News Biodiversity, Climate, Economy, Environment, Forestry

The diverse use of forests means balancing between different benefits. Is it possible to produce timber and protect biodiversity at the same time? What happens if the aim is also to strengthen carbon stocks and berry yields? The new Forest Indicator tool helps to compare the impact of different scenarios on benefits produced by forests.

The Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), together with Oulu University of Applied Sciences and the Finnish Forest Centre, has developed the online Forest Indicator tool, which can be used to study the impact of different forest scenarios in various ways. The tool visualises different impact using nearly 40 forest variables during different periods of time.

“Finland’s National Forest Strategy 2025 and the Finnish Bioeconomy Strategy set a number of goals for forests and their use,” says professor Anne Tolvanen from Luke, who led the tool development project.

“The Forest Indicator offers information about the combination of these different goals and what impact different felling scenarios have, on one hand, on the state of forests and, on the other, on forest biodiversity and ecosystem services,” Tolvanen says.

The Forest Indicator offers information about the combination of these different goals and what impact different felling scenarios have, on one hand, on the state of forests and, on the other, on forest biodiversity and ecosystem services. Photo: Erkki Oksanen

Forest Indicator based on a massive amount of calculated data

The Forest Indicator tool visualises forest calculations made on the basis of the National Forest Inventory. In addition to tree diameter and biomass data, calculations are supplemented by various variables that represent biodiversity and natural products. Biodiversity is illustrated by key plant functional groups or species, i.e. grasses, forbs, lichens and dwarf shrubs, such as bilberry, lingonberry and heather. Forecast models were prepared for these, explained by different structural features of forests. The new forecast models were then connected to Luke’s Mela software, designed to analyse potential uses and production outputs of forests.

“We prepared scenarios that include new plant variables for regions that participated in the project: Northern Ostrobothnia and Lapland. Later, the Forest Indicator can also visualise scenarios prepared for other regions and the whole of Finland,” says Tuula Packalen, research professor at Luke.

Forest use scenarios can be used in regional forest programmes

Specialists from the Finnish Forest Centre defined different regional scenarios for the use of forests. This ensured that the scenarios included in the tool can be used in regional forest programmes that are currently being revised.

“The Forest Indicator helps to analyse different aspects of sustainability and to enter into a dialogue regarding focus areas, also at a regional level,” says Eeva-Liisa Repo, business manager at the Finnish Forest Centre.

The new forecast models were developed by a group of research scientists from Luke, and the application was developed at Oulu University of Applied Sciences, partly by students. Stakeholder participants in workshops produced valuable information for the definition of different scenarios.

“Cooperation across scientific fields and sector boundaries was needed to develop this versatile tool,” Tolvanen says.

“In addition, active participation ensured that the Forest Indicator is now an integral part of the ongoing dialogue on the sustainable use of forests,” Tuula Packalen summarises.

The UUTU (New products from forests) project is funded by ERDF Lapland and ERDF Northern Ostrobothnia in 2016–2020. In addition to Luke, the project parties are University of Eastern Finland, Lapland University of Applied Sciences, Oulu University of Applied Sciences and the Finnish Forest Centre.

Publication: Miina, Jari; Hallikainen, Ville; Härkönen, Kari; Merilä, Päivi; Packalen, Tuula; Rautio, Pasi; Salemaa, Maija; Tonteri, Tiina; Tolvanen, Anne (2020). Incorporating a model for ground lichens into multi-functional forest planning for boreal forests in Finland. Forest Ecology and Management 460, doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2020.117912