The decline of forest biodiversity in Finland may already be irreversible

A recent study shows that in some parts of Finland, the biodiversity of natural boreal forests may be beyond recovery. This is a result of intensive forest management, which has profoundly affected biodiversity during the past decades. Hundreds of forest-dwelling species have declined and dozens of species have gone extinct in Finland. The main cause is habitat loss and degradation caused by forestry.

It has been unclear whether declined species can recover when their natural habitats are restored, or whether they are lost forever. In a recently published study, researchers from the University of Eastern Finland and Metsähallitus (Forest and Park Service) restored natural-like forest ecosystems in several regions in the country. They followed the return and recovery of species that are specialized in natural boreal forests. Even though natural structures were successfully created, the diversity of species did not always recover. The recovery was, however, more evident in eastern Finland than in western Finland.

“It was a surprise to see such a big difference in the recovery rate between different regions,” says Professor Jari Kouki from the School of Forest Sciences, University of Eastern Finland. “These differences can be explained by different history in intensive forest management.” In eastern Finland, the intensification of forestry began later than in western Finland and, consequently, eastern Finland still has small remnants of natural forests that provide colonizers to new habitat patches. In western Finland, no such source areas exist any more, and the disappearance of forest biodiversity may already be a permanent phenomenon.

The researchers note that widespread and locally intensive forestry may cause changes in biodiversity that are irreversible or very slowly recovering. The results urge for more consideration and improvement of sustainability of forestry in Finland.

It is, however, obvious that the decline of forest biodiversity can be slower in the future, provided that appropriate measures are taken. “Our results show new ways and tools to plan and execute efficient restoration and management actions. Unfortunately, there is not much time left for these actions. But clearly there are still opportunities to improve the current situation in many regions in Finland,” says Professor Kouki.

The research was published in the highly ranked scientific journal Diversity and Distributions (April 2012 issue).

For further information, please contact Prof. Jari Kouki, University of Eastern Finland, School of Forest Sciences, tel. +358 50 538 5373, jari.kouki@uef.fi

 

Publishing year: 2012

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