challenging task of measuring nature.
Next spring, new seedlings from our nursery will be planted in forests. These trees will only be used at the end of this century. In my mind, this gives a picture of continuity of life over generations, reaching over the boundaries of one’s own existence. Our children and grandchildren will certainly come up with new, versatile ways to utilise wood – and will find completely new opportunities that are unknown to us from our forests. The spectrum of living nature is a foundation for this journey.
The outlook for the future is beautiful and reassuring when we work together to make it happen.
Press release 27.11.2018