Location and general aspects of the research area
The Kevo research station is situated by Lake Kevojärvi, in the commune of Utsjoki, the northernmost municipality in Finnish Lapland. The site (69°45'N, 27°01'E; Grid 774:50, 80 m a.s.l.) lies about 60 km north of the continous pine forest line and belongs to the subarctic or forest tundra zone, a birch subzone of the boreal coniferous forest. The research area as a whole comprises mainly the biological province of Inari Lapland, an area of ca. 20 000 km², including the large Lake Inari.
Geologically the whole area belongs to the Baltic Shield and is bordered on the North by the younger and higher Scandes. Acid granulite and gneiss are the dominant rocks, but there are some minor areas of basic rocks.
The late tertiary upheaval, combined with preglacial erosion, has created steep valleys, with cliffs which provide important ecological niches for many southern and arctic plants. One of the most important valleys of this type is the Kevojoki gorge, lying within the Kevo Nature Reserve, a protected area of some 700 km². The topography is characterized by low mountains with river valleys; the elevation is mostly between 250 and 400 m.
Research station details
Research station buildings ("Tutkimusasema" on the map) and the main road (on the right side of the map) are separated by Lake Kevojärvi and River Utsjoki. There are small boats for everyday use, and a maintenance road Kevontie. See also Kevo Photo Gallery and Before and after arriving in Kevo.
Major biogeographical features
Most of the country is mountain birch (Betula pubescenes ssp. czerepanowii) forest, while areas lying above 300-350 m are low treeless alpine heaths. Draft shrubs and vegetation rich in lichens and mosses are typical. Around the research station, however, there is an isolated pine forest which follows the Utsjoki and Kevojoki river valleys. In the vicinity of the station the topography is varied; the vegetation includes bogs, luxuriant woods, riverbanks, cliffs and the meadows which surround some of the Sami farmhouses. Most of the main biotopes are quite easy to reach.
One of the most important animals in the ecosystem is the reindeer. Other large animals are rare; they include elk/moose, wolverine and nearly extinct arctic fox. Wolf and bear are rarer still in Inari Lapland. Foxes, hares, squirrels, voles and shrews are common. Typical birds in this region are meadow pipit, brambling, golden plover, rough-legged buzzard and willow grouse, which is also an important game bird. Fluctuations in density are characteristic of vole and especially of lemming populations, as well as of predatory birds and some invertebrates. Important fish species are whitefish and various species of salmon and small trout.
The municipalities of Inari and Utsjoki have very small populations (0.4 inhab./km²), and the human influnece is limited and local. However, reindeer herding, the traditional livelihood of the Sami people, has affected grazing areas and to some extent also pine forest line.
Glacial and periglacial forms
Most of the glacifluvial matter has been deposited on the bottom of the precipitous river valleys in the form of kame terraces, esker-like chains and deltas. Periglacial formations include rock cliffs and the talus cones frequently found at their feet. There are also many results of recent fluvial action, such as undercut bluffs and bars.
The wide, and strongly eroded areas between the fells contain the oldest prominent glacial formations, such as drumlins and other fluted moraine forms. In the fell region proper there are numerous meltwater drainage channels, by means of which deglaciation phases can be perfectly reconstructed. Locally there occur large areas of patterned ground, different types of solifluction lobes and boulder depressions. On the top of the fells there are often tor formations.
Climate and soil
Although Kevo lies only one hundred km south of the Arctic Ocean, the climate is not so maritime as might be expected, due to the influence of the Scandes. The coldest month is January (-16 °C), the warmest July (13 °C); the annual mean is -2 °C. The snow cover lasts on the average until May 20. The polar day begins in mid-May and lasts till the end of July; correspondingly the sun remains below the horizon from late November to mid January. There are great annual variations in phenology. The growth season is approximately 110 days and the thermal sum (+5 °C d.d.) varies between 400 and 900. The soil is mostly very acid, pH 3.5-4.5, and is largely podsolized. There is no permafrost; only in some bogs do the palsas contain small isolated ice lenses.