Geodiversity–biodiversity relationships in northern environments

A long-term challenge in biodiversity research has been the establishment of robust methods for cost-effective targeting of conservation actions.

The concept of geodiversity has recently been expressed as a novel complementary and potentially useful means to explore biodiversity.

Geodiversity refers to the variability of the Earth’s surface materials, forms, and physical processes at different scales. In general, there is a lack of studies where geodiversity has been systematically inventoried across environments and scales. Importantly, the potential of geodiversity as a surrogate of biodiversity has not been assessed using comprehensive biological and geodiversity data sets.

Thus, our fundamental goal is to promote biodiversity monitoring by examining geodiversity and its relationship to biodiversity in boreal and subarctic landscapes. This research may produce answers to several scientifically important questions in geodiversity mapping and biodiversity assessment by revealing the most suitable measures of geodiversity for biodiversity assessments, and by improving the performance and robustness of biodiversity models.

Main objectives

  • To develop a methodology to map and measure geodiversity across scales
  • To explore the potentiality of measures of geodiversity in predicting biodiversity patterns
  • To scrutinize the relationship between geodiversity and biodiversity


  • Professor Jan Hjort
  • Dr. Janne Alahuhta
  • Researcher Helena Tukiainen
  • Researcher Terhi Järvinen
  • Project researcher Henna Sormunen

Main collaborators

  • Professor Miska Luoto, Department of Geosciences and Geography, University of Helsinki, Finland
  • Professor Risto Kalliola, Department of Geography and Geology, University of Turku, Finland
  • Associate Professor Richard Field, School of Geography, University of Nottingham, UK
  • Dr., Honorary Professor John Gordon, School of Geography & Geosciences, University of St Andrews, Scotland
  • Dr. Risto K. Heikkinen, Finnish Environment Institute, Natural Environment Centre/Ecosystem Change Unit, Finland
  • Dr. Risto Virtanen, Senior Curator, Department of Biology, Botanical Museum, University of Oulu, Finland
  • PhD Researcher Katja Kangas, The Finnish Forest Research Insitute
  • Researcher MSc Joseph Bailey
  • Researcher MSc Tuija Pyykkönen

Main publications

  • Hjort, J., Heikkinen, R.K. & M. Luoto (2012). Inclusion of explicit measures of geodiversity improve biodiversity models in a boreal landscape. Biodiversity and Conservation 21, 3487–3506.
  • Hjort, J. & M. Luoto (2012). Can geodiversity be predicted from space? Geomorphology 153–154, 74–80.
  • Hjort, J. & M. Luoto (2010). Geodiversity of high-latitude landscapes in northern Finland. Geomorphology 115, 109–116.
  • Virtanen, R., Luoto, M., Rämä, T., Mikkola, K., Hjort, J., Grytnes, J.-A. & J. Birks (2010). Recent vegetation changes in the high latitude tree line ecotone are controlled by geomorphologic disturbance, productivity and diversity. Global Ecology and Biogeography 19, 810–821.


  • GEOBIO – Potentiality of geodiversity information in biodiversity assessments (funding from the Thule Institute, University of Oulu)
  • LIFEPeatLandUse – Quantification and valuation of ecosystem services to optimize sustainable re-use for low-productive drained peatlands (funding from the European Union)

Last updated: 19.11.2014