Oulanka research station


Open-air Platform

Parent institution: University of Oulu
Active since 1967
Active through around the year

Co-located with

  • LTER

Fields of study

  • Atmospheric chemistry and physics
  • Isotopic chemistry
  • Climatology, Climate Change
  • Geophysics
  • Soil science
  • Microbiology
  • Hydrology
  • Terrestrial biology, Ecology
  • Limnology
  • Stream and spring ecology. We are also participating in the global inventory of terrestrial biodiversity, i.e. the ERC Synergy grant project 'Life Plan', which starts in lat summer 2020.

Contact Information

Paavola, Riku
email: riku.paavola@oulu.fi

Having been established in 1966 to promote research and teaching in biological and geosciences, Oulanka Research Station also functions as a multidisciplinary unit with responsibility to coordinate the university's activities in northeastern Finland. Its modern research and educational facilities provide an inspiring environment not only for researchers and teachers, but also for the organisers of courses, seminars and conferences. There are both an official FMI weather station and an EMEP station which are automated and produce data on many variables. The station is easily accessible around the year (road connection, Kuusamo Airport). Oulanka can accommodate large research groups (72 people) and has an auditorium for max 70 people plus several smaller spaces for group work.

The research station has a very recently renovated research laboratory and a student laboratory, also completely renovated very recently. In addition to basic laboratory equipment, there are facilities for DNA extraction, a spectrophotometer, FIA-analyzer, microcentrifuge and sampling equipment for terrestrial and aquatic fieldwork. A carbon analysis system will be installed in 2019, yielding e.g. DOC analysis capabilities. For background material, researchers have access to the long-term monitoring data of surveys carried out at the station. These surveys are very, very numerous and go back several decades. They are also active, so more data accumulates continuously. The student laboratory has advanced optical microscope systems. Zeiss Stereo Discovery.V12 and Axio Scope.A1 microscopes have cameras and can be used with a computer, projecting the live image onto a screen. Computer control makes it possible to use advanced techniques like Z-stacking.

The Location

Country: Finland

Latitude: 66.369999

Longitude: 29.311622

Nearest town: Käylä village (13km) and Kuusamo town (50km).

Distance from neaerst town: 13 km

Relevant Research Questions

Climate change; biodiversity loss; community ecology of streams, lakes and springs; population ecology of plants; habitat fragmentation


Location is in a uniquely important biodiversity hotspot in the middle of the Oulanka national park. The station has large data sets based on long-term observations on both physical, chemical (e.g. water chemistry) and biological aspects (e.g. invertebrates, small mammals, light traps), including special habitats (streams & springs) and special organisms (bryophytes). Many of these sets go back several decades, even until 1947. Since 2015, Oulanka research station has built a very large, state-of-the-art, long-term manipulative natural experiment designed to look at both the separate and combined effects of climate change (snow depth: increased snow depth, decreased snow depth & natural control) and reindeer grazing (grazing pressure: heavy pressure or off). There are two separate research areas on different ecosystems: 1) a dry, nutrient-poor pine forest and 2) a nutrient-rich fen. Both are within 1km of the main research station, equipped with a wood walkway system & equipment towers, have grid electricity & fibre optic data connectivity, are extremely heavily instrumented & are designed to run for several decades.


A third ecosystem type is readily available for the climate change / reindeer experiment but isn't instrumented. This is an old growth spruce forest on a slope, so very different from the two existing ones and would further improve the power to make generalizations based on the experiment results. A second, highly useful upgrade would be a mobile platform containing the most important measurement equipment that are presently in the fixed towers. This would enable spatial extensions of the measurements (on the level of manipulated plots), again making the system stronger and the inferences made based on the data also stronger. Both upgrades would also mean that number of permanent staff working at the station would need to be increased by one or two persons (i.e. upgrade three).

Experimental Capabilities

Experimental Facilities

Long-term reindeer exclosure and the energy exchange measuring systems. Aquarium and stream exclosure based systems can also be used.

Experiments duration: Weeks, Months, Years, Decades;

Experimental Aerea

Total area: 35000 m²

These depend on the research question but also on permits to operate in the national park.

Available area: 15000 m²

Experimental Unit Size

unit size: 0 m²

This question actually can't be answered directly, due to the design of the system. Grazing treatments are roughly 1ha in size each but the snow depth manipulations occur at plots of 3-4 m2.


Replicates number: 6

Reindeer exclosure is a single unit so no replication. In aquarium or stream exclosure experiments the number of replicates has varied (e.g. 3-6). There is a single, large reindeer exclosure in the pine forest experimental area and a similar, adjacent comparative area which is open to reindeer (i.e. high grazing pressure). Inside both aras , there are 18 plots where snow depth is experimentally manipulated. The fen site is identical in this design respect to the pine forest site.

Cross-Ecosystem Manipulation

Several types of habitats and ecosystems that are present at the site (several types of wetland and forest, lakes, ponds, streams and springs) make such manipulations possible.

Focus is now on pine forest versus rich fen.

Manipulation Techniques

Long-term reindeer exclosure and the energy exchange measuring systems. The reindeer exclosure refers to the climate change & reindeer grazing pressure natural experiment. Aquarium and stream exclosure based systems can also be used.


Temporary storage

  • Dark room
  • Drying oven
  • Freezer
  • Refrigerator

Available Instruments

  • Lachat nutrient analyser
  • Carbon analyser state of the art
  • Zeiss microcope imaging system, stereomicroscope
  • Zeiss microscope imaging system , light microscope
  • Olympus/Zeiss microscope imaging system, plankton (inverted) microscope
  • a wide and modern array of general analysis laboratory equipment
  • Continuously measuring DOC sensor Trios Opus will be installed in the river Oulankajoki right next to the station in May 2020.

Electricity available on site.

Distance from Laboratory facilities


Years measured: 52 years for most weather/climate data, however precipitation data exits for 71 years. Wind measurements are starting this year at several locations but time series data is only available from three FMI sites roughly 10km, 30km and 50km away


Mean Temperature: -0.2 °C

February Mean Temperature: -13.3 °C

July Mean Temperature: 15 °C


Mean Annual Speed: m/s

Max. Annual Speed: m/s

Dominant Direction:


Precipitation type: Both;

Total annual precipitation: 553.8 mm

Mean snow cover duration: days

Soil Types

State Variables

Continuously Measured

  • (aquatic) Chlorophyl
  • (aquatic) Conductivity
  • (aquatic) Oxygen content
  • (aquatic) Turbidity
  • (aquatic) Water temperature
  • Air humidity
  • Air temperature
  • Atmospheric pressure
  • Canopy temperature
  • Fluorescence
  • Incident PAR
  • Incident shortwave radiation
  • Phenology
  • Population densities
  • Soil temperature
  • Soil water content
  • Species richness

Spot Measured

  • (aquatic) Current speed
  • (aquatic) Nutrient levels
  • (aquatic) pH

Environmental Pressures

Variable Ecosystem Status
Precip Forest Active
Management - grazing (pressure or animal species) Forest Active
Precip Wetland Active
Management - grazing (pressure or animal species) Wetland Active
Warming Forest Active
Warming Shrubland Active

On site Staff and Accomodation

Peak season staff

Up to 10 people

Off season staff

Up to 8 people

Visiting personnel

Up to 72 visitors

Bedrooms available

Up to 72 beds

Showers on site

Showers on site

Laundry on site

Laundry on site