Komio Nature Reserve, which is located in the Häme lake uplands, is characterised by its magnificent esker formation. The formation includes such features as suppas, suppa ponds, sunny and shadowy slope-side forests and magnificent mires. The diversity of the landscape and variability of the area's habitats is reflected in the area's abundance of species.

Signs Left By the Ice Age

Pulsatilla patens. Photo: Teijo HeinänenKomio's geological formation Luutasuonharju Ridge was formed at the end of the previous Ice Age 10 000 years ago. At that time the ice sheet receded from the southeast towards the northwest. The water left by melting ice sorted, shifted and stacked sand and gravel to rivers' deltas and onto river-beds. Cracks which formed in the glaciers were gradually filled with sand and gravel layers. This is how the area's eskers were formed, of which Luutasuoharju Ridge rises 25 to 30 metres above its surrounding landscape. The ridge has sunny and shadowy slopes.

The Ice Age also left behind thousands of suppas in Finland's many esker areas. Suppas were formed when large boulder-like pieces of ice were caught between the sand and gravel layers. As the climate warmed this ice melted and the soil that had gathered on top of it collapsed tens of metres and left huge depressions in the ground. The suppas in Komio Nature Reserve are varying in size and vegetation. Some are dry while others are boggy or totally filled with water.

Inhabitants of the Esker Forests

The sunny and shadowy slopes of Luutasuonharju Ridge in Komio Nature Reserve and the varying and diverse esker vegetation growing there are valuable habitats for numerous insect species. For example in open dry sandy areas vegetation includes the Catsfoot (Antenaria dioica), the Goldenrod (Solidago virgaurea), the Woodland Strawberry (Fragaria vesca) and the Asteraceae (Pilosella sp). They are suitable food for numerous butterfly species as well as many other insects. Additionally open sandy spaces and a hot habitat are ideal for beetle, bee and grasshopper species.

The esker forests in the Komio area  have gradually began to grow more densely Large Blue Butterfly (Maculinea arion). Drawing: Titta Jylhänkangas.due to an effective fire control during the last few decades. Also forestry that was practised in the area before the area was established as a nature reserve had the same effect. Additionally, species that require dry, hot and sandy environments are now becoming regionally endangered because of aforementioned activities. For example the Wild Thyme (Thymus serpyllum) which is one of the area's valuable esker plants as well as other vegetation which grows on sunny slopes are being over run by other forest vegetation. As a result of this, insects which feed on these plants are in danger of disappearing as well. One such insect is the critically endangered Large Blue Butterfly (Maculinea arion) which feeds on Wild Thyme. In recent years the Wild Thyme has been restored by prescribed burning which is done in a way that resembles wild fires.

Many small mammals, such as the Wood Lemming (Myopus schisticolor) and several mole and field mouse species, inhabit the area's shadowy and mossy spruce forests. Several birds of prey also nest in the coniferous forests along the ridges. Among them are the Eurasian Buzzard (Buteo buteo), which preys on small mammals, the Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), which preys on forest birds as well as the Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), which feeds on fish. Larger mammals which roam the Central Häme forests are the moose (Alces alces) and the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) as well as the lynx (Lynx lynx) which thrives with a vibrant population in Häme. It is also the emblem animal for province. There are also occasional sightings for example of bears (Ursus arctos), hogs (Sus scrofa) and wolves (Canis lupus).

A Valuable Bird Mire

Luutasuo Mire is bordered by Luutasuonharju Ridge and is an impressive raised bog which has remained for the most part in its natural state. Only the most southern and northern portions of the mires have been drained with ditches. A majority of the mire is cottongrass pine bog, which has sparse dotting of pines growing in it or treeless open bog where cranberries (Vaccinium oxycoccos) thrive. At the edges of the mire there is dwarf-shrub pine bog in which the dominant vegetation types are Wild rosemary (Ledum palustre), lingonberry (Vaccinium uliginosum),dwarf birch (Betula nana) and cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus) which grows in the shade of shrubs.

Luutasuo Mire is a valuable bird mire. For being such a small mire its bird population is very diverse. Nesting birds in the area include the Red-Throated Diver (Gavia stellata) and the Common Crane (Grus grus) as well as waders such as the European Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria), the Curlew (Numenius arquata), the Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago), the Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola), the Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) and the Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus), which inhabits the edges of mires. Little birds which are most numerous in the area are the Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis) and the Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis). The bird population in the mire has also in recent years included the Willow Grouse (Lagopus lagopus) which is extremely rare in Southern Finland.

Preserving the Esker Forest and Mires

Wild Thyme (Thymus serpyllum) and a Large Blue Butterfly (Maculinea arion). Drawing: Titta Jylhänkangas.In order to preserve the biodiversity of esker forests and the survival of threatened species restoration measures (www.metsa.fi) are often needed. The aim of these measures is to change the make-up of the forest so that it is more in its natural state and at the same time to preserve that the threatened species in the area survive until the forest produces enough decaying wood and is able to rejuvenate naturally, without human help. Restoration of mire nature on the other hand aims at getting waters to flow in the way they did originally in their natural state and so ensuring that the mires' original landscape and animal and plant species are restored.

The ridges in Komio Nature Reserve are restored by digging out small parts of them and by burning forests growing on them. Trees are also felled and their bark is cut off to increase the amount of decaying wood in the area. Tree-filled mires are restored by felling the trees growing on them. This keeps the mires from drying up. Many restoration and preservation measures are to be carried out in coming years in the esker forests and the mires of Komio Nature Reserve.

Wild Thyme (Thymus serpyllum). Drawing: Titta Jylhänkangas.