Conservation and restoration of aquatic ecosystems

Water is essential for our business, as it flows through our production processes, our forests as well as our hydropower plants. We seek to manage and minimize the negative impacts our processes may have on aquatic ecosystems by collaborating with officials, researchers and local stakeholders. 

Forests and sustainable forestry play a key role in water cycles. The flow of both surface and ground water is regulated by forests and they help to prevent soil erosion into watercourses, reduce storm water runoff, and recharge aquifers. Forests also act as a natural filter removing pollutants as water moves through them.

The flow of water is also used to create zero-carbon electricity. The regulation of the flow, clearing of the rivers, and building of dams have had a negative impact on the ecosystems around our hydropower plants. In addition to regulatory compensations, we support and implement voluntary measures to restore aquatic ecosystems near the areas where we operate.

Stream water programme restores biodiversity

Promoting biodiversity is at the core of UPM’s 2030 environmental focus areas. We want to promote diversity by minimising the effects of operations on forests, waterways, and local nature. As part of our water biodiversity work, we adopted a stream water programme in 2023 that aims to release or restore 500 km of stream waters by 2030. The migratory fish programme launched by UPM in 2016 was integrated into the stream water programme.

The biodiversity of inland waters not only concerns migratory fish, but also entails the restoration of the habitats of other endangered species such as green club-tailed dragonfly, freshwater pearl mussel and thick shelled river mussel. Stream waters form a crucial bridge between different habitats, which is why free-flowing water is important for the vitality of stream water ecosystems.

Our stream water programme promotes biodiversity through the removal of migratory barriers such as defunct dams and the replacement of old culverts with new ones, as well as by restoring rapids and streams to their natural state. We are also participating in pilot and research projects in cooperation with local expert organisations, companies, and local centres of economic development.

 

UPM's stream water programme will release and restore 500 km of Finland’s rivers by 2030

 

UPM supports the dismantling of the third dam on Hiitolanjoki – landlocked salmon of Ladoga will soon rise to the headwaters

 

The verification and monitoring of released and restored stream waters as part of UPM's programme is based on the Finnish Environment Institute’s (SYKE) geospatial data. The baseline year for our 500 km goal is 2015. The EU’s goal is to unblock 25,000 kilometres of river water in total, but the calculation method has yet to be determined.

We are continuously on the lookout for new sites to include in our stream water programme. Our primary restoration sites are in areas owned by UPM or close to UPM's hydropower plants.

Collaborating in communities where we operate

Water is also used in our production processes at our pulp and paper mills. Around our mills, water emission levels are being monitored and bioindicators closely followed up in order to assess the potential impact of our operations on the ecological status of the waterways.

We continually seek to manage and minimise the negative impacts we have through our wider business activities. We contribute to targeted conservation efforts and joint projects by offering our expertise and resources in the communities where we operate. Collaboration with officials, researchers as well as local stakeholders is vital to improve the aquatic ecosystems. 

In Uruguay, we are participating in the Rio Negro initiative near the new world-class pulp mill of Paso de los Toros. We provide funding and technical support to improve the status of the local river. We are also funding the refurbishment of the municipal wastewater treatment plant and sewer systems in Paso de los Toros and neighbouring towns where temporary and permanent housing facilities have been built.

Our commitment to restoring aquatic ecosystems is also reflected in our work as part of the Baltic Sea Action Group (BSAG). The mission of BSAG is to revive the ecological state of the entire Baltic Sea by connecting important players in the region.

We have a long history of supporting this foundation through donations and various commitments, among which our 2030 target to reuse nutrients in our wastewater treatment, helping direct them away from potentially damaging discharge into the Baltic Sea.

The latest commitment to the Baltic Sea Action Group (BSAG) was made for 2022–2026, focusing on promoting BSAG’s Ship Waste Action initiative. It has established a model whereby cargo ship effluents are discharged at the port and their nutrients are recycled through circular economy solutions. We are exploring opportunities to use recycled nutrients from ship-generated wastewater in our own wastewater treatment plants, for example.

We and BSAG will also explore the possibility of discharging cargo hold washing waters on land for possible further reuse.

 

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