Researchers of aquatic and forest environments utilise simulation models when people need long-term information about the effects of human activity on natural resources and biodiversity. For example, what kind of measures would accelerate the recovery of collapsed fish populations, or what kind of forestry is best for maintaining diverse ecosystem services?

In the commercial fishing areas of the world, it often happens that the target fish population is jeopardised through overfishing. The fish population collapses or its abundance decreases dangerously. This has been the case, for example, with Atlantic cod and also with several flounders some of which are also found in the Baltic Sea.

Professor Anna Kuparinen’s researches show that an endangered fish population can recover faster if there are protected areas with potential immigrants in the vicinity.

Professor Anna Kuparinen’s researches show that an endangered fish population can recover faster if there are protected areas with potential immigrants in the vicinity.

”When populations are growing in the protected areas, parts of these start spreading outside the area, looking for new living space in nearby regions. These populations have a more diverse gene pool, when commercial fishing has not harvested the fittest, biggest and most fecund individuals”, Kuparinen describes.

Several studies support these findings; in their latest one, Kuparinen’s research team modelled the situation of the endangered Atlantic cod. They showed that a cod population recovers faster next to a protection area than in the vicinity of an ordinary fishing area.

Kuparinen points out that in comparison to land areas, aquatic conservation areas are established much more rarely. Only a few percent of marine areas are protected. Protected areas are located mainly in South-East Asia and in Australia.

We would need a much greater number of protected areas, also for inland waters – and to be established in time.

”It is important to form protected areas early enough, i.e. at the stage when the populations are diverse and healthy. The areas must be large enough, located here and there and being connected to each other”, Kuparinen says.

According to Kuparinen, complex aquatic ecosystems as well as the effects of their altered  structure and functioning are impossible to understand without modelling and simulations. She wishes that academic research results would be transferred down to practice, i.e. to planning of the use of natural resources. In fisheries management, modelling is already applied in practice, but often focusing on one species only. Multiple species models that take the whole food web better into account should be used more widely, Kuparinen says.

Forests recover slowly although forestry is changing

Professor Mikko Mönkkönen, the leader of the forest ecology research team at JYU, uses simulations to study the effects of different forestry methods on ecosystem services. By means of simulations, researchers can calculate, for instance, how continuous-cover silviculture or clear cutting influence forest growth – and how the forestry method affects biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Professor Mikko Mönkkönen leads the forest ecology research team at University of Jyväskylä.

The latter term refers broadly to natural functioning and production: ecosystem services include e.g. picking of berries and mushroom in forests, nutrient cycles, the role of nature in climate regulation or in air purification, raw material production, and sites for recreation.

In a recent study, it was found out that forestry focusing primarily on efficient wood production threatens the biodiversity of forests, in particular, as well as blueberry crops and carbon storages. These recover slowly even if forestry methods were changed in the region.

If forestry instead places emphasis on the multifunctionality of forests, all ecosystem services can be sustained on a relatively good level.

”Maintaining of the multifunctionality of forests requires diverse land use, in the planning of which the different goals are taken into account. In the present situation, multifunctionality is secured best by considerable increase of continuous-cover silviculture. To safeguard biodiversity, in particular, also further forest protection is required”, Mönkkönen states.

“The study showed that we need immediate actions in forestry. This way we can secure diverse and sustainable forest ecosystem services in the future. If the multi-goal approach is ignored when choosing the forestry methods, the recovery of nature will take too long, Mikko Mönkkönen points out.




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