As the natural features of Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park are so varied, the park is important not only for conservation and recreation reasons, but also is of great importance for research. There are over 100 different research projects taking place in the area. Part of these are related to international air quality studies. The results of these studies have shown that the air at Pallas is the cleanest in Europe. Other points of research in the area are timberline forests, the environmental effects of tourism and the ecology of and fluctuation in the vole populations.
The Fells Rise Out of the Forests and Mires
Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park is a conservation site for a major part of the Western Lapland Great Fells chain and the forests and mires which surround the fells. There are almost 100 km of fell chain in the National Park.
The Origin of the Fells
The earliest developments in the Pallas-Ounastunturi bedrock occurred during a time when there were mountains similar to the Alps in Lapland. They were called the Svekokarelids. That was 3 milliard years ago and the only evidence left of these mountains are their worn roots, which today are the fells. The remains of the Svekokarelids form a quartzite fell chain, which starts in the Region of North Karelia in eastern Finland and stretches to Western Lapland.
Quartzite was formed from beach-sand hundreds of millions of years before the folding of the mountains. The heat inside the earth's crust moulded the sand into hard smooth rock. The best known of the southern quartzite fells is Rukatunturi Fell in Kuusamo (491 m) and the best known in the north are Yllästunturi Fell (718 m) and the Ounastunturi Fells (723 m). At a time when the area was between being below sea-level and becoming high mountains there was volcanic activity there. At that point the volcanic black rocks, now characteristic of the area, were formed.
Pallastunturi and Ounastunturi Fells
The Ounastunturi Fells are formed of the most common rock types in Finland´s fells, quartzite and granite, rocks very resistant to wear. The Pallastunturi round topped hills are of amphibolite. The Pallastunturi and Ounastunturi Fells are separated by the treacherous Pahakuru and Hannukuru Ravines. At this point there are many plant and animal species from the north and south. The area's evergreen forest rises to 400 - 500 metres above sea level. Above it the mountain birch zone frames the bald tops of the fells. Only the most stubborn shrubs, such as Black Crowberry (Empetrum nigrum subs. hermaphroditum), Black Bearberry (Arctostaphylos alpina) and Alpine Azalea (Loiseleuria procumbens) will grow there and on the windiest fell tops Lapland Diapensia (Diapensia lapponica). To counterbalance the barrenness of the fells the ravines have lush fern forests on brook banks.
A Treasury for Researchers
Thanks to the biodiversity of the nature, the role of the Pallas-Yllästunturi national park is not only important for nature conservation and recreation purposes but also for the opportunities it offers scientists for research and study. Important international air quality assessment and monitoring programmes are implemented in the park. Research is also being carried out into the permanence of the timberline, vole populations, and the environmental impacts of tourism.