FI-6 :: Changes and challenges in forests and mires

In forested and relatively sparsely populated countries, such as Finland, the use and refinement of forest biomass has been a significant cornerstone of the economy for a long time. Forest management practices, including drainage of much of the mires, have aimed to intensify the wood biomass production. Today, new economic growth and jobs are sought through an increase in the bioeconomy businesses that encompasses all kinds of production based on renewable natural materials, including the further development and use of innovations and technologies related to such materials. The aim is to secure the competitiveness of the existing industries and provide them with opportunities to grow. Bioeconomy is also expected to enhance the viability of regions by promoting regional self-sufficiency and assuring that the benefits from the activities remain in the area. Much of the targeted growth in bioeconomy relies on the introduction of high added value products and services as well as new uses of wastes and industrial side streams. However, bioeconomy will also increase the financial use of forests. Due to forest management, the biomass growth has accelerated, but in terms of carbon sinks and biodiversity protection, more intensified use sets also challenges. There is a need to foster site productivity and environmental sustainability. Intensive removal of biomass from forests takes away considerable amounts of nutrients. Intensive collection of biomass from previously drained mires now growing forest can also result in major impacts on waters.
Northern forests and mires are also facing challenges caused by climate change that is predicted to lead to more than average warming particularly in the northern parts of Europe. This will cause increase in forest growth, but also alteration of habitats, introduction of new species, and spreading of alien species. New insect pests could possibly cause damage on a massive scale.
Land use changes from forest and mire areas to agricultural land and built-up areas have mostly already taken place, but particularly around growing urban centres and in areas of intensifying agriculture, new developments are taking place. Land use changes have made the landscape structure fragmented and future challenges lie in the integration of green structure. Also the restoration of altered habitats, especially drained peatlands, is an important question. As peatlands have stored massive amounts of carbon, their use, restoration and protection is globally a crucial issue.
Possible research questions may be:
Natural capital
• In what ways will forests and mires change along with climate change, what are the consequences of the changes and how to prepare for them?
• Through what ways can decentralised, resource-efficient bioeconomy enhance the viability of regions?
Land management
• How can intensified use of forest biomass be balanced with objectives related to biodiversity, carbon sinks, site productivity and environmental sustainability?
• How to promote integrated green structure, restoration of drained mires and other critically altered habitats and manage pressures towards land use changes?
• How to develop policy instruments to minimise negative environmental impacts of the bioeconomy development?
Net impacts
• What are the impacts of forest cutting, forest renewal and ditch network maintenance on runoff waters from drained mires?