Special characteristics of Nordic nature
The Nordic Countries comprise Finland, including the Åland Islands, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Denmark, including Greenland and the Faroe Islands. Biogeographically the Nordic Countries belong to the Palearctic region, as does most of Eurasia. Four vegetation zones: the arctic, alpine, boreal and nemoral zones. are represented. There are alpine regions in the mountains, mainly in the Scandinavian Mountains. The other zones are found in parallel belts running east-west. The arctic regions are in the north, mainly in Greenland and Svalbard. Most of the Nordic Countries lie in the boreal zone, whose natural vegetation consists of coniferous forests, while Denmark and the southernmost tip of Sweden lie in the nemoral zone, where deciduous forests naturally predominate.
Nature in the whole of the Nordic region is still recovering from the last glaciation, which ended about 10,000 years ago. The continental ice sheet weighed down the land for 100,000 years, and the land uplift which commenced when the ice started to melt is still continuing.
Practically all plants and animals became extinct in the Nordic Countries during the Ice Age, but many species returned as the edge of the ice sheet receded northwards, and also later southwards towards the Scandinavian Mountains. Species have spread into the Nordic Countries from both the east and the south. The spread of some species is still continuing; the Norway spruce (Picea abies), for instance, is still spreading westwards, and has only reached the Norwegian coast in a few places.
To thrive in the Nordic Countries, species must adapt to varying conditions. They need to endure heat in the summer and extreme cold in winter. Light conditions also vary greatly seasonally; in summer the days are long, and in winter very short. This variation is more pronounced in the north and decreases to the south.
The total numbers of species in most groups decrease northwards, as conditions become harsher. The adaptations of the species to their environment vary with the climate. Northern plant species are often small with thick outer layers on their leaves, while southern, nemoral plants can have thinner leaves, as they do not need to control evaporation as much.
There are vast areas of water in the Nordic Countries. The region?s seas are characterised by their high productivity. Lakes, on the other hand, tend to be small, nutrient-poor and naturally acidic. The seas of the Nordic Countries are highly varied. The Baltic Sea has no significant tides, whereas the daily tidal range on the Norwegian coast can be as much as several metres. Salinity levels are very low in the Baltic Sea, which is connected to the North Sea only by the narrow Danish straits, limiting the exchange of water with the open seas. In the North Sea off Denmark salinity levels reach 35 parts per thousand, which is more than three times the average level in the Baltic Sea, 10 parts per thousand. Populations of fish and other species in the Baltic Sea are considered to be distinct from populations in the North Sea. In some of the region?s lakes there are also separate populations and even subspecies of seals and fish that have become isolated and developed distinct characteristics as the land has risen since the end of the Ice Age.
The Nordic Countries comprise a large area whose natural features exhibit great variations as well as certain similarities. There are great differences in elevation in the north, but vast, lowland plains in the south. The climate is maritime in the west, and more continental towards the east. Habitats vary from glaciers, wetlands and sand dunes to coniferous forests, cliffs and heaths. So even if the Nordic countries are generally considered relatively uniform an area it is all but homogenous.
Top of the page