Ramping up wetland restoration: Stora Enso’s new and on-going projects in Sweden and Finland

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Stora Enso will start a new project to restore wetlands in Gävleborg in Sweden this spring, with the target to rehabilitate at least three wetlands in the area. A similar peatland restoration project was launched with Tornator in Finland in 2022. As part of the Nordic forest industry, we want to actively contribute to the health of forests and promote nature values that are integral for our business and for the planet. Wetland restoration is part of our ambitious biodiversity targets, driven by our Biodiversity Leadership Program and action programs for own and supplier forests.

As areas with high water levels, wetlands make up some of the most vibrant and abundant habitats for various species. Over the years, their natural state has been impaired, for instance through drainage, which is why we have started to ramp up our actions to restore wetlands in Sweden and Finland. By restoring wetland habitats, we contribute to the recovery of vegetation and other species, enhancing biodiversity. In the long run, the wetland’s carbon sequestration will also increase, as they are significant carbon storages.

In addition to the notable environmental benefits, wetland restoration can boost recreational values as well. The restored areas provide a vital ground for berries, for instance, and the improved quality of waterways underground enhance the conditions in lakes.

We step up our actions with a new wetland restoration project in Sweden

In Sweden, our own forests provide us with an excellent platform to make sustainable choices. In line with our biodiversity program, it’s important for us to also preserve nature values in our own forests, where one of our targets is to test, plan, and implement wetland restorations by 2030. In 2023, we will restore at least three wetlands in the county of Gävleborg, in the Southeast of Sweden, with the goal to rehabilitate wetlands in the catchment area and enhance biodiversity around the river Skärjån.

“I’m excited to say that this is a completely new endeavour for us in Sweden. It’s important to put our focus on those areas that benefit the most from restoration, and we have now, after careful consideration, chosen the first three wetlands. The main action is to plug ditches, after which the structures and habitats on the wetland will start to recover to their original state. With the learnings that we get from these three wetlands, we can scale up and find new restoration opportunities on our land,” comments Jonas Svensson, Sustainability Specialist at Stora Enso.

The restoration work starts in the spring of 2023, and it will be finalized by the end of the year. The restoration is done in collaboration with The County Administrative Board of Gävleborg (Länsstyrelsen Gävleborg), The Swedish Forest Agency Gävleborg (Skogsstyrelsen Gävleborg) and The Swedish Anglers Association (Sportfiskarna).

Thanks to careful planning, we have made excellent restoration progress in Finland

In Finland, we operate with private forest owners and enhance biodiversity in collaboration with different partners. In 2022, we launched our ambition to restore 1,000 hectares of low forest cover peatland with Tornator in Eastern and Southern Finland. The work continues until 2027 on the land owned by Tornator.

“Careful planning has been fundamental for the work: it’s vital that we choose the optimal environments to achieve the best possible impact on biodiversity. During past years, we have participated in a few restorations with Tornator, some of which are in progress, some finalized, and some being planned. In 2022, for example, we restored 20 hectares in Pieksämäki. In 2023, we continue in Punkaharju with as much as 57 hectares. In addition to these, a lot has been accomplished, and we are already almost halfway our 1,000 hectare target with Tornator,” says Niina Partanen, Environmental Manager at Stora Enso.

Restoring a wetland to its natural state starts with potential harvesting, continued by plugging ditches which will raise the water level. If we harvest – to fit the needs of the specific land, for instance – we leave the trees that naturally grow on the wetland. Otherwise, trees are harvested since they evaporate water and hinder the rehabilitation. This also clears up space and light for species that naturally thrive on wetlands. We use the harvested wood for renewable products to replace fossil-based raw materials.

After the measures, drained wetlands will eventually recover. Restoring high nature values is a topical venture in line with global and EU ambitions, and it is our responsibility as a forest owner and renewable materials company to keep developing our actions and ensure vibrant forests and nature. Both projects continue actively during 2023 and beyond: In Sweden, restoration areas for next year will be mapped. In Finland, we keep up our progress to restore the remaining half of the wetlands with Tornator.