English summaries 7/1999
Aliens have landed
by Erkki Santamala
In olden times ships were stabilised by shovelling sand and soil into their holds to increase ballast. Along with the soil came the seeds and bits of root from many different plants. These 'ballast plants' are a reminder of the old days of sail, especially the 19th century. The largest number of such species have survived at Reposaari (in Pori) and in Uusikaupunki, where they form part of the thriving 'old wooden house community'. A total of 135 species of ballast plants are found at Reposaari; 75 of these have become firmly established there. Uusikaupunki has recorded 52 exotic plant species, but only 20 of them have been encountered this decade.
Ballast plants have swiftly declined. There are no longer any 'peasant harbours', these having become covered with forest. In the open spaces round harbours where herbs used to thrive, there are now tarmac, buildings and railway tracks. Cattle are no longer grazed on bottom meadows close to the shore, with the consequence that these habitats have become overgrown. Despite such radical changes, the field botanist can still find ballast plants in places like Toppila (Oulu), the Tervahovi area in Kristiinankaupunki, Reposaari (Pori), Luvia, Eurajoki, Uusikaupunki, Porvoo, and Pernaaja, as well as in the capital of the ôland islands (Mariehamn) and at Käringsund, in Eckerö.
Stones and rocks make a great hobby
by Kari Hongisto
People can study rocks in the same way as others study birds, butterflies or flowers. Finland is a treasure trove for rock hunters, since the oldest bedrock is over three billion years old. There is also a wide range of ores and gemstones. The lucky amateur geologist may even discover gold or diamonds!
For studying rocks only simple equipment is required: a geologist's hammer, a hard steel chisel, a magnet, a hand lens or magnifying glass, washing equipment and a sponge, goggles to protect the eyes from flying chips, and a good, strong pair of gloves. There are many kinds of books on rocks and stones available and a good handbook is a great help, especially at the start.
Elk - the biggest of our deer
by Timo P. Karjalainen
All Finns know the European elk. It is often glimpsed through a car window eating - or all too frequently galloping across the road. Many see the elk as a running silhouette through the telescopic sights of their hunting rifle. Hundreds of thousands of Finns eat the delicious elk meat in the autumn, particularly in the form of meat loaf or soup. In this country, in fact, elk produce more meat than reindeer.
The European elk was a sacred animal in the minds of the Finno-Ugric peoples from whom the Finns are descended. It formed the most prized prey of the early hunters and was frequently depicted in rock paintings. A felled elk would be used in its entirety. Aside from the meat and hide (used today) the tendons, antlers and bones provided important raw materials for a broad array of articles and needs. The people of the Suomusjärvi culture of 6,000-9,000 years ago made use of large quantities of elk bones for different purposes.
Natural enemies of elk are the brown bear and wolf. However, there are so few of these beasts today that far and away the greatest regulator of elk populations is mankind. In winter, there are some 80,000-90,000 individuals in Finland and approximately 40,000-50,000 are shot each autumn. By the mid-1800s the species had been all but been hunted to extinction in this country; the same thing happened again in the early 1900s. Effective protection and the careful regulation of hunting quotas have enabled the species to build up its populations to a good level.
by Aura Koivisto
There are more than 20,000 longhorn beetles (Cerambycidae) in the world. Only around 90 of them are to be found in Finland. The largest cerambycids are among the world's biggest insects; for instance, Titanus giganteus can grow to a length of 15 cm. In this country longhorns are familiar to all and are generally well-liked. This is indicated by the large number of colloquial names that have been given to different species, including "leather worker", "cobbler", "tailor", "timberman" and "priest killer". In particular, the last-mentioned is intriguing, as the black Callidium violaceum, with its lovely blue sheen, at 13 mm long is unlikely to be capable of bumping off a clergyman.
Many cerambycids live in old growth forests and in dead wood. For this reason, they have become less common and a few are even endangered. The larvae of many species live in wood, where they mainly consume dead material. As adults, a large number tend to keep to the outside of tree trunks but, for example, the colourful Strangalia as adults visit flowers. Flower-loving longhorns are especially commonly seen on umbellifers, but can also be encountered on thistle, mayweed and daisy blossoms.
Unconstructed shores are decreasing in the land of thousands of lakes
by Mikko Niskasaari
There are almost 200,000 lakes, a long coastline, and hundreds of thousands of islands on the sea and on lakes in Finland. There are also over 430,000 summer houses (Finns call these "summer cottages"), most of which stand on a shore. If Finland's summer houses were to be placed at regular intervals along the equator, there would be less than a hundred metres between them.
Finland has a total of 186,700 kilometres of sea and lake shores. Most of this has been taken over by permanent dwellings, the army, agriculture and industry. Some shores are boggy or are covered with ooze, while the water level in many lakes is regulated so severely that they cannot be used for recreational purposes at all.
The new Nature Conservation Act and Building Act came into force in 1997. One of the aims of the law was to ensure there were sufficient free shores. In the terms of the acts one is not permitted to construct a new summer house, if the local municipality has not approved a master plan, town plan, building plan, or shore plan with reservations for these. Municipalities have drafted 200 shore plans already and several score more are currently in preparation. On many of these plans, there is a reservation for far too many summer houses. If the plans are put into effect, in many areas there will be no shores at all suitable for public recreation purposes.
Adventure beyond the eastern frontier
by Mauri Sämpi
On an old Russian coach from Ivalo to Murmansk one can take a look at the wilds beyond the eastern border in Russia. There are few problems with passing through the Finnish customs, but on the Russian side the traveller is required to produce his/her travel documents no less than three times.
In Russia, our travellers alighted from the coach after 38 km. From there, they proceeded about 20 km south and then climbed Joutsenpää fell. The forests had been cut in places, although to far less an extent than in Finland. No reindeer are herded in the region, so that lichens (the reindeer's chief food) are very much in evidence. In Russia, natural places appeared far less disturbed. There was little sign of human activity, the main exceptions being wrecked tanks, trenches and barbed wire dating from the last war.