Research Article: Forest management optimization across spatial scales to reconcile economic and conservation objectives

Date Published: June 10, 2019

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Tähti Pohjanmies, Kyle Eyvindson, Mikko Mönkkönen, Marc Hanewinkel.


Conflicts between biodiversity conservation and resource production can be mitigated by multi-objective management planning. Optimizing management for multiple objectives over larger land areas likely entails trading off the practicability of the process against the goodness of the solution. It is therefore worthwhile to resolve how large areas are required as management planning regions to reconcile conflicting objectives as effectively as possible. We aimed to reveal how the extent of forestry planning regions impacts the potential to mitigate a forestry-conservation conflict in Finland, represented as a trade-off between harvest income and deadwood availability. We used forecasted data from a forest simulator, a hierarchy of forestry planning regions, and an optimization model to explore the production possibility frontier between harvest income and deadwood. We compared the overall outcomes when management was optimized within the different-sized planning regions in terms of the two objectives, the spatial variation of deadwood, and the optimal combinations of management regimes. Increasing the size of the planning regions did produce higher simultaneous levels of the two objectives, but the differences were most often of the magnitude of only a few percentages. The differences among the scales were minor also in terms of the spatial variation in deadwood availability and in the optimal management combinations. The conflict between timber harvesting and deadwood availability is only marginally easier to mitigate at large spatial scales than at small forest ownership scales. However, regardless of the spatial scale of planning, the achievable solutions may not be good enough to safeguard deadwood-dependent biodiversity without active deadwood creation.

Partial Text

Logging is one of the main causes of biodiversity loss in forest environments [1]. Intensive management and harvesting of forests modify their structure at multiple spatial scales, thereby affecting the availability of habitats and resources to wildlife [2–4]. Logging may negatively affect forest biodiversity even in areas where widespread forest loss is not taking place and that are characterized by net gains in growing forest stock, such as in the boreal forests of Finland [5]. In Finland, intensive and widespread forestry has substantially altered forest ecosystems as compared to natural forests in terms of stand age distribution, stand structure, tree species distribution, microclimatic conditions, and the amount of deadwood in the forest [6,7]. The consequences have included an increase in the amount of harvestable timber on one hand, and habitat degradation and endangerment of forest species on the other hand [8,9]. Currently, pressures to further intensify forest use continue [10] at the same time as concerns for the preservation of forest biodiversity escalate [11], maintaining challenging conflicts between economic and conservation objectives. It is a situation that recurs throughout the world in different kinds of production ecosystems [12].

This study aimed to resolve the question of how large forest areas are required for forest management optimization to be effective in reconciling the conflicting objectives of timber harvesting and biodiversity conservation in Finland, a case exemplifying the wide-spread conflicts between resource production and conservation. Using discounted harvest income and availability of deadwood resources as indicators of forestry and conservation objectives, we optimized the allocation of forest management regimes at increasing spatial scales and compared the achievable outcomes. Our results show that increasing the size of the planning regions within which management is optimized does produce higher simultaneous levels of the two objectives, but the effect is rather small. When the required level of harvest income was kept constant but the spatial scale was changed, the differences in achievable levels of deadwood were most often of the magnitude of a few percentages. Similarly, the differences among the scales in management combinations identified as optimal were minor.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.