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lundi 6 février 2012

*Finns investigate how climate change is affecting nature...*

An EU-funded team of researchers in Finland is studying how climate change impacts nature and the various spheres that depend on it, namely agriculture, forestry, fishing and tourism. The study is funded under the VACCIA ('Vulnerability assessment of ecosystem services for climate change impacts and adaptation') project, which is supported by the EU LIFE+ programme. The results of the study will help decision-makers, industry and the general public, and give Finland the support it needs to adapt to a changing climate.

Nearly 100 experts from the Finnish Environment Institute, the Finnish Meteorological Institute, and the Universities of Helsinki, Jyväskylä and Oulu are contributing to this study. They predict the climate in Finland will warm more during the winter season instead of the summer season.

During the summer months, Finns will have to deal with more hot days and longer hot periods. Thermal winter, which is the period as determined on the basis of temperature, will become shorter. In their study, the team has put a number of cities, including Helsinki and Lahti, as well as tourist centres like Kuusamo and Sotkamo, in the spotlight. They have also been probing the effects of climate change and the possibilities for change in various environments within the forest, agricultural and water areas. The researchers point out that the tourism sector will have to adapt to the lack of snow and ice across the region.

'Changing rainfall, shorter and warmer winters, as well as a considerable decrease in snow cover could considerably change the preconditions for nature-based tourism in northern Finland,' says Professor Hannu I. Heikkinen of the University of Oulu in Finland, the leader of the project's tourism section. 'Tourism centres in the north, such as Vuokatti in Sotkamo, are already giving thought to whether uncertainties surrounding the winter weather could be reduced by expanding various covered solutions, such as ski tunnels or ice stadiums,' he adds.

'There are plans to produce the energy needed for an artificial winter locally, using ground source heat and bio energy. Another obvious adaptation would be to develop year-round tourism and programme options. This would also improve the tourism sector's efficiency while evening out stress on the environment and society.'

The team also suggests that as the climate warms, it will be easier to grow higher-yielding species and varieties that need a more extensive growing period. The results of the study will shed light on how climate change is affecting commercial crop selection, production sectors, the use of fertilisers and pesticides, among others.

'Changing weather conditions increase the vulnerability of agriculture,' explains Professor Juha Helenius from the Department of Agronomy at the University of Helsinki. 'Farms have always had to adapt to changing weather conditions but, among farmers, an increase in the variability of growing periods and in the frequency of extreme weather events require increasing financial adaptability to large variations in crops and crop quality.'

Modelling estimates also show how forestry and fishing will be significantly impacted by the changing conditions.
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