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Metsähallitus: Lapland losing peatlands to climate change

Peatlands are crucial in tackling the climate crisis as they function as natural carbon sinks.

Kuvassa on noin viisi metriä korkea pals, jonka päällä on mittauslaitteita ja Otso Suominen. Etualalla kuvassa on hillankukkia.
A peat swamp in Lapland. Photo is a still from Yle's "Ikioma ilmastokriisimme" series, which roughly translates to "Our very own climate crisis". Image: Hanna Asikainen / Yle
Yle News

Roughly a third of Northern Lapland's peatlands have disappeared since the 1990s, according to a recent study by Metsähallitus.

The natural resource management enterprise says that climate change is to blame.

Lapland's peatlands are formed around permafrost, and with temperatures rising and the permafrost melting, the swamps have begun to disappear.

"These changes in nature do not come as a surprise, as warming in the Arctic is estimated to be up to four times faster than the global average," said head of the project and conservation specialist Anna Tammilehto.

"So we need more regular monitoring of how and how fast nature is changing," Tammilehto said, adding that "the peatlands can no longer be protected by local measures alone. We need international action to stop global warming."

For this survey Mestähallitus and the Finnish Environment Institute mapped out some three million hectares of Northern Lapland's wilderness between 2020 and 2022. The last time such a large-scale monitoring project was conducted in the area was in the 1990s, and the difference they found was considerable.

Peatlands are crucial in tackling the climate crisis as they function as natural carbon sinks while also preserving biodiversity and preventing flooding. Last year Finland's land usage started emitting more carbon than it stored.

Damaged peatlands can in turn become carbon emitters as degradation and overexploitation can cause significant amounts of greenhouse gases to be released into the atmosphere.

Northern Lapland could already be turning into such a damaged peatland area. The southernmost peat swamp in the Pallas-Ounas Tunturi area which was still there in the 1990s, for example, has now completely disappeared.

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