The impacts of nature experiences
Nature has diverse impacts on people. Observing nature and moving in nature improves mood, has a calming effect, reduces stress, improves immune function and serves as physical exercise. The overall experience can be based on physical, social, psychological or ideological pleasure, which contributes to green wellbeing. People look to nature and natural landscapes for experiences and meaning.
From the perspective of culture, the most important areas for recreation are those where nature and the landscape serve as a source of inspiration and a venue for refreshment and activity. The recreational value of nature is significantly increased by trails such as national cycling and hiking trails, snowmobile trails, canoeing routes, ski trails, hiking trails and nature trails. Salla offers a comprehensive network of trails for enjoying nature, as well as local businesses providing rental services for equipment such as bicycles, skis, snowshoes and canoes.
Valuable nature areas in Salla
Saija village in Salla represents a special cultural landscape designated as a regional landscape management area under the Nature Conservation Act. Saija village has been proposed for designation as a National Landscape Area.
Salla is home to several significant nature reserves and areas protected under the Natura programme. Tuntsa Wilderness Area starts from the northern part of Salla and extends all the way to the Russian side of the border, constituting the largest wilderness area in Europe. Tuntsa is a popular hiking destination. Värriö Strict Nature Reserve is located in Salla. Entering the strict nature reserve and moving within it requires a permit. Oulanka National Park in its entirety is part of the Natura 2000 network. Being part of the Natura 2000 network means that the use of the area is restricted. However, utilising nature in activities derived from nature protection goals is allowed. In the Oulanka area, these activities are considered to include reindeer herding, fishing, hunting, picking berries, picking mushrooms and entrepreneurial activity in the field of tourism. Oulanka National Park’s large number of visitors makes it one of the most popular hiking destinations in Finland. This is no wonder, as the tourism business began to take root in the area as far back as in the 1930s.
The natural and cultural landscape of Oulankajoki River has been designated as a national landscape by the Ministry of the Environment. Oulankajoki River starts from Salla and flows south. The water meadows managed in the National Park constitute a set of traditional biotopes that has high value in terms of biodiversity, scenery and cultural history. The meadows are home to several noteworthy species of vascular plants, fungi and insects.
The UKK trail is part of the European long distance trail E10, which runs from Gibraltar in the south to Nuorgam in the north. National parks and nature reserves are the most popular tourism and recreation destinations along the trail. Oulanka National Park attracts some 170,000 visitors per year, and the Karhunkierros trail that goes south towards Kuusamo from Hautajärvi in Salla has been hiked since the 1950s.
The municipality of Salla is a geologically significant area:
It includes nine Nationally Valuable Rocky Areas, two Nationally Valuable Moraine Formations (Kallunki and Saija) and four Nationally Valuable Aeolian and Littoral Deposits. The remnants of the Ice Age found in Salla include a glacial lake shore and giant’s kettles.
The Kallunki hummocky moraine area located to the south of Salla extends southeast from Kursu as a narrow zone that continues beyond the Russian border. The highly dispersed hummocky moraine area is approximately 60 kilometres long and 15 kilometres wide. The Saija hummocky moraine area is located southeast of Savukoski. The wedge-shaped field grows wider towards Saija and the national border. It is 50 kilometres long and 20 kilometres wide. Moraine formations are Finland’s most diverse group of geomorphological formations. They include formations of very different origins, structures and shapes. Moraine formations include geological, biological and scenic diversity that has considerable significance with regard to nature conservation value. Moraine formations involve similar scenic and organic values as rocks and eskers; high ridges, partly open vegetation types, shaded inclines and nutrient-rich soil with groves and fens. Moraine formations therefore have general significance related to economic activity, nature and landscape protection, as well as outdoor recreation. Moraine formations also often have cultural significance in terms of Finland’s settlement history and the history of economic activity.
Flora and fauna
Parts of Salla are known for their unique and diverse vegetation. In Oulanka National Park, for example, vegetation is supported in many areas by nutrient-rich, soil-mantled bedrock and variable terrain that provide many different kinds of habitats. There are also many mountain plants in the Oulanka region far from their primary ranges, as well as southern species that rarely occur this far north. One of the most exceptional species is the calypso orchid (Calypso bulbosa). Also known as Venus’s slipper, it is the designated official plant of Oulanka National Park and it blooms in the region in early June.
In terms of biodiversity, Oulanka National Park is one of the most significant protected areas in Finland due to its vascular plants, mosses, lichens and fungi. One example of this rich biodiversity is that Oulanka National Park is home to about ten species of lichen that are not found anywhere else in Finland and Fennoscandia. The Oulanka region is also home to more than a thousand species of fungi, and its protected status extends to its fungi.
Located where northern, eastern and southern species of animals come together at the furthest edges of their respective range, the Oulanka region is also rich in animal life. However, many species are low in number and difficult to observe. The area also has a high diversity of fish species and insects supported by the variable environmental factors. The two species of large predators most likely to be found in the Salla region are the wolverine and the bear. Wolves are seen infrequently, if at all, and the lynx is only beginning to spread to the region. The wolverine is classified as critically endangered, the wolf is classified as endangered, and the bear and the lynx as vulnerable.
Regionally significant resting areas for migratory birds refer to locations where certain numbers of waterfowl or waders are regularly observed at some point of time during the migration season. At least 200 waterfowl or 150 waders. There are five places in Salla that are considered to be regionally significant locations for birdlife:
1. Leusjärvi (7378334/586629). 111 ha. Season: spring, summer and autumn. Basis: number of waterfowl, criterion species: ruff, little gull, red-necked phalarope, tufted duck. Region code 920335.
2. Aapa - Tuohilampi (7430700/581287). 30 ha. Season: spring, summer and autumn. Basis: waterfowl, criterion species: bean goose, tufted duck, northern pintail and smew. Region code 920336.
3. Leväjärvi (7398732/595065). 90 ha. Season: spring. Basis: bean goose. Region code 920337.
4. Onkamojärvi (7407533/591996). 1,910 ha. Season: spring and autumn. Basis: Common merganser, common scoter. Region code 920338.
5. Termusjärvi (7419002/570208). 79 ha. Season: spring, summer and autumn. Basis: number of waterfowl, criterion species: tufted duck, velvet scoter, red-necked phalarope. Region code 920339.
They cover a total area of 2,110 hectares, including RAMSAR and FINIBA sites. RAMSAR sites are internationally valuable wetlands. They are selected based on a number of criteria specified in the Ramsar Convention. The criteria include the site being unusual or unique, and the occurrence of threatened species of animals and plants is also a factor. FINIBA areas are Finnish Important Bird Areas. There are 411 designated FINIBA areas in Finland. They are areas that are significant with regard to nature conservation due to the occurrence of nesting or congregating birds that represent threatened or vulnerable species. The largest numbers of FINIBA areas are located in Lapland, Northern Ostrobothnia and North Karelia. Salla offers diverse opportunities for bird watching. Information on bird watching towers, observation towers and other places that are well suited for bird watching is available on our website.
Surveys indicate that 41 bird species of conservation significance nest in Salla, including undisclosed and threatened species. Certain species are legally designated as undisclosed because disclosing their locations could compromise their conservation. The northern bat is also found in Salla. Like other bat species, it is protected under the Nature Conservation Act.
Many benefits from nature
Nature in Salla is pristine and very low in pollution. Salla has no history of mining activity or hydrological engineering activity that would have significantly altered its landscape. Industrial emissions are low in Salla. This means that the nature in Salla is a source of diverse nourishment. The forests and mires provide berries, mushrooms, game, edible plants, medicinal substances and clean water. Public access rights, known in Finland as everyman’s rights, extend to the collection of many plants, berries and mushrooms around Salla.
The forests of Lapland are managed according to the principle of sustainable use through thinning and regeneration cutting. Wood production according to the principles of sustainable use prevent the long-term deterioration of forest biodiversity, help maintain soil nutrient levels and carbon sequestration and support the operating conditions for recreational use and tourism. Our extensive forests, mires and rich plant life contribute to the clean air we breathe. Forest vegetation and soil are also very important for the filtration of groundwater. Salla has high-quality potable water, clean lakes and rivers, as well as streams and quagmires with water that is suitable for drinking as is.
Ecosystems function as carbon sinks, which is a particularly important regulating service from the perspective of mitigating climate change. Ecosystems, such as seas, forests, steppes and mires, sequester about half of all man-made carbon dioxide emissions. One cubic metre of wood sequesters approximately 0.9 tonnes of carbon dioxide. With Finland’s forests growing at a rate of slightly over 100 million m3 annually, they sequester more than 90 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. Carbon dioxide is also sequested by the ground, as not all leaf litter decomposes. Finland’s total carbon dioxide emissions amount to 60–65 million tonnes per year. This means that Finland’s forests clean up all of Finland’s CO2 emissions and another 25–30 million tonnes of emissions from other European countries.