Biodiversity can be more diverse than we can think

We had interesting discussions on biodiversity in the Brown Bag Research Lunch Seminar on the Sustainable development week. The first speaker was Pauliina Rautio, who spoke about child animal relations and co-existence with other species.

Her research group has studied the child animal relations that the children themselves value. Also, they have studied the relations to unloved others, in other words animals we neglect or hate or don’t want anywhere near us.

She pointed out that education has been considered as the solution for climate change. There are some issues in this idea. Education itself is one of the slowest institutions to get rid of anthropocentrism and usually offers precise right answers to problems when modern wicked problems require complex multidisciplinary solutions.

It is problematic to think that environmental crisis could be solved by teaching the children to live sustainably and care about the nature. The problems cannot be postponed anymore but need to be addressed now. They cannot be given anymore to the next generation to handle.

In the future, this research group is about to find out how people in Helsinki react to future scenarios, where we will be living more closely together with rats.


Are we bioliterate? Do we know the species we are surrounded by?


The second speaker was Marko Mutanen, who showed us the Taxonomic impediment and its connection to biodiversity crisis and how to resolve it.

We have names for about 2 million species. In reality, there are about 8 to 50 million species on planet earth. There is not even a precise estimation for this. For example, there are over a million different kinds of worms in Finnish forests and nobody knows the names for these worms even though they play a crucial role in our wellbeing.

Everything we eat used to be species that rely on other species. How can we ensure the wellbeing these species if we don’t even know their names or that they exist?

There is a scientific description for about 10 to 20 percent of all species. Taxonomy is not even close to be funded enough to fill all the requirements and there are too few taxonomists. Experts are relatively old, and the field is decreasing. We would need about 15 000 new taxonomists to be able to describe biodiversity at an adequate level.

There is a solution. DNA barcode is a system that knows the species by a really small fraction of their DNA. This is a fast, accurate and easier way of identifying species than identifying them according to looks, behaviour and environment.  

The DNA barcode project is going smoothly. There is already a DNA barcode for about half million known species. Finland is well represented in the data, since the project is led from Oulu. The goal is to get DNA barcodes of all known species in 2045.

There is an estimated amount of 45 000 species in Finland and about 20 000 of those already have a DNA barcode.

In the future it would be possible to name and identify any plant, animal, fungi or organism easily on the spot anywhere in the world.


Silence is not just absence of noise


The third speaker was anthropologist Roger Norum. He spoke about silence. Silence is often coupled with arctic nature and it is a common marketing point for tourism in Finland. It is also used to sell watches, water, art and retreats.

According to WHO noise pollution causes numerous health risks. Still silence is not a well-studied thing at all. It has been mostly seen as the absence of noise and there have been negative connotations.

Ecoacoustics is an emerging new field of study. It studies the sounds of nature and other noise environments. A multidisciplinary research project is going on in Oulu, with a goal to find out how people are affected by silence. They study silence in the national parks of Northern Finland and Norway.

Thank you to all participants and see you next time!


Last updated: 9.10.2020