Suomen Luonto
English summaries 10/2001

Wild forest reindeer now well-established in Finland
By Timo Helle
Pages 4-13

The wild forest reindeer (Rangifer tarandus fennicus) returned to Finland some thirty years ago. Now its expanding population has reached around three thousand head. The modest stock of ten wild forest reindeer introduced twenty years ago in the Suomenselkä region has succeeded better than anyone had dared to hope, and there are now about a thousand of the beasts living in the forests and mires of the Kivijärvi area.

Wild forest reindeer are rather quiet animals, apart from during the rut, which takes place in September to October, when the forest rings to their calls. After the rut, the males lose their antlers and the whole population quietens down until next time.

The wild forest reindeer and the domestic reindeer\\\'s ancestor, the wild reindeer of the fells (R. tarandus tarandus) are different subspecies of the same species. In addition to crossing over with the domestic form, the wild subspecies can also cross breed with the white-tailed deer. This latter species has a white rump, however. South of the reindeer herding area there is a fence that serves to keep the domestic reindeer separate from the wild forest subspecies. As the wild variety has longer legs than the domestic one and it is also of slimmer build, it appears to be more Barbie-like, despite being the larger of the two.

In contrast to the domestic subspecies, wild forest reindeer rarely fall victim to the great predators of the north (bear, wolf, wolverine). Those that are attacked have probably failed to keep a careful enough, constant watch on their surroundings. Some domestic reindeer individuals, on the other hand, have become far too trusting and gullible through breeding, so that one hears of them being slaughtered by predators. The delicate balance struck between wild forest reindeer and wolf populations is most likely impossible in Lapland\\\'s reindeer husbandry area.

Houses are a store of tales in Ii\\\'s Hamina
By Anne Kärkkäinen
Pages 31-35

Ii\\\'s Hamina is a residential area of 70 households snuggling in the vicinity of the bridges along the River Iijoki. Trade began in the town of Hamina as early as during the 1300s. This was one of Ostrobothnia\\\'s official commercial centres before trade was freed in Finland. Many of its buildings date from the 19th century. The houses have been built side by side along the river bank. Commercial buildings, which provide Hamina with its unique character, are located further away, at the end of the yards. These buildings are endangered because it is nowadays difficult to find a sensible use for a salmon cellar or a cowshed and repair costs continual to rise sharply.

Architect Kari Niskasaari feels that these \"useless\" commercial buildings should not be demolished: people should learn to appreciate their historical value. Replacing rotting planks and roofing felt would go a long way towards putting them in condition, he concludes.

There is a plan to make Ii\\\'s Hamina a cultural tourism target. This means, among other things, preserving and restoring its old buildings. So the village committee, the Municipality of Ii, and local residents have come together to develop this unique village.

The deep lap of Siberia
By Esko Kuusisto
Pages 40-45

Baikal is the world\\\'s deepest lake, going down to 1,637 metres. Aged 28 million years at least, Baikal is also the world\\\'s oldest lake. It contains as much water as the entire Baltic Sea and has a surface area adding up to as much as all Finland\\\'s 180,000 lakes put together. The oligotrophic lake water is clear. At its clearest in June, this water permits light to penetrate down to 30-40 metres in December and January.

Baikal has no less than 27 large islands. Surrounding mountains are veined with hundreds of small rivers. The lake shores are moving apart at the rate of two centimetres a year, while the lake bed is sinking. Nature took care of the water level right up until 1959, when a dam was constructed to feed the Irkutsk hydropower station. For this purpose the lake\\\'s water level is regulated nowadays. Over a long period of time, the water level has fluctuated one hundred metres downwards and two hundred metres upwards. It also received a crust of ice during two separate ice ages. These conditions are responsible for the diversity of species for which Baikal has become biologically famous. There are 2,500 known animal species, and 1,100 plant species, known to occur in Baikal. Over a third of the recorded species are endemic and new ones are being found at the rate of 10-20 a year.

For professional fishermen the most important species is the plankton whitefish. An important part of the aquatic food chain, the translucent oil fish (Comephorus baikalensis and C. dybowski) is the basic food of the Baikal seal (Phoca sibirica). There are approximately 80,000 of these seals, 7000 a year being shot on the ice from motor cycles equipped with side cars. Great value is placed on the meat and white fur of the seal pups and many uses have been found for seal fat. UNESCO declared Baikal and its truly unique aquatic ecosystem a world heritage site in 1996. However, the lake is threatened by many human activities. A pulp mill is mercilessly polluting at least the nearby waters and oil spills from tankers plying the lake are always possible. In Siberia, \\\"The sky is high and Moscow far away\\\", and these days there are many clouds on the horizon.

New road may cleave valuable countryside By Jarmo Pasanen
Pages 26-29

The construction of the new Helsinki-Turku motorway and the conflicts it has caused are progressing in the countryside between Muurla and Lohjanharju. In the village of Raatti, in Nummi-Pusula, the road threatens to split the Sipilä farm, undisturbed home to the same farming family for 350 years, into two. Aside from its derogatory effect on agricultural activities, the road would adversely effect summer house tourism and the area\\\'s rich flora and fauna. Farmer\\\'s wife Tuija Pakkasmaa-Pietilä has compiled an inventory of the wildlife in the area which will be affected by the road, the list including the flying squirrel and a protected species of bellflower (Campanula cervicaria). The motorway project also threatens to rattle our ancestor\\\'s bones, one of its proposed tunnels passing through a Bronze Age burial ground.

A better alternative to the present southerly course of the road would be either a more northern route or construction of the motorway along the corridor occupied by the existing highway, main road no. 1.

Teksti: Leigh Plester