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15.5 Protecting biodiversity: Balancing the multiple objectives of urban forest management

Urban forests are not only important recreational areas for people, but also important habitats for many species. Studies have shown that the age distribution, species composition and the proportion of dead trees in urban forests are closer to those in natural forests than in commercial forests. In urban forest management, it is therefore possible to effectively combine the promotion of recreational values with the protection of biodiversity.

The Siberian flying squirrel is a strictly protected species under the EU Habitats Directive. It is used as an indicator species for sustainable forestry and high-quality habitats. The degradation and destruction of its nesting and resting sites is prohibited. The main threats to the flying squirrel are the loss of suitable habitats and the fragmentation of these habitats into smaller and more isolated areas. We investigated how the management of urban recreational forests affects the Siberian flying squirrel’s habitats and the connectivity between them. The study was conducted in the recreational forest area of Laajavuori in Jyväskylä.

The results show that promoting recreational values in urban forest management also contributes to the protection of the flying squirrel. Cost-effective management practices include avoiding clearcutting and stopping all felling in stands with large-diameter aspen. It is more cost-effective to incorporate measures to protect the flying squirrel into the management of urban forests already carried to support recreational use.

The results of the study will help to manage urban forests in a cost-effective way that promotes both the conservation of the Siberian flying squirrel and recreational opportunities.