Group Leader


Heikki Setälä,
Professor in Urban Ecosystem Studies

phone: +358 9 191 20312

Department of Environmental Sciences, Lahti
University of Helsinki
Niemenkatu 73
FIN-15140 Lahti

Heikki Setälä, PhD, Professor in urban ecosystem studies

Publications >>

I started my studies at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, where I completed my PhD thesis on soil ecology in 1990. After having a 2-year post doctoral period at Pacific Forest Centre in British Columbia, I returned back to Jyväskylä where I stayed before moving to the University of Helsinki in 2001.

I have devoted most of my time to studying Soil Food Webs -- particularly in relation to ecosystem functioning (decomposition rate, nutrient mineralisation, primary production) in various ecosystems including boreal forests, grasslands and agricultural systems. Here my special interests have targeted to exploring (i) the links between diversity and ecosystem functioning, (ii) the connections between the above- and below ground systems, (iii) the functioning of ecosystems under disturbance and (iv) the impacts of habitat fragmentation on community assembly/de-assembly processes.

Since 2005 I have worked with a completely new type of system: the urban ecosystem. Although urban systems are likely to share vast amount of features untypical to “natural ecosystems”, they nevertheless provide amply of relevant research questions – both basic and applied – for an ecologist to solve. Of special interest to me is to explore the role of soils and the processes (“ecosystem services”) therein as affecting the ecological functioning of urban ecosystems. Due to their evident anthropogenic background, life in urbanized areas is strongly controlled by humans, warranting a socio-economic-ecological approach in this research front.