Location and nature
Värriö Subarctic Research Station is located about 120 km north from the Arctic Circle close to the northern timberline, beside the Värriö fell range. The area is part of the northern boreal vegetation zone, and its nature has plenty of eastern characteristics. According to the statistics of the Finnish Meteorological Institute, the mean annual air temperature is -0.5 °C. The mean temperature in January is -11.4 °C and in July 13.1 °C. The mean annual precipitation is 601 mm. The area is a watershed, where rivers flow towards three seas: river Yli-Nuortti flows to the Arctic Sea, river Hirvasjoki to the White Sea and river Värriöjoki to the Baltic Sea. The topography in the area varies: the landscape is a mosaic of old-growth forests on mineral and paludified soils, open mire patches, small rivers, steep gorges, sparse mountain birch forests, and open fell heaths and fragmented rock areas. The highest fell is round stony fell Sauoiva, 615 m a.s.l. The hilltop of Kotovaara, where the SMEAR I station is located, lies at about 370 m a.s.l.
The dominating tree species are Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), Norway spruce (Picea abies), and pubescent birch (Betula pubescens). European aspens (Populus tremula), rowans (Sorbus aucuparia) and European bird cherries (Prunus padus) grow in places. The forest floor is covered with bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), crowberry (Empetrum nigrum) and mosses such as red-stemmed feather moss (Pleurozium schreberi). On the open fell heaths, for example black bearberry (Arctostaphylos alpina) and mountain everlasting (Antennaria dioica) form low patches.
The area is a part of reindeer herding area. Mooses (Alces alces) are common in the area, and all the Finnish large predators (lynx, brown bear, wolf, and wolverine) occur in the area. Capercaillies (Tetrao urogallus), black grouses (Lyrurus tetrix) and willow grouses (Lagopus lagopus) live in the forests. On the highest fells, one may observe ptarmigans (Lagopus mutus).
The station is surrounded by a strict nature reserve of 125 km2. The area was protected for nature conservation and scientific purposes on the 14th October 1981. Thanks to the multiple biotopes, the area is an important bird area (IBA) where e.g. dotterel (Eudormia morinellus) and red-flanked bluetail (Tarsiger cyanurus) nest.
The station is located about 900 km northeast from Helsinki and about 6 km from the eastern border of Finland. As the station is surrounded by a strict nature reserve, staying and walking in the area is subject to licence.
One can reach the station by car or taxi. The nearest railway stations are in Kemijärvi and Rovaniemi. Distance to Rovaniemi is about 268 km.
Arrival instructions to the station parking lot by the river Yli-Nuortti: Drive north from Savukoski along the river Kemijoki, the longest river in Finland. Turn right towards Tulppio at the crossroads in Lattuna. Turn right towards Ainijärvi soon after the tourist attraction at Tulppio. Once you reach the former border guard station at Ainijärvi, turn again right and drive past the garage building. Continue 3 km along a narrow forest road to the parking lot. You arrive first on a larger parking place (for coaches etc.) and somewhat later to a smaller one along the river. In winter, the road is ploughed only until Ainijärvi, from where you continue by skiing or with a snow mobile. The address, which your navigator might find, is Ainijärventie 114, 98800 Savukoski.
The distance from the parking lot along river Yli-Nuortti to the station is about 5 km. The route goes along a gravel track, and e.g. hiking boots are good for walking there. For larger luggage and if necessary for people as well you may get a lift with a four-wheeler or a snow mobile and a trailer, depending on the season. It is advisable to ask for the lift well in advance. Note that mobile phones work occasionally poorly between Savukoski and Värriö. Always agree beforehand on your arrival at the station, as staying in the strict nature reserve is not allowed without a permit. The easternmost part of the strict nature reserve belongs to the border area, where you need a special permit from the Finnish Border Guard.