Finland is the northernmost member state of the European Union. Together with Sweden, it hosts most of the EU’s boreal and sub-arctic ecosystems. The country is home to several iconic and threatened boreal and sub-arctic species, such as the Siberian flying squirrel, the white-backed woodpecker and the arctic fox, and boasts some of Europe’s last remaining populations of large carnivores (brown bear, wolf, European lynx and wolverine). Dotted with lakes and mires, the natural habitats range from the sandy and rocky shores of the unique Baltic Sea to the open sub-arctic mountains of the north. Approximately 75% of Finland’s land area is covered by forests, constituting a notable carbon sink within the EU.
The primary driver of biodiversity decline in Finland is the degradation and loss of natural habitats. Finland’s forested landscape has been heavily modified by industrial forestry, as nearly 90% of the forested area is in economic use. Currently, approximately 13% of Finland’s terrestrial area and inland waters, and 12% of its marine areas, are protected, most of these falling under strict protection. However, the national protected area network is heavily skewed towards the less populated and less productive sub-arctic fell and mire habitats of Northern Finland. Thus, many of the boreal and hemiboreal habitats of Central and Southern Finland have low coverage of protectiveness and the areas that are protected tend to be smaller and less well-connected, decreasing the likelihood that protected areas can buffer biodiversity from additional pressures. A major challenge in increasing the coverage of protected areas is that most of the remaining high-quality, non-protected habitats in Central and Southern Finland are located on privately owned lands. This calls for a diverse portfolio of mechanisms to increase the coverage of protected areas in Finland.
Being located in the boreal and sub-arctic region, Finland also hosts many biotopes and species likely to be negatively impacted by climate change, and at risk of regional extinction within the EU. In addition, large parts of Northern Finland are home to Europe’s only indigenous group, the Sámi, whose traditional livelihood (reindeer herding) and connection to the land constitute a central aspect of all land use and management plans in the region.