Finnish Environment Institute
  • Helsinki, Uusimaa region, Finland
Recent publications
Background Protected areas (PA) are central to biodiversity, but their efficiency is challenged by human-induced habitat loss and fragmentation. In the Fennoscandian boreal region, forestry with clearcutting is a threat to biodiversity causing the loss of mature forest elements and deterioration of ecological processes in forest landscapes, ultimately affecting PAs via declined structural connectivity. This paper aims to (1) determine PAs with high, red-listed species concentrations; (2) estimate the change in forest habitat around these PAs on different spatial scales; and (3) determine if forest management intensity is higher around biologically most valuable PAs. Occurrences of red-listed forest-dwelling species in Finland were used to identify PAs harbouring these species and to produce site-specific importance indices. CORINE landcover data was used as a baseline for the distribution of forests to assess the cover of clear-cuttings from 2001 to 2019 with the Global Forest Change (GFC) data set in three buffer areas around the PAs with occurrences of red-listed species. Results The largest proportion of clear-cuts occurred in 1 km and 10 km buffers around the PAs in the southern and middle boreal zones, being ca. 20%. This indicates that the forest habitat is degrading fast at regional and landscape levels. On the positive side, the change in forest cover was lower around the biologically most important PAs compared to other PAs with red-listed species. Conclusions Open and free satellite-data based assessments of the cover and change of forests provide reliable estimates about the rates at which mature and old-growth forests are being converted into young managed ones in Finland mainly via clear-cuts on different scales around PAs. The rate of clear-cuts was lowest in adjacent buffer areas next to the most species-rich PAs, which provides opportunities for biodiversity conservation efforts to be targeted to the remaining mature and old-growth forests found in the vicinity of these areas.
Leverett et al. commented on the Environmental quality standard (EQS) for diclofenac derived under the European Water Framework Directive [Leverett et al. (2021) Environ Sci Eur 33: 133 https://doi.org/10.1186/s12302-021-00574-z ]. They postulated that the derivation of the EQS value for diclofenac is not conducted according to the EQS Technical Guidance, but rather using data of poor reliability and relevance. Consequently, the authors suggested using their alternative derived value instead. It is to be noted that the process for the EQS derivation for diclofenac is still ongoing and not finalized, and that as a consequence, any critical analysis is very premature. In general, within the current European Commission process, EQS values proposals are derived by expert groups led by the Joint Research Centre. In the specific case for diclofenac, Leverett et al. have also been actively involved as experts. This response to Leverett et al. (2021) aims to clarify the reasoning behind the proposal from a scientific point of view and to express our concern for the lack of transparency of their position in the statement of competing interests. Indeed, the authors did not disclose their participation in the expert group for deriving the diclofenac EQS value, nor that they have direct and indirect ties to a company that markets diclofenac in Europe, Glaxo Smith & Kline plc (GSK). This amounts to a significant conflict of interest and leads to disinformation to the reader.
Social-ecological fit has been a popular approach to assessing the connectedness between social and ecological systems in environmental governance. However, the role of projects in social-ecological fit has yet to be explicitly problematized and conceptualized. Given the centrality of projects - i.e. temporally limited organizations that bring various actors into collaboration to pursue clearly defined goals and tasks - in environmental governance, this is a serious shortcoming in the literature. In this paper, we fill this gap by drawing on the hitherto unconnected literatures on projectified environmental governance and social-ecological fit. We then assess the extent to which fit can be achieved in projectified environmental governance. To do this, we develop a novel framework for assessing the vertical and horizontal dimensions of social, spatial, and temporal fit and conduct an empirical study of the European Union’s LIFE Program and environmental projects funded by the program in Estonia. Our results suggest that the spatial and temporal fit of projects is contingent on social fit, i.e., the alignment of interests and needs of project-related actors. Frictions between various levels of decision-making also condition the possibilities of achieving fit horizontally across stakeholder groups and ecological systems as well as of sustaining project results over time.
Lateral hydrological connectivity (LHC) is a key process in maintaining aquatic biodiversity in river floodplain ecosystems. However, the effects of LHC loss on aquatic biodiversity are rarely studied. Here, we evaluated, for the first time, the responses of multiple facets (i.e., taxonomic, functional and phylogenetic) of alpha and beta diversity of freshwater molluscs to the LHC loss in 23 floodplain lakes in the Yangtze River Basin in China. Our results showed that taxonomic and functional alpha diversities were all significantly higher in connected lakes (CLs) than in disconnected lakes (DLs), whereas phylogenetic alpha diversity (Δ⁺) was lower in CLs than in DLs. For beta diversity facets, taxonomic (Tβsor) and phylogenetic (Pβsor) dissimilarities were slightly more contributed by the turnover component or equally contributed by the turnover and nestedness-resultant components both in CLs and DLs. Instead, functional beta diversity (Fβsor), generally showing much lower values than Tβsor and Pβsor, was mainly contributed by the nestedness-resultant component (76.6–84.0%), especially in DLs. We found that only functional dissimilarities were significantly higher in DLs than CLs, indicating a high level of functional diversity loss without replacement of species possessing traits sensitive to hydrological disconnection (i.e., large body size, lamellibranch body form, filter feeding, ovoviviparity and burrowing habits). In general, lake area, hydrological connectivity, aquatic vegetation coverage and nutrient levels (TN and TP) played important roles in structuring variation in molluscan alpha and beta diversities, although the three diversity facets responded to different environmental factors. Our results suggest that loss of connectivity to the mainstem river has negative impacts on molluscan assemblages in floodplain lakes. More importantly, as taxonomic, functional and phylogenetic diversities responded somewhat differently to the loss of hydrological connectivity, all of these biodiversity facets should be better incorporated into aquatic biodiversity assessment and conservation programs in large river floodplains.
In the acceleration phase of energy transitions, the role of community and citizen action is emphasised. The role of active, smart and experimental communities and individuals adopting novel practices and technologies is often contrasted with more conventional and mundane everyday practices, which change only slowly. In this context, the role of news media is central in disseminating information, mediating confrontations, and offering a space for shared societal frames on transition. This article examines Finnish media storylines on emerging energy technologies and practices in housing cooperatives, which manage most of the apartment buildings in Finland and thus have a key role in energy transition. Focusing on 17 years of development in three mainstream media, we first identify three main phases in media discourse intensity, focus and level of detail. Next, we analyse the ten main storylines on stabilising and reconfiguring the role of housing cooperatives in energy system change. Finally, we combine these storylines with cross-cutting societal frames on governmentalizing energy communities from the perspectives of technological anticipation, saving potentials and governance interventions.
Many studies have shown that biodiversity regulates a multitude of ecological functions that are needed to maintain the productivity and efficiency of a variety of types of ecosystems. What is not known is how human activities may change the ‘multifunctionality’ of ecosystems as they have both direct impacts on ecosystems and indirect effects on the biodiversity that serves to control ecological functions. Using a database on hundreds of lakes spanning four large neotropical wetlands, we demonstrate that species richness and the functional diversity of fish, macrophytes, microcrustaceans, rotifers, protists, and phytoplankton are positively associated with ecosystem multifunctionality, including nutrient concentrations, standing biomass, and ecosystem metabolism. However, we also found that the relationship between biodiversity and multifunctionality is weakened by human pressures and that part of this impact occurs through changes in biodiversity. Our results suggest that human activities may break down the biological controls needed to maintain the suite of ecosystem functions that sustain wetlands.
Northern aapa mire complexes are characterized by patterned fens with flarks (wet fen surfaces) and bog zone margins with Sphagnum moss cover. Evidence exists of a recent increase in Sphagnum over fens that can alter ecosystem functions. Contrast between flarks and Sphagnum moss cover may enable remote sensing of these changes with satellite proxies. We explored recent changes in hydro-morphological patterns and vegetation in a south-boreal aapa mire in Finland and tested the performance of Landsat bands and indices in detecting Sphagnum increase in aapa mires. We combined aerial image analysis and vegetation survey, repeated after 60 years, to support Landsat satellite image analysis. Aerial image analysis revealed a decrease in flark area by 46% between 1947 and 2019. Repeated survey showed increase in Sphagnum mosses (S. pulchrum, S. papillosum) and deep-rooted vascular plants (Menyanthes trifoliata, Carex rostrata). A supervised classification of high-resolution UAV image recognized the legacy of infilled flarks in the patterning of Sphagnum carpets. Among Landsat variables, all separate spectral bands, the Green Difference Vegetation Index (GDVI), and the Automated Water Extraction Index (AWEI) correlated with the flark area. Between 1985 and 2020, near-infrared (NIR) and GDVI increased in the central flark area, and AWEI decreased throughout the mire area. In aapa mire complexes, flark fen and Sphagnum bog zones have contrasting Landsat NIR reflectance, and NIR band is suggested for monitoring changes in flarks. The observed increase in Sphagnum mosses supports the interpretation of ongoing fen–bog transitions in Northern European aapa mires, indicating significant ecosystem-scale changes.
Diatom taxonomy has evolved in recent years, with many new species described and new approaches such as molecular genetics showing the existence of cryptic diversity within currently accepted species. This cryptic diversity is not well understood even for common freshwater genera such as Fragilaria and Ulnaria. The purpose of our study was to define taxon-specific ecological profiles and geographical distributions for unique molecular identifiers (amplicon sequence variants, ASVs) linked to curated taxonomy for these genera. Our goal is to contribute to the development of ecological assessment methods, and to the understanding why we often observe so many diatom species co-occurring in a single sample. We filtered a large (770 samples) metabarcoding dataset with linked environmental data covering several countries in Europe for genetic variants (ASVs) assigned to currently accepted species of our target genera. We studied the geographical distribution of the ASVs, and tested for ASV-pair co-occurrence. We modelled ASV-specific preferences for pH, alkalinity, total nitrogen, total phosphorus and conductivity, and analysed their preference for lakes or streams as habitat. Our study confirmed that there seems to be no general geographical barrier for the distribution of freshwater benthic diatom ASVs in Europe, but that dispersal is not rapid enough to hide historical events. The Fragilaria and Ulnaria ASVs in our study showed considerable overlap in geographical distribution, habitat and ecological preferences. We found evidence that only large differences in preferences for the analysed water chemistry variables prevented the co-occurrence of ASVs at the same sites. Instead, Fragilaria and Ulnaria ASVs co-occurred frequently in samples. We found subtle differences in ecological preferences for some ASV pairs, which might in part explain the co-occurrence by the avoidance of direct competition. However, the great overlap in distribution and ecological preferences suggests that other factors not studied here were also responsible for the observed co-occurrences and high richness of ASVs found at many sites. To our knowledge, we are the first to use ASVs in combination with a curated taxonomy to understand co-occurrence, specific ecological profiles and large-scale geographical distribution for unique identifiers not biased by the quality of reference databases, clustering methods, or non-harmonized morphological identification. Thus, our results can now be used in subsequent projects to interpret ASV occurrences, e.g. for development of ecological assessment methods.
The urgency of the sustainability transition, as emphasized by science, has not yet been fully translated to large‐scale, inspired and effective societal action. This article focuses on the transformative potential of science‐based information presented through specific sustainability storylines inside larger policy narratives. Sustainability storylines can serve as tools for learning from the past, create representations of the current situation and outline paths toward probable, preferable, or avoidable futures. The focus is on three storylines focusing on bioenergy as a renewable energy solution, green mining providing nonrenewable resources and physically active mobility allowing health and environmental benefits. The empirical focus is on Finland, a forerunner of sustainability policies with a large per capita environmental footprint. The potential of sustainable development goals to simultaneously serve as a globally shared and nationally relevant framework for sustainability storylines is discussed with a rather dismal conclusion but optimistic outlook.
Recent advances in molecular biomonitoring open new horizons for aquatic ecosystem assessment. Rapid and cost-effective methods based on organismal DNA or environmental DNA (eDNA) now offer the opportunity to produce inventories of indicator taxa that can subsequently be used to assess biodiversity and ecological quality. However, the integration of these new DNA-based methods into current monitoring practices is not straightforward, and will require coordinated actions in the coming years at national and international levels. To plan and stimulate such an integration, the European network DNAqua-Net (COST Action CA15219) brought together international experts from academia, as well as key environmental biomonitoring stakeholders from different European countries. Together, this transdisciplinary consortium developed a roadmap for implementing DNA-based methods with a focus on inland waters assessed by the EU Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC). This was done through a series of online workshops held in April 2020, which included fifty participants, followed by extensive synthesis work. The roadmap is organised around six objectives: 1) to highlight the effectiveness and benefits of DNA-based methods, 2) develop an adaptive approach for the implementation of new methods, 3) provide guidelines and standards for best practice, 4) engage stakeholders and ensure effective knowledge transfer, 5) support the environmental biomonitoring sector to achieve the required changes, 6) steer the process and harmonise efforts at the European level. This paper provides an overview of the forum discussions and the common European views that have emerged from them, while reflecting the diversity of situations in different countries. It highlights important actions required for a successful implementation of DNA-based biomonitoring of aquatic ecosystems by 2030.
Glider observations conducted between 2016 and 2021 were combined with shipborne surveys from the 1950s through the 2010s to provide critically important information about changes in the Bothnian Sea. Particularly, we evaluated the rate of warming and freshening in several layers of the basin and showed that warming of 0.3°C/decade in the upper 25m was sufficient to explain ~40% of the oxygen depletion since the mid-1950s. This depletion was driven by limited saturation of the surface mixed layer (SML), caused by warming and a (related) weakening of the surface oxygen flux during spring blooms. Below the SML, the role of warming in oxygen depletion decreased to less than 30%, whereas the role of freshening became increasingly important via establishing stronger stratification that reduced local ventilation across the basin’s halocline. The observed values in this study are not critical for the ecological system of the Bothnian Sea. However, the presented trends towards oxygen depletion should be considered as an early warning sign as future projections of the oxygen levels in the Bothnian Sea suggest further severe losses of the dissolved oxygen in the next decades. Thus, enhancement of both observational networks and the current physical and biogeochemical models is a high priority if we are to mitigate the potential impact of oxygen loss and develop a reliable monitoring system of the Bothnian Sea.
Geodiversity is an emerging, multi-faceted concept in Earth and environmental sciences. Knowledge on geo-diversity is crucial for understanding functions of natural systems and in guiding sustainable development. Despite the critical nature of geodiversity information, data acquisition and analytical methods have lagged behind the conceptual developments in biosciences. Thus, we propose that geodiversity research could adopt the framework of alpha, beta and gamma concepts widely used in biodiversity research. Especially, geodiversity research would benefit from widening its scope from the evaluation of individual sites towards more holistic geodiversity assessments, where between-site geodiversity is also considered. In this article, we explore the alpha, beta and gamma concepts and how they can be applied in a geodiversity framework. In addition, we scrutinize the statistical methodology related to alpha, beta and gamma geodiversity evaluations, with a special focus on distance metrics for measuring beta geodiversity. As an overview of the process, and to give practical guidelines for the application of the proposed methodology, we present a case study from a UNESCO Global Geopark area. Thus, this study not only develops the geodiversity concept, but also paves the way for simultaneous understanding of both geodiversity and biodiversity within a unified conceptual approach.
Marine microorganisms have the potential to disperse widely with few obvious barriers to gene flow. However, among microalgae, several studies have demonstrated that species can be highly genetically structured with limited gene flow among populations, despite hydrographic connectivity. Ecological differentiation and local adaptation have been suggested as drivers of such population structure. Here we tested whether multiple strains from two genetically distinct Baltic Sea populations of the diatom Skeletonema marinoi showed evidence of local adaptation to their local environments; the estuarine Bothnian Sea and the marine Kattegat Sea. We performed reciprocal transplants of multiple strains between culture media based on water from the respective environments, and we also allowed competition between strains of estuarine and marine origin in both salinities. When grown alone, both marine and estuarine strains performed best in the high salinity environment, and estuarine strains always grew faster than marine strains. This result suggests local adaptation through countergradient selection, i.e. genetic effects counteract environmental effects. However, higher growth rate of the estuarine strains appears to have a cost in the marine environment and when strains were allowed to compete, marine strains performed better than estuarine strains in the marine environment. Thus, other traits are likely to also affect fitness. We provide evidence that tolerance to pH could be involved, and that estuarine strains which are adapted to a more fluctuating pH continue growing at higher pH than marine strains.
We compare the use of PPGIS and Flickr in landscape value assessments. • Landscape values and their spatial patterns are compared across sites. • We find more cross-site differences than similarities both in spatial patterns and value types. • PPGIS elicits a wider spectrum of values, while Flickr mainly elicits relationships to and with landscapes. • We recommend a complementary use in future landscape value studies.
The biodiversity of marine and coastal habitats is experiencing unprecedented change. While there are well-known drivers of these changes, such as overexploitation, climate change and pollution, there are also relatively unknown emerging issues that are poorly understood or recognized that have potentially positive or negative impacts on marine and coastal ecosystems. In this inaugural Marine and Coastal Horizon Scan, we brought together 30 scientists, policymakers and practitioners with transdisciplinary expertise in marine and coastal systems to identify new issues that are likely to have a significant impact on the functioning and conservation of marine and coastal biodiversity over the next 5–10 years. Based on a modified Delphi voting process, the final 15 issues presented were distilled from a list of 75 submitted by participants at the start of the process. These issues are grouped into three categories: ecosystem impacts, for example the impact of wildfires and the effect of poleward migration on equatorial biodiversity; resource exploitation, including an increase in the trade of fish swim bladders and increased exploitation of marine collagens; and new technologies, such as soft robotics and new biodegradable products. Our early identification of these issues and their potential impacts on marine and coastal biodiversity will support scientists, conservationists, resource managers and policymakers to address the challenges facing marine ecosystems. A panel of scientists, policymakers and practitioners have used an iterative voting process to collate a list of 15 priority emerging issues likely to affect marine and coastal biodiversity over the next 5–10 years.
Environmental filtering, spatial factors and species interactions are fundamental ecological mechanisms for community organisation, yet the role of such interactions across different environmental and spatial settings remains mostly unknown. In this study, we investigated fish community organisation scenarios and seasonal species-to-species associations potentially reflecting biotic associations along the Qiupu River (China). Based on a latent variable approach and a tree-based method, we compared the relative contribution of the abiotic environment, spatial covariates and potential species associations for variation in the community structure, and assessed whether different assembly scenarios were modulated by concomitant changes in the interaction network structure of fish communities across seasons. We found that potential species associations might have been underestimated in community-based assessments of stream fish. Omnivore species, since they have more associations with other species, were found to be key components sustaining fish interaction networks across different stream orders. Hence, we suggest that species interactions, such as predation and competition, likely played a key role in community structure. For instance, indices accounting for network structure, such as connectance and nestedness, were strongly correlated with the unexplained residuals from our latent variable approach, thereby re-emphasising that biotic signals, potentially reflecting species interactions, may be of primary importance in determining stream fish communities across seasons. Overall, our findings indicate that interaction network structures are a powerful tool to reflect the contribution of potential species associations to community assembly. From an applied perspective, this study should encourage freshwater ecologists to empirically capture and manage biotic constraints in stream ecosystems across different geographical and environmental settings, especially in the context of the ever-increasing impacts of human-induced local extinction debts and species invasions.
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368 members
Harri Kankaanpää
  • Marine Research Centre
Riikka Paloniemi
  • Environmental Policy Centre
Mika Marttunen
  • Freshwater Centre
Sampsa Koponen
  • Data and Information Center
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