English summaries 11/2002
New national park cause for celebration
by Lassi Kujala
In its 1976 report, the National Parks Committee suggested that a national park be established in the Repovesi area in South-eastern Finland. As soon as this proposal became known, reactionary logging started in the area. Fortunately the damage remained slight, since no large machines were used for the operation. In 1988 the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation in its turn brought up the question of the national park. Nothing, however, happened, except that the area was incorporated in the 1990 national shore protection programme. In 1998 Repovesi became one of Finland's Natura areas and finally in 2000 members of parliament presented a bill for the establishment of a Repovesi national park which was subsequently approved by Parliament.
At first no progress was made with the plan, the amount of State-owned land in the proposed park area simply being too small. The turning point came when the major forest concern UMP-Kymmene generously decided to make the State a gift of 560 hectares of forest in the Repovesi area. In addition, the concern has voluntarily protected a further 1380 hectares of its own forest, without compensation, this forest being located within the Natura area. Finally, in mid-October this year, Parliament passed a law for the establishment of Repovesi National Park, this law to apply at the beginning of 2003.
Repovesi is located close to urban areas in South-eastern Finland and within striking distance of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. Nowadays it is visited by large numbers of people getting a breath of fresh air, hikers, naturalists, mushroom and berry pickers, mountaineers, recreational fishermen and
-women, and wildlife photographers. Their constant presence is evident from the amount of litter left behind and by the increased number of camp fire and camping places. As a national park, the area should be better organised and visitor services ought to be developed there.
Harbour porpoise tagged in Baltic
By Antti Halkka
A Suomen Luonto reporter had a rare chance to see how a harbour (common) porpoise that had become entangled in an eel net was examined by Danish marine biologists and its 'vital statistics' recorded. The animal was carefully measured, respiratory gas, blood and tissue samples were taken from it for DNA tests, among other things, a number was placed on its side, and a radio collar was fitted to its midriff. It was then released back into the Baltic. The freed young male porpoise, which had not yet reached puberty, weighed 29 kg and was 131 cm in length.
For sample-taking, the animal was gently lifted into a boat, where it was suitably cushioned. Its pulse was constantly taken electronically and from time to time sea water was poured over it to keep its skin moist. Should the porpoise have shown the least signs of stress, it would have been immediately lowered back into the water. The entire operation lasted for 37 minutes. This was the 57th harbour porpoise to be tagged by Danish marine biologists. The movement of these mammals can be tracked by members of the public through www.tracking.cubitech.dk. This particular individual is identified on the Internet as number 6174.
The harbour porpoise is the only member of the whale clan to be regularly encountered in Finnish waters, 'regularly' meaning an average of a couple of individuals a year. In 2001 a special porpoise sighting appeal was arranged which led to reports being received on seven specimens. The southern Baltic's entire porpoise population comprises only around 600 individuals, but in Kattegat, Skagerrak and the Straits of Denmark there are as many as 40,000 harbour porpoises. It has been estimated that the North Sea population of the species contains 270,000 individuals. Porpoises in the Straits of Denmark and the Baltic are mainly threatened by fishing. Every year thousands of them drown in fishing gear in Danish waters alone.
Land of a thousand caves
Text Aimo Kejonen, photos Juho Rahkonen
Finland's caves can offer some unique experiences. On the floor of the Korkia-Maura cave in Inari there is a skating rink formed by permanent ice, while at Lampivaara, in Sodankylä, a cavity measuring one and a half metres across was discovered in which two-thirds of the roof was coated with amethysts. The temperature inside the Susiluola cave (the so-called "Wolf cave") in Kristiinankaupunki never falls below zero; this cave has yielded the oldest remains of mankind from the latest glaciation in a region that was covered by the continental ice sheet. Signs of fire have been discovered in this cave, as well as primitive stone implements whose age has been determined as 120,000 years.
Animals dwell in caves. Occasionally bears or lynxes will use them for breeding or hibernating purposes. Firstly Saimaa ringed seals bred in the Pirunkirkko (the so-called "Devil's church" cave), and then it was the turn of some beavers, accompanied by a goosander. Bats make use of some caves as their daytime roosts or hibernating quarters. A couple of hundred herald moths, together with a smattering of small tortoiseshells and brimstones have been found overwintering together in the Pirunpesä ("Devil's nest") cave at Laajavuori in Jyväskylä, Central Finland.
Many Finnish caves differ from those found elsewhere. Here there is no limestone or other easily dissolved rock in which caves are easily formed by water action. By contrast, approximately 70% of Finland's caves have formed in one way or another as a consequence of the continental glacier. A working group specialising in caves has thus far managed to visit, and study, about 900 of these. However, each year reports come in from the public about new caves, so that the total number of known sites now stands at around one thousand.
People have used a lot of caves, in a variety of different ways. Caves have provided temporary accommodation, shelter and cover during wars, and convenient distilleries for 'moonshine' making in time of peace. Robbers have set up house in about 50 caves, in some of which treasure has been buried. Caves near Turku, in South-western Finland, have yielded a Stone Age stone axe, a hoard of silver bound up in birch bark and dating from the Viking era, and a cow bell full of silver coins secreted there during the 1450s. Towards the end of the last war, fire arms were cached in a few caves against a possible Russian invasion.
Text Heikki Kirstinä, photos Harri Nurminen
Every year Pekka Jurvelin, a GP (doctor), rows hundreds of kilometres along the River Oulujoki, with its dams, reservoirs and power stations. He believes that one day the power stations will be dismantled. Today's reference books only indicate how many megawatts and horsepower are obtained from the numerous power plants along the river. In times past the River Oulujoki stood for salmon, tar and a thoroughfare from the distant border country stretching from Russia to the City of Oulu and the Baltic coast.
English lords, dukes and ladies came here to fish in the late 19th century, when the Oulujoki represented the salmon angler's Eldorado. In one year during the 1860s 83,000 barrels, each containing 125 litres of tar, were exported from Oulu in boats down the river. The profitable market lasted until the deathknell sounded on the era of wooden sailing ships.
The first power stations popped up along the Oulujoki during the 1940s; nowadays there are seven of them. These plants are important to Finland's electricity production, the river generating around a quarter of the country's hydropower. Power stations have even appeared above the Oulujoki, putting an end to salmon coming upriver from the Baltic in order to spawn. Long before that, the last barrel of tar had been shipped downstream to market.
Something rotten in the State of Denmark?
by Juha Valste and Antti Halkka
Fame, a nice job, and prosperity have come to a Danish sociologist and assistant statistician named Björn Lomborg, who has told the world that there are in reality no environmental problems at all. He maintains that the problems listed by those who are alarmed about the state of our planet have become a kind of 'litany', none of which has any basis in truth. The problems that do exist, asserts Lomborg, are soon to be resolved, creating perfect conditions for both mankind and nature.
Lomborg's book, The Sceptical Environmentalist - Measuring the Real State of the World" has been translated into several languages and has become a sort of best-seller. The Dane's message is just what many politicians and economists, not to mention journalists, want to hear! It will come as no surprise to learn that Lomborg has become most popular in the USA.
Ecologists, meteorologists, geographers, demographers, agricultural experts, and in general all experts from the fields in which Lomborg trespasses have said, firmly and unequivocally, that the statistician's "facts" and conclusions are false. Lomborg selects just those sources that support his contentions. Contrary evidence the man either conveniently overlooks or reduces to a level of nil importance. He systematically uses statistics and graphics to mislead the reader and give a false impression.
Lomborg avers that hunger in the world is decreasing and will soon be a thing of the past. His graphs would appear to support this hypothesis - until one examines them more closely! A Lomborg graph does not show the number of people suffering from hunger, but only the proportion they represent of the whole human population. Yet it is obvious from the same graph that the number of hungry people on the planet has drastically increased. Since the world population has increased even more, the percentage of hungry people has slightly decreased.
Finnish experts place little faith in Lomborg's fanciful explanations. They believe that he is deliberately misleading people. He has a slippery grasp on the issues he deals with, in any case. Despite never having done an iota of research, Lomborg likes to portray himself as a scientific researcher. He is a one-time member of Greenpeace, although this has nothing to do with the matter. Lomborg appears in public as a "professor", while the truth is that his standing in the university is more in the nature of an assistant or ordinary lecturer.
Teksti: Leigh Plester