Planning of forest use benefits society as a whole

More than 600,000 Finns are forest owners, but nowhere near all of them acquire a plan for the utilisation of their forest resources. Among other things, planning would facilitate the assessment of environmental impacts.

What are your research topics?

I study the planning of forest resource use as well as the consideration of risks and uncertainties involved in such planning. My work focuses particularly on decision-making pertaining to the forests of private owners.

To help them decide what to do with their forests, the owners can turn to forest resources planning. The focus may be on a small area, or, at the other end of the spectrum, even entire regions or the country as a whole.

For planning purposes, the goals of the forest owner must be determined and forest utilisation options suited to the goals must be modelled, including various types of logging, and their practicality vis-à-vis the goals must be assessed.

Forest owners can decide on different actions for periods of several years or decades, and for individual forest stands or larger forest areas. The ability to model forest development and the effects of different measures results in a well-grounded proposal for a management programme, matching the owner’s goals. In the best scenario, the owner also gains knowledge of the sensitivities, risks and uncertainties associated with the calculations.

Where and how does the topic of your research have an impact?

There are more than 600,000 private forest owners in Finland, so my research topic directly affects over 10% of the Finnish population.

Even though not nearly all of them have a management plan – and not all forests need one – increased planning would help gain a better overall picture of the status of forests, also on the societal level. If planning founded on the goals of forest owners became increasingly common, economic effects, environmental values and the multiple use of forests could be taken into consideration even better than before.

What is particularly inspiring in your field right now?

I am currently investigating the utilisation of new algorithms and computational intelligence in increasing the effectiveness of forest planning calculations. I find various uncertainties and risks a very interesting topic. Uncertainties can relate to describing the current state of the forest and the preferences of the decision-maker, to models forecasting the future development of the forest or to the fact that the operating environment changes.

As different sources of uncertainty require slightly different research approaches, there is a lot to study in the field.

Jari Vauhkonen is the professor of forest resources planning at the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry.

Watch Jari Vauhkonen's inaugural lecture as a new professor on the 11th of September on YouTube.

Read about the other newly appointed professors here.