Nature and Natural resources

Several protected areas with unique natural features represent the core of the North Karelia Biosphere Reserve. They are mostly managed by Metsähallitus-Parks & Wildlife Finland.

Protected areas in North Karelia Biosphere Reserve:


    • Koli national park
    • Patvinsuo national park
    • Petkeljärvi national park
    • Koivusuo strict nature reserve
    • Kesonsuo nature reserve
    • Ruunaa nature reserve

North Karelia Biosphere Reserve is located in the westernmost part of the boreal coniferous forest zone, where the climate shows both continental and maritime characteristics. The sparsely populated area is characterised by large quantity of forests, mires, hills and water bodies. There are several lakes and ponds in the area, the largest lake is Koitere, and the longest river is Koitajoki with almost 200 km in lenght. Also wilderness-like nature is still found, especially in the largest protected areas.

englanninkielinen kartta biosfäärialueesta


The fauna of the area includes northern and eastern species. The number of mammal species is relatively small, although natural cross-border migration of wildlife brings new individuals to the area. Inhabitants of the area include bear (Ursus arctos), wolf (Canis lupus), wolverine (Gulo gulo), pine marten (Martes martes), lynx (Lynx lynx), elk (Alces alces) and wild forest reindeer (Rangifer tarandus fennicus). Avifauna is diverse, species encountered in the area include corncrake (Crex ctex), red-throated diver (Gavia stellata), European nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus), red-flanked bluetail (Tarsiger cyanurus), bean goose (Anser fabalis), Siberian jay (Perisoreus infaustus), three-toed woodpecker (Picoides tridactylus), common scoter (Melanitta nigra), red-breasted flycatcher (Ficedula parva), whooper swan (Cygnus cygnus), kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) and hobby (Falco subbuteo).


The number of plant species in the area is quite low. The dominanting tree species are Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) and Norway spruce (Picea abies). Silver birch (Betula pendula) and downy birch (Betula pubescens) are also common. The field layer consists of dwarf shrubs including blueberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) and heather (Calluna vulgaris). Feather moss (Pleurozium schreberi) grows in the ground layer. Protected and endangered plant species found in the area include, for example, early marsh orchid (Dactylorhiza incarnata) and narrow-leaved marsh-orchid (Dactylorhiza traunsteineri). Biodiversity loss is one of the major environmental challenges also in North Karelia.


Biosphere reserve activities promote biodiversity protection and landscape diversity. The goal is to find solutions that combine sustainable human actions with the fostering of nature and its biodiversity.
Sammakko lehtien seassa
© Mika Kareinen

Natural resources

North Karelia is rich in natural resources. Hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms are common and economically important ways of using natural resources. The utilisation of natural resources through forestry and mining industries is visible in the regional landscape. Forests are North Karelia's most important natural resource, 89 % of province's land area is covered by forests. Regardless of the structural changes in forest industry, it still has significant impact on North Karelia's regional economy and employment. North Karelia is also one of the top regions in Finland for food production and processing.


Biodiversity is interconnected with utilisation of natural resources. Sustainable way of using renewable natural resources also promotes biodiversity protection.


Maisemakuva Räsävaaran näkötornista Kolin maisemiin
© Mika Kareinen

National parks

Several protected areas represent the core of the North Karelia Biosphere Reserve. The best known of these areas are national parks, which in the North Karelia Biosphere Reserve are represented by the Koli, Patvinsuo and Petkeljärvi National Parks.

© Mika Kareinen

Other nature reserves

Other large protected areas in the biosphere reserve include Koivusuo strict nature reserve, Kesonsuo nature reserve and Ruunaa nature reserve. Koivusuo strict nature reserve is part of the Koitajoki Natura 2000 area. Kesonsuo nature reserve is part of the Kesonsuo-Palokangas-Selkäkangas-Syväysjoki Natura 2000 area.


Access to these protected areas is restricted. For example, access to the Koivusuo strict nature reserve is only permitted along the marked trails, and more than a half of the Ruunaa nature reserve lies within the border zone between Finland and Russia, and therefore a special permit issued by the Finnish Border Guard is required for accessing this area.

© Sami Niemeläinen

Ruunaa hiking area

Ruunaa hiking area is located near the Finnish-Russian border zone. The Lieksanjoki River runs through the hiking area with its rapids. The area is perfect for hikers all year round. A hiking route “Karhunpolku” travels through the Ruunaa hiking area and the western part of the Ruunaa Nature Reserve to Patvinsuo National Park. The Ruunaa Nature reserve is located on the east side of the Ruunaa Hiking Area.

Read more provides information on the national parks and hiking destinations in Finland.

Website of Finnish Environment Institute

VisitKarelia is a destination management organisation in North Karelia. Website provides tourist information for visitors to North Karelia.