Ilomansti Model Forest, Finland
The Karelian landscape is a combination of forests, mires (bogs) and waterways that spans the border between Finland and Russia. It’s where the Ilomantsi Model Forest is located which shares a 100 km long border with the Russian Republic of Karelia.
When the idea of the Model Forest was first proposed, the partners recognized that landscape decisions on the Finnish side could only be implemented in conjunction with decisions made on the Russian side. They recognized that landscape planning approaches in Finland and Russia were significantly different and those differences reduced overall sustainability in the region. Moreover land ownership structures and cross-border communications and cooperation issues made it a challenge to coordinate practices and plans.
The Model Forest saw an opportunity to create connectivity to produce ecologically meaningful results, promote sustainable landscapes and derive economic benefits through projects such as the identification of the new methods and techniques for landscape assessment, mapping high conservation value forests using remote sensing data, and showing the advantages for FSC group certification for main landowners in Ilomantsi.
Another Model Forest project has been to facilitate a cross-jurisdictional assessment of fire risk. One of the challenges was to reconcile the different measurement and classification systems used by both countries. The aim of the study was to analyze cross-border forest fire risks and to test the possibilities for joint data dissemination.
On the Russian side there are large tracts of forest with little fragmentation, few roads and almost no fuel management procedures. The Finnish side is characterized by smaller more fragmented forest tracts, higher road density and intensive forest management operations. Most importantly, the management approaches were substantively different and did not allow for appropriate data and measurement comparisons.
By spatially identifying the location and size of potential fire risk and adopting complementary measurement units, researchers were able to map and classify, on both sides of the border, areas of high-medium and low fire risk. This information helps in fuel management and harvesting regimes.
While the impulse to form a Model Forest differs from place to place all Model Forests are usually created to address a significant issue or challenge identified on the landscape. The creation of the Ilomantsi Model Forest was a response to impacts of globalization, climate change, and the more intensive use of natural resources in the area. Its work has led to increased cross-border cooperation, new economic opportunities and enhanced protection of the landscape.