New website to safeguard Finland's forests
A new website was launched today by Birdlife Finland and a coalition of environmental organisations, highlighting the need to save southern Finland’s last natural forests. Seventeen forests of high biological value in southern Finland are featured on the website. These are examples of numerous species-rich habitats currently unprotected and threatened by commercial forestry in the future unless adequate protection is put in place now.
The website, available at www.etelasuomenmetsat.fi in Finnish, Swedish and English, details the location and natural history of the forests and provides pictures, maps and visiting instructions. Visitors to the site can also get involved in campaigning by, for example, sending petitions to forest owners requesting that they safeguard the forests.
Marcus Walsh, of Birdlife Finland, explains the importance of protecting the forests, "The aim of the website is to put the spotlight on a few of the remaining biologically valuable forests in the south of our country. Southern Finland holds few truly virgin stands, but much forest remains of considerable biological value."
"Finland often touts itself as a leading light of forest conservation, but in fact, has more endangered species in its forests than any other habitat. This is primarily because virtually all larger protected forest areas are situated in northernmost Lapland, where the extreme climate is unsuitable for the majority of species," he added.
Only a tiny percentage of species-rich forests in southern Finland are currently protected. Those that are, represent largely isolated small fragments, whose remnant populations of endangered species could face extinction. Clear cutting of older forests severs connectivity between habitats suitable for rare species, making it impossible for them to spread or escape chance events such as fires or disease. This can threaten the survival of species just as much as direct threats, such as hunting.
Birds such as Siberian Jay Perisoreus infaustus, Capercaille Tetrao urogallus, and the White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopus leucotus, as well as hundreds of insects, plants and fungi have already become extinct or are rare in the region directly as a result of clear cutting and modern forestry methods that leave little room for wildlife or for visitors.
"Southern Finland’s forest conservation network does not guarantee the conservation of a great number of its species, and is therefore in breach of the EU Habitats Directive’s requirements." —Marcus Walsh, BirdLife Finland
"It is essential to increase the amount of protected forests through enlarging existing sites and creating connectivity between them," said Harri Hölttä, of the Finnish Association of Nature Conservation. "Current conservation efforts are adding only a few hundreds of hectares per year to Finland’s forest conservation network, when the need is for tens of thousands of hectares. A similar or worse situation for forest conservation exists across most of Europe, where the gradual increase in forest cover over the last decades has been largely due to conifer plantations, sometimes even of non-native species, which are useless for conservation of Europe’s native plants and animals. Even in remaining native forests, removal of decaying and dead wood, invasion by alien species, and illegal logging all contribute to a steady overall decline in Europe’s native forest species."
"Southern Finland’s forest conservation network does not guarantee the conservation of a great number of its species, and is therefore in breach of the EU Habitats Directive’s requirements," notes Marcus Walsh. "This is true of the majority of forested European regions; because the percentage of properly protected natural forest is extremely low everywhere. Indeed, a list of important forest sites needing protection and even restoration could be compiled for every European country."
In the meantime, the general public and the EU Commission are invited to visit the website and see for themselves the magnificent southern Finnish forests currently outside protection, which without urgent action, are destined to be clear-cut in the next decades.