Green Belt of Fennoscandia

Location

North Ostrobothnia-Kainuu region, Finland

Category

Hub

Ecosystems

Boreal forests & peatlands

Land Tenure

State-owned

Contact

Anne Tolvanen

Website

https://www.ym.fi/en-US/International_cooperation/Green_Belt_of_Fennoscandia

click for enlarged view (image from Kryshen et al., 2013)

The Green Belt of Fennoscandia is a network of national parks and protected areas spanning the borders of Finland, Russia, and Norway. This transboundary ecological corridor extends more than 1,000 km from north to south and stitches together important natural areas across the region, enabling species to move from one area and habitat to another both within and across borders. By promoting landscape connectivity, the Green Belt supports habitat and species protection, provides a source of plant and animal populations for adjacent areas outside the Green Belt, and contributes to climate change mitigation and adaptation. The Green Belt also supports the mental and physical well-being of local people, including as a source of job creation and ecotourism revenue.

The Green Belt traverses a cross-section of pristine, old-growth boreal forest stretching from the Baltic to the Barents Sea. It includes the Arctic tundra of the Barents Sea coast and forest tundra of the Kola Peninsula, and extends through the taiga of the Karelia region (northern, middle, and southern taiga) to the sub-taiga conifer-broadleaf forests of the islands in the Gulf of Finland. Pine (Pinus sylvestris) is the dominant tree species in much of the region, with spruce (Picea abies) and birch (Betula pendula, P. pubescens) also widespread. Landscapes of the Green Belt corridor were shaped by glaciation and have hillocky-moraine relief with countless lakes, marshes, and mires.

click for enlarged view (image from European Green Belt Initiative)

The Fennoscandian Green Belt is the northernmost portion of the European Green Belt, which follows the path of the former ‘Iron Curtain’ across the entire continent for more than 12,500 km. Fennoscandia is the oldest section of this larger corridor with origins stretching back to the late 1980s and early 1990s (Lindholm 2014). In 2010, the governments of Finland, Russia, and Norway officially signed a Memorandum of Understanding committing to development of the Green Belt as such and to shared responsibility for protecting biodiversity and maintaining the vitality of the natural areas comprising this zone. As part of their shared commitment, the three countries have established several ‘twin parks’ abutting their borders, including four Finnish-Russian Twin Parks and one Finnish-Norwegian-Russian Trilateral Park.

An EcoHealth Network Hub

The Fennoscandian Green Belt is an EcoHealth Network hub currently comprised of seven individual sites:

1. Mikonsuonpalo forest restoration site at Oulanka National Park (Natura 2000 area)
2. Pahamaailma forest restoration site at Hossa National Park (Natura 2000 area)
3. Elimyssalo forest and peatland restoration sites (Natura 2000 area)
4. Teeri-Lososuo forest and peatland restoration sites (Natura 2000 area)
5. Iso-Palonen peatland restoration site (Natura 2000 area)
6. Tauvo peatland restoration site at Siikajoki (Natura 2000 area)
7. Lentua forest restoration site (Natura 2000 area)

Restoration work at these sites began in 2005 and 2006 and is carried out through a partnership between Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) and Metsähallitus, a state enterprise that administers state-owned forest areas. Funding for the establishment and maintenance of restoration sites comes from the Finnish government and European Union.

Forest restoration at the different sites has been carried out using various combinations of prescribed fire, selective felling, and storm simulation. Prior to restoration, these forests had been silviculturally managed and therefore lacked the characteristics typical of natural forests, such deadwood, diverse tree size and tree species composition, and/or random spatial distribution of trees. Prescribed burning was conducted with different intensities and different combinations of tree felling to mimic natural fires of varying severity. Selective tree felling was used in other areas without burning to produce gaps of various sizes and create small-scale patch dynamics. Storm simulation, in which trees were pushed down by an excavator, was also used in some areas to create small uprooted patches and mimic fine-scale disturbances. All regeneration was allowed to proceed naturally following these treatments; no tree planting or sowing has been used. (Hekkala 2015)

Peatland areas have been restored by filling drainage ditches to reflood the sites and removing excess trees that had colonized these areas after they were drained.

Additional information regarding approaches taken by Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) to restore forest and peatland areas, respectively, is available on the Luke website at: https://www.luke.fi/en/natural-resources/forest/forest-biodiversity/restoration-of-forests/ and https://www.luke.fi/en/natural-resources/forest/forest-biodiversity/restoration-of-mires/.

The following is a brief overview of restoration activities at each of the seven sites.

1. Mikonsuonpalo forest restoration site at Oulanka National Park (Natura 2000 area)
Location: Oulanka National Park, Kuusamo, Finland
Size of site: Restoration monitoring site encompassing 16 ha
Restoration activities, primarily prescribed burning, were carried out in 2006. Monitoring of regeneration is ongoing.

2. Pahamaailma forest restoration site at Hossa National Park (Natura 2000 area)
Location: Hossa National Park, Suomussalmi, Finland
Size of site: Restoration monitoring sites encompassing 25 ha
Restoration activities, primarily prescribed burning, were carried out in 2006. Monitoring of regeneration is ongoing.

3. Elimyssalo forest and peatland restoration sites (Natura 2000 area)
Location: Elimyssalo Natura 2000 protection area, Kuhmo, Finland
Size of site: Restoration monitoring sites encompassing 25 ha
Restoration was carried out in 2006 in the forested areas and 2007 in the peatlands. Forests were either burned or felled to produce decomposing wood. Peatlands were restored by filling ditches and removing excess trees grown after drainage. Monitoring of regeneration is ongoing.

4. Teeri-Lososuo forest and peatland restoration sites (Natura 2000 area)
Geographic location: Teeri-Lososuo Natura 2000 protection area, Kuhmo, Finland
Size of site: Restoration monitoring sites encompassing 25 ha
Restoration was carried out in 2007 by filling ditches and removing excess trees grown after drainage. Monitoring of regeneration is ongoing.

5. Iso-Palonen peatland restoration site (Natura 2000 area)
Geographic location: Iso-Palonen Natura 2000 protection area, Kuhmo, Finland
Size of site: Restoration monitoring sites encompassing 25 ha
Restoration was carried out in 2007 by filling ditches and removing excess trees grown after drainage. Monitoring of regeneration is ongoing.

6. Tauvo peatland restoration site at Siikajoki (Natura 2000 area)
Geographic location: Siikajoen lintuvedet ja suot 2000 protection area, Siikajoki, Finland
Size of site: Restoration monitoring sites encompassing 25 ha
Restoration was carried out in 2008 by filling ditches and removing excess trees grown after drainage. Monitoring of regeneration is ongoing.

7. Lentua forest restoration site (Natura 2000 area)
Geographic location: Lentua Natura 2000 protection area, Kuhmo, Finland
Size of site: Restoration monitoring sites 15 ha
Restoration was carried out in 2006 by using storm simulation and tree felling to produce decomposing wood. Monitoring of regeneration is ongoing.

 


Further reading:

Hägglund, R., Hekkala, A.-M., Hjälten, J. & Tolvanen, A. 2015. Positive effects of ecological restoration on rare and threatened flat bugs (Heteroptera: Aradidae). Journal of Insect Conservation 19: 1089-1099.

Hekkala, A.-M. 2015. Restoration of the naturalness of boreal forests. PhD Dissertation, University of Oulu. http://jultika.oulu.fi/Record/isbn978-952-62-0910-4

Hekkala, A.-M., Ahtikoski, A., Päätalo, M.-L., Tarvainen, O., Siipilehto, J. & Tolvanen, A. 2016. Restoring volume, diversity and continuity of deadwood in boreal forests. Biodiversity and Conservation 25:1107-1132.

Hekkala, A.-M., Päätalo, M.-L., Tarvainen, O. & Tolvanen, A. 2014. Restoration of young forests in eastern Finland: benefits for saproxylic beetles (Coleoptera). Restoration Ecology 22: 151-159.

Hekkala, A.-M., Tarvainen, O. & Tolvanen, A. 2014. Dynamics of understory vegetation after restoration of natural characteristics in the boreal forests in Finland. Forest Ecology and Management 330: 55-66.

Kryshen, A., Titov, A., Heikkilä, R., Gromtsev, A., Kuznetsov, O., Lindholm, T. & Polin, A. 2013. On the boundaries of the Green Belt of Fennoscandia, Proceedings of the Karelian Scientific Center. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/261070350_ON_THE_BOUNDARIES_OF_THE_GREEN_BELT_OF_FENNOSCANDIA

Laine, A.M., Frolking, S., Tahvanainen, T., Tolvanen, A. & Tuittila, E.-S. 2019. Spring-season flooding is a primary control of vegetation successional trajectories in primary mires. Mires and Peat.

Laine, A.M., Leppälä, M., Tarvainen, O., Päätalo, M.-L., Seppänen, R. & Tolvanen, A. 2011. Restoration of managed pine fens: effect on hydrology and vegetation. Applied Vegetation Science 14: 340-349.

Laine, A., Mehtätalo, L., Tolvanen, A., Frolking, S. & Tuittila, E.-S. 2019. Impacts of drainage, restoration and warming on boreal wetland greenhouse gas fluxes. Science and the Total Environment. 647: 169-181.

Laine, A.M., Tolvanen, A., Mehtätalo, L. & Tuittila, E.-S. 2016. Vegetation structure and photosynthesis respond rapidly to restoration in young coastal fens. Ecology and Evolution DOI: 10.1002/ece3.2348.

Lindholm, Tapio. 2014. History and values of the Green Belt of Fennoscandia. Showcase ABCGheritage and Workshop on the Development of the northernmost part of the Green Belt of Fennoscandia, Svanvik, Norway, 14-15 October 2014. https://prosjekt.fylkesmannen.no/Documents/Pasvik%20-%20Inari/Dokument/History%20of%20Fennoscandian%20Green%20Belt_Lindholm.pdf

Saarimaa, M., Aapala, K., Tuominen, S., Karhu, J., Parkkari, M. & Tolvanen, A. 2019. Predicting hotspots for threatened plant species in boreal peatlands. Biodiversity and Conservation 28: 1173-1204. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-019-01717-8

Tarvainen, O. & Tolvanen, A. 2016. Healing the wounds in the landscape – reclaiming gravel roads in conservation areas. Environmental Science and Pollution Research 23:13732–13744.

Tarvainen, O., Laine, A.M., Peltonen, M. & Tolvanen, A. 2013. Mineralization and decomposition rates in restored pine fens. Restoration Ecology, 21:592-599.

Tolvanen A., Saarimaa M., Tuominen S. & Aapala K. 2020. Is 15% restoration sufficient to safeguard the habitats of boreal red-listed mire plant species? Global Ecology and Conservation 23 (2020) e01160. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gecco.2020.e01160

Tolvanen A, Tarvainen O, Laine A. 2020. Soil and water nutrients in stem only and whole tree harvest treatments in restored boreal peatlands. Restoration Ecology in press.