Accelerating use of natural resources causing harmful impacts on biodiversity, together with limited resources for conservation, highlight the importance of developing cost-effective, ecologically sustainable land use planning approaches. In Finland, a recent conservation project “METSO - Forest Biodiversity Programme for Southern Finland” tackles the challenge of integrating conservation with sustainable forestry to halt the decline in forest species and habitats. A core element in METSO is the spatial conservation prioritization of forests to supplement the current protected area network, based on concepts of complementarity, and voluntarity. These analyses pave way towards new practices where ecological decision making has a vital role in forest management decision making.
We used the prioritization program, Zonation, to recognize new potential high conservation value forest areas. The overall aim was to conduct nationwide prioritization analyses based on biodiversity-related forest data and land use data recorded at forest stand level. We primarily employed forest structure and quality data (vegetation class, tree species, volume and diameter) which provide ecologically useful surrogates for conservation values in boreal forest. MOTTI-program was used for modelling decaying wood potential indexes and forest data were fed to measure this potential for the whole Finland, using 16 m x 16 m grid. This allowed forecasting the high conservation value areas that contain a lot of decaying wood - a key component for boreal forest biodiversity. In addition, connectivity was taken into account in prioritizations at 3 different levels: (1) connectivity and quality of ecologically similar forest patches, and connectivity measured based on quality and distance to (2) woodland key habitats and (3) permanent conservation areas. The selected forest structure and quality features, linked with connectivity analysis, represent important factors for the long term persistence of red list forest species.
In sum, 6 different analysis setups were employed so that each new version included everything that had been added before. Version 1 included only the decaying wood potential and the last version all features: decaying wood potential, penalty for recorded harmful actions for forest biodiversity, observations of red list forest species and 3 different connectivity measures. As a practical outcome, results will be used in 2015 – 2025 to support local, areal and national level sustainable land using planning and nature conservation by informing ministries, different stake holders in forestry and landowners.
Lehtomaki et al. 2009. For. Ecol. Manag. 258/11. Applying spatial conservation prioritization software and high-resolution GIS data to a national-scale study in forest conservation.
Lehtomaki et al. 2015. Plos One 10/8. What Data to Use for Forest Conservation Planning? A Comparison of Coarse Open and Detailed Proprietary Forest Inventory Data in Finland.