The goal of the Forest Biodiversity Programme for Southern Finland (METSO) is to halt the decline in forest habitats and species, and to establish a stable favourable trend in forest biodiversity. The METSO programme aims to improve the network of protected areas and to enhance biodiversity in commercially managed forests. The programme is based on the voluntary participation of forest owners.

Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) produces research-based information on the impacts and development needs of the METSO program from ecological and socio-economic perspectives. Luke in collaboration with the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) monitors the implementation of the programme. Luke and SYKE prepare annually an overview of the progress of the METSO programme. Our results benefit different parties that implement and govern the METSO programme, various stakeholders, researchers and forest owners.

Luke’s studies have found that the METSO programme has succeeded in protecting valuable forest sites. The scientific selection criteria for METSO areas work well in identifying sites with the most valuable species composition. Sites have been studied in the Uusimaa, Northern Savonia and South Ostrobothnia regions, in Kuusamo and in Southeast Finland. More red-listed species were found in Kuusamo and Southeast Finland than in the other regions. The regional variation may result from the history of forest use and the closeness of the eastern border.

Inventory of insects living in decaying trees at a METSO site in Parikkala.

In addition to forest protection, biodiversity can be safeguarded by improving forest management methods. The impacts of forest management methods emulating natural forest dynamics are studied in two 1000-hectare research areas at Isojärvi (Central Finland) and Ruunaa (North Karelia), including effects on stand structure and species composition. According to recent results, windthrow frequency is very low in gap felling, and tree regeneration is satisfactory in the gaps.

Under the METSO programme, forest owners can offer forest sites for permanent or fixed-term protection and participate in nature management projects. In the METSO programme, voluntary and compensation-based conservation measures are important elements in order for the programme to be accepted by forest owners.

SuojeluMotti software has been developed to assess how trees develop quantitatively and qualitatively during a fixed-term conservation period compared with the management of a similar forest as a regular commercially managed forest. On the basis of the results, it is possible to determine how the value of forest stands change during the protection period.

Photos: Reijo Penttilä, Luke