Flying Squirrel LIFE
The City of Espoo participates in the Flying Squirrel LIFE project funded by the European Union (2018–2025). The project is coordinated by Parks & Wildlife Finland, which is part of the state-owned organisation Metsähallitus, and includes a total of 16 partners from Finland and Estonia
The goal of the project is to improve the conservation status of the Siberian flying squirrel. The project focuses on safeguarding flying squirrel habitat networks, developing operating models and increasing cooperation between different actors.
Espoo acts in the project as an expert in reconciling flying squirrel conservation with land use. Espoo has extensive experience in considering flying squirrel habitats in land use planning. The project is an opportunity for us to share our best practises with other actors. This page contains more information on the various things that the City of Espoo is involved in within the Flying Squirrel LIFE project.
Radio tracking provides more information on flying squirrel habitats
A radio tracking study of flying squirrels was carried out in the Tapiola area in 2019–2020. The study investigated the habitats and movement of flying squirrels in the urban environment. The results of the study provide more information on the behaviour of the flying squirrel in urban areas and the collected data can also be used in land use planning.
In the course of the study, ten flying squirrels were fitted with radio-tracking collars and their movements were monitored during field visits. The first collars were fitted in August 2019 and the monitoring continued until September 2020.
The tracking work was carried out by Environmental Research Yrjölä Ltd in cooperation with Luontoselvitys Metsänen Oy.
The study showed that in urban environments, flying squirrels habit relatively small areas. The current study revealed that the flying squirrel habitats were clearly smaller than those found in studies previously carried out in Matinkylä and in forests outside urban areas. In Tapiola, the average habitat of tracked females was only approximately 4 hectares in size and that of males approximately 28 hectares. A study carried out in Matinkylä in 2013 showed that the average habitat of females was 15.5 hectares and that of males 79 hectares.
Although the flying squirrel habitats were found to be small on average, the tracked group included one daredevil squirrel who moved in a more extensive area than the rest and even crossed the busy Länsiväylä highway twice.
The main result of the study is that flying squirrels are able to live and breed in the urban environment of Greater Tapiola and that the forest patches in the area are suitable habitats for flying squirrels. However, in order to survive, flying squirrels need forests that are more similar to natural forests than parks. Furthermore, the forest patches need to be interconnected with green corridors so that the flying squirrels are able to move from one area to another.
In June 2021, the cities of Espoo, Kuopio and Jyväskylä published the guide ‘Siberian Flying Squirrel in Land Use Planning – Guide for Good Practices’. The guide includes good practices on reconciling flying squirrel conservation with land use planning. The guide is based on the cities’ first-hand experiences and is aimed in particular for the use of other cities and municipalities.
Among other things, the guide describes:
- Considering flying squirrel conservation in land use planning and implementation
- Derogation from the legal protection requirements
- Management of data related to flying squirrels
The guide provides a variety of practical examples, for example, regarding different planning solutions. The guide is aimed in particular at other municipalities and cities, but it is equally well suited for city residents, students and organisations interested in flying squirrel conservation and land use.
The guide is in Finnish but it includes a summary in English.
At the Flying squirrel LIFE project, Espoo evaluated the impact of land use planning on the flying squirrel and explored the practices that best support the protection of the flying squirrel. For the evaluation, five detailed plan areas in different stages of implementation were selected in southern Espoo. All the monitored areas have flying squirrel habitats that have been protected through plan symbols and regulations. The presence of flying squirrels and the effect of plan symbols were monitored in each detailed plan area from 2019 to 2021.
During the monitoring period, only minor land use measures were carried out in the sites, and thus the quality of the habitats was preserved. The decline in the number of flying squirrels may be due to the fluctuating population changes typical to flying squirrels. The quality of the moving routes between the habitats remained adequate, with the exception of one route that was broken as a result of wood clearance. The route had not been indicated as a flying squirrel site with a plan symbol.
The monitoring data shows that the protection of the flying squirrel can be promoted through plan symbols indicating flying squirrel sites and related plan regulations. The monitoring data suggests that if the surface area of the forest patch designated for conservation is small, the flying squirrel may not survive unless the surrounding environment remains forested. Also, routes to other forest patches in at least two directions should be protected.
The 2020 and 2021 surveys were carried out by Enviro. The 2019 survey was performed by Lumotron. The monitoring report describes the status of the flying squirrels in the spring of 2021 and evaluates the changes that took place during the monitoring period. The monitoring report has been published only in Finnish with and English summary.
Summary on local detailed plan monitoring at all partner cities
Partner cities Espoo, Jyväskylä and Kuopio will together compile a summary on the main results and conclusions of the flying squirrel monitoring at the local detailed plan areas. The summary will be published both in Finnish and English at the website of Parks and Wildlife Finland in https://www.metsa.fi/en/project/flying-squirrel-life/flying-squirrel-life-guides/(extrernal link). The summary will be ready later in spring 2022.
- Download file: Espoon asemakaavaseurannan yhteenvetoraportti_Liito-orava-LIFE.pdf.Espoon asemakaavaseurannan yhteenvetoraportti_Liito-orava-LIFE.pdfFile is only available in FinnishFile is only available in Finnish
- Download file: Espoo monitoring of detailed plans_Flying squirrel LIFE_English summary 2022 (ei saavutettava).pdf.Espoo monitoring of detailed plans_Flying squirrel LIFE_English summary 2022 (ei saavutettava).pdfFile is only available in FinnishFile is only available in Finnish
Flying squirrels rely on connectivity to move from one area to another, for example, in search of food and nesting sites. It is therefore important to ensure that forest patches are not separate from one another, but there is sufficient tree coverage between them.
Espoo has a long tradition of considering connectivity of flying squirrel habitats to ensure their survival in detailed planning and land use planning. The Flying Squirrel LIFE project has identified three areas where improving connectivity would be beneficial for flying squirrels: Suvisilta overpass area, Finnoonlaakso and Latokaskenniitty. During the course of the project, trees will be planted in these three areas to increase connectivity for flying squirrels.
In Finnoonlaakso, a new passage is created for flying squirrels across the Länsiväylä highway. Trees will be planted on both sides of Länsiväylä so that the leap across the highway would not be too long. Currently, flying squirrels only have four provenly functional passages across Länsiväylä.
In Suvisilta and Latokaskenniitty, trees will be planted in 2021–2022. In Finnoonlaakso, the planting work will be carried out in 2022–2023.
During the course of the project, forest management work will be carried out in Hyljelahti, considering the needs of both flying squirrels and humans. The work will improve the recreational value of the forest: trees in poor condition will be removed and access routes will be improved. At the same time, the work will ensure that the forest remains a good habitat for flying squirrels.
Forest management work will be carried out in Hyljelahti in 2021–2022.
The main coordinator of the Flying Squirrel LIFE project is Metsähallitus. The project also includes 16 partners from Finland and Estonia
In addition to work related to urban forests, the Flying Squirrel LIFE project also develops good practices for commercial forests, prepares training material for flying squirrel surveys, simulates flying squirrel habitats, compiles a national register of flying squirrel data and increases awareness and information about flying squirrels in different ways.
Further information on other project activities and partners is available on the official project website maintained by Metsähallitus(extrernal link).
The project has received funding from the European Union’s LIFE programme. The content of the material reflects the views of its authors and neither the European Commission nor CINEA is responsible for the use of the data contained in the material.