The challenge of combining variable retention and prescribed burning in Finland

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Lindberg, H., Punttila, P. & Vanha-Majamaa, I. The challenge of combining variable retention and prescribed burning in Finland. Ecol Process 9, 4 (2020).

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Title: The challenge of combining variable retention and prescribed burning in Finland
Author: Lindberg, Henrik; Punttila, Pekka; Vanha-Majamaa, Ilkka
Publisher: Springer
Date: 2020
Language: en
Belongs to series: Ecological Processes 9, 4 (2020)
ISSN: 2192-1709
Abstract: Historically, wildfires have played an important role in forest dynamics in Fennoscandia. In Finland, the annually burned area has diminished in recent decades. This has led to a decline of fire-adapted habitat types and species, many of which have become red-listed. In Fennoscandia, there is a long tradition of silvicultural burnings to enhance tree regeneration. Recently, prescribed burnings have been modified for biodiversity goals following the recommendations that have emerged from ecological research. Prominent biodiversity gains can be obtained by combining sufficient retention levels with burnings. Consequently, burning and retention have been recommended by recent national red-list assessments, strategies, and forest-management guidelines, and they have been adopted in forest-certification standards in Finland. Contrary to these recommendations, the opposite development has taken place: (1) the ecological efficiency of the criterion concerning prescribed burning in the PEFC forest-certification standard has been impaired, (2) state funding to encourage private forest owners to apply prescribed burning was reduced significantly, and (3) prescribed burnings have been abandoned altogether in commercial state-owned forests. Traditional burnings with variable retention have also been partially replaced with burning of small retention-tree groups. This new method is less risky and cheaper, but its ecological benefits are questionable because small-sized fires produce much smaller areas of burned forest soil with less fire-affected wood than traditional silvicultural burnings. Generally, the widely accepted goal to increase burnings with retention appears difficult to achieve and would require stronger political will and economic support from the government. We identified several actions that could improve the weakened situation of fire-dependent biodiversity and recommend the following: (1) setting a clear goal and ensuring sufficient funding for the burnings—including restoration burnings in conservation areas—and targeting these to specific fire-continuum areas with sufficient retention to ensure the continuity of fire-affected habitats at landscape level; (2) renewing the current subsidizing policies to encourage private landowners to perform prescribed burnings in regeneration areas after final fellings, and to safeguard accidental forest-fire areas as set-asides; (3) renewing the current prescribed-burning criterion of the Finnish PEFC forest-certification standard with more ambitious ecological goals; and (4) re-introducing prescribed burnings in commercial state forests where management targets are under political steering.
Subject: biodiversity
conservation areas
fire-dependent species
forest certification
red-listed species
restoration burnings
Subject (ysa): bioyhteisö
palosta riippuvaiset lajit
metsän tutkimus
uhanalaiset lajit

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