Local nature and diversity

Helsinki is a green city by the sea. Green areas cover more than a third of the city’s land area, and two-thirds of the entire city area is sea. Seamlessly linked to the “blue palm” of the sea, the green areas form a finger structure whose integrity and continuity is unique among the cities of the world.
SDG 15: Life on land

Nature is important for Helsinki residents

The nature of Helsinki is diverse: forests, meadows, wetlands, shores, islands, streams and parks. There are still many quite natural habitats in the forests and on the shores of Helsinki.

However, there is no clear picture of the direction of development. It is known that flying squirrels have increased in number and spread, the total number of bird species has increased and the number and size of protected areas have increased.

In order to identify a more precise trend, a long-term nature monitoring plan is being drawn up.

Web of green belts must be secured

The network of green and recreational areas is web-like and diverse, but discontinuous due to wide traffic routes. The city strives for planning that saves green areas, but green areas are being reduced due to construction.

Therefore, it is important to ensure the quality of the remaining green areas, but also to explore the possibilities for ecological compensation. It is also important to ensure that Helsinki’s green fingers will remain sufficiently large and continuous in the future and that the transverse connections of the green network also cover the built areas. This will ensure adequate recreational services for the growing population while safeguarding ecosystem services.

The movement of animal species between habitats is secured by taking into account the important links between ecological networks throughout the city. In the built environment, the potential of new environments like soil fill areas, former landfills, areas around transmission lines, railway yards and green roofs as habitats to replace meadows has been identified.

Number of nature conservation areas to double

The enhancement of urban biodiversity is guided by Helsinki’s biodiversity action plan and nature conservation programme. At the moment, there are 62 conservation areas. The number of nature conservation areas will double with the ongoing nature conservation programme.

The objective of nature conservation in wooded areas is to preserve the environmental conditions and structural features of natural habitats. In parks, street environments and other areas of the built environment, different plant species and varieties are used as diversely as possible. The proportion of flowering trees, shrubs and perennials in plantations will be increased for human pleasure as well as for the food of insects and other urban animals.

A key goal is to diversify the urban biotopes in parks and traffic areas and to preserve traditional plants in traditional and cultural environments.

Map: Nature reserves in Helsinki

COVID-19 has increased the use of green areas

Invasive species have been removed from Helsinki’s plant species recommendations and are primarily combated in connection with other nature management and greenery work, especially in and near valuable natural sites. Community efforts are organised to stop invasive species, and advice and guidance on invasive species is provided, for example, on the treatment of harmful plant waste.

Given the important health and well-being benefits of urban nature and green areas, special attention must be paid to the landscape, natural values, sustainability and accessibility of these areas.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, nature has become even more important in people’s everyday lives and well-being, and the use of natural and green areas has increased significantly. The sustainable use of natural areas will require the development of responsible nature and hiking services in the future, so that natural areas can withstand the heavy use.

Successes

  • There is a lot of original nature left in Helsinki, and there are plenty of recreational areas in relation to the population.
  • The number of nature conservation areas is increasing, and more attention has also been paid to the development and sustainability of nature services through various projects and programmes.

Development targets

  • The preservation of local nature sites and the protection of biodiversity must be better taken into account in all the activities of the growing city.
  • The rapidly growing hiking and nature tourism are putting pressure on the sustainable use of nature areas.