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Punkaharju Research station, Finland

Nordic forest ecosystem under the magnifying glass

To monitor and study the impact of climate on forest ecosystems, including biodiversity, long-term study sites are necessary. EVOLTREE, evolution of trees as drivers of terrestrial biodiversity, is a large EU-funded "network of excellence" launched in April 2006 to analyze the impacts of climate change on forest ecosystems from an evolutionary perspective.

Punkaharju Research Station - forest research in more than 130 years. Photo: Suomen Ilmakuva oy

Evoltree includes 44 partners from 15 European countries, and it links four major disciplines - genomics, genetics, ecology and evolutionary studies. Intensive Study Sites (ISS) are part of the permanent infrastructure that is set up under Evoltree.

They are large scale ecosystem plots where trees and selected associated species are mapped, genotyped and phenotyped (genotyping is to determine the genetic constitution of an organism, while phenotyping is to record the observable characteristics or traits).

The sites comprise entire portions of landscapes - agricultural land and woodlands - where trees are present in different configurations, from single trees to edges and woods.

One of the sites chosen for intensive study is located in Punkaharju in Eastern Finland. Punkaharju has a long history in research on forest tree breeding and genetics. Research in the area started already in the 1870’s with the introduction of exotic tree species. Read more here.