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Protecting species secures their diversity, vitality, and natural capital

Finnish plant, animal, and fungus species are well known. Biodiversity is often defined by the number of species, but other equally important elements of biodiversity include the diversity of habitats inhabited by these species and the networks of habitats as well as the genetic diversity of species. Their survival must be ensured if we want to maintain a diversity species. Our location in the north affects species along with human activities. The newest factor is climate change.
A northern red-backed vole peeks out of a birch log.
The northern red-backed vole lives in old forests of Northern Finland with a thick undergrowth or a dense cover of moss. © Riku Lumiaro

The assessment of threatened species is conducted with international methods

The assessment of threatened species in Finland is carried out periodically under the leadership of the Finnish Environment Institute – if a species is viable, or if it is, perhaps, in decline and in danger of disappearing from Finland before long. The most recent assessment of threatened species involved 180 experts in different groups of species. The outcome of the work, The 2019 Red List of Finnish species, is one of the most comprehensive in the world. It reveals which species in Finland are threatened, how serious the threat has become, and what the reason is for the threats facing the different species. Precise information creates the preconditions for the protection of species.

Significance of living environments emphasised

Assessments of threat levels have shown that habitat depletion is usually the cause of the predicament facing threatened species. Habitats suitable for species have declined, or their features have been altered in a way that is disadvantageous for the species. The aim of a significant share of protective measures is the preservation of habitats.

There are many ways to achieve this: protected areas can be set up, nature sites can be restored and upgraded, land use can be prohibited in important habitats and in places where threatened species live. Special efforts to preserve forest species include the METSO, the Forest Biodiversity Programme for Southern Finland, and the development of forestry methods. The Helmi habitat programme, which continues through 2030, protects, upgrades, and restores areas including bogs, bird waters, and traditional biotopes.

In addition to measures targeting specific areas and locations it is important to take the preservation of biotopes into account in all uses of land and water areas. Municipalities and regional authorities, as well as agriculture and forestry hold a key position.

Sufficient background knowledge guarantees effective protection

To be effective, the protection of species must be based on solid knowledge. It is important to know the distribution of different species, the locations of their habitats, and the sizes of their populations and changes that have occurred in these. In addition, it is important to be familiar with the habitat requirements of the species.

An outer archipelago flada.
Brackish water lagoons formed as a result of postglacial rebound are the habitat of many threatened species. © Riku Lumiaro

Knowing the kinds of living environments that different species require enables us to select targets for conservation and care in a way that benefits as many species as possible.

Information needed in the protection of species is collected with the help of a large group of volunteers, but more help is still needed. The results of the work have made it possible to produce an evaluation of threats facing about half of species living in Finland. However, the other half has not yet been evaluated. Further information will be needed on these species to assess the situation.

The many ways of protecting species

The protection of species is based on national legislation and the European Union’s regulations. The most important EU regulations include the Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive, the Nature Conservation Act being the most important Finnish act.

In order to protect species, an action plan for the protection of endangered species was drawn up in 2017, the aim of which is to improve the survival of species in different habitats together with different administrative branches and actors. Another aim is to prevent species from becoming endangered in Finland. The action plan includes 46 measures, the implementation of which relies on effective cooperation with authorities, higher education institutions, research institutes and other actors.

One part of the action plan for species protection is regional prioritisation of conservation work. This means that protection measures taken prioritise species with the most acute need for conservation in each specific area. A list of species in urgent need of protection has been compiled for this purpose. Selected for the list are the threatened species – more than one fifth of all threatened species that have the most urgent need for protection measures. The list of species is used in regional planning meetings to decide on measures to maintain each individual species in each specific location.

Observations on species are collected

Information on citizens’ observations of endangered and other species is collected in the Finnish Biodiversity Information Facility, where everyone may browse them. For protection reasons, the location of some species’ observation sites is automatically made less specific.  Citizens’ observations are a valuable addition to the data repository for species protection, and it would therefore be important to record the data carefully. It is recommended to record the data while logged in and via the My Notebook observation system.

The information required for an observation include the date, the coordinates of the observation site, the description of the observation site and the observation, the grounds for the identification of the species and, if possible, a photograph of the species. The name of the observer is also useful if more information is needed later. Careful descriptions of the observation, grounds for the identification of the species and photographs increase the usability of the observation and facilitate the assessment of their reliability.

Follow-ups reveal directions of development

Finland also has long traditions in the monitoring of certain species groups, for example birds, moths as well as butterflies living in an agricultural environment. Coordinated by the Finnish Environment Institute, and carried out mostly by volunteers, the monitoring of moths and butterflies has yielded valuable information on the development of the different species and on changes in their numbers.

A butterfly researcher in the field.
Butterfly monitoring is one of the environmental monitoring efforts maintained by Syke. © Riku Lumiaro

Monitoring helps improve the efficiency of protection of these groups of species, but they also provide more general information about the development of natural diversity.


Finnish Environment Institute (Syke)