Our flagship site is Linnunsuo, a 110-hectare restored wetland. Home to over 195 species of birds, mammals like wolverine, otter and moose, and occasionally visited by 100,000 geese at a time, Linnunsuo has emerged a national symbol for re-wilding efforts in Finland. Re-wilding Finland is a trademark owned by Snowchange with the purposes of advancing community-based and -controlled national efforts.
We have formed a strategic partnership with Rewilding Europe and the Gaia Foundation to expand and seek new solutions to the worst threats of our century: climate change and loss of biodiversity. We will accomplish that using scientifically sound methods, but respecting and being guided by the traditional knowledge of the villages where our actions will take place.
Linnunsuo is also the second ICCA – in this case a community-controlled area. It was registered in early 2018. Linnunsuo also is a 88-hectare strict IUCN protected area under national conservation measures. It is co-managed so that a limited harvest of water birds is possible by Selkie hunters. Additionally the hunters contribute to the control of invasive species such as mink and raccoon dogs in the area.
Linnunsuo is a part of the Jukajoki river basin and next to Kylmäsuo marshmire, which still contain intact nature. A special feature of the area is the iron sulphates in the soil, which once dried form acidic discharges. Up until the early 20th century both oral and written histories indicate that the levels of ecological disturbance remained fairly low or took place in the context of subsistence farming, fisheries and the small-scale harvest of timber.
The 120 hectare Linnunsuo marsh-mire was purchased by VAPO for peat production in the early to mid-1980s. Prior to this the marsh-mire had been partially ditched as a part of the state forestry programmes. The site was seen as a ‘vacant space’ for development at the time. Selkie village council was in favour of the development (in the early 1980s). Landowners were not invited to the process. Residents remember that VAPO purchased the lands ‘cheaply’ and indicated that if the landowners would not sell they would be ‘forced to sell’. Peat production on the site continued from the 1980s to 2010. A turning point came in the summer 2010 when an acidic discharge was released from the VAPO site, which killed the fish in Jukajoki River. This led the company to stop their operations.
In 2011 VAPO decided to install a man-made wetland unit, 120 hectares, to control the acidic discharges and organic loading. Between 2012 and 2016 the Linnunsuo wetland developed also into a nationally relevant bird habitat; especially for waders. During the open season the area is visited daily by bird-enthusiasts. The area is co-managed so that Selkie hunters can harvest a few ducks and geese after 15 September when most of the waders have departed for migration.
“The Jukajoki restoration project is a symbol of major importance that crystallizes some of the biggest issues of our century…The Jukajoki Project and the future of Linnunsuo deserve an international attention and could constitute the starting point of new way of taking care of Nature.“ – Laventure and Scherer, 2017
Nowadays, the Linnunsuo wetland aims to protect the Jukajoki river from the acidic compounds and heavy metal released by the peat production by acting like a buffer area. It was initially just a step in the long-term restoration of the river watershed, but the area is showing an amazing resilience capacity. Indeed, while no one expected it, the area became, as soon as the first year, an important breeding, nesting and resting area for many different bird species, including rare species at regional and even national level.
Linnunsuo - a stopover site for migratory birds
Located at the crossroad of several migration routes, the Linnunsuo wetland is a site of major importance for dozens of bird species, whether they are en route to the northern breeding areas (pre-nuptial migration) or heading back south to reach the wintering grounds (post-nuptial migration). Here, birds can safely rest and feed, refueling for the rest of their journey. The destruction of natural habitats over the last decades in Finland has put a great pressure on migratory birds such as geese, who often have no choice but to stop on agricultural lands, where they can occasionally cause economic damage. This issue is amplified by climate change, which increasingly disrupts migration patterns and generates human-wildlife conflicts. In this regard, rewilding areas like Linnunsuo offer an ideal solution : by providing large and open stopover habitats for migratory birds, they alleviate the damages on farmlands in a cost-effective way. The perfect illustration of this phenomenon can be seen in the autumn in Linnunsuo, where up to 100 000 Barnacle geese (Branta leucopsis) can land on the pools of the wetland on their way to the South.
Rewilding offers the tools to restore habitats that contribute to tackle climate change while providing space for wildlife to thrive.
Linnunsuo - Sheltering rare, endangered and protected species
Among the tens of species nesting in Linnunsuo every year, some are protected by law and have a high conservation status in Finland. The Northern pintail (Anas acuta) is a dabbling duck that has been nesting for several years in the wetland. It is considered vulnerable in Finland and is therefore a precious indicator species in Linnunsuo, vouching for the ecological health of the ecosystem. As Finland shelters 92% of the species’ European breeding population, the rewilding efforts in Linnunsuo contribute greatly to the conservation of this species. Every year, new nesting species are recorded there, such as the Citrine wagtail (Motacilla citreola), a rare bird considered endangered in Finland, which started to nest in the wetland in 2019.
On the brink of extinction in Finland in the 1950s, the Whooper swan (Cygnus cygnus) benefited greatly from the first large conservation campaigns in the country. The populations have recovered and whooper swans are now thriving in the Land of a thousand lakes. An amazing success story for the official national bird of Finland !
The Linnunsuo wetland offers the optimal habitat for the Whooper swan, with large open pools, a dense vegetation ensuring food availability and safe patches of reeds to nest. After visiting the area several years in a row, a couple is now nesting in Linnunsuo and the family can easily be spotted by visitors during the breeding season. The sight of the cute cygnets (the swan babies) brings tremendous hope for the future of rewilding projects in Finland and consitutes a powerful symbol of nature taking back its right in degraded landscapes. With the expansion of the pools in 2020, we expect that a second couple could nest in Linnunsuo soon !
Linnunsuo - The complex interactions between species
As the area moves forward in the rewilding process and more and more species are recorded in Linnunsuo, the intensity of interspecific interactions increases and the ecosystems get more complex and resilient. A good example of commensalism (when a species benefits from the presence of another without impacting it) between nesting bird species can be seen every summer in Linnunsuo. Several gull species are nesting on the wetland, forming large colonies. Among them, Common gulls (Larus canus), especially, can show agressive behaviors against potential predators to protect their nests. Many other bird species, including waders, take advantage of this protection by nesting within or close to the gull breeding colonies. This natural phenomenon allows these species to increase their reproductive success in Linnunsuo, despite the predation pressure.
Little gull (Hydrocoloeus minutus) colony in Linnunsuo, spring 2019.
The abundance of nesting birds in Linnunsuo inherently attracts predators. If the process is completely normal and reflects the complex trophic interactions that can be found in any natural system, Linnunsuo offers specificities that imply minimal management actions. As degraded landscapes are particularly inclined to shelter invasive species, several exotic invasive mammal species can be found in Linnunsuo. The rewilding actions encourage the natural evolution of the food chains and the expansion of native predators, but, as the wetland is evolving into an important bird area, actions are taken to deal with the invasive predators having the greatest impact on the birds’ reproductive success. Notably, a collaboration with local hunters allows the trapping of Raccoon dogs (Nyctereutes procyonoides) and American minks (Neovison vison). A less interventionist measure lies in the building of small islands when expanding the pools on the wetland, where birds can nest safely from most terrestrial mammals.
The innovative co-management system implemented in Linnunsuo ensures a healthy dialog and collaboration between the different categories of actors using the wetland. Public, private and academic partners contribute to the management and monitoring of the wetland within their range of action, in an equitable way.
One of the most unusual and enriching collaboration lies in the interactions between birdwatchers and local hunters. Their fruitful discussions have led the hunters to agree on delaying the start of the game hunting in the autumn in Linnunsuo, so that the migrating waders have time to rest and leave the area.
Linnunsuo has emerged as a popular visiting area, now attracting over 1000 guests each year. You are welcome!
However, in order to keep Linnunsuo functional and safe, we ask each visitor to adhere to the following rules:
1. No motorized traffic in the actual wetland area. Please leave vehicles at the designated Parking areas at the gates. Bicycles, skiing, and snowsnoeing is encouraged!
2. No fire making or smoking anywhere except at the shelter where the fire pit and camp area is!
3. Toilet is available at the shelter, close to the NE entrance to the wetland.
4. Remember that Linnunsuo is a wilderness area and a home of many natural species. Do not disturb them, especially during the nesting time.
Be aware that Snowchange staff and operational heavy vehicles may move and work on the wetland at any time of the day.
Keep your distance. A CCTV camera monitoring is in use in the area. Each person visits on their own responsibility.
You can inquire about the site or report any abnormal issues at
112 IS THE GENERAL EMERGENCY NUMBER IN THE CASE OF PEATFIRES OR OTHER EMERGENCY.