Monitoring Programme

Monitoring of aquatic environments

Monitoring of the aquatic ecosystem parameters provides valuable information on how environmental loading and subsequent changes affect the water quality and aquatic environment of the area.

The renovation work for the Pechenganikel Combine is expected to reduce the loading levels of the area. There is a need for monitoring the changes occurring in the aquatic environment of the border area, both the Lake Inarijärvi and the main watercourse of the Pasvik River, and the small lakes distant from the river. The lakes to be monitored are located in the regions of Jarfjord and Vätsäri and in the Pechenganikel area and south from there.

Lake Inarijärvi and River Pasvik

The impacts caused by industrial emissions are very evident in the main watercourse of the Pasvik River as the downstream sections of the river are in significantly poorer conditions than the upstream sections and the Lake Inarijärvi area. The monitoring programme is recommended to be implemented in a way that it forms a continuum from more polluted areas near the smelters to farther away.

Experts from five different organisations in Finland, Norway and Russia are responsible for the implementation of the monitoring programme. Joint monitoring of water quality was initiated in 2007. The monitoring programme includes annual analyzes of water quality and less frequently conducted sediment sampling. In the 2014 update of the monitoring programme also biological monitoring of plankton, benthic diatoms, benthic macroinvertebrate, aquatic macrophyte and fish communities is recommended to be started.

Water quality monitoring indicates the chemical state of a water body. By monitoring water quality, pH, conductivity, colour alterations, metal concentrations and nutrient content, among others, it is possible to obtain information pertaining to the development of the state of the lake environment when pollutant levels change. The pollutants ending up in the water settle slowly to the beds and accumulate in the sediments, which thicken approximately one millimeter per year. By studying sediments it is also possible to follow the changes in the state of the environment at different times. Monitoring programme studies heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants (POPs)


Chalcophile elements combine readily with sulfur (sulfides) instead of oxygen (oxides).

Chalcophile elements include mercury, cadmium, arsenic lead and zinc, among others.


Biological monitoring helps observe the ecological state of aquatic ecosystems. Effects of regulation can be detected through monitoring of aquatic macrophytes and benthic macroinvertebrates. Benthic macroinvertebrates are also used in assessing the effect of pollutants along with monitoring of benthic diatoms and plankton. The state of the aquatic ecosystem may be most observable in fish, which have been noted to suffer from diseases and malformations in the water bodies close to the emission sources.

It is important to monitor fish populations in the River Pasvik as the fish are very sensitive and react to changes in the environment. In particular, the broad whitefish that feeds on aquatic invertebrates is a good indicator of the state of the fish populations but vendace, perch, pike and trout are also studied. Samples are taken from fish tissues in early autumn. The border area has many recreational and professional fishermen whose catches are used for human consumption, which consequently enhances the importance of fish population studies for the wellbeing of people and nature. Fish population monitoring can only be implemented if the programme is granted further funding.

Constant work has to be done to assure the comparability of the results of aquatic ecosystem monitoring. Although the greatest attention in quality assurances is usually paid to laboratory procedures, errors can also occur in the taking and moving of the samples. The comparisons of samples, laboratory analyses and reporting of the various research facilities need to be done openly.

In the future, there needs to be further study into the joint impacts of organic substances and heavy metals as well as their association to the sensitivity of fishes to diseases and malformations.

Small lakes

The Jarfjord and Vätsäri regions and the Pechenganikel area have various types of environmental problems related to the aquatic ecosystems. The worst problems are evident in the watercourses in the vicinity of the emission sources. Water quality monitoring is one of the most important methods in environmental monitoring.

Water quality should be monitored on an annual basis from a sufficient number of lakes from each area in order for the results to be reliable and allowing the true development of water quality to be surveyed. Samples are taken from the lakes in the autumn during the water overturn when the quality is as uniform as possible and temperature stratification does not distort the results one way or the other.

Sediment studies provide information about the historical directions and origins of airborne pollutants and their background concentrations. The sediment accumulation in northern lakes is less than one millimetre per year, which means adequate sediment monitoring frequency is every 10 – 15 years.

The populations of plankton, benthic macroinvertebrates and fish of small lakes should also be monitored, as changes species composition and abundances between species are good indicators of changes in the state of the lakes. Heavy metals settle to the bottoms of watercourses, directly to the habitats of aquatic invertebrates, consequently ending up in fishes that feed on aquatic invertebrates and ultimately to the top of the food chain in humans and large predators.

As the monitoring programme for the ecosystems of small lakes are implemented by each nation in their own areas, there is a need for continuous quality assurance of samples, laboratory methods and reporting in order to attain results that are fit for comparison.

Challenges for the development of the programme in 2014

The joint monitoring programme was originally developed mainly for following environmental changes caused by the fluctuations of Pechenganikel emission levels. In the Norwegian, Finnish and Russian partnership projects and national studies, it has become apparent that other factors affecting the state of the environment should also be taken into consideration when updating and further developing the monitoring programme. The monitoring programme has been updated to enable the monitoring of environmental impacts of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), long-range transported airborne pollutants and climate change. Furthermore, the concentrations of toxins accumulating in fish should be examined in addition to researching the combined effects of various compounds on human health in the areas where fish is utilised for human consumption.

More information about monitoring of the aquatic environment in English:

Environmental Monitoring Programme in the Norwegian, Finnish and Russian Border Area -
Implementation Guidelines

State of the Environment in the Norwegian, Finnish and Russian Border Area

Environmental Monitoring Programme for Aquatic Ecosystems in the Norwegian, Finnish and Russian Border Area – Updated Implementation Guidelines

Environmental Challenges in the Norwegian, Finnish and Russian Border Area

Pasvik Water Quality Report

Pasvik Water Quality until 2013

Image: Esko Jaskari