This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site you agree to our use of cookies. To find out more, see our Privacy and Cookies policy.
Skip to the content

[IOP] A community website from IOP Publishing

environmentalresearchweb blog

On the edge: vegetation research at Kilpisjärvi

By Liz Kalaugher

Pizza by Lake Kilpisjärvi

University of Helsinki researchers eat pizza on a well-deserved evening off. From left: Heidi Mod, Annina Niskanen, Julia Kemppinen and Peter le Roux.

It’s not every Sunday that ends with eating pizza on a balcony in Finnish Lapland, overlooking a lake while bathed in glorious sunshine. This wasn’t what I was expecting roughly 300 km north of the Arctic circle. Indeed, it wasn’t what some of the researchers who’ve been here before were expecting either – fortunately, despite high numbers of mosquitoes earlier in the summer, they have now disappeared, and the weather, as I expect I’ll find out soon, isn’t always this good. Changeable is the name of the game.

I’ve come to Kilpisjärvi Biological Station in north-west Finland (69°N, 20°E) as part of a European Geosciences Union (EGU) science journalism fellowship to meet Miska Luoto from the University of Helsinki. Together with his eight-strong team, Luoto is studying the plants on and around Saana mountain, including information about vegetation type, soil moisture, soil temperature, soil pH, and topography.

The aim is to model the factors that influence vegetation cover at the moment, and so be able to discover how it’s likely to change in the future. The work is part of Finland’s massive CLICHE project investigating how climate change will affect the nation’s environment, ecosystem services and society.

Finnish reindeer

Road safety is not a priority for Finnish reindeer.

Vegetation change was clearly visible on the journey up here – as we travelled north from Kittilä almost 300 km to the south, the Norwegian spruce trees gradually disappeared, followed by the Scots pine. The aspen, mountain birch and willow had more staying power, and were joined by large stretches of palsa mire – Arctic bog – complete with permafrost hummocks.

But it’s still surprisingly green. The area has more vegetation than similar latitudes in the Canadian Arctic or Alaska, Luoto explained, because the Arctic Ocean is so close, which brings a milder maritime climate.

Kilpisjärvi flag

The lemming is the symbol of Kilpsjärvi Research Station.

Back to the pizza. As I walked to the restaurant, reindeer wandered nearby, hooves, despite their gangly legs, making a delicate slap on the tarmac. The animals are wary of pedestrians but seem unfazed by cars and amble happily along the road. As well as annoying motorists, they’re not too popular with the researchers as they knock down the poles used to mark study areas. Although prominent on the Kilpisjärvi station flag, lemming are much less visible. Their numbers are in decline after peaking two years ago, when there were so many you could stand on them by mistake.

This entry was posted in Kilpisjärvi and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
View all posts by this author 


  1. Tobias

    Thank you guys for the nice blog entry, which reminds me of the good time I spent at Kilpisjärvi during the summer of lemmings.
    BTW which one of you wrote the text?

  2. Liz Kalaugher

    Hi Tobias

    Thanks for pointing this out – I didn’t include my byline!

    All the best


Leave a comment

Your e-mail address will not be published.


  • Comments should be relevant to the article and not be used to promote your own work, products or services.
  • Please keep your comments brief (we recommend a maximum of 250 words).
  • We reserve the right to remove excessively long, inappropriate or offensive entries.

Show/hide formatting guidelines

Tag Description Example Output
<a> Hyperlink <a href="">google</a> google
<abbr> Abbreviation <abbr title="World Health Organisation" >WHO</abbr> WHO
<acronym> Acronym <acronym title="as soon as possible">ASAP</acronym> ASAP
<b> Bold <b>Some text</b> Some text
<blockquote> Quoted from another source <blockquote cite="">IOP</blockquote>
<cite> Cite <cite>Diagram 1</cite> Diagram 1
<del> Deleted text From this line<del datetime="2012-12-17"> this text was deleted</del> From this line this text was deleted
<em> Emphasized text In this line<em> this text was emphasised</em> In this line this text was emphasised
<i> Italic <i>Some text</i> Some text
<q> Quotation WWF goal is to build a future <q cite="">
where people live in harmony with nature and animals</q>
WWF goal is to build a future
where people live in harmony with nature and animals
<strike> Strike text <strike>Some text</strike> Some text
<strong> Stronger emphasis of text <strong>Some text</strong> Some text