English summaries 1/2002
Latest data on endangered species in Finland
By Juha Valste (animals) and Seppo Vuokko (plants)
The latest report on endangered species in Finland reflects the consequences of changes in ecosystems to the Finnish fauna and flora. The greatest upheavals are taking place in forests and cultural environments. Endangered animals and plants can be classified into different groups according to how rare they have become. A species is endangered, if its disappearance from an area under observation is probable. Threatened species are now divided into three classes: vulnerable, endangered and critically endangered.
This revised system of classifying threatened organisms is based mainly on the size of the population and the area inhabited by the species and on changes taking place in these. The list of vulnerable species includes the black-headed gull, chiffchaff and Ortolan bunting, whose populations have drastically declined in recent years. The reasons for their decline are not known with any degree of certainty. Changes in agriculture and forestry have adversely affected the habitats of many species, for example those of the grass snake. Interspecific competition also affects populations, to such an extent even that the Arctic fox, forced out by the red fox (the ordinary fox), is now Finland´s most endangered mammal.
Among invertebrates, only the annelids, molluscs and arthropods were assessed from the endangered species perspective. There is only one threatened species of annelid, the medicinal leech, which may well have disappeared entirely from Finland. In addition, there are 11 molluscs and 747 arthropods which have declined alarmingly in this country. Some 23,000 species of arthropods have been recorded from Finland and 104 are known to have already vanished.
According to the new report, Finland now has 696 threatened plant and fungus species, while 74 have already become extinct here. The habitats of plants and fungi have been badly affected by changes in land use and agriculture. Many species of one-time hay meadows and dry flower-rich meadows have suffered due to habitat abandonment and forest encroachment. Loss of these cultural environments has had a particularly serious impact on flowering plants, butterflies, bees (Apidae) and beetles. The well-known traditionally grazed meadowland species maiden pink is already on the list of vulnerable species. The cessation of cattle grazing has also affected the habitats of many organisms. Plants play a vital role in protecting other species because numerous narrow-niche fungi and animals are specialised on one particular plant species. Living communities are often based on just a few core species, like our main tree species, and the survival of a wide variety of other species is highly dependent on these.
Twenty-five (approx. 3 %) of Finland´s 883 moss species have already become nationally extinct and every sixth species is endangered. Among the 5,000 alga species, it was only possible to assess the status of morphologically large green, brown and red algae. There turned out to be 6 endangered species among the 111 studied. Determining the status of fungi is difficult, since they may exist for decades merely as mycelia underground without forming any of the fruiting bodies revealing the presence of the fungus. Of Finland´s 5,454 kinds of fungus 18 have disappeared and 275 are now threatened. Among the lichens (1,452 species altogether), 24 have become extinct here, while 99 are endangered.
Fateful years for the capercaillie?
By Pekka Hänninen
Southern Finland´s capercaillie population has dramatically dwindled within the space of a few decades. According to the Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute (FGFRI) the capercaillie population has fallen by 60 % during the last 30 years. The Institute has been estimating the population since 1964 using so-called game triangles with each side measuring 2 km. Research professor Harto Lindén at the Institute says that a requirement of capercaillie populations is a network of linked communal display grounds, or leks, with 30 % forest and a distance of less than ten kilometres between them. The fragmentation of this network and isolation of individual leks forms the main reason for the decline of the overall population.
Together with its main territories, a capercaillie lek covers some 300 hectares and has a diameter of a couple of kilometres. If the forest cover between two leks falls below 30 % of the surface area, the capercaillies´ home range becomes isolated and may disappear due to a relatively trivial disturbance. Loss of its communal display ground may lead to unusual behaviour in a male capercaillie, since these birds tend to keep to the same area throughout their lives. The testosterone level of a mad capercaillie is five times that of a normally impassioned individual at a lek. Deranged capercaillie males are frequently reported as attacking people. Crossing over between capercaillies and black grouse is another bizarre result of the fragmentation of forests.
Keijo Savola is the project secretary of the Capercaillie project set up by Tringa ry (the ornithological society for the Helsinki region) and the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation´s Uusimaa division. He has been gathering data on the most important areas of occurrence of the bird in the Uusimaa region. Savola feels that the forest and nature protection authorities are not shouldering enough responsibility for the survival of the capercaillie in Finland. In some municipalities it is even permitted to hunt capercaillies. Sufficiently large forest areas should be conserved through land use planning and protection programmes to safeguard the capercaillie´s remaining communal display grounds. Savola says that Forestry Centres are able to influence the conservation of the bird through environmental support and judicious strategies for extensive areas of forest. Protection measures must be improved immediately, he stresses.
One great step for the Swedes
By Antti Halkka
Sweden is now devoting a great deal of time and effort to environmental protection and nature conservation. The nation is currently taking its second great step towards an ecologically healthy society. The first great leap forwards was when industry was forced to clear up the pollution it was causing and the way was laid towards the present form of nature conservation. Sweden´s Minister of the Environment Kjell Larsson relates that environmental policy is being reformed more extensively then ever before. Sweden´s environmental protection policy was reviewed three years ago. Now more money has been set aside for conservation and the governmentís proposal for the environmental objective work has just been approved by the Riksdag, or Parliament.
Fifteen environmental targets, collectively called Svenska Miljömål, form the core of the new programme. By 2010, 50% of the marine environments worthy of conserving will have been protected, as well as 70% of the especially valuable archipelago and coastal areas. Some 900,000 hectares of forest, amounting to 4% of Sweden´s total forest area, will also be removed from commercial production. Appropriations have already been made for the environmental sector for several years now; as from 2004 these will total one and a half billion Swedish Crowns more.
Larsson says that climate targets and anti-eutrophication measures require the longest term action. Wind power is in a key position in regard to the reformation of the energy sector. In its climate strategy Sweden is taking a long stride far out in front of its international obligations. Sweden could increase its greenhouse gas emissions by 4%, but a 4% reduction is actually proposed in the strategy. Overall, thorough, methodical and ambitious work is today being undertaken in Sweden on behalf of the environment.
Nunnuka nunnuka lailaa lailaa!
By Tapani Niemi
The travel business in Lapland sells itself using the Lappish image and genuine experiences, but offers tourists pizza and snowmobile safaris. Researcher Harri Hautajärvi has just completed his thesis for the degree of licentiate of philosophy on the history of the character of Lapland´s tourism. He considers that two traditions are apparent in Lapland´s tourism, one of which is based on local nature and human culture, i.e. on the old Lapland, and the other on the urban robber economy mentality in which original Lapland has been replaced by trash imported from the south.
Tourism began in Lapland as long ago as the 1800s, when the country´s elite tended to holiday there. Petsamo, annexed to Finland in the 1920s, was the first high-powered tourism destination, featuring The world´s only road to the Arctic Ocean. Soon a two-storey inn was built for travellers. The region´s original Skolt Saami folk were one of the main attractions for sightseers and the hope was that they would remain as a sight. To ensure this, they were issued regular supplies of grain by the inn. This kind of aggressive tourism in Petsamo was joined by the natural philosophy ideal. As a result, new tourist accommodation was constructed close to national parks and terrain ideal for green pursuits like hiking.
In 1944, Finland was forced to cede Petsamo to the Soviet Union. During the war everything done on behalf of tourism in Lapland had been destroyed. It was not until the 1960s that the standard previously achieved was re-attained. Holidaying in Lapland became popular among the Finnish populace as a whole in the 1950s. Gradually, alongside traditional tourism, an attitude emphasising action and activities emerged. Downhill ski centres and ski resorts sprouted, radically altering both landscapes and ecosystems. The construction of holiday homes and villages in the province of Lapland can be criticised on the grounds that it exceeds the tolerance of the environment, landscape and ecosystem, and because it represents ecological and undemocratic use of community resources.
Teksti: Leigh Plester