Lapland : A Natural History
 0713665297, 9780713665291

Table of contents :
Contents
Preface
Acknowledgements
Chapter 1: The Country
Chapter 2: The Lapland Naturalists
Chapter 3: Biogeography and Composition of Lapland Wildlife
Chapter 4: Ecology of Lapland Birds
Chapter 5: Boreal Forests
Chapter 6: Forest Peatlands
Chapter 7: Lakes and Rivers
Chapter 8: Coastlands
Chapter 9: Tundra
Chapter 10: Modified and Man-made Habitats
Chapter 11: Other Wildlife
Chaper 12: Wildlife Conservation
Appendix 1: The Breeding Birds of Lapland
Appendix 2: Wader Breeding Systems
Reference
Index

Citation preview

LAPLAND: A Natural History

LAPLAND: A Natural History

DEREK RATCLIFFE Illustrated by MIKE UNWIN

T & AD POYSER London

Published 2005 by T & A D Poyser, an imprint of A&C Black Publishers Ltd, 36 Soho Square, London W1D 3QY in the United Kingdom, and in the United States by Yale University Press. Reprinted 2010 Electronic edition published 2010 Copyright © 2005 text by Derek Ratcliffe Copyright © 2005 illustrations by Mike Unwin The right of Derek Ratcliffe to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988. ISBN (print) 978-0-7136-6529-1 ISBN (e-pub) 978-1-4081-3167-1 ISBN (e-pdf) 978-1-4081-3402-3 A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or used in any form or by any means – photographic, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or information storage or retrieval systems – without permission of the publishers. Commissioning Editor: Nigel Redman Project Editor: Jim Martin Typeset and designed by Q2A 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2

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CONTENTS Preface

vii

Acknowledgements

xi

Chapter 1

The Country

Chapter 2

The Lapland Naturalists

25

Chapter 3

Biogeography and Composition of Lapland Wildlife

41

Chapter 4

Ecology of Lapland Birds

69

Chapter 5

Boreal Forests

85

Chapter 6

Forest Peatlands

137

Chapter 7

Lakes and Rivers

191

Chapter 8

Coastlands

21 1

Chapter 9

Tundra

24 1

Chapter 10

Modified and Man-made Habitats

283

Chapter 11

Other Wildlife

289

Chapter12

WildlifeConservation

299

Appendix 1

The Breeding Birds of Lapland

315

Appendix 2

Wader Breeding Systems

335

1

References

34 1

Index

349

PREFACE

T"

IS book is primarily about birds in Lapland, with plants and vegetation described as the essential background of habitat; but I was persuaded to enlarge it to say something about the other wildlife groups of the region. My excuse for writing the book is that there is no up-to-date account of Lapland wildlife in English. For birds, there is now a considerable literature, from John Wolley's account of his egg-collecting forays to the region in the 1850s, up to the books and technical papers of recent times, but much of it-even if published in English-is not readily accessible to the interested reader. In botany, information on Lapland is perhaps still more scattered through a variety of sources, mainly non-English-language journals. Many Fennoscandian biologists appear constrained in their studies by the boundaries of the country to which they belong, and their writings on the north tend to be about Norway, Sweden or Finland, rather than the broad region of Lapland. Russian Lapland is even more inscrutable to outsiders because of the language difficulty in the literature, as well as the lack of freedom in entering the country. During a short interlude of glasnost, the daunting border notice posted in Pasvikdalen about forbidden activities from the Norwegian side briefly disappeared, but has since been replaced with no relaxation of the message. I have thus attempted to fill what appears to be a gap in information about this region of northern Europe, but trust that my attempt to write about a land to which I am but an

...

VI~I

Ladand: A Natural Histom,

outside visitor will not appear presumptuous. I have no direct knowledge of Lapland other than in early summer, and have never seen its striking autumnal colours or its snow-clad winters, when darkness is virtually continuous, but for the sporadic swirl of the Aurora Borealis across the sky. This book is based on gleanings from 14 visits with my wife Jeannette in the bird breeding season, late May to mid July, from 1990 to 2004 (missing only 2000). We have attempted to cover all the main habitats, with their plants and birds, to learn something of their variety, distribution and ecology, but are least acquainted with the rocky coasts, which most closely resemble Scottish counterparts. Our personal experience can only be a fragmentary view of this large region, which covers an area about the size of Britain, even without the Russian sector. I venture to suggest that a large part of it is still virtually unknown to anyone but the Lapps. Some areas are so remote and inaccessible that present knowledge is based on only sample or partial coverage, as the recent bird atlases reveal, and fuller surveys are still awaited. Our forays into the wilderness have seldom exceeded two or three kilometres from a road, so that perhaps we have missed things that a deeper have revealed, and our observations may not be fully - -penetration might representative of the whole. The aim of this book is very far from attempting to be a ticker's p i d e to the wildlife of Lapland. Whilst we were assisted with information on localities for a few rare or difficultto-find species of birds and plants, we have preferred to make our own way in Fennoscandia, enjoying the feeling-however illusory-of pioneering and exploration. Although one sees less this way than by having everything 'laid on', we find more enjoyment and satisfaction in doing it for ourselves, and there are sometimes deeper insights to be gained by doing it the 'hard way', which otherwise do not always manifest themselves. So, we suggest to other naturalists that much more fun is to be had from just making your own way, examining likely places and persevering until your efforts are rewarded. Many of the distinctive species of Lapland birds and plants are widespread and will be found given a little determination. The mention of certain localities and the information on protected areas will give some pidance for those who prefer to have greater assurance on seeing as much wildlife as possible during a fleeting visit. There are, in any case, already 'where to watch birds' books that cover the region (e.g. AulCn 1996). We have attempted to learn a little of plant ecology and bird breeding biology through our simple observations, and in this book have endeavoured to blend our experiences with published work on the species we have encountered. For those we have seen seldom or not at all, there has been no choice but to rely on the work and information of others. The flora of Lapland is much too large for me to attempt more than a selective treatment, principally mentioning the more characteristicspecies and distinctive plant communities that visitors are likely to encounter, or those of particular botanical interest. Many Lapland birds and plants are little known in terms of scientific studies, and the task of unravelling their secrets awaits the committed field biologists of the future. Some of the more elusive birds in their nesting habits are, perhaps, too close to academic suicide for prospective postgraduate studies, and deeper knowledge of their ways may depend on the efforts of dedicated amateurs. The material is organised according to the six main habitat types (biotopes), although many species of animal and plant occur in more than one of these, and a few birds breed in one type but feed in another. When this is the case, the main account of the species is given under its principal habitat, and briefer comment made under the subsidiary types. The decisions on which species to include in an account of Lapland must always be arbitrary,

Preface

ix

but I have given prominence to those which are either more or less confined to the region, or are especially characteristic of it, and only a brief mention to the others. The lists of selected plants are given in Table 1 a-f, and the definitive list of birds in Appendix 1. In this treatment, I have tried to capture something of the excitement and wonder of the northern wilderness and these key elements in its wildlife and their habitats, although without losing accuracy of reporting. The photographs have been chosen to depict good examples of the most characteristic habitats and some of the most noteworthy birds and ~lants.I hope the habitat images also convey something of the beauty and fascination these landscapes hold, although the endless variety of feature and appearance cannot adequately be represented in a work of such limited scope. Sadly, there are signs that Lapland is not quite what it was, ornithologically, in common with many regions farther south. Comparison with older literature indicates that some birds have shown a long-term decline over recent decades. Many of the summering birds migrate far south following breeding, and are then exposed to whatever hazards uncaring humanity has devised for them; whether the atavistic Mediterranean bird-killers, the grandiose development schemes of 'progressive' countries or the follies of strife between nations, such as the Gulf War and its polluting aftermath. Still more significantly, during our decade or so of visits, the lemming cycles have faded away almost to nothing, and some predatory birds are now little seen as a result. Fennoscandia has suffered widespread acidification of waters and soils, in the south from the polluting industrial regions of northwest Europe, including Britain, and in the north from neighbowing Russia. The threat of global warming, with the prospect of displacement of northern fauna and flora to still-higher latitudes, now hangs over the region. Nor is it possible to foresee just what further economic developments the Fennoscandian countries and Russia will choose to pursue in the north. However, it is still a tonic to those from battered Britain to wander far and wide amidst scenes where the effects of human hand are so little evident. We are grateful to have seen Lapland whilst it is still largely unspoiled wilderness, a magic region which has repeatedly drawn us back. We hope that this book will inform those who go to enjoy its wildlife in pristine settings, at least for some years to come.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

T

he wildlife authorities in Norway, Sweden and Finland have been supportive with letters of approval for our bird nest-recording and photographic activities. In ~articular, I thank Gunnar Henriksen, Sissel Aarvik, Eirik Karlsen, Trond Aarseth and Magne Asheim, in the County Governor's Ofice at Vadss, Finnmark, and Ingvar Byrkjedal in the University Museum of Zoology, Bergen; Peter Lindberg of Naturskyddsforeningen in Sweden, and Mats Eriksson and Lena Berg of the Swedish Statens Naturvirdsverk; and Esko Jaakkola, Matti Osara and Anti Haapanen in the Ministry of the Environment, Helsinki. Ivan & Mary Hills inspired us to follow their lead in ten years of visits to Lapland, to seek and photograph birds between 1977 and 1989, and gave us valuable advice and information on various aspects. Their friends, Desmond & Maimie Nethersole-Thompson also encouraged us to visit the far north in search of birds. The late Marjory Garnett also enthused me about Lapland birds and gave me her records of visits to Finnmark. Jim Whitaker, Roger Powell, Barry Larking and Peter Dare have helpfully supplied information on breeding birds from their own Lapland experience. Peter Lindberg in Goteborg has been most kind in allowing us to use his summerhouse on arrival in Sweden, in supplying information on the whereabouts of some of the more elusive birds, and in discussing Lapland wildlife. Hugo Sjors pided us over the central Swedish mires and gave valuable information and advice about the north. Ingvar Byrkjedal in Bergen has encouraged our efforts at nest recording and given most helpful information. He also read the bird sections of the book in draft and made many valuable comments and suggestions. Magne Saztersdal gave welcome advice and provided large-scale maps of Finnmark. John & Hilary Birks in the Botany Department of the University of Bergen have supplied references and answered endless queries concerning vegetation and flora, as well as acting as kindly critics of the text dealing with environment and botany, offering many valuable suggestions that I have been pleased to adopt. Their colleague, Arnfinn Skogen, helpfully identified plant specimens new to us. In northern Norway, Karl-Birger Strann has given useful up-to-date information on birds, whilst Svein-Hiken Lorentsen and Rob Barrett have supplied recent data on Finnmark seabirds. For various other kindnesses, we thank Carl-Adolf & Anna Nordell, and Ove Andersson, all of Umeg Sweden. In Finland, Esko Jaakkola and Lennart Saari gave helpful advice, especially on where to find Lapland waders. I am grateful also to librarians Ian Dawson and Lynn Giddings of the RSPB, Sandy, and Carol Showell of the BTO, Thetford, for their help with literature research. Norman Moore and David Clarke provided useful information on dragonflies. Peter James has kindly identified lichens, and Roderick Corner made helpful comments based on his extensive knowledge of Arctic botany. Robert Prys-Jones kindly permitted me to examine bird specimens in the national collection at the Natural History Museum, Tring. Des Thompson has given invaluable help in the preparation of the book, as well as commenting on various chapters and offering encouragement throughout. I am grateful also to Veronica Uckiah for assistance in the field. Amongst major publications to which I have turned for information, I should acknowledge, in particular, the nine-volume The Birds of the Western Palearctic (Cramp et al. 1977-94, which is abbreviated to B W in the text), The EBCCAtlas ofEuropean Breeding Birds (Hagemeijer & Blair 1997, abbreviated to EBCCAtlas), the breeding bird atlases for

xii

La~kznd:A Natural History

Sweden (Svensson et al. 1999), Finland (Hyytia et al. 1983; Vaisanen et al. 1998), Norway (Gjershaug et al. 1994) and Finnmark (Franzen et al. 1991), The Atlas of the Distribution of Vascular Plants in North West Europe (Hultkn 1955), Mountain Flowers (Gjzrevoll et al. 1978) and Den Nya Nordiska Floran (Mossberg & Stenberg 2003). The survey of Lapland waterfowl by Haapanen & Nilsson (1979) and the review of numbers and status of Nordic breeding birds by Koskimies (1992) are also major publications. The Atlas of European Mammals (Mitchell-Jones et al. 1999) and Butterjies of Britain and Europe (Tolman & Lewington 1997) deal with the distribution and ecology of these groups. A full list of references is given at the end of the book. Scientific nomenclature for vascular plants follows Norsk Flora (Lid 1952) (since more recent works show little stability), Frisvoll et al. (1995) for bryophytes and Krog et al. (1994) for lichens. For English names of vascular plants I have used those in Gjzrevoll et al. (1978) and Stace (1997). For all animal names I have followed the above zoological authorities. Scientific names for many plants are given in Table 1 a-f, for birds in Appendix 1, for mammals in Table 12 and for butterflies in Table 13; but for all other taxa, they are given with the first text mention. I have preferred to use English names for most animals and vascular plants, following those adopted by the above authorities, but for plants not found in Britain and with no accepted English name, as well as most Cryptogams, I have had to use scientific names. Regarding photographs, I am extremely grateful to Mary Hills for letting me choose some of the fine bird pictures taken by her husband, the late Ivan Hills. Roger Powell has also generously ~ermittedme to select from his wonderful collection of bird photographs. Rob Barrett kindly ~rovidedseabird ~ h o t o ~ r a p htaken s by himself. Michael Gore took the picture of Brambling Where pictures are unacknowledged they were taken by me. I am !grateful to Asbjarn Moen for allowing me to modify Fig. 15 and Map 69 from his wonderful VegetationAtlas ofNorway (1999) and to Bill Forbes for re-drawing these. My thanks go also to Mike Unwin for his delightful cover painting and drawings, to Bill Smuts for preparing the maps of Lapland, and I express my gatitude to Marianne Taylor, Jim Martin and Nigel Redman at A&C Black as the production team for publication of the book. Not the least of the attractions of Fennoscandia is the right to roam over all uncultivated land, in all three countries, and this civilised attitude to public access gives a wonderful sense of freedom when wandering in search of wildlife. One is spared the tedious business of forever seeking permission to walk on land or of having to risk the wrath of those landowners or their agents with territorial attitudes. I pay tribute to the enlightenment of Norway, Sweden and Finland in bestowing this blessing on visitors as well as their own people. And the friendliness and helpllness of the local residents has also made us feel welcome. Finally, my acknowledgement to Jeannette, my companion and helpmate throughout these Lapland travels, who sees and hears the birds better than I do, and without whose enthusiasm and dedication to our fieldwork this book could not have been written. Nor must I forget to pay tribute to her splendid three-course meals in the camper van, without which energies and spirits would flag.

CHAPTER 1

The Country GEOGRAPHY AND MAIN ECOLOGICAL FEATURES

L

apland is traditionally understood as the region inhabited by the ethnic Saami (Lapps) and their Reindeer, but is both geographically and ecologically ill-defined and encompasses a wide range of conditions and habitats. It is the northernmost part of mainland Europe, reaching 71°08'N on the Nordkinn Peninsula, although the North Cape (Nordkapp) on the adjoining island of Magercaya is marginally farther north. Its Fennoscandian limits are formally prescribed in Sweden by the region of Lappland, and in Finland by Lappi province, but in Norway are rather loose and undefined. All land in Fennoscandia north of the Arctic Circle belongs to Lapland in popular understanding but the region also extends far to the south, especially in Sweden. Russian Lapland corresponds to the Murmanskaya Oblast, and mostly lies north of the Arctic Circle. The total area of the region is given as 388,000 km2 (Figs 3-4). Swedish Lappland is divided, from north to south, into the five districts of Torne Lappmark, Lule Lappmark, Pite Lappmark, Lycksele Lappmark and Aele Lappmark but, although lying administratively within Norrbotten Ian and Vasterbotten Ian, the eastern parts of these two counties are excluded. It thus reaches as far south as 63O45'N and includes Dorotea on the main highway 45. Finnish Lapland extends south to the Gulf of Bothnia, on the Swedish border at Tornio, and then, from a point between Simo and Kuivaniemi to the southeast at 65"35'N, the boundary runs east, gaining latitude across the Yli-Kitka Lake until it reaches the Russian frontier at 66'27'N just north of Kayla. The province includes the four old counties of Enare Lappmark, Enontekis Lappmark, Sompio Lappmark and Kittila Lappmark. Two main ecological zones are recognised: Fell Lapland and Forest Lapland. In Norway, the term Lapland is little used, and applies largely to the interior region of Finnmarksvidda, rather than to coastal parts of Finnmark county. I hope I may be excused for the licence of equating Norwegian Lapland with the counties of Finnmark and Troms in this book, and for ignoring the artificial boundary of Swedish Lappland north of Haparanda. Russian Lapland has two parts: the country between the borders of Norway and Finland, and a line from Murmansk to Kandalaksha in the west, and the Kola Peninsula in the east. We have not been there and it receives only limited mention in this book. Parts of it are heavily industrialised and militarised, and recent accounts of the current social, political and economic conditions present a rather forbidding picture. Other parts are roadless wilderness, and some land uses, notably forestry, have been less intensive than in Fennoscandia, thus far. Lapland is a country mainly of forest, interspersed by bogs, fens and lakes (Plate I), and drained by numerous, mostly swift-flowing, rivers. It lies at the northwest extremity of the vast belt of Old World boreal coniferous forest, the taiga, stretching from Fennoscandia across Russia through Siberia to the Pacific Ocean, and then beyond through Alaska and

2

Ladand: A Natural Histom,

Canada to the Atlantic-the largest area of any one habitat on Earth, extending over 16,000 krn of longitude and covering an estimated 13 million km2.Birch forest is also important in northern Europe, often forming a zone above or north of the taiga. Higher mountain ranges rise well above the forest limit in many places, especially along the Norwegian-Swedish border, and give quite large areas of montane tundra, or even permanent ice and snow with minor ice caps and glaciers. Kebnekaise at 2,111 m, 75 km west of Kiruna, is both the highest mountain in Sweden and the highest point of Lapland, although Sarektj4M at 2,090 m, 62 km to the south-southwest runs it close. Norway has high and rugged mountains along the northwestern seaboard, rising to 1,833 m above the dramatic Lyngen Fjord in Troms (Plate 2). In Finland the highest ~ e a k sreaching , 1,328 m on Halti, are in the far northwest corner, above Kilpisjarvi and bordering Norway. The geographical Arctic which encompasses much of the region is defined by latitude 66"32'N, and the position of the sun above the horizon during the midsummer period, from mid-May until late-July, and below it from late November to late January. In this sense it is a concept rather than a reality, for nothing visibly changes as you cross the Arctic Circle. In Norway, the road-signs on highway E6 proclaiming the definitive line do at least lie appropriately on a high plateau of fell-fields and late snow beds (Plate 3), but in Sweden and Finland they are located amidst endless forests. Lapland is, however, warmed by the North Atlantic currents, so that its coasts are ice-free in winter, and its northern treeline lies far above the Arctic Circle. Compare this with Canada where, under more continental conditions, the winter pack-ice engulfs all the northern islands, the treeline reaches far south of the Arctic Circle, and Polar Bears wander in winter around the streets of Churchill at 58'47'N. The result is that Lapland has only a relatively small extent of the ecological Arctic-the treeless tundra north of the latitudinal limits of forest (Plate 4). This, the true Arctic to many people, is confined to northern parts of Finnmark, the northernmost county of Norway, and northern Russian Lapland, especially the Kola Peninsula. The Norwegian sector has an extensive coastline, varying from extremely rugged with high cliffs, to flat and sandy, with both dunes and estuarine flats and saltmarshes. Russian Lapland is largely bounded by the sea, from the Murman coast with its numerous inlets in the north, to the Terskiy coast on the south side of the Kola Peninsula. Fennoscandian ecologists distinguish several altitudinal zones of vegetation, which descend in elevation with increasing latitude (Moen 1999 and Fig. 1). The Southern Boreal zone fades out where Lapland begins, but the Middle Boreal zone is extensive in southern and lowland Lapland, forming a broad arc at the head of the Gulf of Bothnia (Fig. 2). The bulk of forested land belongs to the Northern Boreal zone, distinguished by the greater abundance of northern plants and containing subalpine birch woods as well as conifers. Above this lies the Alpine zone (i.e. treeless montane tundra) of the higher fells, which is divided into Low, Middle and High Alpine sub-zones. The Low Alpine includes most of the dwarf-shrub heaths, mires and willow scrub above or beyond the forest limits, which descend to sea level on the Finnmark and Kola shores. It corresponds closely also to the Southern Arctic zone, shown by Moen (1999) as occurring beyond the climatic treeline in northernmost parts of Finnmark and Russian Lapland. The Middle Alpine sub-zone is the range of montane habitats subject to more extreme climatic conditions, of deep snow cover and frost heaving with snow-bed vegetation, and stony fell-fields on ridges and plateaux that have only thin snow cover. O n the highest tops, where climatic conditions are at their most severe, there is the High Alpine sub-zone, with only the sparsest growth

The County

3

of plants, mainly bryophytes and lichens: this is extensive only in the high mountains of northwest Sweden. A number of places lay claim to the informal title of 'Last Great Wilderness in Europe'. The central lava and ice desert of Iceland is one contender, and the great ~lateau-landof Hardangervidda in southwest Norway is another, but parts of Lapland are equally deserving of this designation. The mountainous districts of Arctic Sweden bordering Norway, which contain the remote, inaccessible and little-trodden Sarek and Padjelanta National Parks, are as close to real wilderness as anything or anywhere on this continent. The contiguous Stora Sjofallet National Park is seriously marred by hydroelectric works, but its remoter parts are similarly undisturbed (Plate 5). The great tableland of Finnmarksvidda is another empty quarter of the northern sector, and the vast road-less interior of the Kola Peninsula is a truly wild area. O n casual acquaintance, much of the region has the appearance of wilderness, natural and untouched by human intrusion. A closer look reveals that much of the forestland has been modified by timber extraction, and many conifer stands have a tidy, managed appearance; only limited areas possess the truly natural character of old-gowth forest. There are also frequent unmade tracks that disappear into the forest and, in these days of 4-WD vehicles and 'quad' motorbikes, permit access to once remote and seldom-visited ground. An occasional makeshift hearth of stones with charred wood proves that people pass by at times. In winter, access is still easier, for all wet ground is frozen solid, and the ubiquitous snowmobile is able to penetrate virtually all corners of the region, except the more precipitous. The maps show regular routes across or along lakes, and the increasing presence of rutted tracks through the bogs reveal the damaging effects of these vehicles when the g o u n d has begun to thaw. Carl Linnaeus had a rough time when he made his pioneering tour through Lapland by horseback, boat and on foot in 1732. And, when H. W. Wheelwright spent the spring and summer in Swedish Lapland in 1862, he reached his base in Kvikkjokk from southern Sweden by relays of horse-drawn sledges from numerous staging posts, and in April, before the spring thaw had made the ground impassable. We smile nowadays at the thought of such difficulties, as good tarmac roads convey us rapidly north, and the coach-loads of North Capers go whizzing through Lapland close to, if not above, the legal speed limits. The railway penetrates as far north as Narvik, via the Swedish line to Arvidsjaur and Kiruna, and in Finland reaches Kolari and Salla. There are modern towns and facilities, self-service petrol stations aplenty, and supermarkets with the latest electronic checkouts. Large, often articulated, lorries and tankers thunder along the roads at all hours, maintaining supplies. Everyone appears to have a motor vehicle, and hardly any are rusty old 'banged. A remarkable number of taxis ply the roads and Nordic equivalents of the AA or RAC pass by, but police cars are few. A feature of note is the far-carrying sounds of vehicles. In the stillness of evening and early morning, when the northern roads are especially quiet, an approaching vehicle breaks the great silence of the solitudes from afar-sometimes at a range of several kilometres. The faint hiss of noise, from tyres as much as engine, very gadually rises in volume, but it seems an age before the speeding vehicle roars past in a crescendo of sound, and then takes as long to fade into the distance again. Perhaps the raised position of most roads, banked on either side to reduce the snow-lie, contributes to this effect, but perhaps also the general absence of background noise 'pollution' explains it better. The raised roads certainly make it awkward to stop just when and where one pleases, on spotting an

4

Lapland: A Natuml History

I . View9om Mellan Stubba, towards Sjaunja, Giilliuare, Sweden, showing the typical complex offorest, lake and mire covering much of Lapland.

The Country

3. Fell-jelds and ~ ~ u ~ n t aati nthe s Arctic Circle on Saltjell in Norway, looking north. Road E 6 a t 700 m.

4. The last remnants of birch scrub in an otherwise treeless tundra landscape extending to sea level, at Kongsmyjord, Varanger-halumya,Finnrnark.

5

6

Lapland: A Natural History

interesting animal or attractive habitat, and sometimes, especially on recently improved roads, it is necessary to travel well beyond before a decent pull-in is found. Yet even the busier roads in the far north are pleasantly quiet by the standards of Great Britain, and some in remoter areas are almost deserted. The wonderful names on the road signs, many of them unpronounceable to foreigners, but with the frequent suffix of varri or vaara (hill) and javri or jarvi (lake), emphasise that this is the country of the Lapps or Saami, nomadic people who were once unconstrained by national boundaries. Whilst retaining their own languages, they have increasingly been absorbed into the lifestyle of modern Fennoscandia and Russia. The traditional, colourful Lapp dress is now not much to be seen, and then mainly in towns such as Kautokeino and Enontekio. Recent estimates of the Saami population are 25,000 in Norway, 17,000 in Sweden, 4,000 in Finland and 2,000 in Russia. Fennoscandian Lapland has become a relatively civilised, friendly wilderness, compared with the vast, uninhabited and road-less solitudes of Siberia and Arctic North America. Large parts are nevertheless quite inaccessible except to backpackers prepared to walk far into the wilds and camp or bivouac in remote places. The former practice of transhumance has left a tradition of summer residences throughout Fennoscandia, and many otherwise wild areas of the Finnmark fells are dotted by cabins and cottages that are unoccupied for much of the year (Plate 6). Some are snow-bound until late spring. They have increased greatly over the last 50 years. Occupation is indicated as much by the presence of a motor vehicle as by the patriotic flag, as that is how everyone travels now.

LAND USE Agriculture has mostly only a marginal place in the Lapland economy, akin to crofting in the Scottish Highlands. In Norway, there are small farms around many villages, on the 'softer' coasts, such as the north shore of the Varanger Fjord, in the main river valleys and even on the lower fells. The interior of northern Sweden, such as around route 45 to Karesuando, has very little farmland, but agriculture increases towards the coast, and there is a good deal of farmland along the Baltic shore. The far north of Finland, in the communes of Enontekio, Inari and Utsjoki, is also largely forest and bog, but farther south and east farmland increases, and around Kittila there is a lot of rather poor pastureland and even some arable, on land reclaimed from the wild. The low-lying Pasvik Valley on the Norwegian border with Russia has a good deal of farmland in its lower reaches, much of it on former peatland. The fields of these northern farms have been made in forest clearings or won from the bog and moor by drainage and soil improvement through fertiliser addition. These patches of cultivation show the signs of modern improvement techniques. The malodorous smell of slurry hangs in the air around some of the larger farms, the large white NPK fertiliser bags are stacked ready for use, and the grass sward increasingly has that bright emerald green hue that has become so familiar on British hill farmlands. Rows of white big-bale silage wraps in the fields also speak of the move away from traditional hay. The old meadows, rich and colourful in their growths of Globeflower, Trollius europaeus, Wood Cranesbill Geranium sylvaticum and other herbs of the subalpine birch woods that they replaced, dwindle by the year. A beautihl Globeflower meadow that we saw near Borselv on the Porsanger dolomite

The Countw

7

in 1992 had been given the treatment by 1999. O n the shores of the Varanger Fjord, floral meadows have become patchy and dissected, even since our visits began. Draining of peatlands for agriculture began long ago. Bode, in Arctic Norway had a celebrated breeding place of Great Snipe, discovered by the Godmans in 1857, but in 1885 Alfred Chapman lamented that the large bog system had already been drained. The huge swamps and bogs of the Pasvik Valley behind Svanvik, that were once such a mecca for egg collectors, are now the site of prosperous-looking farms with tall silos-the result of 'reclamation' by draining that began later in the 1930s. The altitude is not far above sea level and agricultural potential is probably quite good here. Yet there are also many places where farms have been abandoned, and the former fields and meadows are reverting to the wild, taken over by growths of sedge and moss (Plate 52). To many people, Lapland is almost synonymous with Reindeer (Plate 58). This animal was the mainstay of the native peoples, and it still figures conspicuously in their way of life, in the Lapland scene, and in the imagery and appeals to tourism, including the merchandise in the souvenir shops. Yet, as Marsden (1976) pointed out, the importance of Reindeer to the region's economy has declined greatly. He stated that even then no more than 5,000 Lapps continued to derive their main income from Reindeer, and the number today is said to be no more than 3,000. Even so, these are greatly supported by government subsidies in all three Fennoscandian countries, which have subscribed strongly to a welfare state philosophy. No doubt this explains why, as the numbers of Lapp herders have declined, those of their animals have increased. Winter-feeding and the use of vaccines have also contributed to the rise in Reindeer population by reducing mortality (Vare et al. 1996). Much has been written about Reindeer by others and I intend to deal with them mainly as an important influence in Lapland ecology. It is a domesticated animal here and equivalent to sheep in the British uplands, including the signs that it has become a conservation problem. Their total lack of road sense creates a hazard for motorists, and they are not the most endearing of creatures in casual encounter. Jeannette calls them 'the camels' and, with their great feet, bulging eyes, humped shoulders and stabiliser stride, this seems an apt comparison. Forestry and timber are a major part of the Lapland economy, although wood production decreases with increasing latitude and falling temperatures. The timber lorries with their loads of freshly cut logs ply the roads continuously, on their way to the saw and pulp mills. Much of the Lapland coniferous forest of Scots Pine Pinus sylvestris and Norway. Spruce Picea abies is carefully managed for rotational harvesting, especially in more southern districts. Young stands have a regimented, hygienic look, with well-thinned trees evenly spaced in regular rows, and uniform in shape and size (Plate 6 1). In places the tree-farming methods now characteristic of British forestry are conspicuous. After clear-felling of large coupes with rasping chainsaws and handling of the timber by mechanical harvesters, the ground is ploughed before replanting, and often left thickly littered with dislodged boulders that are clean, bleached and devoid of lichen growth. Natural regeneration is nowadays less relied upon than seedling transplants to restore a forest cover, and the exotic Lodgepole Pine Pinus contorta is widely planted to obtain greater production. HildCn & Hyttia (1981) noted that much clear-fell in northern Finland during the 1950s failed to regenerate, leaving treeless areas favoured by birds such as Golden Plover. The birch Betula spp. forest has relatively little commercial value, and rather little of it is routinely harvested, although larger trees are cut in places.

L a ~ l a n kA Natural Histom,

5. High mountains of Stora Sjiifallet National Park and hydroelectric reservoir ofAkkajaure, Arctic Sweden (the haunt of Golden Eagle, Gyrfdlcon and Rough-legged Buzzard).

6 Tundra bogs and heaths with summer cottages, above Kvalnes, north Varanger,Finnmark.

The Country

Z The Lapland wilde/-r~t~s;forest, lake andfell, looking westporn Idiuuoma, near Karesuando,

Sweden.

8. Where to camp?Jeannette weighs up what at first seemed a bleak and inhospitable scene

(Finnrnarksuidda, Norway).

9

10

Laphnd: A Natural Historv

As wet ground also inhibits tree growth (Plate 14), many areas of peat bog have been drained to provide extra land for forest, especially in southern Finland, where the total area of peatland has been appreciably reduced by such activity (Moen, 1985). In Sweden also, some bogs have been cut for fuel to burn in peat-fired power stations, using milling machines that pare away the bog surface evenly, gradually lowering it to reach the underlying mineral soil. Another symptom of modernity is the use of mechanical slashers to cut the regenerating scrub, especially of birch and willow, that colonises road verges. These habitats are often florally attractive and of interest for their nesting birds. Disused sand and gravel quarries are other man-made features worthy of examination for their wildlife value. Although some ornithologists of the 19th century and up to the 1920s and 1930s speak of burnt areas of dry ground in parts of Lapland, we have seen remarkably little recent evidence of the deliberate use of fire as a management practice. Unlike Scotland, where belief in its utility leads almost to pyromania, and 'muirburn' is one of the most damaging factors in the upland scene, nowadays fire appears not to be a significant environmental influence. This was not always the case, for Hallanaro & Pylvanainen (2002) state that 'In the boreal region fires are natural phenomena which renew the forest, but in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries the frequency of forest fires in many parts of Fennoscandia was unnaturally high', and mention accounts that seem strikingly similar to reports of the burning of tropical rainforests in recent years. This firing of the taiga was evidently at least partly in support of a slash-and-burn agriculture that has ceased in more recent times. Inland as well as coastal fisheries are important to the local economy. Some of the large and turbulent rivers of the north are famous for their Atlantic salmon. The lower reaches of the Tana (Plate 163), shared between Norway and Finland, draw large numbers of fishers in early summer, to ply their rods on the waters. It is rated as one of the great salmon rivers of the world. The Torne River, which forms the boundary between Finland and Sweden, is regarded as the largest European river still in its natural state, and is important for this fish. Russian Lapland also has some celebrated salmon rivers, especially the Varzuga in south Kola, which Took (2003) claims is possibly the finest of all. He describes some fraught attempts, following perestroika, by American and British entrepreneurs to cash in on their ~otentialfor drawing in wealthy client anglers. Tourism and recreation must now be a significant economic activity in Lapland. Hunting is perhaps the most important in wildlife impact, although this is difficult for an outsider to assess. Killing of the larger carnivorous mammals has, in the past, greatly reduced the numbers and distribution of some, but has been more in the interests of domestic stock protection than sport. Shooting of gamebirds may well have placed extra pressure on the grouse, contributing to their present low numbers (pp. 98-99), and spring hunting of waterfowl by residents is regarded as an ongoing problem. The use of snowmobiles can cause local damage to wetland habitat. Most of the summer tourists keep to the roads and stay in towns and villages, and can have little direct impact on the wilderness. Winter sports, especially downhill skiing, cause the usual clutter and damage to the hills where they concentrate, but these are mostly in southern Lapland, and the impact is very local.

INDUSTRY The industrial coast of Finland around Oulu lies south of Lapland, but Kemi city farther north on the Gulf of Bothnia is an outpost within the region. Industry is most evident

The Country

11

inland in the various hydroelectric works that disfigure the scene in several places, most notably in the catchment of the Lule River in northern Sweden, with its chain of dams, reservoirs, power stations and ~owerlines,so visible from the main road route 45 around Porjus. The associated reservoir developments have drowned some areas or raised lake levels, producing unsightly draw-down zones, sometimes of large extent. The swamps at Mutenia in northern Finland, where Alan Davidson found Broad-billed Sandpipers, are now mostly drowned by the great Lokka reservoir. Yet these developments are localised and some are fairly unobtrusive. A few hilltops have the whirling white windmills that are mushrooming in some other parts of Europe, but wind-farms have not yet taken off here. New mobile phone and other telecommunications towers appear on many summits, and the sense of wilderness is rather frequently dispelled by a view of hilltop masts and buildings, which all have access roads. Their number increases by the year. In contrast to the rest, some parts of western Russian Lapland are heavily developed and have a large human population. There is no northern Fennoscandian equivalent to the city and port of Murmansk, with over 400,000 people, and parts of the district, especially coastal, are still a closed zone with a large military presence. Industrialisation began with the exploitation of the extremely rich mineral deposits first discovered in the 1880s and extensively mined from the 1920s (Took 2003). In places whole mountains in the Khibiny and Lovozero massifs, in the west of Kola, have been quarried away to extract the various metallic ores and large deposits of apatite (a major source of phosphate fertiliser). In the Pasvik Valley, the tall smoking stacks of the great nickel smelter just a few kilometres east of Svanvik, across the border at the Russian town of Nikel, are an unexpected and startling intrusion of polluting heavy industry into once pristine country, dating from 1940. There is a still-larger smelting complex of nickel, copper and other heavy metals at Monchegorsk, 120 km south of Murmansk. These developments raise thoughts about possible acidification of the surrounding forests, bogs and open waters, as I shall discuss later. Fennoscandian Lapland is often regarded as a region of huge potential mineral wealth, and it would be surprising if it did not share some of the richness of the Russian sector. The long-established iron mines at Gdlivare, Malmberget, Kiruna and Svappavaara continue to operate, and the ore trains trundle along the Abisko railway en route for Narvik. Although a goldmine at Bidjovagge near Kautokeino recently closed, there have been recent reports of mining companies' enthusiasm for extracting diamonds and platinum around Karasjok, as well as prospecting for other minerals. There is also the invisible menace of radioactive waste on the shores of the Barents Sea, stemming from the former Soviet Union's profligate ventures into this source of power and weaponry, and its irresponsible disposal of the remains. The huge dumping grounds for nuclear waste off the islands of Novaya Zemlya, and the much nearer graveyard of decaying submarines, with their reactors and spent fuel, along the inlets of the Murman coast, such as at Andreyeva Bay, have alarming possibilities for contamination of the entire Arctic coast of Lapland, in both Russia and Finnmark. Yet this is not the only possible source of radio nuclides, for the northeastwards drift of the sea currents can carry material all the way from the polluting nuclear complexes at Sellafield on the west coast of England and Dounreay in northern Scotland. The staggering and unsightly amount of plastic, wood and other litter on these shores of the Arctic Ocean is a reminder that the sea may have washed up other far more sinister but invisible materials to lurk in the sands and mud over which you walk.

LAPLAND: A Natural History

The Countrv

11. An even kzter spring: massive snowfields on gordjeli Finnmark, on 22June 1993.

12. Mountain willow scrub, kzke and mow patches, Gordjell, Norway. The willows are mainly Glaucous and Downy. The habitat of Fieldfare, Redwing, Redpoll and Arctic Redpoll.

14

Ladand: A Natural Histov

Yet, for all these activities and blemishes, most of Lapland is still a virtual wilderness, away from the main highways and settlements. Walk alone into the forest beyond sight or sound of a road, or across the lonely fells of the treeless tundra, and the sense of solitude is soon complete. Away from the few popular tracks you will seldom meet another human and you are on your own, a small and insignificant creature in what can be a frightening desolation. The compass is a reassuring item in the rucksack, and on finding occasionally that it has been left behind, I have had a vivid awareness of the possibilities of becoming truly lost, especially on a sunless day and in forest on gently contoured ground with no view through the trees. From some vantage point amidst the endless forests of northern Finland and Sweden, or the scrub birch wood and open tundra of Finnmarksvidda in Norway, there are panoramas of vast, uninhabited expanses of country daunting in their scale (Plate 7). This really is the wild (Plate 8). Even if the Lapps have been through it all, it appears largely devoid of any sign of human presence. These huge and desolate but hauntingly beautiful landscapes give the sense that any brief summer visits, such as those we are able to make, can do no more than scrape at the surface of Lapland's wild nature, and that any attempt to portray this from such a basis must result in a highly selective and fragmentary account.

CLIMATE AND WEATHER People always ask us about the Lapland weather, but it is impossible to give a simple yet accurate answer. Summer conditions vary enormously from one year to the next, as we have found over a 14-year period. We have had three trips when it was hot and dry almost the whole time, with tarmac melting in the heat, and two others which were cool and very wet, with appreciable rainfall on many days and water lying everywhere. Summer snowfalls are only occasional and mostly short-lived, and though dull, wet weather tends to be cold, frost is rather infrequent. Continuous daylight prevents excessive drops in nighttime temperature, but there can be a noteworthy chill from midnight into the small hours. Cold, backward springs do at least have the advantage of postponing the biting insect curse a little longer, but warm, early conditions bring it forward. This scourge of the north begins on average around 15-16 June, but can vary up to a week or more either side of this, according to the prevailing conditions. The mosquitoes are everywhere, but worst of all in the bogs and marshes. And in some years the black flies, midges and various gad flies add to the problem. Frequent anointing with insect repellent makes life bearable, but its effect never lasts nearly as long as the makers claim. There is some geographical variation in climate also, with a quite marked gadient in oceanicity between the coast and the interior. The northwest coast of Norway is the most oceanic district. Precipitation here is fairly even through the year or becomes higher in winter, and rises to 1,500 mm on the high maritime mountains of the Arctic Circle, Although precipitation over much of interior Lapland is mostly quite low, at around 300-500 mm (and just 250 mm in places), it tends to fall in the summer months, but as snow from September and through the winter. In most inland areas, the !ground is snowcovered from October to April (200-250 days; Plate 9). Winter temperatures follow the same pattern, with a February mean of -2.5"C at Ssrsy on the coast west of Hammerfest, compared with -14°C far inland at Kautokeino. An extreme low of -51.4"C has been recorded at Karasjok, which may be in a frost hollow, but a summer maximum of 30°C is

The Country

15

also known there. Karesuando in northern Sweden reported -48.7"C and Kittila in Finnish Lapland -5 1.5"C in January 1999. The temperature pattern is reversed in summer and an area extending 250 km north of Lulei in Sweden and Tornio in Finland has a summer maximum of 28-30°C. The more continental conditions of the interior give cheerful, sunny summers on the whole, and the bleak, cold and cloudy climate of the outer Varanger Fjord can make a miserable contrast at times. Although on the coast, Vardo has the unenviable reputation of being the coldest town in Europe, on the basis of its mean monthly temperatures. O n average there are only 30 days in the year when the temperature exceeds 10°C, and the mean temperature of the warmest month (July) is 8.9"C (Vaughan 1979). Icy winds often blow relentlessly, and can spoil bright, sunny days. Yet it can be freezing cold by the shore, but still and almost warm on fell plateaux some 400 m higher up, as a result of off-themountain winds that roll down from high ground. At other times, winds on the high g o u n d can produce a deathly coldness. Spring is slow to arrive in these northern regions, and during the long road journey to the Arctic from southern Sweden or Norway, visitors in late May or early June usually have the sense of heading backwards into winter. By late May in the south, the broadleaved trees have been in full leaf for some time and many birds already have young. In an average year, the birches of Lapland are then still in bud, and they may stay thus for another two or three weeks in a backward spring, especially on the higher ground (Plate 10). In mid May there may still be extensive snow-cover, with the lakes iced over, even on the low gound, and by the end of the month large drifts often linger in sheltered places within the forests. The bogs are still sufficiently frozen below the surface to allow safe walking over even their more treacherous parts, and the taller Sphagnum hummocks hold tiny ice cores. At first hardly anything is in flower, and herbaceous growth struggles to appear. In 1993, even by 24 June, the birches on some parts of Finnmarksvidda were still only in bud and vast snowfields covered the upland area of Ifjordfjell farther north, at only 3 5 0 4 5 0 m (Plate 1I). By contrast, the spring of 2002 was exceptionally early throughout Scandinavia, and the Lapland trees were all in 111 leaf by the beginning of June, while little snow remained on the higher fells. O n average the growing season is short, and much of Lapland has only 100-150 days annually with mean daily temperature above 5"C, the number of days decreasing with latitude. This is the land of the midnight sun, and the 24 hours of continuous daylight prevailing during the summer months can change the scene quite rapidly in a forward year, and give a special physiological regime for plants, and probably animals too. Photosynthesis is continuous and plant growth rapid, once the cold of winter has retreated. Temperature is also affected favourably, because the cooling effect of nighttime darkness is so much reduced. A few days of warm sunny weather can transform the birch wood scene from a drab brown landscape to one of verdant contrast. In a warm spring some plants advance rapidly through their flowering period. The Cloudberry blossoms appear in a profusion that carpets many of the bogs in white, with the appearance of a sprinkling of new-fallen snow (Plate 208), but the petals soon drop, and by the end of June-or even earlier-the berries are often well formed and red (they turn golden-yellow when fully ripe). Warm conditions may also mean rapid snowmelt and local flooding, as the rivers quickly rise to peak levels. The mighty Pite Alv, north of Arvidsjaur, runs over rapids at the main road bridge on route 45, and after a sudden thaw looks to be boiling, with a cloud of spray hanging over its awesome torrent.

Laoland: A Natural Historv

13. Midnight sun on Finnmarksviddu, with mellow light and long shadows on the birch scrub tundra near Lappoluobbal, fiutokeino, Finnmark.

14. A passing rainstorm nurtures the vast areas ofpeatland that inhibit tree growth and intempt the continuity offorest cover (Tdwajaur, Jokkmokk, Sweden).

The Countrv

-

L

15. Dolomitic limestone outcrop north ofBorselv on Porsanger Fjard, Finnmark.

16 Stone nets andgravel mounds on Borselvjel&Finnmark.

18

Ladand: A Natural Historv

O n the Arctic Circle the sun does not dip below the horizon between mid-May and the end of July, and with further distance north the duration of continuous daylight increases. The light becomes mellow and the shadows extremely long when the sun reaches its lowest point (Plate 13), but after midnight, it is already becoming brighter as the sun rises again. Only on heavily overcast evenings is there any sense of impending darkness. The continuous daylight enlarges the scope for fieldwork, at least amongst those who do not feel the dictates of the internal clock. Walking against the sun on bright evenings after about 2100 hrs can be very trying, however, especially in long vegetation on the bogs, with perplexing contrast between brightness above and shadow below. Many birds also have a quiet period for two or three hours either side of midnight, so that this is not a particularly useful time to seek them. Finland is one time zone (one hour) ahead of Sweden and Norway, which are one hour in advance of Britain. Except during wet or misty weather, visibility is usually very !good, with a clear, smog-free atmosphere. During unsettled weather, with well-developed cumulo-nimbus cloud formations, there are often dramatic and characteristic skies, which probably owe their layered effect to the low trajectory of the sun. Thunderstorms develop frequently (Plate 14), and brilliant rainbows appear as localised deluges give way to sunshine again, with spectacular masses of piled-up clouds. Fog at low levels is unusual in summer, but on still, cool evenings thin and patchy mist sometimes condenses over the bogs, adding to the sense of the mysterious.

GEOLOGY AND SOILS The prevailing parent rock types and their derived soils are acidic and poor in basenutrients. Hard granite and gneiss of the Fennoscandian Shield are the predominant bedrock over large parts of the interior, but there are also locally extensive occurrences of softer schist, sandstone and shale. Everywhere there is the evidence for glaciation, with the general mantle of drift and its sculpting into moraines, drumlins and eskers. In places there are huge systems of fluvio-glacial plains and terraces, as on Borselvfiellet, whilst lakes and tarns of all sizes, formed or deepened by the scouring - of ice action and the damming effect of moraines, abound over most of Lapland. The more gently contoured areas, such as Finnmarksvidda, are extensively overlain by glacial sands, and the bedrock is little exposed at the surface. Cliffs are high and extensive in the heavily ice-carved fjords and deeper river valleys, but few and small in many of the more gently contoured areas. Fitzpatrick (1997) has discussed the importance of freezing and thawing in the formation of arctic soils and development of periglacial features in surface debris (see below). The superficial deposits are derived especially from granites and gneisses, rocks poor in bases such as calcium or magnesium, which also weather to a coarse and porous sand with little capacity for holding plant nutrients in the soil. As a result, prevailing soils are mostly leached and acidic podsols, with a pH range of 3.8-5.0 and their vegetation is composed of plants that either need or tolerate base-poor conditions. Ericoid dwarf shrubs are a major component of plant communities in dry situations. The wetlands tend to be similarly nutrient-poor, deriving little input from either lateral drainage or underlying substrates. Some of the bogs with a living surface more or less insulated by

The Country

19

a layer of acidic peat from the mineral soils below receive their nutrients mainly from the rather meagre supply that comes down with precipitation. Many are also under the influence of water draining laterally through mineral substrates, and thus receive a greater supply of plant nutrients and oxygen, although their peat may still be acidic and their flora contains only a few species showing signs of richer conditions. Some of these peatlands are regarded as fens. The wet hollows of northern mires are often filled with a relatively shallow dark brown mud over stones and boulders, containing much humus, but with a higher mineral content than true rain-fed peat. Some parent rocks supply sufficient lime to make a bigger difference in soil conditions. The shale, which in places borders the North Varanger shore, has abundant Mountain Avens even in apparently leached situations, such as fell-field debris, and rock outcrops have a selection of calcicole plants. More strongly calcareous basalt, dolerite and am~hiboliteare even more productive botanically. Locally there are occurrences of calcareous schist, gneiss and limestone similar to those of the Dalradian and Moine Series in Scotland, and these give quite extensive areas of base-rich substrate. The most famous is the mountain district of Abisko around Lake Tornetrhk in Arctic Sweden, one of the two richest areas for alpine plants in all Fennoscandia (the other being the Dovrefjell in southern Norway). Another significant area of such rocks occurs around Tarnaby farther south. Their presence is revealed by meadows and birchwoods full of tall herbs with colourful flowers, and a general luxuriance and species-richness of ground vegetation. The soil has a different appearance-uniformly dark brown, with humus well mixed in the surface layer, rather than the greyish sand overlain by a crust of acid peat. Apart from exposures of marble in the Abisko Mountains, the purest limestone is the dolomitic (magnesium-rich) limestone at the coast on the Porsanger and Alten Fjords. The main outcrop is just north of Borselv on the east side of Porsanger (Plate 15), but there is a smaller one on the opposite shore near Kolvik, and still more limited occurrences, as well as fairly extensive dolomite-bearing rocks, around Talvik on Alten Fjord. The Borselv outcrop is like Durness in Sutherland, but on a larger scale, and is similarly confined to low levels, below 250 m, but that at Talvik reaches 457 m above the Storelven (Coombe & White 1951). Patterned ground produced by soil movements and particle-sorting, through alternate freezing and thawing of g o u n d moisture, is well represented on open tundra in places, but is less widespread than in the high Arctic. Networks of larger stones containing hummocks of finer material are local, but fine examples occur near the road across Borselvfjell in Finnmark, and on some level mountain summits, such as those of Ifjordfjell (Plates 16-17). Stone stripes and ridges, soil creep terraces and lobes of various dimensions are frequent on sloping ground, and frost-shattering of softer rocks may be evident (Plate 18). O n peatlands, the mounds on palsa mires contain ice-cores, and the smaller systems of pronounced hummocks found in many drier bogs probably owe their formation to frost effects. The duration and depth of soil frozen in winter vary considerably. Discontinuous permafrost is widespread in inland districts of Lapland, and a major factor in the impeded drainage that gives rise to peat accumulation and bog or fen as breaks or enclaves within the forest cover. The influence of substrate on plant and bird populations will be dealt with in the main accounts of their habitats in chapters 5-10.

Ladand: A Natural History

" tree "

+I

Yorihern boreal zone

High alpine zone

Middle boreal zone

Middle alpine zone

iouthern boreol zone

' I

Low olpine zone

LAPLAND 2500

7) 2

1000

,Li

F

* -

2500

2000

1500

1000

:

2 s

0

500

, '60

61

62

, 63

, 64

, 65

66

latitude ON

67

68

69

j0

500

71

72'

Fig. I Altitudinal descent of vegetation zones along a south-north wansect through Fennoscandia (aj?er Moen 1999 Fig. 15).

17. Patternedground on the fell-jehh of Gurrojok-skaidde at 400 m, Gordjell, Finnmark.

The Country

1

Southern Arctic zone Alpine zone Northern boreal zone Middle boreal zone Southern boreal zone

4

1

Fig. 2 Kegetation zones in the north of Fennoscandia and Russia porn Moen 1999, Map 69).

18. Frost-shattered shale on Gordjeell, Finnmark.

21

22

L a ~ h n dA. Natural Historv

Fig. 3 Relief and topopphic map of Lapland.

The Countw

Fig. 4 Locution of Lapknd within northwest Europe.

23

CHAPTER 2

The Lap Land Na turalists THE BOTANISTS

T

he pioneer botanist in Lapland was Carl Linnaeus himself, who undertook a tour of the region in 1732. I have drawn mainly on the accounts by Smith (181 l), Jackson (1923) and Black (1979) in making the following summary. Having received 'a travelling stipend' from the Royal Society of Sciences of Uppsala 'to investigate in all three kingdoms of nature, the healthiness and inconveniences of the country, with a description of the mode of life and the inhabitants', Linnaeus set forth alone from Uppsala on 12 May, aged 25. His gear included 'a small fowling piece, a hanger (short sword or dagger), spying glass, a parcel of paper stitched together for drying plants', and his manuscripts on Ornithology, plus Flora Uphndica and Chracteres Generici. He was also armed with a passport and letter of recommendation from the Society. Transport consisted mainly of relays of horses, but walking when necessary and using boats on the larger lakes and rivers. His route lay first up the Baltic coast to Umeii, from where he headed inland towards Lycksele Lapland, but found conditions so bad, with floodwaters making some places impassable, that he returned to Umeii. Reaching Lulei farther north on the Baltic coast, he journeyed by boat up the Lule River to Storbacken, where he crossed into Lapland and made 'a long and tedious way on foot' to Jokkrnokk. From there, he continued westnorthwest through the mountains to Kvikkjokk, noting Reindeer, lemmings, Ptarmigan and Char. Passing Lake Virihaur, in the present Padjelanta National Park, Linnaeus crossed into Norway and made his way down a valley to the lowlands and coast at Sorfjorden. He returned to Lule Lapland, crossing mountains with glaciers on the Swedish side of the border, and regained Kvikkjokk. After retracing his route to Lulei, he travelled along the coast to Tornei and Kemi, and then returned to Torneii and Kalix, before finally reaching home in Uppsala via the Finland coast. The journey covered 7,713 krn, ofwhich 1,603 km were on foot, and took four months. Linnaeus returned home exhausted, having endured great privations during his travels. There were few inns or post houses along his route then and, whilst he stayed with clerics, administrators, mining engineers and other educated people in towns, for much of his time he depended on the uncertain help and hospitality of the Lapps. There were tracks and footpaths connecting some main population centres, but the going was gruelling at times, for both horse and man. He suffered dietary problems, often from bad food-or no food. His adventures included falling through a snowfield undermined by a stream and being ~ u l l e dout by a rope; being shot at by a suspicious Lapp with a musket; and narrowly escaping destruction by a falling rock. Linnaeus had not at that time developed his binomial system of naming species of plants and animals, and many of the names he used were short Latin descriptions, such as Rubus j?agariaefolio for the Arctic Bramble. His Flora Lapponica was published in Amsterdam in

26

Lapland: A Natural History

1737, but his original journal Iter Lapponica was not published until 1888, although a translation in English appeared in 1811 under the title Lachesis Lapponica or A Tour of Lapland (Smith 1811). Plants were classified according to his artificial sexual system, based on the numbers and characters of the stamens and pistils, which was later superseded. He did not bring back many botanical specimens, but made numerous descriptions of plants that later formed the basis of the species included in his Flora Lapponica. Among the notable plants recorded and described in the region by Linnaeus were species of forest (Coralroot, Twinflower, Chickweed Wintergreen, Wood Cranesbill, Small Cowwheat Melampyrum syluaticum), bog and fen (Common and Hare's-tail Cotton-grasses, Cloudberry, Labrador Tea, Bog Rosemary-named as a new genus, Marsh Cinquefoil Potentillapalustris, Kingcup, Bogbean) and fell (Mountain Avens, Dwarf Azalea, Sibbaldia, Alpine Catchfly, Snow Gentian, Drooping Saxifrage, Glacier Buttercup, Arctic Harebell and Nodding Campion). Linnaeus also recorded some of the more primitive plants such as mosses, and lichens. He noted that the Hair Moss Polytrichum commune was used as comfortable bedding and that the lichen Iceland Moss was edible. The Lapps' use of Dwarf Birch branches overlain by Reindeer skins for a mattress, which he described, is a practice continued to this day. He also recorded that the Laplanders dyed their wool red with Tormentil Potentilla erecta and leather red with spruce bark, whilst the leaves of Bearberry were used in both dyeing and tanning. After his death, Linnaeus' collections, including his herbarium, were bought for 1,000 guineas by the British botanist James Edward Smith in 1784. When Smith died in 1828 they were acquired by the Linnean Society of London, which had been established in 1788 to honour the great naturalist and his achievements. His Lapland journal, illustrated with drawings of plants, animals, Lapps and himself, is the most telling record of his pioneering tour of the northern wilderness. This work lists the following taxa: flowering plants 380, ferns and allies 23, mosses (including Sphagnum as a genus) 28, liverworts 9, lichens 36, algae 17 and fungi 64. These lists remain a valuable guide to the flora of the region. There is a great deal on the Lapps and their way of life, but the disappointment is the lack of description to convey the character of the country itself. Perhaps Linnaeus felt this was outside the remit from his sponsors. Botanical knowledge of Lapland has been of two main kinds. First is the traditional recording of plant species and their distribution by systematists (i.e. people who could identify their species), supported by the collecting of material for herbaria. This work is the basis of the regional Flora, listing all the species recorded for a county or other defined geographical area, with information on Bbundance, distribution, status and so on. Knowledge of plant distribution in the north built up steadily from the time of Linnaeus' pioneering tour, but especially from the mid-19th century, when Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish botanists increasingly penetrated these remote parts of Fennoscandia. The literature is, accordingly, in the Fennoscandian languages or German. The Yorkshire Quaker missionary James Backhouse made visits to Finnmark in 1853 and 1860, and left copious botanical records, from which excerpts have been published by Alm (2001), who finds that the data accord closely with present knowledge of the flora of north Norway. This approach led to an early preoccupation with plant distribution analysed into distinctive geographical patterns, with Axel Blytt the first to formalise and map different categories. In 1876, he wrote a famous essay on the influence of alternating wet and dry climatic periods on plant immigration into Norway. His evidence for these climatic fluctuations came especially from

The La~landNaturalists

27

study of changes in the vertical composition (stratigraphy) of peat in deep bogs. These showed phases of active growth with high Sphagnum content twice giving way to periods when trees colonised the drying bog surface, leaving woody remains in more highly humified peat. Blytt also pointed out that while many alpine plants were found throughout the chain of mountains stretching from southern Norway to western Lapland, and forming the upland spine along the Norwegian-Swedish border, some showed a discontinuous distribution. Of these last, some occurred in the north and the south but with variable-sized -gaps - in between, some occurred only in the north, and a few only in the south. These patterns have been termed bicentric (c.40 species), northern unicentric (25 species) and southern unicentric (c.17 species). Their explanation continues to fascinate Scandinavian botanists to this day. Many species show geographical patterns that bridge the gaps in these disjunct distributions (see p. 47). The interest in peat deposits as a record of vegetation and climate history developed further, and culminated in 1916 with Lennart von Post in Sweden propounding the technique of pollen analysis as a tool for uncovering the past. He proposed that the distinctive and readily identifiable pollen grains preserved in peat and lake mud could be extracted and counted at different depths in these deposits, and the resulting pollen spectra would give a picture of changing vegetation composition, especially of the predominant forest, in the vicinity of each site examined. Changes in controlling climate were also inferred from this evidence: The technique became refined and has become the main method of palaeoecological investigation across the world. It has been widely used in Lapland in studies of vegetation and climate history (e.g. Seppa & Birks 2001, 2002; Seppa et al. 2002). By 1955, knowledge of plant distribution was good enough for Eric Hulttn to produce his monumental Atlas of the Distribution of Vascuhr Phnts in North-western Europe. A second, updated edition appeared in 1971, and it is still an invaluable guide to plant distribution in Fennoscandia. Regional floras have increasingly been supported in modern times by the production of plant atlases, giving dot distribution patterns according to occurrence in grid squares of particular size, usually 10 krn x 10 km.Within Lapland there are now regional floras for Troms (Benum 1958; Engelskj0n & Skifte 1995) and Finnmark (Alm 199I), with distribution maps. Other atlases show the distribution of selected species, e.g. alpines (Gjarevoll 1990), and more detailed maps are slowly appearing in Aths Flora Europaea. The second kind of botanical study has been the description and classification of plant communities as vegetation types, by the methods of plant sociology long practised in continental Europe, but slow to find favour in Britain. Essentially, this involves the subjective choice of particular examples of plant communities of recognisable similarity in different places. Within each a standard-sized plot is recorded by giving a measure of coverlabundance for all species present, including bryophytes and lichens. The common features of, say, a dozen different plots, in terms of the plant species constantly present andlor attaining high coverlabundance, are then used to characterise the particular plant community. The aim is to t occurring in the area, until repeat the procedure for each different type of ~ l a n community the vegetational diversity of the whole area has satisfactorilybeen described. The range of types is then structured into a hierarchical classification on the basis of similarities and differences. Rolf Nordhagen was the pioneer exponent of the phytosociological approach to vegetation description in Norway, and his studies extended to Finnmark. Among other main contributors to the classification of Lapland vegetation have been Olav Gjzrevoll with his monumental treatise on Fennoscandian snow-bed communities in 1956, but the

Laoland: A Natural Historv

L!.

EL;

19. Labrador Tea, a locally abundunt aromatic smallshrub of both forests and mires in Lapland

20. Alpine Catchfly, a widespread low alpine and northern borealplant in Fennoscandia.

The Lapland Naturalists

21. Drooping Saxzjage, a widespread low to middle alpine plant of calcareous soils along the Fennoscandian mountain chain. It reproduces by bulbils as well as seed.

22. Glacier Buttercup, a widespread middle alpine plant of late snow beds in the higher mountains, mainly in Scandinavia.

30

Labhnd: A Natural Histon

relevant papers are mostly in languages other than English. This approach is extremely useful, in that it provides what amounts to a description and classification of habitats, both for plant species and for animals, which can then be recorded, mapped, used to measure ecological diversity and studied in various ways. Its value was finally accepted in Britain with the publication of the five volumes of British Plant Communities (1991-2000) compiled by John Rodwell of Lancaster University. When the International Botanical Congress held a field excursion at Abisko in Swedish Lapland in 1950, a synopsis of the plant communities of the area, and a guide to the flora, in English, were presented to the delegates (Du Rietz 1950; Asplund 1950). Other papers in English on the vegetation of Finnmark were published by the British ecologists Leach & Polunin for Finnmarksvidda (1932), and for the dolomitic limestone of the Alten and Porsanger Fjords by Coombe &White (1951). Eilif Dahl was a leading Norwegian ecologist and phytogeographer who worked tirelessly to describe mountain vegetation and explain the distribution of plants. The final synthesis of his life's work was published posthumously in 1998 as The Phytogeography ofNorthern Europe. Although his field studies were largely in southern Norway, his work had much relevance to Lapland. Dahl developed the hypothesis that montane and arctic plants are confined to higher altitudes and latitudes by lethally high temperatures at lower levels, and he correlated the distribution of many species with isotherms over a range of limiting temperatures (Dahl 1951). He then attempted to explain the control mechanism in terms of plant physiological response. Dahl was also a strong adherent of the view that the distribution of centric plants (see above) was best explained by their survival in local unglaciated refugia during the maximum expansion of the Quaternary ice sheets (Dahl 1955). The Abisko research station on the edge of Lake Tornetrask in arctic Sweden began modestly in 1912, but its development was boosted in 1934 through acquisition by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (Bernhard 1985). It grew steadily and today provides accommodation and well-equipped laboratory facilities for up to 125 researchers and visiting scientists. Many of the developments and achievements of the station and the researchers working there owe their success to the leadership of Mats Sonesson, who was Director from 1974 to 1996. The station has produced a prodigious number of publications across a diverse field-climatology, geology, geomorphology, geophysics, hydrology, limnology, plant and animal ecology, taxonomy and systematics. In botany, much attention has been paid to the ecology of the floristically rich subalpine and alpine plant communities of calcareous substrates, and the physiology of plants at high altitudes and under long photoperiods (see Karlsson & Callaghan 1996). In northern Finland, the Kevo Subarctic Research Station was established in the Kevo Reserve near Utsjoki. Examples of botanical work undertaken there include a vascular flora of Inari Lapland (Kallio et al. 1969-1982), classification and mapping ofvegetation on the reserve, and a study of the reserve's flora in relation to ecological factors (Heikkinen & Kalliola 1989, 1990).

THE ZOOLOGISTS Many of the early Lapland animal records are again those of Linnaeus, sometimes based on specimens collected on his tour of 1732, such as a Black-throated Diver that he stuffed and

The Lapland Naturalicts

31

a Hawk Owl (then unknown), which he shot from the saddle of his horse. The fine details of two young Eagle Owls that he found in a nest suggest that these also were 'secured' for dissection. The journal records sightings of Siberian Jay, Ca~ercaillieand Redwing in the forests, Common Sandpiper and Slavonian Grebe on river and lake, Crane in the bogs, Ringed Plover on the coast and Ptarmigan, Snow Bunting, Wheatear and Golden Plover in the mountains. Linnaeus made many observations on the habits of animals he encountered, especially Reindeer, which he said never touched hay and depended on lichens for winter food. He was astonished to see them scrape the snow away to reach the buried lichens, although the herders also felled many trees with luxuriant lichen growth for them to eat. He also noted that they would eat frogs, snakes (presumably Adders) and even Norway Lemmings, which they would chase over considerable distances. Much of the record of the early naturalists' exploration of Lapland is inaccessible to the English reader, and it is to the accounts of the British visitors that I have been forced to turn. The wealth of summer birdlife in the far north soon attracted the attention of the Victorian bird and egg collectors. John Wolley made Lapland famous through his expeditions in search of northern birds' eggs. He was a man of independent means, which allowed him full-time pursuit of his passion, and the employment of native helpers and collectors. He died young, aged only 36, in November 1859, whereupon his father presented his copious diaries and collections to Alfred Newton, Professor of Zoology at Cambridge University. Over a period of four decades, in 1864-1907, Newton compiled an account, species by species, of Wolley's records, which he published as four parts in the massive two-volume Ootheca Wolleydna (Wolley's egg cabinets). He also continued to employ the same Fennoscandian agents and collectors who had so helped Wolley, to enlarge the egg collection and records further, up to at least 1871. This is a fascinating history from an age of ornithology that was creating basic knowledge, and a tribute to the tireless energies of a true enthusiast who gave his life to the pursuit of birds. Wolley belonged to the age of collecting, one that has passed, and his activities should be judged in this context. He was in Lapland from 10 June 1853 to autumn 1857, and made his base in a cottage at Muoniovaara in Arctic Sweden, a short distance from the village of Muonio in Finland, across the river of the same name. He endured the rigours of the Arctic winter for the first two years in order to be on the ground when the spring migrants arrived. During his sojourn he travelled more widely in Lapland, especially Finnmark, reaching the Lyngen Fjord, Finnmarksvidda, Vadso in North Varanger, the Pasvik Valley, Lake Inari and Kilpisjarvi in northern Finland. Although he often trapped birds and sometimes shot them to make skins, Wolley's passion was for nests and eggs. He made great use of local people as helpers, to find nests and bring him eggs, provide information on nesting places, and act as field assistants in his finding and securing of nests. He was helped especially by a Norwegian called Knoblock (his first name is not mentioned), and his two sons Ludwig and Anton, who lived at Muoniovaara. Ludwig Knoblock appeared to enter into the spirit of his enterprise and became a skilled finder of nests and faithful henchman, whom Newton continued to employ over many years. Many individuals were approached and induced to search for nests, so that news of Wolley's desire for eggs-and willingness to pay for them-spread widely and a network of helpers was set up, with the Knoblocks acting as agents. Wolley's description of the first authenticated discovery of the eggs of the Jack Snipe (Plate 151), in Iso-uoma (the Great Marsh), some 8 km northwest of Muoniovaara, is a classic of the

23. A Goldeneye b c k re.tzrning to nast box (artist unknown, fiom Ootheca Wolleyana).

24. ED of Osprey, by/. T Babcomb @om Ootheca Wolleyana).

The Lapland Naturalists

33

25. Nest of Osprey in southwest Finnmark, sketched by an unknown artist with the initials/. N. @om Ootheca Wolleyana).

26 mooper Swans at a nest in Russian Laphnd sketched by John Wollg, from Ootheca Wolleyana).

34

Laoland: A Natural Historv

bird-nesting literature. The dispensing of largesse on the spot to the line of stalwart beaters was an essential part of the process. Seven nests were found here or at Karto-uoma just to the north, between 17 and 28 June 1853. Apart from this, Wolley himself seems to have left the waders and many other birds to his network of local collectors, all of whom have their finds scrupulously attributed by name. Another of his historic achievements was the first description of the eggs and nesting of the Waxwing, but the discoveries were made by his helpers, who showed him the nests, and went on to provide the numerous clutches detailed in his egg books. He took more of the raptor clutches himself, including four of Gyrfalcon, and sometimes went with his nest-finders to take the eggs personally, but the bulk of his huge collection was gathered by others. In the case of the Bar-tailed Godwit, he never even saw the species alive. The details recorded in Ootheca Wolleyana are staggering: figures are for clutches, although sometimes only a single egg was acquired or survived. Osprey-24 from 1854-59 (Plates 24-25) Goshawk-10 from 1854-58 Gyrfalcon-26 from 1854-59 Peregrine-7 from 1853-59 Merlin-19 from 1 8 5 6 5 9 Rough-legged Buzzard-75 from 1854-5 8 Hawk Owl-12 from 1854-58 Siberian Jay-28 from 1854-58, 12 from 1860-62 Waxwing-87 from 1856-59 Pine Grosbeak-60 from 1855-58,7 in 1860 Dotterel-20 from 1853-58, 28 from 1860-62 Greenshank-27 from 1853-59, 16 from 1860-64 Spotted Redshank-55 from 1853-59, 23 from 1860-64 Wood Sandpiper-33 from 1853-59 Whimbrel-19 from 1853-59,4 from 1862-64 Ruff-20 from 1853-59 Temminck's Stint-58 from 1853-59 Broad-billed Sandpiper-60 from 1853-59 Jack Snipe-24 from 1853-59, 11 from 1861-64 Bar-tailed Godwit-3 from 1854-59, 12 from 1860-64 Lesser White-fronted Goose 9 from 1854-58, 17 from 1861-64 In extenuation, it should be remembered that this massive loot represented the combined efforts of dozens of collectors working a large area, during a time when at least some species were evidently more numerous than they are today. Wolley did not just amass specimens but made valuable and original observations on the birds he sought. His likening of the Jack Snipe's strange call to the cantering of a horse on a hard road is quoted to this day. The finding of Peregrine ground nests on the bogs of northern Finland, and tree nests of Gyrfalcon were examples of habits not generally known. He noted the Spotted Redshank's habit of nesting in dry open woods at some distance from its bog and lake feeding places, and the Broad-billed Sandpiper's preference for the wettest parts of its breeding swamps. His observations revealed that whilst some species showed little numerical change during 1853 to 1859, e.g. Spotted Redshank and Pine Grosbeak, some underwent marked fluctuations,

The Lapland Nuturnlists

35

e.g. Jack Snipe and Waxwing. Rough-legged Buzzards normally laid three eggs but clutches of four and five were common in peak lemming years. Snowy Owls and Purple Sandpipers proved to be surprisingly scarce breeders in Lapland. Wolley appears also to have been a man of social conscience, for during an especially severe winter, he raised funds in England and distributed these to ease the hardship of the local people. Other collectors were soon heading for the far north, perhaps stimulated by news of Wolley's exploits. In 1857 the brothers Godman were at Bods in Arctic Norway, where they found several nests of Great Snipe in a large bog, and published observations on this and other species found in the area. An important contribution came next from H. W. Wheelwright, who lived in southern Sweden, and spent the summer of 1862 at Kvikkjokk, among the Swedish mountains not far north of the Arctic Circle, collecting birds and their eggs. He published his records comprehensively in a most interesting book, A Spring and Summer in Lapland. He was evidently lucky in striking a peak lemming year, as his description of the swarming animals makes clear, but the birds of prey did not appear to be in spectacular numbers, although Willow Grouse and Ptarmigan abounded below and special attention to their phases. The only above the treeline, and he important habitats somewhat lacking in his areas were bogs and marshes, so that waders were less well represented in his extensive collections than other birds. Wheelwright listed 108 different species that he 'met with' in the Kvikkjokk area and he took the eggs of 76 of these. Guns, powder and shot were a vital part of the equipment then, and some of these collectors must have spent a great deal of time skinning and stuffing birds, and blowing eggs. Wheelwright - also included in his book a useful set of notes on the birds of the Vards district in Finnmark, made over the previous ten years by the Reverend C. Sommerfelt, pastor at Nesseby in North Varanger, who had also published his findings in Norwegian (Sommerfelt 1861). Later contributions came from Alfred Chapman (brother of Abel) in 1885, who worked the lower reaches of the Tana River and the adjoining coast of Finnmark. Henry Seebohm was in Lapland with Robert Collett in 1874, on a trip to prepare for the more adventurous journey he made with John Harvie-Brown in 1875 to the mouth of the Pechora River in European Siberia. It was still the era when birds had to be shot off the nest in order to authenticate the identity of their eggs, and the amassing of skin collections for taxonomic study was the main preoccupation of serious ornithologists. Some of these early accounts jar on reading today, in the heartless slaughter of the birds and their young. The objective was clearly to 'secure' as many specimens as possible to take home, although the collectors were making knowledge of bird systematics and distribution then, and must be judged in the context of their time. Robert Collett was a zoologist at the University of Oslo who became Professor in 1885, and visited many parts of Norway in 1864-94. He came to know the Norwegian vertebrate fauna extremely well, and his three-volume work on birds, Norges Fugle, which was published in 1921, after his death, by Dr Brjan Olsen, remained the chief work on Norwegian birds until 1947, when Lsvenskiold published his handbook. Collett too worked in Finnmark, where he described the near-colonial breeding of Temminck's Stints, and the nesting of smaller numbers of Little Stints among them. Collett first observed Little Stints in breeding haunts on the Porsanger Fjord in 1872, but it is not clear from his accounts (translated by Poynting 1895-96) whether the nests he described there in 1880 were his first; and in the meantime, Seebohm and Harvie-Brown had claimed the first proved European breeding on the Siberian Pechora River, in 1875. It was left to a much

36

Laphnd: A Natural History

more recent Finnish observer, Olavi HildCn, to work out the complexities of the breeding systems of these dainty little waders (HildCn 1975, 1978). Hans T. L. Schaanning went as a young student with his companion Johan Koren to 0vre Pasvik in 1899 to collect birds and other vertebrates for various European museums. Schaanning settled and remained on the Pasvik for 12 years, and the results of his bird explorations were published in 1907, although he continued to collect after that. Subsequently a curator of the Stavanger Museum, he initiated the Norwegian bird-ringing scheme. Another egg collector, Dr A. B. Vessel also lived in Finnmark and worked extensively in the far north. His collection and that of the Reverend Sommerfelt, both valuable for the fullness of their data, are partly in the Tromss Museum and partly in the Bergen Museum (Ingvar Byrkjedal pers. comm.). Apart from the rather scrappy data on distribution in Dement'ev & Gladkov (1951-54), the only readily available information on the birds of Russian Lapland comes from the efforts of late-19th century ornithologists. Pleske and Goebel published a comprehensive list of breeding species for the Kola Peninsula in 1886. Henry Pearson reported, in 1904, on three expeditions made with companions, although in 1895 he had only paused in northeast Kola on his way to Siberia. In 1899 he visited the valleys of the Pechenga and Kola rivers, and the lower part of the Ukanskoe River in the northeast of Kola. The 1901 trip was mainly to the Kanin Peninsula east of the White Sea, but he called at Lutni and the Ukanskoe River again; and in 1903 he went much farther south along the Kola River to Lake Imandra. Harry Witherby and A. E. Hamerton followed Pearson to Pechenga in 1899, but spent most of their time working north from Kandalaksha along the Kola River past Lake Imandra to the Barents Sea at Ekaterina. The chief interest of their combined information is in establishing the virtual identity of the breeding bird fauna of Russian Lapland with that of Finnmark to the west, along the gradient from the coniferous forests of the southern interior and through the birch scrub zone to the treeless tundra of the north coastal zone. Pearson was an early photographer and his book is well illustrated with quite good black-and-white pictures of landscapes, people and nests. Pearson and Witherby were also collectors of birds as well as eggs, and continued with the ruthless shooting of adults off the nest and the taking of young birds: a certain stonyheartedness is needed to slaughter the downy chicks of waders in cold blood, but that was the way of their time. Maud Haviland (aged 23) continued the tradition in Arctic Siberia in 1914. There was then a lapse of reported collectors' depredations until the early 1920s, by which time the demand for bird specimens had declined and it was eggs that were the main objective, and the egg-drill and blowpipe, rather than the scattergun, powder and shot, were the main equipment of ornithological visitors. Hugh Blair began to visit Lapland as a young man and went on to develop an unrivalled knowledge of the northern birds, which David Bannerman later drew upon in compiling his lavish 12-volume Bird of the British Isles (1953-1963). Many of the essays on northern breeding species were written wholly by Blair, and some of them are masterpieces of natural history writing. In 1924-25, Blair was accompanied by George Bolam, veteran Northumbrian naturalist and friend of Abel Chapman, by then in his mid sixties but still an acute observer of wildlife, who distinguished himself by recording the breeding of Steller's Eider in Finnmark. Hugh Blair later settled into the more humdrum life of a Tyneside GP in South Shields, but continued to visit Fennoscandia, and to enlarge his knowledge of its birdlife and culture. He was an egg collector, but in a modest, discriminating way, and disapproved of wholesale nest looting and the amassing of large clutch series. He acknowledged

The Lapknd Naturalists

37

Schaanning's help, and received permits from the Norwegian government to take eggs. His collection with egg data is held in the Royal Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh, but his important journals appear, sadly, to have vanished. Blair was followed by two men who had no such scruples about egg taking. Edward Steward was an ear, nose and throat surgeon of ample means who travelled widely in Europe in search of birds and their eggs. As a youngster I visited him in his retirement villa in Windermere, and have a recollection of a large room, which seemed to be lined with egg cabinets, on whose contents he discoursed in detail from a prodigious memory. He must have had one of the largest and most comprehensive collections in the country. In 1928, he planned a trip to Finnmark and paid Norman Gilroy to accompany him, supposedly to apply his skills to the enlargement of Steward's collection. Gilroy, a timber-buyer by profession, had a phenomenal reputation as the finder of difficult nests and he leapt at the challenge of tackling new species in the Lapland forests and bogs. The two travelled by steamer to Kirkenes and then by motor vehicle to stay for a month in the post house at Svanvik in the Pasvik Valley, evidently drawn by the pioneering work of Schaanning and Koren, who had unlocked the ornithological riches of this far southeastern corner of Finnmark. In those days, a huge series of morasses stretched almost 16 krn south from Langfjord to the Pasvik River, and were a noted haunt for the Lapland waders. Gilroy wrote up their exploits in a journal, which was eventually published long after their deaths (in Steward 1994). It is a vivid account that conveys his passion for nest hunting in the wilderness. They had a remarkable tally of nests between them: six of Bar-tailed Godwit, six of Greenshank, five of Spotted Redshank, thirteen of Whimbrel, four of Ruff, two each of Wood and Broad-billed Sandpipers, two of Waxwing and one each of Great Grey Shrike, Pine Grosbeak, Bluethroat and Red-throated Pipit, plus a long list of the more common species. Gilroy heard the Jack Snipe but was chagrined not to recognise its identity until he had returned home. Steward was back in Finnmark in each succeeding year up to 1934, sometimes accompanied by other noted eggers-J. H. McNeile, J. J. Baldwin-Young, G. Tomkinson and G. H. Lings. He divided his time each year between the Svanvik bogs and forests, and the open tundra around Vads0 where he robbed numerous nests of Rough-legged Buzzard, Lesser White-fronted Goose, Black and Red-throated Divers, Long-tailed and Arctic Skuas, Turnstone, Wood Sandpiper, Red-necked Phalarope, Lapland Bunting, Bluethroat, Redthroated Pipit and Shore Lark. Eventually, he found a nest of Jack Snipe on the bleak treeless fells behind Vadss. Steward noted the erratic appearance of the Waxwing as a breeding bird on the Pasvik, and the large clutches laid by Rough-legged Buzzards during peak lemming years. His journals and that of Gilroy are now valuable in giving a benchmark for the numbers and distribution of the birds they found, and comparison with modern observations reveals interesting trends, such as the decline of the Lesser White-fronted Goose, and the northwards shift of Bar-tailed Godwit and Whimbrel. One presumes that the customs authorities were pretty relaxed on this front in those days, for all these eggers to manage to take their trunks of booty back home without challenge. This was before the concern for bird protection had reached Fennoscandia. Ralph Chislett appears to have been the first British bird photographer to visit Lapland, which he did in 1926 and 1931, acknowledging help from egger John McNeile. His book Northward Ho!--for Birds (1933) contains two interesting chapters on these trips, and photographs which, for the time, are remarkably good. It is not clear precisely where he went in the region, though.

38

Ladand A Natural History

Professor Pontus Palmgren worked widely in Finland during the 1930s, but mainly in the south. In 1937, Paul Rosenius published his finely illustrated six-volume work on the nests and eggs of Swedish birds, which deals with nearly all of the species occurring in Swedish Lapland, and contains much information on breeding habits. The Second World War put a stop to all these activities, but Herman Lavenskiold published his authoritative Hindbok over Norges Fugler in 1947. The eggers began to appear again in the early post-war periodthe now elderly McNeile took eight clutches of Little Stint in Finnmark between 1956 and 1967. For some years bird protection flagged in Lapland, as the north drew 'oologists' not only from Britain, but also from other parts of Europe, especially Germany. But change was on the way, with visiting birders whose concern was photography or simply the pleasure of seeking new birds in the northern wilds. Alan Davidson's book A Bird-watcher in Scandinavia (1954) was a milestone in providing a fascinating account of a car and camping journey to the far north of Fennoscandia, with Danish bird photographer Arthur Christiansen, in 1950. World War I1 was not long over and travel in Lapland was less easy than today. Davidson was a great nest-finder and worked away at this whilst his companion sat in the hide. He was followed, in 1970, by S. Bayliss-Smith, who used Davidson's book as a guide to the same birds, some of which he also photographed. In 1958, Einari Merikallio published his Finnish Birds, a review of distribution and numbers across the whole country, and in 1971 Svein Haftorn produced his comprehensive Norgesfigler for Norway, which became the standard avifauna for the country, and usefully contained distribution maps for all Fennoscandia. The seabird studies of L. 0 . Belolpol'sky in Russian Lapland began in 1926, but were not published in English translation until 1961, whilst those of V. V. Bianki from the late 1950s became similarly available in 1977. A landmark in 1961 was Natur i Lappland, a multi-authored work on all aspects of Lapland natural history, compiled and edited by Kai Curry-Lindahl, and illustrated by fine photographs. Though primarily about Swedish Lapland and emphasising its national parks, this comprehensive treatment contains much that is relevant to the region as a whole. Walter Marsden's book on Lapland (1976), in the World's Wild Places series of TimeILife Books, is one of the few in English about the region in general, bur emphasises his interest in mammals. Richard Vaughan (1979) wrote of his experiences of Lapland birds during the summer of 1972, but his account is confined to the Varanger Peninsula in northern Finnmark. His wonderful book In Search ofArctic Birds (1992) deals rather briefly with Lapland. The scientists from the Fennoscandian museums and universities also began increasingly to appear, to undertake their detailed research. These studies included habitat and community surveys of whole bird populations, especially in forest, e.g. by Anti Haapanen in Finland, and intensive work on individual species, such as that by Olavi Hildtn, who unravelled the complex mating and breeding systems of the Temminck's and Little Stints. Many of the habitat surveys relied on line rransect counts as a sampling method for assessing numbers and density of breeding birds, and very few studies have attempted to count nests as a basis for population estimates. The Fennoscandian ornithological journals contain numerous technical papers to which I refer in later chapters. The Varriotunturi Research Station was established under Professor E. Pulliainen in the far northeast of Finland, and has contributed numerous publications on birds to the now large scientific literature. Abisko Research Station in arctic Sweden has done much work on invertebrates, and reported a number of bird studies. Ingvar Byrkjedal and his research students from the

The Labland Naturalists

39

University Museum of Zoology in Bergen have worked for some years on the birds of Finnmark. In-depth studies of many Lapland bird species are now reported, but some of the difficult species, such as the Jack Snipe, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper and Greenshank, still remain little known. The day of the dedicated amateur is not yet over, either. The Swedish ornithologist Lennart Raner devoted himself to the study of the Spotted Redshank over 25 years, returning annually to two study areas in Swedish Lapland, where seven or eight pairs bred regularly. By 1986 he had found 66 nests of this elusive wader, probably an all-time record. Some of his observations on this and other northern birds have found their way into the literature (e.g. Nethersole-Thompson 1986), although he has published rather little of his detailed work. Atlases of breeding birds for Finland, Norway and Sweden have been published, providing a valuable guide to avian distribution in spring and summer. Hyytia et al. (1983) published Suomen lintuatlas, with Finnish text, but l? Koskimies (1989) later produced an appendix in English on Distribution and Numbers of Finnish Breeding Birds. A second Finnish atlas was published in 1998, by R. A. Vaisanen, E. Lammi and I? Koskimies. In 1991, Bjorn Frantzen, Hans Dransfeld and Olaf Hunsdal produced Fugleatlasfor Finnmark, the first regional breeding atlas for Lapland. A Norwegian atlas, by J. 0. Gjershaug, l? G. Thingstad, S. Elday and S. Byrkjeland, containing the same information, appeared in 1994. The Swedish Bird Atlas ([email protected]) by S. Svensson, M. Svensson and M. Tjernberg was published in 1999. The EBCC Atlas of European Breeding Birds (1997), edited by Ward J. M. Hagemeijer and Michael Blair, records breeding distributions for the whole of Fennoscandia on the scale of 50 km x 50 km grid squares. Coverage is variable between the three countries, but the overall picture of species' occurrence is of great assistance to students of Lapland birds. Concern for nature and landscape conservation has also seen the establishment of many protected areas of different kinds (see Chapter 12), and the accounts of these are a valuable source of information on wildlife. The recent Birdlife International publication Important Bird Areas in Europe (Heath & Evans 2000) gives details of the ornithological interest of these areas, based on data provided by leading authorities in Norway, Sweden and Finland. Information on Special Areas of Conservation proposed under the European Union's Habitats and Species Directive is also available for Sweden and Finland. The recent book Nature in Northern Europe (Hallanaro & Pylvanainen 2002) is a valuable source of information on environment and wildlife for the region, whilst Arctic Flora and Fauna: Status and Conservation (CAFF 2001) has relevant material on the Arctic in general.

CHAPTER 3

Biogeograpby and Composition o f Lapland Wildlzfe

G

iven that Lapland is a rather loosely defined region of the larger northwest European landmass, the compilation of plant and animal species lists must be subjective and arbitrary. I have taken advice from Fennoscandian biologists in the matter, but others may have different views on some of the species I have listed or omitted.

BIOGEOGRAPHY There are close parallels in the distribution patterns of plants and animals within northwest Europe. Both flora and fauna show a distinct tendency for species richness to decrease with increasing latitude within Fennoscandia as a whole. Different groupings are recognised, of which the first is the plants and animals confined, or nearly so, to Lapland. A group of montane species occurs almost throughout the mountainous regions of Norway and Sweden to the south, as well as more widely at increasingly lower levels north of the Arctic Circle. The majority of European species of widespread boreallnorthern or upland type occur in Lapland. There is a large temperate European element of plants and animals and, although some of its species occur widely throughout Lapland, others reach only its more southern parts, or are scattered and uncommon, whilst an even larger number fail to reach its southernmost borders. As usual, when looked at together, distribution patterns fall on a continuum, and many species have been assigned to one group, rather than another, by arbitrary choices.

T H E FLORA OF LAPLAND Arctic Norway and Sweden are the richest part of Fennoscandia for plants with a montane or arctic-alpine distribution. Yet, the flora of Lapland as a whole shows the same latitudinal impoverishment with distance north within the region that is conspicuous within Fennoscandia generally. The distribution maps in Mossberg & Stenberg (2003) show that the majority of vascular plants in Fennoscandia are southern. From an average of over 900 species of vascular plants over any area of 1,600 km2 in the far south of Sweden, the figure declines to 300-400 species in southern Lapland and to fewer than 200 in areas of the far north (Hallanaro & P~lvanainen 2002). The decrease to fewer than 150 species over most of Russian Lapland suggests that botanical surveys may be less complete there than in the Fennoscandian portion of the region. Whilst the Murmanskaya Oblast nevertheless has several species

Ladand A Natural History

42

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