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Tag Archives: Kilpisjärvi

Kilpisjärvi: visiting the classics

By Liz Kalaugher

Last night I slept with my fleece hat pulled down over my eyes in an attempt to stave off an early wake-up call from the Sun, which rises at about 3 am after a midnight sunset. It did nothing for my hair but at least I got a lie-in.

View from window at 11pm

The view from my window at 11 pm.

Next on the schedule was a visit to the team’s “classic” sites – where they did their original surveys on the north face of Saana fell three years ago. So far, most of the publications resulting from this work have been about these sites. Originally the plan was to study two 8 x 20 m grid plots that first summer but by the end of the field-work the team had completed six.

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Kilpisjärvi: crowberries, skewers and soil

From left, Miska Luoto, Julia Kemppinen and Pekka Niittynen take soil samples from a survey grid.

From left: Miska Luoto, Julia Kemppinen and Pekka Niittynen take soil samples from a survey grid.

By Liz Kalaugher

As suspected, on Monday morning the weather took a turn for the worse and we woke to pouring rain. After stocking up on a small plastic spade for taking soil samples (steel could skew the analysis results by introducing extra iron), it was time to head out to the test sites in the valley to the north-west of Saana fell. As we climbed, we left the trees behind, pausing only to sample blueberries, juniper berries and crowberries. The height of the juniper bushes shows the depth of snow in winter, as stems sticking above the snow repeatedly freeze and thaw,  and tend not to thrive.

The test sites are staked out by wooden skewers, which as it happens are sold locally under the brand Saana sticks – Saana is also a Finnish girl’s name. Each site consists of a grid 8 metres wide and 20 metres long, with a skewer pushed into the ground every metre, apart from where reindeer browsing for lichen have knocked them over.

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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.

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