The immense emissions of pollutants and cases of damage
to the environment in the Kola Peninsula were revealed to the Finnish
public in the late 1980s. The concurrent incidents of needle loss by
coniferous trees in Finnish Lapland and forest damage in Salla, eastern
Finnish Lapland, provided grounds for suspecting some connection
between these and the emissions from the Kola Peninsula. News of the
damage to the environment in the Kola Peninsula and of the forest
damage in Lapland began to worry forest owners and other concerned
citizens. Demands began to be expressed for research efforts to be
directed at determining the causes of the damage and for restrictions to
be imposed on the emissions from the Kola Peninsula. The results
provided by the national HAPRO project on acidification proved to be
insufficient in regard to Lapland; the project's
final report contains a proposal for further research focusing on Lapland
and the Kola Peninsula (Kauppi et al. 1990, Kenttämies 1991).
A joint, five-year project, the Lapland Forest Damage Project,
participated in by four universities and five research institutes, was
launched in May 1989 at the initiative of the Finnish Forest Research
Institute (METLA). The project's primary goal was to report on the impact
of the emissions of pollutants from the Kola Peninsula on the forests of
Finnish Lapland. Secondly, the project endeavoured to pinpoint and
delimit the areas of forest damage in the Kola Peninsula. The third goal
was to produce basic scientific knowledge on the environment in Lapland
and the changes taking place in it.
The METLA established an extensive, line-based sample plot system covering
all of Finnish Lapland and part of the Kola Peninsula. The sample plots were
located in dry and dryish heathland forests, which were assumed to be sites
sensitive to acidification. The results of watercourse studies conducted by
the Lapland Water and Environment District gave reason to suspect that acidification
may also be threatening the forests of Lapland (Kinnunen 1990, 1992). All the
field measurements and collecting of data for laboratory analyses were concentrated
on common forest stand sample plots. A station for recording air quality, important
from the point of view of the project, went into operation in Sevettijärvi (Inari)
in 1991 (Figs. 81 and 82).
Moreover, the concentrations of nickel and copper in the air rise
significantly during north-easterly and easterly winds. The pollution
episodes originating from the Kola Peninsula also manifest themselves in
the air over western Lapland, but diluted to 1/10th of the concentrations
in eastern Lapland. Indeed, western Lapland has the cleanest
background air in all of northern Europe.
Despite the occasional concentration peaks, and with the exception of
the small part in eastern Inari, the average of
estimated atmospheric sulphur dioxide concentration in Finnish Lapland
is low. In most of Lapland, the average sulphur dioxide concentration is
below 2 µg/m3, with higher values occurring eastwards.
In parts of Inari and eastern Finnish Lapland the influence of sulphur
was manifested as changes in the physiology and microscopic structure
of epiphytic lichens and in their species composition (Tarhanen et al.
1995). The pollution impact also manifested itself in the form of damage
to the microscopic structure of Scots pine needles and increased
sulphur, nickel and copper concentrations in the needles and bark (on
tree trunks and in the litter) of Scots pine and in mosses (e.g. Raitio
1992, Sutinen & Koivisto 1992, Turunen et al. 1994).
Atmospheric sulphur dioxide also accumulates on vegetation as dry
deposition. The amount of dry deposition is proportional to the
concentration of atmospheric sulphur dioxide. Since high concentrations
of sulphur dioxide in the Inari region of Lapland occur during the
growing season as well, the accumulation of sulphur dioxide can be
assumed to have a major role
in the region's overall pollution load. Calculations have indicated that
over 60% of the sulphur deposition in the Inari region may come down as
dry deposition. Norwegian researchers estimate 55-75% of Finnmark's
(in northern Norway) sulphur dioxide emissions, originating from the
Kola Peninsula, to come down as dry deposition (The Norwegian
There is a possibility that dry deposition of sulphur dioxide will not
lead to the acidification of the soil. This is supported by the throughfall
measurements made in connection with the
Lapland Forest Damage Project. Soil studies have not revealed significant
acidification; the only changes observed were in the immediate vicinity of
Monchegorsk's Severonikel nickel-copper smelter. The only signs
pointing to acidification of the soil in Finnish territory were
observed in the eastern parts
of Inari, a region affected by pollutant emissions from the Pechenganikel
nickel-copper smelters in Nikel and Zapolyarnyy. The acid-rain
symptoms observed in the microscopic structure of Scots pine needles
north of Lake Inarijärvi may be due to dry deposition on wet surfaces.
The concentrations of ozone in the air over Lapland are high, equal to
those recorded over southern Finland. Lapland's high, at maximum 100-
150 µg/m3, concentrations of ozone (levels which have demonstrably
caused damage to vegetation
in experimental conditions) are not caused by pollutant emissions from
the Kola Peninsula. The emissions of nitrogen oxides and carbohydrates
in this region are insufficient for ozone to be formed. The highest ozone
concentrations have been measured in the late spring and beginning of
the growing season, times of the year when the airborne pollutants that
have accumulated in the atmosphere over the winter begin to form ozone
as more and more solar radiation becomes available. Ozone is also
Lapland from the industrial centres of Central Europe.
There is but little knowledge available on the disturbances
to the metabolism of plants and damage to plant microscopic structure
caused by ozone in environmental conditions such as those in Lapland.
Comparisons made to data from abroad do, however, indicate that
exposure to ozone may damage plant life in Lapland. Damage to
microscopic structure indicative
of ozone-induced damage and the combined impact of ozone and
emissions of pollutants from the Kola Peninsula were, indeed, identified
in the cells of needles of Scots pine in Finnish Lapland (Sutinen &
Koivisto 1992). There is little information available on the sensitivity of
boreal forest flora to ozone. The concentrations used in exposure trials
are generally too high for the long-term effects of ozone to be revealed
(Väre et al. 1993).
The Monchegorsk forest-death area amounts to 40 000-50 000 ha in size. It
extends ca. 10 km to the south and ca. 15 km to the north of the town (Fig.
83). The area does not extend very far west because the Monche fells are
in that direction. In the east there is Lake Imandra and beyond it the town
of Apatity and its industrial plants. The environmental impacts of the various
industrial plants combine on the western shore of Lake Imandra. The average
of estimated atmospheric sulphur dioxide concentration arrived at within the
forest-death area exceeds 40 µg/m3.
Blowing mainly from the south-west and west, the winds carry the majority
of Pechenganikel's pollutants to the north-east and east. Located on the timber
line, Nikel's damage area is oriented from the south-west to the north-east
and it is greater in area than the Monchegorsk forest-death area (Fig.
83). In addition to being influenced by airborne pollution, the size of
the damage area has also been affected by an epidemic of autumnal moths (Oporinia
autumnata), which denuded mountain birch in the region in the late 1960s.
The inner visible-damage zone extends ca. 30 km south and ca. 40 km north
of Monchegorsk (Fig. 83). The conifers
within this zone show marked defoliation and there are no epiphytic lichens
to be seen (Fig. 84). Due to the prevailing
southerly and northerly winds and the Monche fells, which rise to over 1 000
m a.s.l., this inner visible-damage zone extends no further than ca. 25 km west
of the emission source (Fig. 85). The
average of estimated atmospheric sulphur dioxide concentration for the inner
damage zone is 15-40 µg/m3.
The inner visible-damage zone surrounding Nikel's forest-death area extends
into Svanvik, north-eastern Norway, in the south-west (Fig.
83). Protected by the prevailing winds, Svanvik lies at a distance of only
15 km from Nikel. Since there are very few trees close to the timber line, delimiting
the inner visible-damage zone is more difficult in the vicinity of Nikel than
in the vicinity of Monchegorsk.
The outer visible-damage zone extends to a distance of 50-60 km south and
north of Monchegorsk (Fig. 83). The impact
of pollution emissions within this zone is manifested as changes in the species
composition of the lichen communities and external damage symptoms on the needles
of Scots pine (e.g. necrosis in the tips of needles). The pollution effect,
taking the form of reduced frost- hardiness of pine needles, slight slowing
down of growth of pine, and chemical and microbiological changes in the soil,
and reduced size of pine root systems, ceases to apply within the outer visible-damage
zone (e.g. Lindroos et al. 1995, Sutinen 1995). The same applies to the effect
manifested as changes in the amount and composition of the litter (Merilä &
Jukola-Sulonen 1995). The marked eroding of the surface wax of pine needles
extends to this zone. The average of estimated atmospheric sulphur dioxide concentration
within the zone is 8- 15 µg/m3 and the deposition figures for heavy metals are
The outer visible-damage zone in Nikel extends into Finnish territory, to
the eastern parts of Inari (Fig. 83).
The combined area covered by the two types of damage zones surrounding Monchegorsk
and Nikel is estimated to amount to 39 000 km2.
The inner non-visible-damage zone extends into Finnish territory, to northern Salla and eastern Inari (Fig. 83). Chlorosis of the stomata of pine needles is the visible needle-damage symptom manifested within this zone. The pollution effects of risen concentrations of sulphur, nickel and copper in pine needles, bark and mosses terminate within the inner non-visible- damage zone (e.g. Raitio 1992). The same applies to the pollution effects manifested as changes in the species composition of epiphytic lichens and in the physiological functions of lichens (Tarhanen et al. 1995). The effect of premature needle loss by pine terminates within Russian territory (Salemaa et al. 1992). The occurrence of occasional peaks in the concentrations of atmospheric sulphur dioxide terminates in Finnish territory within this zone. The average of estimated atmospheric sulphur dioxide concentration for the inner non-visible-damage zone varies between 4-8 µg/m3.
The outer non-visible-damage zone, entirely in Finnish territory, extends
from the western parts of Inari to Salla (Fig.
83). The impacts of pollution within the zone are slight and local in character.
They are manifested as changes in the microscopic structure of pine needles
and epiphytic lichens, and as risen conductivity and decreased pH values of
the bark (Poikolainen 1992). Chlorosis of pine needle stomata occurs in places.
The average of estimated atmospheric sulphur dioxide concentration for the zone
varies between 2-4 µg/m3.
The effects of local emission sources (of Kemijärvi, Sodankylä,
Rovaniemi and the Kemi-Tornio region) are manifested beyond the outer
non-visible-damage zone; e.g. in pine needles and epiphytic lichens.
Growth studies have revealed that the death of Scots pine in the
Monchegorsk region began in the early 1950s. Tree death was preceded
by progressively decreasing growth vigour and its eventual termination.
With their growth at standstill, the trees may have remained alive for
some years. Studies show that the forest-death area has steadily
expanded and continues to do so. Tree growth has ceased and trees have
died during unfavourable growing seasons, especially when the
temperatures have been abnormally low.
The concentration of atmospheric sulphur dioxide over the vicinity of
Monchegorsk can occasionally exceed 10 000 µg/m3. Sulphur causes
to foliar tissues, affects the metabolism of trees, and accelerates their
decline and eventual death. The pollution load also increases the sulphur
concentration in the humus in the Monchegorsk area.
The majority of Severonikel's emissions of heavy metals is
deposited within a radius of 40 km from the smelter. Similar
observations have been made
in the surroundings of the Sudbury nickel-copper smelters in Canada
(Hutchinson & Whitby 1974). Heavy metals play a decisive role in the
region's forest-death phenomenon. Metal cations invade the exchange
places of base cations (e.g. Ca2+, Mg2+ and K+) on the surface of soil
particles. As a
result, the soil's base saturation degree and the amount of base
nutrients decrease. These in turn hinder the uptake of nutrients by
plants and lead to nutrient deficiency. The magnesium concentrations in
the pine needles in the area are especially low (Raitio 1992).
Heavy metals also promote forest death in the Monchegorsk region by
damaging the roots of trees and by inhibiting the activity of soil microbes.
Inhibition of microbial activity slows down the cycling of nutrients and
reduces their availability to plants. Damage to the root systems also
hinders the uptake of nutrients by plants.
There is little knowledge about the damage caused by heavy metals to
the above-ground parts of plants. The
concentrations of heavy metals in the foliage seldom have time to reach
The manifestation of damage due to pollution and the actual death of
plants are often promoted by powerful natural stress factors. The
foremost stress factors in boreal ecosystems are connected to climate. In
the case of the vicinity of Monchegorsk, for instance, the death of trees
was at its most pronounced in the 1960s, a decade of particularly
The frost-hardiness of pine needles has been reduced in
the vicinity of Monchegorsk to
a distance of over 30 km from the Severonikel smelter (Sutinen 1995).
of airborne pollutants on the above-ground parts of plants causes frost-
hardiness-reducing changes in cell structure and functions. The late
winter is the most critical time of the year because the diurnal variation
in temperature is at its maximum then. Reduced frost-hardiness in
plants is accompanied by reduced drought-resistance. The drought
stress can also have a serious impact on plants in the late winter.
The results of studies delving into the growth of Scot pine give grounds
for concluding that forest death in the Monchegorsk region will continue
to advance at the annual rate of ca. 0.5 km. The highest concentrations
of atmospheric sulphur dioxide and the maximum deposition of heavy
metals occur within the forest-death area and the inner visible-damage
zone, whose boundary is estimated to advance in pace with the boundary
of the forest-death area. South of Monchegorsk, especially the inner
visible-damage zone has expanded in the course of this project.
The results of growth studies and interpretation of the satellite
imagery indicated that the forest-death area and the inner visible-
damage zone expand in patches, not as a contiguous front (Mikkola
1995). The manifestation of the various forms of damage is influenced by
natural factors; e.g. climate and site (plants in moist depressions endure
pollution loads longer than plants at higher elevations).
The soil of the forest-death areas has been badly spoiled and erosion
causes further damage on slopes. The accumulation of heavy metals in
the soil is an important damage factor. It will take a long time for the
ecosystems to recuperate even
if emissions were to be reduced or even cease for the most part
(Hutchinson 1980). The good news is that the further spread of the
damage would be halted.
The results of studies conducted in eastern Lapland indicate that the
activity has diminished. The reason for this was found to be in the
wearing out of the lichen layer because of grazing by reindeer. The
ungrazed stands of pine in the Kola Peninsula are covered by a thick
layer of lichens beyond the outer visible-damage zone. This protective
layer is missing in Finnish Lapland (Väre at al. 1995). The layer of
lichens evens out the soil's temperature and moisture conditions,
promotes microbial activity in the soil, and most probably it also has a
positive influence on the nutrient status of the soil and the frost-
hardiness of roots. The marked eroding of the surface waxes of pine
needles in eastern and northern Lapland may also be connected to the
wearing away of the lichen layer.
In the course of the project, the researchers' attention was drawn from
northern Salla to the Inari region of Finnish Lapland, which is closer to
the Kola Peninsula emissions. Due to its greater pollution load and more
northerly location, the forests of the Inari region are under greater threat.
The effects of pollution are more numerous in the eastern parts of Inari.
Finland's highest concentrations of atmospheric sulphur dioxide have
been measured here and the region's copper and nickel depositions are
higher than anywhere else in Finnish Lapland.
The vitality of the forests in Finnish Lapland is subject to variation: the
needle-loss symptom of the late 1980s has receded, but the weather conditions
of the early 1990s suggest that the Scleroderris canker fungus cause increasing
damage in the near future. Pine sawflies (Neodiprion sertifer) cause local damage
in areas such as the Saariselkä fells (Fig.
86). Autumnal moth (Oporinia autumnata), an insect that caused severe
damage to mountain birch in the 1960s in Lapland, has reappeared and caused
damage in several places in western and central Lapland (Jalkanen & Nikula 1993)
(Fig. 87). Only a small area in eastern
Inari is under direct and immediate threat of being damaged by pollution. Apart
from this, the emissions from the Kola Peninsula are not expected to cause significant
damage to forests in Finnish territory.
The emissions of pollutants from the Kola Peninsula represent a stress
factor for forests
in Finnish, Norwegian and Russian Lapland, and for the arctic
ecosystems in general (Nenonen 1991). The vicinities of the industrial
centres in the Kola Peninsula are among the world's most polluted areas
(Sulphur 1994). Arctic ecosystems with their few species are highly
sensitive to disturbances. Pollution loads that have accumulated there
over the years inevitably lead to the toppling of the ecological balance
that has evolved over the millennia. The required reduction in emissions
can be realised only through the refurbishing of the Kola Peninsula's