Finnish Forest Research Institute in Alkkia

The Finnish Forest Research Institute established its Forest Research Station of North Satakunta in Alkkia in 1961 as the lands of Karvia temporary prison were transferred to it.

Finnish Forest Research Institute’s first regional research station started in Alkkia

As the forest research station was established, around 2,400 hectares of lands used by the temporary prison were transferred to it. Among other things, five ready-made one-family houses and a large number of other buildings originally intended for settlers were handed over for use as offices and housing.

As its work expanded and could no longer be accommodated in the prison facilities that had been suitable for temporary use, the office of the Forest Research Institute moved to a government administrative building in Parkano on 1 June 1965. In 1968, the research station changed its name to North Satakunta Research Station, and after 1970, it was known as Parkano research station. From 2015 the Finnish Forest Research Institute has continued to operate as part of the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke).

Photo: Laura Puolamäki, the former research station of Metla

Peatland as a growth environment

As peatlands are slow to warm up in spring, plants grow less fast than in mineral soils. Following a dry spring the ground may remain frozen well into the summer. Peatlands and mires are open areas prone to frost damage into which cold air flows from the surroundings.

While peatlands are ideal for plants’ access to water, their permeability varies greatly. They require efficient drainage to lead away water accumulating from the surrounding areas.

As Alkkianneva mire was naturally low in nutrients, it was originally not very suitable for either arable farming or silviculture, and it is likely that without the prison, it would never have been cleared for these uses. As such, it offered a good environment for different trials of planting, seeding and fertilising mire forests.

Photo: Laura Koivumäki, Lylynneva

Forestry research

In the early years, the research station mainly focused on setting up field trials. The research topics included growing trees in mires, regeneration and hydrology of mire forests, mechanisation of drainage and tillage of mires, fertilisation and nutrient balance of peatland as well as studies of frost damage and growth disorders.

Later, silviculture and forest regeneration in mineral soils were added to these themes. Environmental debate and the impacts of acid rain on forests, which were topical issues in the 1980s, also impacted Alkkianneva and the research activities, as did questions related to fostering biodiversity and climate change.

Photo: Laura Koivumäki, Lylynneva

Research in the turbulence of societal change

As Finnish society changed over the decades, so did the trial activities. Forest fertilisation and better timber yields were important for a country that depended on industry for its vitality, until acid rain as the flip side of industrial production also made international environmental debate relevant to Alkkianneva. The sea change in research from forest yields to biodiversity reflects a change in our values and relationship with nature.

Photo: Laura Koivumäki, Rihkaantie road

Dramatic effects of human activity on the environment

Arable fields in Alkkianneva were at their largest when the land was transferred to the Forest Research Institute. Over 60 years, agricultural landscapes have in many places become overgrown with forest. A ditch network of dozens of kilometres has also been dug in this area to drain mires.

Photo: National Land Survey of Finland, a map sample from Alkkia’s area on 1959  

The transformation of habitat from mire to arable land and further to forest has had an impact on the animals and plants of the area. The elk and deer populations have increased. Many rodents and birds of prey have also benefited from the changing environment.

Photo: National Land Survey of Finland, a map sample on 2021

Text: Laura Puolamäki

Preparatory studies: landscape specialist Laura Puolamäki, ProAgria Southern Finland and Rural Women’s Advisory Organisation Southern Finland, university teacher Eeva Raike, Cultural Production and Landscape Studies, University of Turku and the students, spring 2020

Literature:

Raitio, H. & Hiltunen, A. (toim.). 2001. Parkanon tutkimusasema 1961 – 2001. Metsäntutkimuslaitos. Gummerus Kirjapaino Oy, Jyväskylä. 224 s.

Main photo: Laura Koivumäki, Rihkaantie road

Last photo: Laura Koivumäki, Lylynneva

The roots of peatland forestry in Finland go back to Alkkia