Finland Erasmus Trip 3-10 September 2018

Introduction:

On 3rd September 2018 a motley crew of Forestry and Conservation delegates met at Edinburgh Airport to fly to Tampere, Finland to embark on Erasmus+ NET 4 visit in conjunction with Arch which was hosted by the Tampere Institute of Applied Sciences (TAMK).

Group shot in Lakkasuo

Attendees:

Arina Nagy-Vizitiu (AN) Woodland Trust Scotland

Doug Gilbert (DG) Trees for Life

Emma Martinelli (EM) Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

Jill Aitken (JA) Woodland Trust Scotland

Rebecca Smith (RS) Forest Enterprise Scotland

Saranne Bish (SB) High Life Highland

Stuart Glen (SG) Institute of Chartered Foresters

Itinerary:

Tuesday 4th September, Day 1

National Parks in Finland – Seitseminen National Park: old growth forests, rehabilitation of ditched mires, beaver dams, glacifluvial landscape. Miia Pulkkinen, Forestry Student at TAMK and the National Park Staff.

Wednesday 5th September, Day 2

Commercial forestry site visit where TAMK second year students of forestry are learning practical work. Miia Pulkkinen and lecturers Jenni Kokkarinen & Jukka Tohu.

Thursday 6th September, Day 3

Environmental Education at Nature School Korento (the Dragon Fly), Miia Pulkkinen and the Staff of Nature School. Urban forests in Tampere and forests in Urban Planning, excursion to Pyynikki esker, Eveliina Asikainen Senior Lecturer in TAMK.

Friday 7th September, Day 4

Vocational and Professional education in Forestry in Finland (Senior Lecturer Eveliina Asikainen)

Preserving biodiversity in forestry (Senior Lecturer Petri Keto-Tokoi)

Presentations from attendees

Saturday 8th September, Day 5

Cultural day in Tampere

Protection of birds in Finland – visiting Puurijarvi-Isosuo National Park, Senior Lecturer Eveliina Asikainen

Sunday 9th September, Day 6

Ecology of mires and peatlands in Finnish forestry : Excursion to Lakkasuo and Hyytiälä Forestry Field Station Forest industry and Local development. Visiting Serlachius Museums in Mänttä. Senior Lecturer Pirjo Puustjärvi

We have all taken responsibility for a day or area of interest and this report will be set out chronologically to give you an idea of the wonderful and informative exchange we had to Finland.

Home of the Moomins

Tuesday 4th September, Day 1

Seitseminen National Park (DG)

Location

The Park was formed in 1982 and covers 46 sqkm (4600ha – just a bit bigger than Dundreggan Conservation Estate). For comparison, Loch Lomond & the Trossachs NP is 1,865 sqkm while Cairngorms NP is 4,528 sqkm – 100 times bigger!

Important natural features appear to be eskers, meadows and pastures, mires, old growth forest and bears and wolves. We only had time to see a couple of these.

From the Seitseminen National Park website:

The heart of the National Park is the old-growth forest of Multiharju, which has been protected already in 1910. The oldest shield bark pines are almost 400 years old, and there are still marks of the past forest fires on their stems. Here and there in the shadows of the ancient spruce forest there are handsome old Aspens (Populus tremula), but most of the deciduous trees have fallen to the ground and become overgrown with moss a long time ago.

Forestry was an important form of livelihood in the Seitseminen area and logging and timber floating were parts of everyday life. The largest loggings were carried out in the 1920s. Some of the handsome spruces of Seitsemisharju Esker have been cut to be used as ship masts, which were needed for Finland paying war reparations to the Soviet Union in 1940-50s.

Old growth forests are also found around Lake Pitkäjärvi, along River Seitsemisjoki, and on forest islands on the bogs. Many hole nesters live in the old forests: the Eurasian Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium passerinum), the Ural Owl (Strix uralensis), the Three-toed Woodpecker (Picoides tridactylus), the Red-breasted Flycatcher (Ficedula parva), and the Siberian Flying Squirrel (Pteromys volans) which in the 2000 Red List evaluation was classified as vulnerable. “

We met Meya Salmela at the Seitseminen National Park nature centre. She is an entrepreneur who rents the café and shop area from Metsahallitus (the Finnish State Forestry Service), who own the centre building as well as the National Park itself. All 40 Finnish National Parks are owned by the State in contrast to Scottish Parks which have multiple private and public owners.

Jill, Saranne, Miia, Stuart, Rebecca, Emma, Arina and Doug

Although knowledgeable, Meya was not a National Park employee which made it difficult for her to answer some of our more technical questions. However we learned that the park receives about 45,000 visitors per year, mostly families and individuals coming to the park for day trips. As in Scotland, people have a right to access the countryside (Everyman’s Rights); so walking, biking and horse access is encouraged. It is also possible to fish in the Park but hunting is strictly controlled/not allowed. There are some private huts in the park which are used for fishing/camping trips. We couldn’t find out the reason behind the formation of the National Park and guessed that a small old growth area (see later) was the catalyst with a larger recreational area encompassed in its formation.

Entrance to the National Park Centre.


The Park is rich in woodland wildlife (though we hardly saw anything!). The centre interpretation contained stuffed golden eagle, lynx, capercaillie, black woodpecker, red squirrel, pine martin and we were told that both bear and wolf pass through. Meya suggested there were no deer in the park but we felt sure that white-tailed deer and elk would surely be present. She also explained that a small group of woodland reindeer were being re-introduced to an enclosure in the Park in an effort to re-establish a sustainable population of the animals. Unfortunately we were unable to visit this project on the day. Meya did not think there was any management of any non-native species (of which there seemed to be very few – white-tailed deer and raccoon dogs were obvious exceptions). Metsahallitus do not carry out any timber extraction in the park – the only felling is for access and safety reasons. This corresponds to a minimal intervention management regime, which is rare in Scottish protected woodlands, mainly because of the desire to remove non-natives and the impacts of browsing animals (deer, sheep etc) in our own country.

Typical habitat at Seitseminen. Norway spruce dominating here.

Stuffed wildlife display at the Nature Centre

After saying goodbye to Meya, we walked along a path through the woods – our first real look at a Finnish forest habitat. We noted the main forest trees were Scots pine, Norway spruce, aspen and silver birch. We were struck by the even age of the wood, the straightness of the trunks, lack of large side branching, especially in Scots pine, and its high stem density. The ground layer was quite rich with a thick moss-lichen layer everywhere with abundant herbs such as twinflower, Menianthemum, lily of the valley, Labrador tea (erroneously identified as bog rosemary by yours truly!), Hepatica and a range of familiar ericoids including ling heather, cross-leaved heath, cowberry (lingon berry), blaeberry, and northern blaeberry. Virtually no grasses and sedges and no bracken – a joy1! There was a low level of regenerating understorey, mainly Norway spruce, rowan, silver birch and grey alder. All of the rowan seemed to be suppressed by browsing to a height of c 50cm and much of the Norway spruce and other species appeared to be suppressed by shading from the dense SP and NS canopy.

This was a common theme in other woods we subsequently visited and we concluded that at least some of the suppression of rowan is by elk and/or white-tailed deer browsing. We hardly saw any large berry-bearing rowans within the forest. Juniper was rare in the shrub layer. In contrast to much of Scotland, for the main part we were walking on dry mineral soils, with wet areas restricted to hollows etc.

Kovero Heritage Farm

After a picnic lunch in the woods, we moved to Kovero Heritage Farm nearby. A group of large wooden buildings are the remnants of a thriving rural farmstead akin to a Scottish “fermtoun” set up with extensive livestock housing but also a large saw mill.

There was a guide in traditional costume who helped interpret the place. Inhabited since the 1850’s, the place was extended in the 1880’s to accommodate winter timber extraction with up to 30 or 40 workers all sleeping on the floor of the main house. They would return to their own farms and homes during the summer months. The house was occupied up to the 1950’s despite the lack of running water and electricity. The implication of this is that the surrounding woodlands – now within the National Park – had been managed for timber for at least 100 years and probably more prior to the National Park formation. What we are seeing in the woodland structure is therefore the result of human intervention on a relatively intense scale for many decades.

The next stop at Seitseminen was a visit to a patch of old growth forest – perhaps the catalyst for the Park’s creation – and a chance to see what “original” forest might look like in Finland. Surprisingly, we found it strikingly similar to non-old growth forest! Low species diversity in the canopy (Scots pine, Norway spruce, aspen, silver birch, grey alder), all the trees were telegraph pole straight with no large side branches and hardly any “characterful” trees, as we get in many Scottish woods (e.g. Granny pines).

Old growth forest

Our TAMK guide Miia suggested many of the trees are 200 years old, which seemed reasonable looking at the size of the trunks, while the oldest trees mentioned on the National Park website are 400 years. There were many large dead standing Scots pines, which appeared to be being crowded out by Norway spruce. As with the forest earlier in the day, the shrub layer consisted of Norway spruce, rowan, birch and grey alder regeneration, with very little Scots pine – perhaps the composition is changing towards NS?

In places the herb layer was suppressed by shading with a moss-lichen layer dominating. Our impressions, shared later, were that it didn’t feel very old, with none of the features of open growth pine or broadleaf forest in Scotland. Surprisingly little dead fallen wood – it would have been easy to walk through the trees off the path (though this was discouraged in the old growth section).

Our last stop in the day was to a lake-side area to look at beaver impacts. We found lots!