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Biology of Plants. Biodiversity in a changing environment in Northern Europe.


The programme includes field tours to typical ecosystems of northern, middle and southern boreal zone; old-growth forests; different types of mires (aapa mires, grass and forest mires, rich spring, hanging bogs); island ecosystems, Ladoga Lake and Onego Lake shore ecosystems; visit to research laboratories of the Karelian Research Centre of Russian Academy of Science (research methods and techniques).

Course profile:

Biodiversity, changing habitats, development of communities and ecosystems, forests, old-growth forests, wetlands and grasslands of Northern Europe.

Content of the programme:

  • Introduction. Geographical definitions (Northern Europe, Fennoscandia etc.), climatic zone, vegetation zone, traces of glaciation, soils.
  • Development of Communities and Ecosystems (climax communities, successions, gaps, fires, restoration ecology)
  • Changing habitats. Mosaic landscapes. (Forests, wetlands, coasts and shores, lakes and rivers, farmland, urban areas)
  • Forests of Northern Europe (terms, deforestation and reforestation, types of forest; structure, composition, changes, life in boreal forests, old-growth boreal forests, natural forest, forest fires)
  • Old-growth forests (definitions, identification, natural dynamics of taiga forests, geography of remaining intact natural landscapes, methods of study, anthropogenic influence on forests, economic importance, level of threat)
  • Wetlands of Northern Europe (definitions, classifications, mire complexes, wetland habitats, mire drainage, peatland areas, life on mires, flora, from wetland to woodland, peat extraction, protecting and restoring wetlands, wetland ecosystems of Karelia)
  • Grasslands of Northern Europe (diversity, sustainability, conservation)
  • Lakes and rivers of Northern Europe (types, changes, nutrients and species, widespread eutrophication, acidification, restoration, lake life, river life)
  • Coasts and shores of Northern Europe (types, geomorphology, vegetation, changes, shoreline developments, protecting shores)
  • Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega – largest freshwater lakes in Europe (background, geomorphology and landscapes, vegetation, relict species; protected areas: threats, zoning)
  • The vegetation of Paanajarvi National Park and its dynamics in late glacial period and Holocene (high diversity of forests and wetlands; dynamics of palaeovegetation, methods of study)
  • Karelian birch (origin, peculiar features, genetics, cloning)
  • Promoting biodiversity (the history of nature conservation, administrative and legislative developments, biodiversity strategies and programmes, protected areas, their categories, conservation priorities, principles and conflicts).

Field of studies:

  • Wetlands: aapa mires, oligotrophic, rich spring, pine fens, sedge bog (flora, vegetation, methods of study)
  • Nature reserve “Kizhi Archipelago” (island ecosystem, successions: meadows-forests, pastures-alvars, interesting macrorelief: thermocast cavities, sandosar bars et al.; deciduous forests not typical for middle boreal zone, Onega Lake shore ecosystems)
  • Nature Park “Ladoga Skerries” (Ladoga Lake shore ecosystems, rare species, diversity of landscapes, skerries landscape)
  • Nature Park “Valaamo Archipelago” (island ecosystems, southern boreal zone, plant introduction, microclimate)
  • National Park “Paanajarvi” (old-growth forests; northern boreal spruce forests, forest-tundra birch stands, aapa mires, grass and forest mires, hanging bogs, low-mountain landscapes of Nothern taiga; rich flora: 570 species of vascular plants, 152 rare red-listed species; Paanajarvi is one of the deepest small lakes in Fennoscandia (128 m).
  • Nature reserve “Kivach” (typical ecosystems of middle boreal zone; Karelian birch; brief introduction to the fauna of the boreal zone (native and introduced species)
  • Botanical Garden of Petrozavodsk State University (Arboretum: 300 species of trees and shrubs from Europe, Asia and North America; collection of fruit trees and shrubs - 200 sp.; collection of rare plants - 50 species; diversity of landscapes due to rugged relief of the territory and the combination of the Quaternary sediments; different types of pine, spruce and small-leaved forests, fire dynamics, gap dynamics, pioneering plants, early stages of succession on rocks).
  • Karelian Research Centre of Russian Academy of Science (Laboratory of Wetland Ecosystems, Laboratory of Physiology and Biochemistry of Trees) (collections of mosses, lichens, methods of study (computer modeling, reconstruction of palaeovegetation et al.).

Teachers and experts:

Tatjana Kharkina, PhD, course lecturer
Oleg Kuznetsov, PhD., botanist, expert on flora and the vegetation, wetland ecosystems
Sergey Znamenski, ecologist, expert on grassland ecosystems and Kizhi Archipelago nature
Galina Elina, professor, Dr.Sc., ecologist, expert on the vegetation, reconstruction of palaeovegetation
Julia Barskaya, expert on the ecosystems of Paanajarvi National Park
Mikhail Terekhov, expert on forests, Head of Forestry Department on Valaamo Archipelago “Ladoga Skerries”
Tatjana Vetchinnikova, PhD student, expert on Karelian birch micropropagation
Botanists and ecologists from the Nature Park “Valaamo Archipelago”, Nature Reserve “Kivach” and Botanic Garden of Petrozavodsk State University.

Cultural programme:

• tour around Petrozavodsk. The capital of Karelia which was founded in 1703 by Peter the Great (2 hours)
• trip to Kizhi Island in the Onega Lake – the open-air museum of wooden architecture (Kizhi is enlisted in the UNESCO's World Heritage List).
• cultural tour to the first Russian Spa “Martial waters” and to the waterfall "Kivach".
• visiting city Sortavala and the Valaam Monastery in the Ladoga Lake.
• visiting the most rapidly developing city of Karelia Kondopoga (one of the biggest pulp and paper factory exporting paper to Europe.
• two-day cultural trip to St. Petersburg


Guest family: a separate room, access to all facilities (kitchen, bathroom, TV set, refrigerator, telephone etc.), bedroom clothing. The cost excl. food is 9000 RUB (about 225 EUR) per month / incl. food is 12000 RUB (about 300 EUR / with breakfasts) per month, 16000 RUB (about 400 EUR / with breakfasts and dinners) per month.

The terms of the programme in 2014:

July, 30 – August, 24

Institute of International Programs
Office 401, Anokhina str., 20,
Petrozavodsk, 185910, Republic of Karelia, Russian Federation
tel: +7(8142) 71-10-89;
fax: + 7(8142) 71-96-14


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