Special characteristics of nature in Espoo

For a city of its size, Espoo is exceptionally green. The local nature is very rich and covers almost the whole spectrum of the characteristics that are unique to Finnish nature. Few cities can boast with wilderness forests such as the Nuuksio National Park(extrernal link), dozens of lakes and scenic seashores. The marine area, coastline and archipelago characterise the landscape of Southern Espoo. The variety of the city’s inland waters includes different types of lakes, ponds and rivers as well as lotic waters such as streams and springs. The forest areas are enlivened with stark cliffs, lush green groves and small mires.

The rich fauna and flora reflect the natural diversity of Espoo. The city is home to more than 70 endangered and over 100 near-threatened species. In addition, many species listed as strictly protected under the EU Natural Habitats Directive live in Espoo, including the flying squirrel, many bat species and the moor frog. The endangered trout spawns in some rivers and streams in Espoo.

Conservation areas

Espoo has 95 nature reserves and 32 protected habitats. The protected habitats are small, valuable environments such as hardwood forests or hazel groves. Espoo has protected seven habitats for species requiring special protection, such as the macroplea pubipennis. There are 54 protected natural monuments, such as large trees and boulders, in Espoo.

Espoo also has six areas that belong to the EU-wide Natura 2000 network(extrernal link).  Water areas included in the Natura 2000 network include Lake Matalajärvi, Espoonlahti-Saunalahti and the Laajalahti bird wetlands. Forests included in the network include Nuuksio, Bånberget primeval forest and the mires, groves and old forests of Vestra.

Conservation of natural areas and species is important. We share the world with countless species that together with the environment form a network that is necessary for sustaining life. Nature offers us humans free services that we could not live without. Plants, for example, create oxygen through photosynthesis and insects pollinate food crops. Species-rich nature is also better equipped to withstand the challenges brought along by climate change, and forests and peatlands absorb carbon from the atmosphere.

Health benefits of nature

Recreation in nature promotes health and well-being in many ways and creates a comfortable living environment.

Based on resident surveys, Espoo residents consider nature to be important and a key part of comfortable living.  Nature is an intrinsic part of the daily life and culture of Espoo residents: it provides them with opportunities for exercising, playing, going on excursions, learning and relaxing.

All of these nature experiences support people’s physical and mental well-being. Nature is a space with just the right amount of stimuli, where we can truly be ourselves, either alone or accompanied by others. Nature provides health benefits to all Espoo residents equally. 

Plants and waterways can also make the environment healthier, for example, by bringing cooling winds and shadows to the constructed area during a summer heat wave or by slowing down strong winds. When children get to put their hands in the soil and plants, they gain good germs in their bodies and their resistance to infectious diseases improves.  Recreation in nature decreases stress levels in our bodies and we are able to let go and relax.