The Raakkumetsä campaign aims to protect a forest with a freshwater pearl mussel habitat

The Finnish Natural Heritage Foundation has launched a fundraising campaign to protect a forest known as Raakkumetsä. The aim is to protect an old forest in the drainage area of a river which is home to the freshwater pearl mussel, raakku in Finnish.

The idea for the Raakkumetsä campaign came from Finnish Natural Heritage Foundation board member and author Anni Kytömäki, whose novel Margarita won the Finlandia literary prize in 2020. One of the main characters in the novel is a freshwater pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera).

“Many of those who have read the novel have said that they feel a new kind of sympathy for mussels. I came up with the idea for the Raakkumetsä campaign to ensure that this positive attitude could be channelled from fiction to reality and turn it into a conservation area which will improve the living conditions of the freshwater pearl mussel,” Kytömäki says.

There are still freshwater pearl mussels in some Finnish rivers. The species can mainly be found in Northern Finland; in Southern Finland the freshwater pearl mussel is only hanging on in a few rivers. The dredging and damming of rivers, as well as the emissions of nutrients and solid matter from agriculture and forestry has made it more difficult for the mussel to survive.

An individual freshwater pearl mussel can live for more than 200 years, and as a species it is ancient. The freshwater pearl mussel has existed for one hundred million years, since the era of dinosaurs. In the past century the species has been greatly impacted by human activity, and it is now classified as an endangered species in Finland.

“I think this is very embarrassing for us humans. What does it say about us that it has taken us such a short time to nearly drive to extinction this species, which survived the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs?” says Kytömäki.

“Luckily corrective measures are now being taken, and the Raakkumetsä campaign is one of them. The campaign offers everyone a chance to help with the purchase of the protected forest.”

Protecting a forest on the drainage area of a river where freshwater pearl mussels are present will mean that the forest will never again be felled, or the ground touched. Untouched areas don’t make nearby waterways muddy in the same way as processed areas. That is why the protection of forests has a direct impact on the quality of waterways.

“The message of the Raakkumetsä campaign is that in nature, everything affects everything else. If we want the waterways and the organisms that live in them to thrive, then we can’t neglect the forests,” Kytömäki says.

Kytömäki’s publisher Gummerus is also helping to fund the purchase of Raakkumetsä.

“Literature can change people’s thoughts, and thus the world. As Gummerus is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, the company has decided to direct any anniversary gifts to the Raakkumetsä project. Anni Kytömäki’s Finlandia Prize-winning novel Margarita gives a voice to the endangered freshwater pearl mussel in a way that is only possible through fiction. The quiet inhabitants of the earth and the waters need authors to speak for them,” says Anna Baijars, publisher and MD at Gummerus.

You can participate in the Raakkumetsä fundraising campaign by making a donation via the Finnish Natural Heritage Foundation website or directly to the Foundation’s fundraising account:

– Enter Luonnonperintösäätiö as recipient
– Transfer the sum of your choice to the donation account FI78 5494 0950 0224 93
– Use the reference number 202769

The campaign started on 27.9.2022 and will be running for two years.

(Photo: Panu Ounasvirta)

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