The last large intact forests in Northwest Russia

Protection and sustainable use

image of The last large intact forests in Northwest Russia

The forests of Fennoscandia have been in human use for many purposes for centuries, and through the last decades industrialized and cultivated in a manner that can change their ecological function with respect to biodiversity at species and ecosystem levels. In Northwest Russia we can still find large, indigenous forests where human impact is low. They represent the last intact western taiga ecosystems of high value for biodiversity preservation in Russia and Fennoscandia as reservoirs and source habitats for future dispersal of taiga species. The Conference and Workshop in Steinkjer 2007 focused on these matters, but also the ecological importance of these forests for rural culture, socio-economic importance, industrial values and how protection and sustainable societies could go hand in hand. Many of the presentations given at the conference and workshop are here presented together with the Summary and Closing Statement worked out at the end of the sessions. The presentations cover many aspects from ecology, history and culture, conservation and management strategies, inventory tools for defining habitats of specific value to biodiversity, as well as implementation of environmental issues into the forestry laws and certification and educational tools for developing sustainable societies in a broad scale.



Balancing production and biodiversity

Considerations to and conservation of biodiversity is one of the drivers affecting the development of the sustainable forest management concept. Successful maintenance of biodiversity can be defined as all naturally occurring species with population existing in viable populations and found in representative and functional stable or dynamic habitat networks that are maintained by ecosystem processes at multiple spatial and temporal scales. The extent to which biodiversity is maintained is thus a matter of levels of ambition: (1) species may be present, but not in viable populations; (2) viable populations may be present, but only those that are not specialized on natural forest structures or having large area requirements; (3) communities of all naturally occurring species of the representative ecosystems of an ecoregion are present, but large scale disturbances and global change can threat ecological integrity, and (4) ecosystems and governance systems have adaptive capacity and form resilient socialecological systems (=landscapes). As a base for reaching these different levels of ambitions mapping of ecosystems at multiple spatial scales regarding the quality, size, connectivity and matrix surrounding (e.g., forest, mire complexes, tundra, agricultural land etc.) the forest areas of high conservation value is necessary. In addition, actors and stakeholders involved with biodiversity conservation should be made aware that there are often thresholds for habitat loss, which if exceeded, will lead to loss of biodiversity. A rule of thumb is that if more than 70-80% of natural forest components are lost population viability for individual species is threatened. Performance targets for ecosystem integrity and resilience remain to be formulated. Forest landscapes with a long history of intensive management in Fennoscandia are below such thresholds. Mapping of forests with high conservation value provide estimates of the assets for functional habitat networks. Policy analyses should then be made to determine what level of ambition of biodiversity maintenance is desired. Then one can assess the possibility of reaching this ambition by combining protection, management and restoration of forest ecosystems and processes at multiple spatial and temporal scales. Tools for biodiversity assessments are available for systematic conservation planning for the maintenance of biodiversity at strategic, tactical and operational levels. Three examples are (1) securing large intact forest landscapes within each ecoregion; (2) maintain connectivity for terrestrial and aquatic infrastructures of landscapes; (3) selecting appropriate systems for management and governance that match the social-ecological context.


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