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Unique 18-year survey of Finnish nature nears completion

All of Finland’s natural reserves have almost been surveyed. The state forest management agency Metsähallitus has been mapping the different varieties of Finnish nature since the late 1990s. The four million hectare study is globally unique.

Luontokartoittaja Pia Kangas katselee kasvia
Image: Raimo Torikka / Yle

Habitat surveyor Pia Kangas’ job is to catalogue the different types of natural habitat in so-called Natura 2000 areas. Natura 2000 is an EU-wide network of nature reserves where habitat loss is actively being repelled.

“Common types of habitat include minerotrophic bogs and natural forests,” Kangas says, “but the ones that are actually sought-after are the springs, fens, flooded forests and limestone ponds. These are rarities that can’t be spotted with aerial imaging.”

The Metsähallitus agency started their survey from northern Lapland 18 years ago, and the project has spilled out into the rest of Finland. In some four million hectares (40,000 km2), researchers have discovered nearly 400 different habitat types.

After the survey is completed, information on all of Finland’s nature reserves will be available, including specific valuable attributes and how they can restrict the use of certain areas.

“The demand for natural habitats is great, with concerns ranging from forestry to camping to peat harvesting,” Kangas says. “In this way, we will be able to preserve at least some of Finland’s nature.”

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