Research
Our research aims at improving the understanding of forest ecological processes and the sustainable use of forests and peatlands through new information. The research focuses on for example the interactions between climate change and forest and peatland ecosystems and new methods of managing forest information. Our researchers participate in the teaching and development of degree programmes.

Find out more of the discipline of Forest Ecology and Management through the websites of our research groups.

Boreal Trees

Our team studies how boreal forests respond to changing climate conditions. We are studying changes in both tree structure and physiology as we emphasize the strong linkage they have. The group works in the Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research (INAR) at the University of Helsinki that is a joint unit under the Faculty of Science and Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry.

Read more on Boreal Trees website

Ecosystem Processes

Does the forest an­swer in the way you call to it? (Finnish proverb)

Forests affect their environment in multiple ways, but their functions also depend on the changes in climate and environment. We study the processes and responses of boreal forest ecosystems on different levels, from the scale of tree parts and soil particles to the scale of landscape. We seek to understand how the environment affects the functioning of a single plant or whole forest, and how, inversely, the forests can influence their surroundings. These questions are important when trying to understand and predict the impacts of warming climate on the environment and evaluating the importance of forested areas in mitigating climate change.

Read more on Ecosystem processes website

 

Forest Genomics

Desire to understand evolution and adaptation of trees at the molecular level is the driving force of our research group. In the finest resolution, evolution can be described as a change of allele frequencies from generation to generation, leading to differences among individuals, populations and species. As a population geneticists, our major goal is to understand what evolutionary mechanisms lead to genetic and phenotypic variation that we observe in these different scales. We work on forest tree population genomics, tackling problems relating to local adaptation, inference of population history using genetic data, effects of domestication and breeding and identifying genetic footprint of natural selection. Studying especially the outcrossing species with large population sizes, such as forest trees is important for understanding how adaptation to various environmental conditions arise. Several of our study species have large, complex genomes, which present additional challenges, but also facilitate questions that cannot be answered using common model species.

Read more on Forest Genomics website

Forest Modelling Group

The Forest Modelling Group at the Department of Forest Sciences focuses on ecological and physiological research questions related to forest growth and production. How does tree form interact with the photosynthesis capacity and water transport of the tree? What causes the decline of height growth in older trees? Can optimal solutions derived from evolutionary theory explain tree structure and function, such as carbon acquisition and allocation? The questions are analysed using theoretical and models and numerical simulations that are based on a mechanistic description of tree processes. The models allow us to investigate quantitatively the impacts of environmental change on forest growth and functioning. Will our forests grow more in the future, or will various disturbances counterbalance the potential gains in growth? The models are already being used in decision support in solving problems of multiobjective forest management and as a basis of economic analyses of forest production and ecosystem services. 

Read more on Forest Modelling website

Forest Pathology Research Lab

Our major research focus  is the application of biotechnology knowledge and tools for the determination of ecological, molecular and biochemical pathways required by emerging fungal and forest pathogens to infect and cause disease to trees worldwide as well as the basal mechanisms on how forest tree...

Read more on Forest Pathology Research Lab blog

Forest Resources Management and Geo-information

Ac­cur­ate geoin­form­a­tion for forestry

Spatial geoinformation is a necessity for cultivating sustainable natural resource management and a green economy. Airborne laser scanning (ALS) has enabled a technological leap forward to further the acquisition of detailed spatial geoinformation. By using ALS, one can collect geometrically accurate point clouds. These 3D data sets that use single- or multi-temporal point clouds enable a wide range of applications in the field of natural resource management. Adding a time dimension provides 4D geoinformatics. Multi-temporal geodata offers information about the history of our environment, and the 4D data can be used in modeling and simulating the future.   Read more on Forest Resources Management and Geo-information website    

Forest Soil Science and Biogeochemistry

Forest soil scientists study the properties and processes operating in forest soils, and the interactions between the above- and belowground ecology and biogeochemistry of forest ecosystems. Forest soil is the basis for renewable forest resources and a living environment for tree and understory roots, fungi, bacteria and soil animals. It stores and cycles carbon and nutrients and filters precipitation for groundwater and runoff. Knowledge about forest soil is a prerequisite for understanding of what happens to forest ecosystems and landscapes under human impact.

Our research topics vary from forest soil basic functions to impacts of disturbances and management. We ask questions such as: what happens to organic matter decomposition in changing climate? How much carbon do forest soils store? Do dead roots transfer more carbon to soil than aboveground litter? What is the impact of storm and insect damage on carbon sequestration in forest ecosystems? How does forest harvesting affect soil nutrient availability and the water cycle? Can biochar be used for improving forest soil properties? Research in forest soil science gives answers to the sustainability of man-made activities affecting forest soils. We cooperate within international and interdisciplinary networks, are in contact with the practice, and integrate our research results also into teaching. We educate students from bachelor to post graduate studies on boreal, temperate and tropical forest soils. 

Read more on Forest Soil Science and Biogeochemistry blog

Peatland Ecology Group

The Peatland Ecology Group studies peatlands from the arctic to the tropics, with different land-uses, and with different time horizons from seconds (photosynthesis) to thousands of years (Holocene history). The core of the group is formed by several senior researchers with varying interests, specialties and approaches. Together, we cover a wide range of expertises complementing each other, and apply a wide range of methodologies in our research work. We train researchers and professionals to work both nationally (e.g. experts in peatland forestry and restoration) and internationally (e.g. experts for climate and land-use change impacts on peatlands). We have close collaboration in research and postgraduate training with colleagues from the Natural Resources Institute Finland, the Finnish Meteorological Institute, and several  other research institutes and universities worldwide.

Read more on Peatland Ecology Group blog

Viikki Tropical Resources Institute (VITRI)

As part of the Department of Forest Sciences the Viikki Tropical Resources Institute (VITRI) provides academic training and implements research on forests and related natural resources in tropical and developing countries. VITRI staff also undertakes national and international assignments related to tropical forest management as well as environmental and forest policy.

Read more on VITRI website

Wetland Ecology Group

Our research vision is to study, manage and conserve wetland ecosystems. Our aim is to focus on species interactions in wetlands, and on the effect of ecosystem engineers on ecosystem structure and function.

Read more on Wetland Ecology Group website

Research Projects
Explore our projects in the Research Portal:
Degree Programmes

Our researchers participate in the teaching and development of degree programmes: