University of Helsinki endorses the proposal by the Ministry of the Environment to establish the world’s first science national park in the Evo area in Hämeenlinna
The habitability of Earth depends on biodiversity. In the context of southern Finland, the Evo area in southern Finland is home to a particularly extensive and valuable ecosystem of old-growth forests whose conservational value is considerable. The University of Helsinki supports the unique science national park project announced by the Ministry of the Environment on 17 November 2020.
The Evo area in southern Finland is an exceptionally well researched region and has functioned as an outdoor laboratory for decades for Finnish higher education institutions and research institutes. Expanding the forest conservation area and merging currently protected areas makes it possible to prevent further forest fragmentation and establish an area whose natural value and importance will grow in the future. The demand for a conservation area is clear:
“The forest of southern Finland has precious little old growth forest left, but the Evo area is exceptional in that old growth still remains and harbours many endangered and vulnerable species.”, says John Loehr, research coordinator at University of Helsinki’s Lammi Biological Station and a member of the working group behind the science national park proposal representing the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences.
In addition to protecting forests, the science national park can also be broadly utilised in support of research, teaching and science education. Hikers visiting the park will have the opportunity to engage in citizen science while enjoying the natural surroundings. Both engaging educational paths and a scientific nature centre are being planned for Evo, offering learning opportunities to visitors of all ages.
“Visitors to the science national park will be able to discover the work of field biologists, for example, by collecting water samples, doing plant species inventories and recording their observations. The field of ecology increasingly benefits from technology for data gathering and we hope to make this same techonology available to citizen scientists as well,” Loehr says.
Vice-Rector Paula Eerola of the University of Helsinki praises the Ministry of the Environment for promoting the science national park project and submitting its proposal on 17 November to the review and preparation stage.
“As a project, the science national park is unique and valuable. When completed, it will be the first of its kind in the world. The founding principle of the national park is to bring scientific research to the general public, as well as to protect our old-growth forests and the species living in them. The University endorses the establishment of the science national park in Hämeenlinna’s Evo area, as the project will bring research-based knowledge to people’s everyday lives while protecting biodiversity,” Eerola states.
A large group of people and organisations representing the viewpoints of research, conservation, hiking and employment have contributed to preparing the science national park proposal, which has now been submitted for further review. The proposal was drawn up by a working group coordinated by the University of Helsinki: the University of Helsinki, WWF Finland, the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation, the Finnish Society for Nature and Environment, Greenpeace Nordic, the Finnish Heritage Agency, the Outdoor World project of environmental entrepreneurs in the Hämeenlinna region, the Kansallispuistot tutuiksi (‘Get to know the national parks’) hiking community, the Kentällä – In the Field group in the field of field biology and more than 50 individual researchers.