The loss and degradation of biodiversity is one of the biggest environmental problems globally. We need to know our impacts and dependencies on biodiversity and ecosystem services to be able to assess related risks and opportunities.
Our impacts on biodiversity
Fortum’s impacts on biodiversity are primarily related to its hydropower production operations in Finland and Sweden. Hydropower construction and the related regulating of water alter the conditions in water systems and thus impact the diversity of the aquatic habitat and, in particular, the fish population. Emissions from fossil fuel-based energy production may decrease local biodiversity, especially in Russia. In addition, our fuel procurement may have a negative impact in areas that are rich in biodiversity. However, our production of CO2-free energy replaces energy production based on fossil fuels and thus mitigates climate change, which is globally one of the greatest threats to biodiversity.
Fortum’s biodiversity engagement
Fortum’s Biodiversity guidelines set the principles for taking biodiversity into consideration and for managing the impacts of the company’s operations on biodiversity. Since 2014, we have participated in the activities of the Finnish Business & Society’s (FiBS) Corporations and Biodiversity programme.
Fortum has compiled its position statement and has defined actions for the sustainable use of bioenergy in electricity and heat production. The position statement and actions contribute to improved traceability of these biomass fuels and responsible management of fuel purchases. Fortum is a member of the Bettercoal initiative and uses the Bettercoal Code and tools in assessing the sustainability of the coal supply chain. Biodiversity aspects related to coal mining are covered in Bettercoal assessments.
We aim to minimise our negative impact on biodiversity. The impacts on biodiversity are assessed in projects. We offset and reduce the impacts of hydropower production on biodiversity by stocking and over-dam transferring fish and through voluntary environmental projects. In Sweden, we carry out biodiversity related projects with the financing from our eco-labelled (Bra Miljöval) electricity.
Our actions in 2015
Restoration of flood plain areas at Lake Kiantajärvi
The wide flood plain areas along the banks of Lake Kiantajärvi were restored in a cooperation project
in 2013-2015. The total surface area of the flood plain area is ca. 2.1 km2
, and the actions carried out in 2015 targeted about quarter of it. Canals and small ponds were dug into the flood plain to form diverse shelter areas and a fragmented shoreline.
The flood plain areas offer important resting and feeding areas for several migratory bird species, and as many as 105 species have been reported in bird surveys. By comparison, the average number of species in similar areas close by is usually between 50-70. According to the local environmental authority, the actions increased the vital habitat for migrating birds and improved the reproduction areas of spring-spawning fish.
Restoring river stretches by tearing down dams
In 2015 we tore down two old dams in Sweden to restore the river to a more pristine state.
The River Getaån has been dredged to facilitate log driving, but when the Geadammen dam was torn down vital parts of the river were restored. By returning rocks to the stream, the habitat was diversified and the flow made more natural. This improved the biodiversity and conditions for stream-living fish, such as trout. A more natural flow will probably also have a positive impact on the wetlands downstream.
The Brodammen dam downstream from the Ljunga hydropower plant was torn down. The river stretch is affected by a changed flow regime from the hydropower plant, but it still has good potential for both bottom fauna and grayling. By tearing down the dam and restoring the river stretch, suitable habitats for grayling and many species of insects are restored and free passage for fish are created.
We annually collect data on the volume of certified wood fuel used in our power plants in Finland, Sweden, Poland and the Baltics. Certified wood fuel originates from sustainably managed forests in which special attention is paid to biodiversity. In 2016 we will strengthen and standardise the agreement requirements related to the origin of wood-based biofuel, and we aim to set a target for the use of wood-based biofuel from certified sources.
Other biodiversity related projects
In 2015 a mapping of environmental values was done for most of the Swedish rivers where Fortum is a major hydropower operator. Occurrence of red-listed species and sensitive fish stocks were used as indicators of high environmental values. Hotspots of biodiversity and relevant measures for preserving and supporting future colonisation of endangered species, while at the same time maintaining hydropower production, were identified. Possible measures are, e.g., restoring shores and tributaries as well as tearing down dams with limited function. The mapping and prioritisation of measures will continue in 2016.
Fortum has also been involved in several long-term projects with a focus on biodiversity, for example:
- In the lower part of Dalälven: a project with Upplandsstiftelsen to manage about 330 ha of land with the goal of conserving and developing the very high environmental values in the area. Measures include controlled burnings and cutting down spruce to support the deciduous forest.
- Eldbäcken biochannel: Follow-up on the colonisation of different species and function as a fishway, in collaboration with the University of Karlstad. The biochannel was created in 2011 to compensate for lost biodiversity in connection with the construction of the Eldforsen hydropower plant.
- A study on downstream migration of a genetically unique population of River Klarälven salmon.