IUCN - On the border of forests and fells

On the border of forests and fells

13 December 2010 | Fact sheet

 Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park, Finland

The third largest national park in Finland, Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park forms a very important entity for the preservation of the Northern Finnish nature - forests, bogs, fells and waterways. In many parts, its species are considered internationally unique. The National Park is the best known nature tourism area in Finland, thanks to the tourism centres surrounding the Park.

Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park is a protected area featuring a major part of the Western Lapland Great Fells chain and the forests and mires which surround them. There is almost 100km of fell chain within the National Park. The vegetation is a wonderful example of Lapland’s forest and mire landscape at its best. The area features priceless old-growth forests with decaying trees and mires in their natural state. There is an exceptional abundance of animal species in the National Park. Habitats vary from forests and mires to fell heaths with different species found in each habitat. There is an abrupt change in the presence of species at the edge of the forest.

Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park is located in a culturally interesting border zone. The region has been inhabited since the Stone Age, mainly by the indigenous Sámi people. Over the centuries, hunters and fishermen have sought the rich hunting lands and lakes at the head waters of the region’s rivers. Over time, new Finnish settlements were established along the river shores. In some parts, Finns and Lapps lived separately, practising their own livelihoods, in other regions they lived side by side, and yet in others their cultures merged.

View images of the park


Size and location

The park lies in the Western Lapland Region of Finland with the Municipalities of Enontekiö (www.enontekio.fi), Kittilä (www.kittila.fi), Kolari (www.kolari.fi), and Muonio (www.muonio.fi) at its limits. Established in 2005, It has an area of 1,020 km2. Managed by Metsähallitus, Natural Heritage Services, Lapland, it is an IUCN Category II  protected area or national park.

Protecting unique nature and culture

Preservation of the forests of the boreal coniferous forest zone and of the alpine fell nature is the main aim in Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park. A large part of the Park is set aside from active recreational use. Animal populations are monitored, and the necessary protective and management actions are taken.

Other objectives include the development of environmental education and sustainable tourism, promoting the use of nature by the local people on the basis of the principles of sustainable use, and the preservation of the Sámi culture in those parts of the Park that are situated in the domestic district of the Sámi.

As the natural features of Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park are so varied, the park is important not only for conservation and recreation reasons, but also for research. There are over 100 different research projects under way in the area.

A total of 63 nationally endangered species live or have been observed in Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park. These include three mammal species, 16 bird species, one butterfly species, three beetle species, one mollusc species, 12 vascular plants, eight mosses, two lichen, 16 polypores, and one species of gill fungi. Nine of the species which are considered important by the European Union and included in the Nature Directive are found in the Park. And 39 important species defined by the EU Birds Directive have been found in the Park. Important migrant bird species total 15.

Versatile vegetation

The vegetation of the fells includes almost all the species found in North Lapland, except the ones requiring calciferous soil. Some of the best known are the Alpine azalea (Loiseleuria procumbens), the black bearberry (Arctostaphylos alpina), the blue (mountain) heath (Phyllodoce caerulea), the Lapland diapensia (Diapensia lapponica) the three-leaved rush (Juncus trifidus) and Alpine clubmoss (Diphasiastrum alpinum).

The vegetation of the National Park’s mires varies between spruce and pine mires and calciferous plant species. Of calciferous plants, orchids (Orchidaceae) are quiet common on the eastside of the fell chain especially in the Ylläs-Aakenus area. There is an abundance of sedges in the area. The most typical ones are wool fruited sedge (Carex lasiocarpa) and beaked sedge (Carex rostrata). Plants which grow in damp flowering rush include the bogbean (Menyanthes trifoliata), the Rannoch-rush (Scheuchzeria palustris) and the bog sedge (Carex limosa).

The forests of the fell chain are coniferous forest of the western Taiga biome. Their old-growth forests are of immense value in conservation terms. The natural features here are more diverse than in the surrounding areas as there are great changes in altitude and difference of rock type in the bedrock. The area includes all the northern forest types from Northern Finland spruce forest and Forest Lapland pine woodland to Fell Lapland birches and treeless fell tops. Animal species of the north are also present here.

The heath vegetation in the area is made up mostly of familiar forest berries for the Finns; blueberries (Vaccinium myrtillus) and lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea). In places where the earth is damp and fertile, more lush plants, such as the wood crane's-bill (Geranium sylvaticum) and the oak fern (Lastrea dryopteris) are in abundance. Plants such as as the redcurrant (Ribes spicatum), the European bird cherry (Prunus padus), the Mezereon (Daphne mezereum) and one-flowered wintergreen (Moneses uniflora) grow in the park’s herb-rich forests. Especially stunning are the ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris), the Angelica (Angelica archangelica) and the Alpine sow thistle (Cicerbita alpina) in brookside herb-rich forests.

A variety of animal and bird species

In spring, the national park’s emblem bird, the snow bunting (Plecttrophenax nivalis), is one of the first birds to return to the north. During summer, the park boasts 150 bird species. The quiet of winter is only disrupted by the lively song of the ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus) in the open fells, the willow grouse (Lagopus lagopus) in the mountain birch forests and the Siberian jays (Perisoreus infaustus), crossbills (Loxia) and Siberian tits (Paras cinctus) of the forests.

Of the large carnivores, the bear (Ursus arctos) is a permanent resident. The wolverine (Gulo gulo), lynx (Lynx lynx) and wolf (Canis lupus) on the other hand are quite rare. Of Finland’s large mammals, the moose (Alces alces) inhabits the park. There are many small mammals in the park.

Finland's most popular nature tourism area

The growth of the tourism centres in the region generates increasing use of Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park. The Park is an important attraction for the nature tourism entrepreneurs operating in the region who organise ski, hike, snow-shoe, fishing, paddling, reindeer sleigh and dog team trips. The tourism businesses operating within the Park must respect the nature conservation regulations and the local tradition and culture as far as possible.

Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park is the most popular nature tourism destination in Finland. It has generated nearly 30 million euros for the local economy. The employment opportunities generated by the National Park represents 387 man years. The costs of managing the National Park are nearly 1.24 million euros per year.

Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park does not include any Ramsar sites or UNESCO World Heritage sites.