People behind the scenes: Merja Lipponen

I work as a senior adviser in the Centre for economic development, transport and environment of Lapland (ELY-centre of Lapland). I’m an ecologist by training, and like ecologists usually, I’ve found myself working in the most varied environments from southern Finland up to North. During the last years I’ve done research and surveys in boreal forests, mires, inland waterways and cultural habitats like meadows and traditionally treated pastures.

Merja Lipponen on the field. Behind her is water and in front of her a meadow of flowers.
Working outside the office! Photo by Marjut Kokko, Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment of Lapland.

To me the past year has included learning of new things in many ways. Since having a permanent post I’ve got used to sitting at a bureau almost all year round, not surveying on a field. On the same time, as an ecologist I got also an opportunity to dive in to totally new environment; into the Bothnian Bay as part of the SEAmBOTH-project, at least in theory. The most wonderful blog writings and especially the fascinating pictures have helped me a lot in the middle of everyday statement writing when missing days on the field. So Big thanks to everyone who has already shared the atmosphere and feelings from the field.

A water mudwort growing on the bottom of the sea.
Limosella aquatica, photo by Lari Pihlanjärvi, Metsähallitus.

My earlier work with meadows in Lapland has been more or less working with ecotone biotopes.  On flood meadows of the river banks or on the coastal meadows the outermost vegetation zones are constantly affected by flood or sea water. This means that work we do ashore may also have effect on underwater biodiversity. Limosella aquatica (water mudwort) obviously gets benefit from pasturing at least in river ecosystems and Alisma wahlenbergii (the Baltic water-plantain) grows generally on outermost vegetation zones (e.g. Eleocharis type) of the coastal meadows even tough it seems that Alisma wahlenbergii can also be found in environment that is not traditionally treated, if other requirements for survival are fulfilled. It would be great to learn more about Alisma and other species that are in one way or another dependent on some kind of disturbance in their environment.  Also the threats and for example the effects of eutrophication and overgrowth are much the same both on terrestrial and marine habitats.

A Baltic water-plantain's leaves and flower buds.
Alisma wahlenbergii, photo by Niina Syrjälä, Metsähallitus.

At my current post I’m responsible for issues concerning biodiversity in Sea Lapland area (Kemi, Tornio, Simo) on the subject of planning or impact assessments of plans or projects, e.g. wind power, power lines, exploration, plans and new bioproduct factories. Within the EIA’s (environmental impact assessments) the effects on water quality are usually quite extensively assessed but lesser efforts have been usually put in to the assessment of the effects on underwater biodiversity or monitoring. “It’s challenging”, is usually said on reports. Luckily we have data from the field and models of species and nature types produced which can be utilized as a background knowledge in the EIA–process. More accurate surveys, or monitoring of the projects can be asked as part of the EIA on the basis of field data and models. I’m really looking forward to future projects and cooperation with EIA’s and monitoring issues. And maybe during our next project I ‘m able to get in touch with underwater nature in practice as well.

Merja Lipponen on skis in a hill forest.
Free time in the snowy forest. Photo by Maija Mussaari.

And what I’m doing when not giving statements. Well, at the moment I enjoy both cross- country skiing and telemark, when the winter has come.

Wish You all Merry Christmas!

Written by Merja Lipponen, Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment of Lapland.

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