”The communal work focused on restoring locally important freshwater habitats, such as building spawning grounds and removing unnecessary barriers or culverts, installed too high, that are harmful for migratory fish. As a result of the cooperation, dried-up riverbeds were restored to flowing streams. New habitats were created for species that thrive in freshwaters, such as the critically endangered trout and crayfish," says Manu Vihtonen, Freshwater Officer, WWF.
Forest streams are a unique and important habitat for freshwater species, especially as the climate becomes warmer and summer heatwaves become more common. For example, endangered migratory fish, such as trout, thrive in cooler waters.
“In the restorations, the volunteers could see and experience in practice how the trees shading the forest streams affect air and water temperatures. In the hot summer heat, shaded areas provide a cooler microclimate and environment for freshwater organisms and species,” says Vihtonen.
Part of Stora Enso and Tornator’s biodiversity programmes in Finland
Annemi Usva-Vänttinen, Corporate Partnership Director, WWF, is also pleased with the cooperation with Stora Enso and Tornator. The cooperation for forest streams is part of WWF's broader and long-term work to achieve good ecological conditions for freshwaters in Finland by 2030.
“It is important that we can work together with two major Finnish forestry companies to improve the biodiversity of freshwaters. Working together, we have more opportunities to create positive changes in our environment,” praises Usva-Vänttinen.
In cooperation, the partners look for and identify potential restoration sites on Tornator land. Stora Enso and Tornator staff participate in the practical work together with WWF experts. The restoration work is communal work, and as such it is completely voluntary. In Stora Enso, employees can use up to eight hours annually in communal work to give back to their community.
Managing forest biodiversity is integrated into Stora Enso and Tornator's daily forest operations. The cooperation with WWF Finland is part of the biodiversity programmes in both companies.
”The cooperation with project partners has been excellent. With freshwater restorations, Tornator has been able to increase the effectiveness of its biodiversity programme, in combination with its other objectives such as peatland restorations and water protection measures in forestry,” says Heikki Myöhänen, Environmental Manager, Tornator.
Water protection and restoration are two of the focus areas also in Stora Enso’s biodiversity action programme in Finland. Especially water protection has received special attention in the past years overall, which was visible also in annual biodiversity impact results last year.
”It has been rewarding to take concrete action for forest nature together. The restoration sites have been a great fit for our own staff, many of whom also enjoy outdoor activities in their free time. The communal work has also strengthened the sense of community. We have gained a lot of information about forest streams as habitats for different species, which we will also utilize in future discussions with forest owners,” sums up Pekka Kallio-Mannila, Head of Sustainability, Stora Enso Forest Finland.
The cooperation for forest streams
The cooperation for forest streams started in May 2022 and will continue until the end of 2024. Last year, employees from all three organizations built 12 spawning grounds for the endangered trout, restored 400 meters of riverbeds, and worked to make a road culvert accessible for migratory species. The aim of the cooperation is to strengthen biodiversity in Finnish nature by restoring small waterbodies mainly in forests.
Migratory fish, water insects, mosses, crayfish, and mussels depend on free-flowing waters. The improved quality of freshwaters will also benefit forest species around the streams.
Original source: Press release by WWF Finland on 2 November 2023.