Flora and Fauna

Finland is the most densely forested country in Europe: pine and spruce cover 69% of the country and much of the native forest can be regarded as a western extension of the Siberian taiga. Northern birch, alder, mountain ash, and willow are also common throughout Finland, but beech tree and oak are confined to small pockets of deciduous forests in the southwest and on the Aland Islands. A collection of maple species, lime, larch, and fruit trees (e.g., apples) are cultivated in gardens and parks. Finland's flora does not significantly differ from that of other northern European countries and contains a large number of grasses, flowers, and berries. Perhaps most remarkable are the great variety of lichens in northern Finland and some of the wetland species like mosses, ferns, sedges, and other plants characteristic of bogs and mires (e.g., insectivorous Drosera and Utricularia species). In late summer and early autumn, a great multitude of mushrooms and toadstools appear in Finnish fields and forests. Marine brown algae occur only around the southern and southwestern shores of Finland. The brackish waters of Finland's seacoast are rich in salmon, trout, smelt, flounder, Baltic Sea herring, and cod. The viviparous eelpout Zoarces viviparus and sea sticklebacks ought to be mentioned as well, but economically they play no role. Sturgeons, which used to be present, are now virtually extinct, but the ringed seal (Phoca hispida) of the Baltic Sea is said to be still common in Finnish waters and the porpoise Phocaena phocaena is a regular visitor there as well. Since Finnish sea water contains no more salt than approximately 5—8 parts per thousand, typical representatives of the marine realm like starfish, sea-urchins, and jellyfish are missing, but every now and then a swell of slightly saltier than normal water can lead to sudden population explosions of jellyfish in the southwestern part of the Gulf of Finland. Finnish rivers and lakes are home to a large variety of fishes, comprising lamprey, pike, various perches and salmonids (e.g., char, trout, whitefish, grayling), carp and kin (e.g., rudd, tench, loach, bleak, minnow), burbot, and eel. Aquatic insects (in particular, the larvae of mosquitoes, stone-, caddis-, may-, damsel-, and dragon-flies) together with the tadpoles of three species of frogs provide ample food for the fish population. Two species of newt are also found in Finnish waters. The poisonous common European adder (a viviparous species of snake, also known by the name "viper," i.e., Vipera berus) is found throughout Finland, but the grass-snake is restricted to the more southerly regions. Two species of lizard, the viviparous Lacerta vivipara and the legless Anguis fragilis, are widespread, but nowhere very abundant. However, insects (at least during the short summer) are extremely abundant and the more than 3.5 cm long aquatic beetle Dytiscus latissimus and the terrestrial scarabaeid Oryctes nasicornis together with the moth Acherontia atropos as well as some species of dragonflies represent some of the largest species that northern Europe has to offer. Bumblebees are a typical feature of spring; they emerge from their winter resting places early and may fly around while patches of snow still cover the ground. Small wolf spiders are extremely common in the forests and bogs, but the huge diving spider Dolomedes fim-briatus and the diving-bell spider Argyroneta aquatica need to be specially mentioned on account of their size and lifestyle. Numerous species of birds either live permanently in Finland, pass through Finland on their migratory routes, or visit Finland during the summer to breed. Species rare or threatened in other European countries like sea- and fish-eagles, goshawks, capercail-lie, or owls are still quite common in Finland, although some species of grouse have significantly declined in number over the past decades. Finland's mammalian fauna is typical of that associated with the boreal coniferous zone and includes brown bear, wolf, lynx, wolverine, reindeer, and European elk. Of the smaller animals, hedgehogs, badger, beaver, squirrel, voles, shrews, snow hare, stoat, polecat, marten, and fox need to be mentioned; rabbits are not found in Finland. The flying squirrel Pteromys volans reaches its northwestern limit in Finland, while a couple of bat species can even be found north of the Arctic Circle. The only mammal considered to be endemic to Finland is Phoca hispida saimanensis, a subspecies of the ringed seal confined to the fresh waters of Lake Saimaa. Finland has 19 nature reserves and 32 national parks.

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