Suomen Luonto
English summaries 9/2003

Sudden UPM-Kymmene mill discharge causes concern
by Jarmo Pasanen
Page 15

This summer 7,500 cubic metres of black liquor flowed out of
UPM-Kymmenen's Kaukas pulp mill into Lake Saimaa. The biological treatment plant was unable to cope with the sudden discharge and within the space of a few days the black liquor spread far out into the lake and even into the Saimaa Canal. Black liquor consumes oxygen in water, causing a high rate of fish mortality, and it also darkens the water and pollutes shores. Moreover, it has a very unpleasant odour. Half of the fish biomass was eradicated over a three-kilometre radius from the pulp mill.

There are approximately 50 wood processing plants in Finland where large amounts of wastewater have to be treated. There are 19 pulp mills. Despite denials from industry, many wood processing companies grossly underestimate the actual pollution risk. Thus, no provision has been made for 'catastrophe ponds' capable of dealing with, and stopping, occasional discharges. According to a forest industry representative, Finland's forest industry's technology is the second to none, so that there is no call for further investment in this. It would better to invest in training and watchfulness, says the representative. The Kaukas catastrophe could then be used to improve environmental risk management. The industry representative says that the companies do not cover up cases of small emissions, since it is in the firm's interest to investigate such events honestly.

Bear poaching is played down by the hunting fraternity
by Antti Leinonen
Page 16

Several cases of bears being illegally shot have recently come to light. In Kuhmo in April-May Hanna, a female bear fitted with a radio collar was killed; she had been tracked by scientists since the summer of 2000. In that summer she had two 1.5 kg cubs; in the late winter of 2002 she gave birth to three new ones. Hanna was the first Finnish female bear to be fitted a radio collar.

Hanna was shot while visiting carrion in the form of a dead cow near Venäjänvaara, in Kuhmo. Signs of only one of the three cubs have been found, so that it is probable the other two have also been slaughtered. The use of cattle corpses as bait became illegal three years ago.

This autumn there will be a court case in conjunction with the killing in its winter lair of a bear fitted with a radio collar. The killing was revealed and the guilty parties arrested on the basis of the collar. The culprits accidentally confessed to secretly killing a second bear on a previous occasion. They were professionals, selling the bear meat on to a company which then passed it to the market. An illegally killed wolverine was also found in the company's cold store.

It is obvious that the cases of poaching that have come to light are merely the tip of an iceberg. They would never have been detected had it not been for the radio collars. Punishments for bear poaching are lenient; fines have been paid using money obtained from poaching. Although it is abundantly clear that the punishments should be made more severe, the hunting and game sectors ought to condemn poaching and create such a negative image of it that the hunters themselves would keep a watch out for unlicensed kills. Right up until recently the Kainuu game management sector has played down the importance of poaching even to the extent of denying its existence.

Flight of the admirals
by Kauri Mikkola
Pages 35

Red admiral butterflies are being looked at in a new light. Ornithologists have noticed that they can be counted like birds when they rise above the forests and glide at a great height towards the south in autumn. Red admirals arrive here from the south to breed and their descendants then head back to their ancestral home.

No-one had envisaged butterflies being able to glide and navigate at a great height borne onwards by northerly winds. At a height of a couple of kilometres the temperature falls to close to zero, but the sun warms dark coloured butterflies. Watching butterflies flying low against a southerly wind mislead entomologists; these low-flying individuals have failed to locate suitable higher elevation winds. Before taking off, red admirals spend about a week in yards and gardens tanking up on energy. When summer threatens to close, the butterflies have to hurry towards the Mediterranean. There they can find not only sunshine but also most importantly nettles just recovering from the summer dryness.

A land of two beavers
by Antti Halkka
Page 22

New York State presented Finland with seven beavers in 1937. Despite hunting, this gift has expanded to 10,000 individuals. The descendants of "The Magnificent Seven" have spread into many places in Finland, as well as East into neighbouring Russia. The New Yorkers thought they were generously replacing the last beaver shot in Finland in 1868. It was not until the 1970s that scientists realised that the European and North American beavers belong to two distinct species, however.

Thus, Finland became a "land of two beavers". European beavers had been imported from Norway in 1935, already. The differences between the two species are extremely slight. Beavers migrated to the New Continent over the Bering land bridge, probably three or four million years ago. Canadian beavers have been far more successful in Finland than their European cousins. European beavers are only found in the northern part of Satakunta province, having disappeared wherever the Canadian beaver has been introduced.

There are around 1,500 European beavers and these do not usually go in for such spectacular lodges (beavers' lairs) and dams as their American counterparts. Satakunta's European beavers spend a rather secretive life, as the author soon found out. Despite a dam and a well-hidden lodge in a river bank being found, no actual beavers were seen. A local beaver expert shows how to recognise the two kinds of beavers. His collection of skulls features specimens of both European and Canadian beavers: the nasal bones are distinctly different.

Game researcher Dr Petri Nummi would like to see the Canadian beavers destroyed and replaced by European ones. He has nothing personally against American beavers. His research has shown us what a beneficial animal it is to e.g. the water birds that search for food in pools created by its dams. However, Nummi feels that the favourable impact of the European beaver on biodiversity could be just as great as that of the Canadian kind. And anyway one can ponder whether the Canadian beaver really belongs to Europe.

Sensational return of the peregrine
by Juha Kauppinen
Page 4

The author spent some time at a peregrine's nest located on a mire in northern Finland (the actual location is secret). There were three young in the nest. Peregrines last nested on this mire in 1955. During the 1950s many other kinds of mires, bogs, fens, cliffs - in fact almost the whole of Europe and North America - lost their peregrines. Nobody knew why at the time. In the 1940s the number of breeding pairs in Finland had been estimated at 800. After the war years, the population of these birds began to decline and the species almost went off the ringers' lists. In 1958 the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation, making use of a dedicated band of amateur ornithologists, began to ascertain how many of the known nest sites were still inhabited by peregrines. It was discovered that the population had crashed, with less than 20% of the territories occupied. Council of State issued a protection order for the peregrine in April 1959.

The Finnish Association for Nature Conservation's survey was a source of encouragement for ornithologists in other countries. In 1960 Germany's research and conservation institute carried out an intensive study on the peregrine, and the British Trust for Ornithology followed suit in 1961. People became aware that the species had become exceedingly rare almost everywhere, in some countries almost to the point of extinction.

In the early 1960s it became apparent that, due to its slow rate of decay, DDT gradually accumulates in animals, working its way along food chains to end up in predators like the peregrine right at the top of the pyramid. The origin of the toxin was a puzzle. In Finland DDT was used in relatively small amounts, so that doubt was cast on whether the increased rarity of the peregrine was solely due to this. Then toxins were found in unhatched peregrine eggs in Finland of a type used in western Europe but not in Finland. Some Finnish peregrines, and many of the birds' prey animals overwinter in western Europe. DDT was completely prohibited in Finland in 1976.

By the beginning of the 1970 s the peregrine had disappeared from southern Finland and there were only 30 known nests in the entire republic. Gradually the population grew, so that by the early 1990s it had reached an estimated level of around 100 pairs. Throughout the 1990s there was no change but over the past few years the number of successful breedings has grown; in 2002 there were 148 inhabited territories. The official estimate at present is 150-170 pairs. Nowadays the peregrine is a northerly species, although earlier it nested in southern Finland, too. The southernmost pair nests somewhere around the River Oulujoki. However, there are signs that the species is slowly spreading south.

To measure the peregrine's speed of flight, American researchers have recently been using lead weights dropped from high flying aircraft which are then pursued by trained peregrines. In such studies the bird's top speed in a dive has been clocked at 389 kilometres an hour, making it the world's fastest animal.

Electricity saving and wordmongering
by Jarmo Pasanen
Page 62

In 2002 Finland's total electricity consumption amounted to 83.9 TWh. Industry accounted for over one half of this, 44 TWh. The forest industry alone consumed almost one third of the entire country's electricity. Households got through over one fifth, mainly due to the heating of dwellings. The heating of buildings consumes almost 10 percent of Finland's electrical energy. In 1970 21.8 TWh of electricity were consumed in Finland, while in 1980 the consumption amounted to 39.9 TWh, i.e. less than half of the amount used today.

The 1997 energy strategy prepared for Finland represented an attempt to halt the increase in overall energy consumption within 10-15 years. In 2000 an energy conservation programme was drafted which was linked to the national climate strategy. One aim was to reduce greenhouse gases to the 1990 level called for by the Kyoto protocol. According to the initial BAU ("Business as usual") comparison model, in which no active energy conservation measures would be carried out, electricity consumption in 2010 will already have reached 90.5 TWh. The working group calculated that even with rigorous measures the figure could be cut by only 4 TWh. Last autumn the programme came under review. The working group concluded that the turning point of consumption would not occur until at least 2015.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry tends to 'sit on the fence' in regard to energy issues. Doubt has been cast as to its true desire to reduce consumption, because the Ministry's primary goals are economic growth and the safeguarding of international competitiveness. Cheap energy would assist competition. Finland enjoys almost the cheapest electricity in the entire EU.

Journey into the past
Text and photos Heikki Willamo
Page 40

Slanting light bathes a rock face in golden rays, drawing new shapes over the ones already there. Long-necked swans, European elk (moose), boats with prows in the shape of an elk's head, celestial symbols, and people decorate the hard stone. The ancient subjects figured vary in size from 15 mm sized 'miniatures' to large three-metre 'masterpieces'. They have been hacked into the rock close to water level in their tens, or even hundreds.

Lake Onega's fascinating ancient artwork can be reached by bus from Joensuu, in Finland, to Petroskoy, then crossing the lake by hovercraft, before completing the final leg of the journey in a fishing boat. The sandy and rocky shores of the huge lake are uninhabited so that it is easy to camp close to the ancient carvings and paintings at Karetsky and Periniemi. There are several other similar sites in the vicinity as well. For those familiar with Finland's rock art, the images are astonishingly clear and their intensity nothing short of staggering.

The rock carvings and paintings on Lake Onega have been interpreted in numerous different ways. Clearly they are linked with the hunting and fishing culture and shamanism. Whooper swans and elk figure prominently among the carvings and some of the works, either singly or in a series, have been regarded as having connections with the mythical birth of the "water bird people" peculiar to Finno-Ugaric folk lore.

Teksti: Leigh Plester