Natural values of Malmi Airport

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View of the meadows of Malmi Airport, 18 September 2016. Photo: Petri Asikainen

The rich and diverse nature paradise of Malmi Airport’s meadows and the woods surrounding it is unknown even to many Helsinki residents. Of the 130-hectare airfield area, only about 17% is paved over or occupied by buildings. This page contains studies of its natural values ​​and articles (in Finnish) written by experts.

In the study published by City of Helsinki, “From traditional pastures to city meadows” (2021, in Finnish) Malmi Airport is confirmed as a valuable site of the capital’s meadows network, forming by itself almost 20% of all meadows in Helsinki and being the largest valuable meadow in the capital (see Fig. 37). According to the plant life survey ordered by the City in summer 2020 and summer 2021 (in Finnish), the majority of the airport area represents a valuable traditional meadow biotope, which the Red Book of Biotopes site (in Finnish), maintained by the Finnish Environment Institute, lists as a critically endangered biotope everywhere in Finland.

The airport with its wide meadows is an important bird area. The study “Occurrence of the great snipe in the area of ​​Malmi Airport 2016“, made by the environmental survey company Yrjölä Ltd for the City of Helsinki, highlights the importance of the meadow area of ​​Malmi Airport, not only for the great snipe (Gallinago media, critically endangered and under strict protection in Finland, and protected by Annex I of the EU Bird Directive) regularly seen there during migration, but for other bird species present there as well.

The importance of Malmi Airport as Finland’s leading stopover site for the great snipe during migration and as a possible breeding ground has also been highlighted by Suomen Luonto nature magazine.

In city planning, however, the numerous observations of the great snipe as well as the regular observations in the surrounding area of two other species that were strictly protected during the whole planning process – the white-backed woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucotos) and the corncrake (Crex crex) – have been ignored even though they are meticulously recorded in e.g. the Tiira database.

The nesting birds and other wildlife of the airfield meadow are illustrated by Ilkka Lyytikäinen, a representative of the local birding society MBS, in his presentation “Malmi Airport from the perspective of a nature lover“.

Flying squirrel observations in the woods surrounding Malmi Airport, KAER Ltd October 2020 and January 2021.

The “Helsinki Flying Squirrel Survey 2016” conducted by the City of Helsinki Environment Center found flying squirrels in the Malmi Airport planning area. The flying squirrel is listed as a species requiring strict protection in Annex IV (a) of the EU Habitats Directive and as a strictly protected species under Finnish legislation. In the city’s supplemented survey “The distribution of the flying squirrel in Helsinki in 2019“, two new core areas of flying squirrels were identified in the vicinity of Malmi Airport. KAER Ltd’s flying squirrel survey, which has been carried out so far from October 2020 to January 2021, has documented a large number of flying squirrels’ nesting trees, droppings and a habitat suitable for the species in large areas of the airfield’s surrounding woods.

According to the city’s own survey on polyporaceae fungi, the woods east of the airfield are one of Helsinki’s most valuable deciduous forests, and in 2020 they too were included in the important bird areas.

A colony of the northern birch mouse (Sicista betulina), a species of Annex IV of the EU Habitats Directive, was observed in the area of Malmi Airport in September 2022 (photo: Mika Wallenius). For e.g. small ground mammals, ground-dwelling insects, arachnids, molluscs,  amphibians and many other classes of organisms, no surveys have been carried out in the area.

In the bat survey started in 2015, several bat species have been observed in the field area, e.g. the northern bat (Eptesicus nilssonii), Nathusius’s pipistrelle (Pipistrellus nathusii) and the parti-coloured bat (Vespertilio murinus), for which the airfield’s poorly lit open meadow offers excellent hunting grounds. All Finnish bats are on the list of species in need of strict protection, defined in Annex IV (a) of the EU Habitats Directive, and it is prohibited to weaken or destroy their breeding and resting places under the Nature Conservation Act.

The butterfly and moth survey, initiated in the summer of 2015, has identified several hundred butterfly species, including the endangered burren green (Calamia tridens), two vulnerable species, and ten near-threatened species, despite successive weak butterfly summers.

Longinoja brook, painstakingly restored by volunteers as a spawning brook of the endangered sea trout (Salmo trutta trutta), is the only way for waters to discharge from the catchment of the airfield. The clay sludge released during the extensive stabilization and piling work required by residential construction in the airport area would end up there. Longinoja flows into Vantaa River, home to Europe’s most significant population of the endangered thick-shelled river mussel (Unio crassus), which is one of the species in need of strict protection specified in Annex IV (a) of the EU Habitats Directive.

The natural values ​​of Malmi Airport and its surroundings have also been emphasized by the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation.

See also the City of Helsinki map service: valuable meadow, important bird area, important forest areas, important polypore and corticioid fungi areas, core areas and habitats of the flying squirrel core areas

More information about the natural values of Malmi Airport (in English)