TOPCONS

Transboundary tools for spatial planning and conservation of the Gulf of Finland

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The aim of the Russo-Finnish “Transboundary tools for spatial planning and conservation of the Gulf of Finland” (TOPCONS) project was to design a tool for mapping sensitive and diverse underwater landscapes, and planning the use and management of water bodies. The project also sought to produce comparative, multidisciplinary data for the planning of sustainable use and protection of water bodies.

The project saw us develop a new map-based tool for the planning of sustainable maritime area use. Based on geological and biological data collected from the eastern Gulf of Finland area as well as data on human activity, the tool helps reconcile human activity and nature values.

The material produced by TOPCONS is used e.g. by the Finnish Inventory Programme for the Underwater Marine Environment, as support for the planning of other maritime areas. The project also produced a Finnish-Russian dictionary for maritime area planning.

New species of gastropod

We also investigated the locations of fish breeding grounds and the impact of human activity on underwater habitats. During the project, a new species of gastropod was discovered off the coast of Hamina.

Funding

The Southeastern Finland–Russia ENPI CBC 2007-2013 programme, with a total budget of 1,700,000 €.

Project partners

Kotka Maritime Research Association (coordinator)
Helsinki University
Finnish Environmental Centre
Geological Research Centre
Metsähallitus
Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute
A.P. Karpinsky Russian Geological Research Institute
Russian Academy of Science
Russian State Hydrometeorological University

Gastropod unknown to science discovered in Finland

Less than half a centimetre in length, dainty and translucent, small gastropods discovered over the past year in the Baltic Sea off the coast of Hamina have received astonished reactions and international interest. The species in question, which has never been observed before, is likely to be an introduced species possibly transported to Finnish waters by maritime traffic. The gastropods were found during field research conducted in the framework of the EU-ENPI-funded Russo-Finnish TOPCONS project, and were also observed in hard seabed samples taken by divers from the Metsähallitus Nature Service and research vessel Muikku. The depth of the discoveries ranged from a few metres to ten metres.
Work undertaken in the context of the TOPCONS project complements a wider-ranging project (the VELMU programme) mapping the biodiversity of Finland’s underwater marine environment.

Genetic testing and morphological analysis carried out by international experts on marine gastropods could not, however, connect the new discovery to any known species, implying that the newly found gastropod may be unknown to science. It belongs in the family Murchisonellidae, found in all of the world’s oceans, with some related species also observed in Europe. The closest individual sightings of species belonging to the family in question have been reported in the southern Baltic Sea, around the Danish straits. While the gastropod’s origin remains unclear, this is likely to be a brackish environment, as the water off the coast of Hamina only has a salinity level of about 0.4%. They have so far not been found in comparable environments in the western parts of the Gulf of Finland or elsewhere along the Finnish coast. Off the coast of Hamina, however, dozens of individuals were observed, with population densities of up to 500 individuals per square metre.

A description of the new species is being worked on at the Stockholm Natural History Museum, but is expected to take some time. Experts with knowledge of the gastropod family in question from Japan, New Zealand, Chile, Russia and Ukraine have also been involved.

Picture: Katriina Könönen/Metsähallitus

Lista TOPCONS hankkeen julkaisuista

TOPCONS Glossary

Ryabchuk D.V., Wiertelak F., Zhamoida V.A

TOPCONS MSP Tool Prototype – report.

Jolma, A. 2014.

How to value biodiversity in environmental management?

Laurila-Pant, M., Lehikoinen, A., Uusitalo, L. & Venesjärvi, R.: Ecological Indicators 55: 1-11.

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Implementation time

1.2.2012 - 30.11.2014