14TH AUGUST, 2018.
The day started on a brighter sunny note, after a great dinner and barbeque night hangout by students and facilitators along the lake at the Hyytiala Field Station. The temperature of that eventful morning was 11°C, a lot colder than what was experienced in Helsinki the previous days (28°C). The group’s dressing for the field trip was significantly influenced by the temperature. The group set off for the field at 8:28am after enjoying a good Finnish breakfast that was served between 7am – 8am.
Two main activities were planned for the day: (1) a visit to the Helvetinjarvi National Park and (2) a visit to the harvesting site of Storaenso (one of the leading pulp and paper companies in Finland). Meanwhile, on the way to the Helvetinjarvi National Park the group made a stopover at Ryovarinkuoppa, a historic site created during the ice age. It was explained that ice melted to create a huge depression, on the side of a busy ancient road. The story continued that in the olden days, robbers used the “ditch” as a hiding place to attack travelers. One striking thing that was observed in this valley was the purity of the stream water – so clean and clear!
At around 9:30am the team arrived at the Helvetinjarvi National Park and went on a hike through the forest with several intermittent educational stops for questions and answers. Anna and Adrian, the facilitators, were more than ready to answer all the questions asked by students. Questions ranged from the main tree species found in the forest to functions or role of the forest ecosystem. The main tree species students were aided to identify in the national park include Spruce, Birch and Pine. The facilitators explained that the forest play several roles include recreation (many visitors met along the hiking trail and others went to swim in the lake), food (participants picked and ate blueberries throughout the trip), carbon sequestration etc. Students learnt that the reservation of parts of the forest that became a national park started in the 1950s and 1960s. The national park is “very Finnish” due to the traditional Finnish paintings found at some vantage points in the national park. We also learnt that unlike what is done elsewhere, no entrance fee is collected at any Finnish national parks due to the “every man’s right” policy in Finland.
For biodiversity conservation purposes, it was observed that fallen/dead trees were left lying in the forest. Contrary to the 10% target for deadwood set by the government regarding its own forests, so far inventories show that only 3.5% is achieved in Finnish forests in general. There is also a law that protects ant hills, thus ant hill destruction is not allowed in Finland. We also learnt that in some national parks prescribed burning is allowed to support germination (regeneration) of some pine seeds and the activities of other organisms.
Throughout the walk in the forest, one cannot miss the presence of rocks and boulders all over the park. A story was told of an ancient myth about demons and giants throwing those rocks around. However, it has been explained that those rocks were moved around by molten ice during the ice age. The return leg of the hike started with a rather adventurous rock climbing through a gorge formed by the opening of a huge rock.
At about 1:00pm the group returned to the entrance of the park and attended nature’s call in preparation towards the journey to the harvesting site.
The group set off around 1:05pm and made a brief stopover at a private Ostrich and Pig farm, just less than one minute drive from the entrance of the national park.
After a little over an hour’s smooth cruise in the rented bus and admiring Finland’s agricultural-forest-lakes landscape the group arrived in the town at 2:17pm. The group was met by Eedla Makkonen (a Forestry Expert at Storaenso, one of the world’s biggest Pulp and Paper Company) at a point and led us to the logging site. Eedla made very startling revelations about the management and ownership of forest in Finland. She indicated that about 70% of forests in Finland are owned by private people; and one out of every five Finns owns a forest. The ownership profile she said cuts across students, cities, towns, companies, schools and churches. The Forestry Expert averred that most of the forests owned by government are designated protected areas and not for commercial timber production.
Conducting the group round, Eedla intelligently answered very interesting and difficult questions from students regarding forest ownership, the company’s products, inventory practices, main forest species, age of stands before thinning. Students learnt that the main role of the government in the harvesting of private forests is taxation; and government takes as much as 30% tax from private forest owners after harvesting. She explained that usually forest owners in an area team up and contribute money to construct roads. Again, like the main species found in the national park visited earlier, Spruce, Birch and Pine were found to be the dominant species in the thinning area of Storaenso. Age for thinning depends on the tree species.
The company educated students on the use of drones, laser scanners and relascopes for inventory of planted forest stands. In the physical form of inventory that uses the relascope, basal area of stands are determined and that forms the basis for pricing of timber for negotiation with the forest owners.
For me, the most exciting moment in the entire trip is the tour of the 1 million Euros Komatsu branded Harvester.
Just like other students, I had only seen that machine and its operation on Youtube but not physically, and so it was awesome seeing it in operation. It was reported that the machine is owned by an entrepreneur and his two sons who operate it. According to the operator of the harvester the productivity in the thinning site visited was 8 – 10m3 per hour. However, in a full scale operation on a clear cut, the productivity is around 60 – 80 m3 per hour. Trees species being thinned include Spruce, Birch and Pine. Eedla mentioned that Spruce is slightly more expensive wood (10 Euros to 25 Euros per cubic metre) than Birch.
Finally, after a long but exciting and highly educative tour throughout the day the group returned to our base in Hyytiala to a sumptuous meal served at the cafeteria around 5:30pm. The team got dispersed briefly for about one and half hours and later reconvened at 7:10pm for a really nice traditional Finnish Sauna and lake swimming experience. The eventful day ended with a super barbeque night at the lakeside which saw students and facilitators share their experiences of the day’s field trip. The curtain was finally drawn at 10:30pm and the group retired to bed to refresh for the next day’s activities.
– BENJAMIN ADJAH TORGBOR