Monitoring Programme

Monitoring of the terrestrial ecosystems

The border area environment of Norway, Finland and Russia is variably exposed to the industrial emissions of the Kola Peninsula. Monitoring of the terrestrial ecosystem parameters provides valuable information on how environmental loading and subsequent changes affect fauna, forests and other vegetation of the area. The renovation tasks for the Pechenganikel Combine are expected to reduce the loading levels of the area. The monitoring programme for terrestrial ecosystems is partly a continuation of earlier implemented studies and reports, which ultimately enables the possibility for obtaining information on long-term changes. Larger project, carried in years 2003-2006, got continuation from small-scale monitoring programme in years 2011-2013. The description of the following long-term programme will only be implemented in its entirety if sufficient funding is arranged.

Proposal for the monitoring programme

The monitoring programme for terrestrial ecosystems measures the dispersion and concentrations of sulphur dioxide and heavy metals in the terrestrial environment among other things

As far as vegetation is concerned, monitoring is based on the abundance ratio and occurrence of undergrowth and epiphyte species of lichens. Some of the dominant species are also monitored using distant surveying. In addition to monitoring the state of the forest environment, the conditions of pine and birch growth and tree crowns are also estimated. Throughout the entire operation of the combine, heavy metals have accumulated in the soil of the border area and the mobility of them is monitored from soil samples. Concentrations are also measured from birds and small mammals.

The terrestrial ecosystem monitoring network covers the impact region of the emissions’ sources northwards, westwards and southwards. There are eight test plots located on the Russian side of the border, five on the Norwegian side and eleven on the Finnish side. Test plots on the eastern side of the smelter are lacking. The test plots are located in forest environments of different types at different distances from the smelter. The monitoring sites of these vary. For instance, the heavy metal concentrations in pied flycatchers are monitored in three Russian and four Norwegian stations, and at the Lakselvdalen test plot hundreds of kilometres away in Norway.

Monitoring also utilized the international ICP


International Cooperative Programme on Integrated Monitoring of Air Pollution Effects on Ecosystems (ICP IM) is on of the monitoring programmes of the 1979 Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution.

The programme monitors the effects of environmental changes (pollutants capable of long-range transport, climate change) on our living environment and collects various regional information.

network that nevertheless is far too sparse for providing accurate information of the border area. Implementation of the monitoring programme requires separate funding, as none of the nations have national monitoring programmes focused on the border area.

In order for the findings independently collected by the institutions of different nations to be completely comparable, all implementations of fieldwork and chemical analyses should be made according to coherent, internationally approved guidelines, for instance using international monitoring programmes for the physical condition of forests and vegetation (ICP Forests ja ICP Vegetation).

Coherent monitoring methods have been developed for the test plots of Norway, Russia and Finland, which means the data collected from these are fit for comparison with each other. Monitoring times and methods have been chosen as expedient on the basis of the characteristics of measurable variables.

Future challenges

A new monitoring plot for undergrowth monitoring in the northeastern area of the smelter was deployed in 2011. The prevailing winds take emissions more there than to the other directions. In order for monitoring to be coherent with the other test plots of the border area there is a need for at least three new plots. Two test plots need to be established for the needs of integrated studying of terrestrial environments and air quality. The test plots should be placed approximately 20 and 50 kilometres from the emissions sources in small catchment areas. The intention is to study the incoming quantities and losses of heavy metals, organic pollutants and acidified sulphur compounds in the catchment area.

A systematic line survey on snow should also be initiated and extended out to a broad area at once. The intention is the accurate determination of emissions’ sources, in particular sources of persistent organic pollutants


Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are harmful substances, which are degraded extremely slowly in the natural processes.

They are capable of long-range aerial transport and bioaccumulation.

Some POPs are formed in natural conditions but most of them are anthropogenic. For example, the insecticide DDT is a persistent organic pollutant

and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons,


Polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are harmful substances, which are formed by incomplete combustion.

They are carcinogenic, mutagenic and teratogenic.

PAHs are one of the most widely dispersed groups of harmful organic substances.

and an estimate for the dispersion and extent of organic emissions and acidic deposition throughout the entire area.

The concentrations of heavy metals and organic pollutants in wild berries (cloudberry, bilberry, lingonberry and crowberry) and edible wild fungi were estimated in the project “Food and Health Security”. In this way it is possible to estimate health risks to people of the study area using local produce.

The research data produced by the monitoring helps to further develop the monitoring programme to be more accurate and expedient. In the future the current monitoring network should be utilized to secure the comparability to earlier data. Moss and foliage samples should be collected from the same plots to facilitate interpretations. A special care must be taken to harmonize sampling and analyzing methods as far as possible.

The monitoring programme of the terrestrial ecosystems in the border is presented in the publication Environmental Monitoring Programme in the Norwegian, Finnish and Russian Border Area. Implementation Guidelines.

More information about the state of terrestrial ecosystems and changes in their state in 2000s can be found from these publications: State of the Environment in the Norwegian, Finnish and Russian Border Area and State of the terrestrial environment in the joint Finnish, Norwegian and Russian border area on the basis of bioindicators.

Sivun kuvat: Per Arild Aarrestad