Where wilderness meets the Baltic Sea

17 May 2010 | Fact sheet

 Archipelago National Park, Finland

Managed by the Natural Heritage Service of Metsahallitus, Finland, Archipelago is a unique example of a marine wilderness in Europe. It is the only continuous marine fishing free zone in the Baltic Sea. The wilderness zone hides many secrets of marine life: for instance, small isolated islands and rocks provide home for rare seals. Strict rules of wilderness protection exclude visitors from this part but other areas of Archipelago National Park - accessible if respecting certain rules - provide similar experiences. Sea kayaking is a good choice to explore this unique marine ecosystem.

View photos of the area

Quick facts

Location: The National Park is situated in the outer archipelago, at the southern part of the Southwestern Archipelago. The closet large city is Turku.
Area (ha): 50219 ha
Wilderness Area: 10600 ha - 21%
Number of visitors per year: 57,000

History

The Archipelago in the Baltic Sea was created in the Ice Age. The present National Park area became inhabited in the Iron Age (500-1150 BC). In the beginning of the 1900s, the work opportunities in mainland towns began to attract people from the archipelago. The poorest crofters' cottages were deserted first. However, the outer archipelago was still inhabited until the 1950s, and around the 1970s, the population started to grow again as the town people found the “summer paradise”. Archipelago National Park forms the core area of the large Archipelago Sea Biosphere Reserve which was established by UNESCO in 1994 to promote sustainable development and research on the interdependency between man and nature.

Certified wilderness
Archipelago National Park joined the PAN Parks network in 2007. This certificate ensures that people are visiting the best of Europe's wilderness. Archipelago offers real wilderness with outstanding nature and high quality tourism facilities, well balanced with wilderness protection and sustainable local development.

Flora and fauna

The exceptional diversity of the vegetation at the Archipelago Sea arises from the small features of the landscape, and the variety of rock basement. Although the park mostly consists of bare and rocky outer islands, calciferous soils nourished by shell remains and deposits of limestone can support luxuriant groves between the rocks. For example, ash (Fraxinus excelsior) often grows in the hollows. Around dry pasture meadows grow the bloody cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum)and the swallowwort (Vincetoxcium hirundinaria). On leaf fodder meadows bloom the elder-flowered orchid (Dactylorhiza sambucina) and the nettle-leaved bellflower (Campanula trachelium), and on the edge of the forest grow the common buckthorn (Rhamnus catharticus), and the crab apple (Malus sylvestris). Important marine plants include eelgrass (Zostera marina) and chara, these provide shelter for many marine organisms.

Notable species: Brown algae, eel grass

In the Archipelago area live 25 species of mammals, the most common ones being small rodents. Also large animals, such as moose (Alces alces), can be seen. Most of the declining population of the Baltic ringed seal (Phoca hispida botnica) in the archipelago lives inside the National Park. The grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) is becoming more common.

There are 132 breeding bird species in the Archipelago. Gulls (Larus), arctic terns (Sterna paradisaea), eiders (Somateria molissima), razorbills (Alca torda) and black guillemots (Gepphus grylle) nest on small islets. The mute swan (Cygnus olor), greylag goose (Anser anser) and shelduck (Tadorna tadorna) build their nests in the peaceful archipelago, while the Arctic skua (Stercorarius parasiticus) looks out on the high rocks. The nutcracker (Nucifraga caryocatactes) and barred warbler (Sylvia nisoria) live in the shelter of leafy trees. It is also possible to see the white-tailed eagle (Halliaeetus albicilla) gliding in the sky.  The eagle has been saved from extinction by conservation measures.

Threatened species in the area include the caspian tern (Sterna caspia) and a subspecies of the dunlin (Calidris alpina schinzii).

Threats to the Park

Euthorphisation caused by mainland pollution and agriculture is a major problem for the natural values of Archipelago. The Baltic Sea Strategy http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/cooperation/baltic is a new EU macro-regional policy instrument to be implemented first in the Baltic Sea. The Strategy addresses the problem of pollution of the marine environment by nutrients and nature cosnervation.