Flying Squirrel LIFE Project

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Cooperation produces good practices for coordinating Siberian flying squirrel protection and land use.

The City of Espoo is involved in the Flying Squirrel LIFE Project funded by the European Union . The project will continue until 2025. The project is coordinated by Parks & Wildlife Finland which is part of the state-owned organisation Metsähallitus. The project includes a total of 17 partners from Finland and Estonia. Its main goal is to harness the best practises and cooperation to improve the conservation status of the Siberian flying squirrel. The project was launched in autumn 2018.

Espoo’s role in the Flying Squirrel LIFE Project is to be an expert on urban environments and land use. Espoo has a strong population of flying squirrels, and the species is found throughout Espoo from the densely built southern part up to the forested areas in the north. The City of Espoo is an expert when it comes to reconciling species protection with land use planning. This project is an opportunity for us to share our expertise and best practises with others.

The realisation of the project’s key goals will require cooperation between various actors in society. The most important project partners for Espoo are the Cities of Jyväskylä and Kuopio, with whom Espoo shares experiences and practices in protecting the Siberian flying squirrel in a growing city.

Partially funded by the European Union, the total budget of the project is approximately EUR 8.9 million. Espoo’s share of this sum is about EUR 1.4 million.

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The LIFE programme of the EU provides funding for environmental protection and conservation projects across Europe. 

Espoo’s contributions to the project

  • We share best practices that cities have developed in order to coordinate flying squirrel protection with land use. Espoo, Kuopio and Jyväskylä will publish a guidebook on best practices, intended for other municipalities and cities in particular.
  • Espoo will collect more information on the habitats of the Siberian flying squirrel in the densely built Southern Espoo. The project includes mapping of the Siberian flying squirrel in Espoo’s southern areas. This includes two projects: GPS tracking of Siberian flying squirrels in Greater Tapiola in 2019–2020 and the three-year monitoring of Siberian flying squirrels in five areas covered by local detailed plans (2019–2021).
  • We will improve the habitat network of the Siberian flying squirrel. We will improve the movement paths used by the squirrels by planting trees in three different areas. In addition, some moderate urban forest management activities will take place in one area, keeping recreational values and the Siberian flying squirrel in mind.

Other project partners

The who LIFE project does not only focus on urban areas. It also aims at developing good practices for commercial forests, drawing up training materials for field surveys of the species, modelling its habitats, establishing a national register for Siberian flying squirrel data and, finally, increasing awareness of the species.

Further information about other project actions and partners is available on the official project website (Metsähallitus).

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Involving a total of 17 partners, the project takes place in different locations within the Siberian flying squirrel's area of distribution. 

The Siberian flying squirrel is a hole-nester that favours mixed forests

The Siberian flying squirrel (Pteromys volans) is a species protected under the Nature Conservation Act and listed in Annex IV of the EU Habitats Directive. Finland has a particular responsibility for the Siberian flying squirrel, as within the EU, the species is only found in Finland and Estonia.

According to the latest assessment of threatened species (2019), the conservation status of the Siberian flying squirrel is Vulnerable (VU) when examined on national level. However, there are strong Siberian flying squirrel populations in many Finnish cities. The estimated number of Siberian flying squirrel females in Finland is 143,000. The Siberian flying squirrel prefers to nest in holes, nesting boxes and dreys (nests built of twigs) of the red squirrel. Urban environments therefore offer plenty of nesting places as well as deciduous trees for nourishment and coniferous trees for shelter. The City of Espoo website contains further information about the Siberian flying squirrel.

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Photo: Tuomas Heinonen