Viikki Sustainability Research Seminar

Viikki sustainability research seminar banner


Viikki Sustainability Research Seminar will continue in the autumn. 

Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) and the Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science (HELSUS) organize a joint research seminar focused on various sustainability themes. The monthly seminar will be held on the University of Helsinki Viikki campus, and it invites researchers and other interested guests to discuss and debate topical sustainability research. The events will be streamed online, and the link is published on the respective event page closer to date.

Listen to the recorded seminar here. 

When: Tue 28.4.2020, from 3 to 4 p.m. 

How to participate? The event will be only streamed with Zoom (streaming link below). You can send questions in the Zoom chat. The chair of the event will read the comments and questions aloud. 

Streaming link

Chair: Anne Toppinen, HELSUS


  • Henrikki Tenkanen, Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science
  • Antti Rehunen, Finnish Environment Institute
  • Anna Repo, Natural Resources Institute Finland

Presentation abstracts

Towards more sustainable cities with data? The role of spatial data analytics, Henrikki Tenkanen (HELSUS)

Societies are facing many complex challenges such as climate change and growing urban and social inequalities in which transportation plays a key role. The developments in Information and Communication Technologies and the “mass-use” of digital devices in everyday life has practically exploded the amount if digital data in the world. This avalanche of data has made it possible to examine various phenomena such as urban transport and mobility in a new and meaningful way. Data collected by public transportation system, shared bicycles and individual mobile devices combined with advanced spatial data analytics and modelling makes it possible to better understanding of the sustainability of the urban transportation system, from the viewpoint of CO2 emissions as well as health and wellbeing.  
In this presentation, we will present our recent advances in developing new measures and methodologies to evaluate and analyse accessibility and mobility from the aforementioned aspects.
Bio: Henrikki Tenkanen is a postdoctoral researcher and geospatial data scientist at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA), University College London. Henrikki is one o f the founding members of the Digital Geography Lab (University of Helsinki) where he conducted his PhD and first post-doctoral period prior to moving to UK. Henrikki’s current research focuses on developing models and analytical tools to assess environmental costs of spatial accessibility and mobility using big data.  

Climate impacts of urban land use and mobility, presenter Antti Rehunen (SYKE)

The development of urban areas has many climate impacts. Emissions are caused by daily mobility, energy use in the built environment, and construction of new buildings and infrastructure. Urban form affects emission levels particularly regarding mobility patterns, infrastructure needs and land use changes. In sparsely built car-dependent areas on urban outskirts, average emissions from daily travel are manifold compared to dense core areas with many mobility options. Densely built areas and infill development reduce emissions from infrastructure and save the carbon sinks and storages of nature areas. In my presentation, I examine how GIS-based spatial delineations can be used as tools in the assessment of emissions. Spatial delineations include e.g. localities and travel-related urban zones. On the basis of existing survey data and research literature, emission factors can be calculated for different area types and applied in the assessment and planning. Assessments indicate that emphasis in sustainable urban planning should lie in infill development, locating jobs and services close to public transport hubs and avoiding the expansion of car-dependent zones. 

Bio: Antti Rehunen works as a senior researcher in the Land Use Management Unit in SYKE’s environmental policy centre. He is specialized in GIS-based analysis on urban land use and spatial structure. Antti has developed indicators for sustainable urban form and regional land use and applied spatial delineations in monitoring and assessment. He is responsible for the maintenance of Eco-tool KEKO which is a web-based assessment tool for the eco-efficiency of land use plans, covering CO2 emissions and used by many cities in Finland.

Trade-offs and synergies in land-based climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation, presenter Anna Repo (Luke)

The way we use and manage land holds the solutions to limit the global warming to well below 2 °C and to halt biodiversity loss. Meeting the climate goals set in the Paris Agreement requires a rapid reduction in the net CO2 emissions, but also CO2 removal from the atmosphere, i.e. negative emissions. The land use sector contributes to meeting the climate goals in two ways. First, by providing bioenergy to replace fossil fuels, and by producing negative emissions if bioenergy production is combined with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). Second, by sequestering and storing carbon in vegetation and soil. Currently, natural carbon sequestration in terrestrial ecosystems removes approximately one third of the annual anthropogenic CO2 emissions. Both abovementioned land-based climate change mitigation options are likely to have trade-offs and synergies with biodiversity conservation. Identifying and quantifying these trade-offs and synergies is challenging because of the context-dependency of these relationships, and systemic effects as the impacts may occur with a time delay, or change land-use in other parts of the globe. In this presentation I will present our past and ongoing research that addresses these challenges.

Bio: Anna Repo is post-doctoral researcher funded by the Academy of Finland in Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke). Her research focuses on finding solutions on how land can be used for both climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation. She has expertise in forest carbon cycle modelling, climate impact assessment, ecosystem service and biodiversity modelling as well on the sustainability assessment of bioenergy. She holds a degree of Doctor of Science (Tech.) in Systems analysis and Operations Research, and a master’s degree in Environmental Science.

Listen to the recorded seminar here. 

When: Thu 26.3.2020, from 3 to 4 p.m. 

Where: The event will be only online streamed (streaming link below). You can send questions in Twitter with the hashtag #viikkisr. We are following the messages through the event!

Streaming link


  • Heikki Lehtonen, Natural Resources Institute Finland
  • Iryna Herzon, Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science
  • Tuomas Mattila, Finnish Environment Institute

Present­a­tion ab­stracts

Sustainable intensification in agriculture: implications for the farm economy and agricultural sector, presenter Heikki Lehtonen (Luke)

Sustainable intensification of agriculture is considered one key opportunity and challenge in the attempt to respond to environmental challenges and global increase in food demand. How to produce more food in more sustainable way is dependent on productivity development and utilization of farm inputs, e.g. agricultural land, fertilisers and labour, more effectively. In other words, sustainable intensification means more production with less inputs, without affecting environment and climate negatively. This presentation outlines how these targets can be met under certain conditions and shows opportunities from farm economic point of view. The economic modelling based analysis assumes that economic net gains are decisive for farmers in their management and production decisions, while risk aversion plays a minor role. This means that the agricultural inputs are used as long as they are worth more than they cost and hence farmers must find feasible and profitable input use, land allocation and crop rotation choices to be able increase farm income. Environmental and climate effects of farm management are considered as well. If more productive farms using less inputs used per kg produced, important sector level implications will follow, conditional on consumer demand and agricultural policy reflecting societal preferences.

Bio: Heikki Lehtonen (D.Sc. in Eng.) works as a research professor in Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke). He has worked with agricultural policy impact analysis using agricultural sector level modelling and farm level modelling for more than 20 years. The specific modelling challenge addressed in the doctoral dissertation (2001) was explicit consideration of farm structure change in dairy sector, i.e. endogenous technological change, in a recursive-dynamic agricultural sector model, still used and updated as a research tool in different research projects. Since 2000 Lehtonen has repeatedly addressed agri-environmental topics such as water protection, biodiversity maintenance as well as adaptation to climate change and climate change mitigation. Most studies have been developed in close contact with agricultural stakeholders and agricultural administration. The results have been published and disseminated at national and European levels. Current research include various topics and approaches related to sustainable agriculture, e.g. projects DiverfarmingSTN SompaSTN Just-FoodDivCSAKOTIETU

What makes animal-based production sustainable, presenter Iryna Herzon (Helsus)

There has been a lot of heated debate about the production and consumption of meat, milk and other animal-derived products in Finland. We need a holistic and rational outlook on the possibilities and limitations associated with the use of animals in agriculture. While even the most efficient production of animal-derived protein loses in comparison with plant-derived protein on several key environmental criteria, animal husbandry has a number of important environmental benefits. These arise under certain production conditions. In the talk, I summarise such benefits and outline research needs for Finland for establishing production conditions for the optimised trade-off between negatives and positives of animal production and consumption.

Bio: Dr. Iryna Herzon is a university lecturer in agroecology. She works in the field of sustainable agriculture, with the emphasis on ecology and social acceptability of conservation on in farmland. Most of her work is multidisciplinary, bridging disciplines across ecology, agronomy, social sciences, and economics.

Managing soil functions to solve environmental problems, presenter Tuomas Mattila (SYKE)

Soil is under environmental pressure from different human activities. Widespread compaction, loss of diversity, erosion, and reduction in carbon stocks increase environmental problems through emissions. At  the same time, they limit soil functions such as nutrient and water cycling, carbon storage and biological community stabilization. These soil functions are also controlled by agricultural management actions related to tillage, crop rotation, machinery, fertilization, grazing and cover cropping, for example. Taking an ecosystem perspective allows soil managers to identify the current functioning of their soil and to identify measures to improve it over time. Increased infiltration, water storage, nutrient cycling and carbon sequestration offers great potential for reducing the impact of many of the current environmental problems. In the presentation an overview of soil functions is presented, followed by examples from a multi-year soil health field experiment on 8 farms and ongoing research on c.a. 30 Carbon Action pilot farms.

Bio: Tuomas J. Mattila (Dr.Sc.Tech, M.Sc.Agric.) is a farmer working for the Finnish Environment Institute SYKE as a Senior Researcher. His research has focused on modeling of environmental systems ranging from soil processes to Baltic Sea foodwebs, transport systems and the Finnish Economy as a whole. A key focus in his research has been the boundary between human activity and the surrounding biosphere, and the way decisions are made to manage different ecosystems. In addition to his research activities, Tuomas manages his family farm, experimenting with new ecological agricultural practices and providing scientific extension services to the wider community. This work resulted in the WWF Baltic Sea Farmer of the year award in 2018. Some links to current and recent projects: OSMO, Carbon Action, SOMPA

When: Tue 25.2.2020, from 3 to 4 p.m. 

Coffee will be served from 2:30 p.m. Researchers will be available for discussions until 4:30 p.m.

Where: Viikki, Kokoustamo, A4 (Street address Latokartanonkaari 9)

Chair: Jari Lyytimäki, senior researcher, Finnish Environment Institute


  • Eeva Furman, Chair of the Expert Panel for Sustainable Development, director of the Environmental Policy Center, Finnish Environment Institute
  • Katriina Siivonen, Member of the Expert Panel for Sustainable Development, professor of Futures Studies and Adjunct Professor in Cultural Heritage Studies at the University of Turku


  • Eija Pouta, Research professor, Natural Resources Institute Finland
  • Hanna Tuomisto, Associate Professor (Sustainable food systems), University of Helsinki
  • Paula Kivimaa, Research professor, Finnish Environment Institute

In the seminar the panelists from the Finnish expert panel on sustainable development will present the recently published analysis and recommendations about the Finnish pathways to sustainability transformation (website only in Finnish). It is based on the panel’s interpretation of the Global Sustainable Development Report’s (2019) findings in a Finnish context. Researchers from Luke, SYKE and HELSUS will comment on the analysis and the audience is invited to actively participate in the discussion and especially bring forward the possibilities of research to contribute to the pathways.

Expert Panel for Sustainable Development

The Finnish Expert Panel for Sustainable Development supports and challenges Finnish policy for sustainable development. They provide scientific knowledge and viewpoints to decision-making and bring complicated but critical issues to the public debate. The mission is to promote societal change that takes into account both the environment and human wellbeing. The panel aims at foreseeing development and strengthening long-term decision-making.

Watch recording of the seminar

When: Thu 30.1.2020, from 3 to 4 p.m. 

Coffee will be served from 2:30 p.m. Researchers will be available for discussions until 4:30 p.m.

Where: Viikki, Kokoustamo, A2 (Street address Latokartanonkaari 9)

Chair: Anne Toppinen Professor, Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science (HELSUS)


  • Christopher Raymond Professor, Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry and HELSUS
  • Marjo Neuvonen Research Scientist, Luke
  • Riikka Paloniemi Head of unit, Environmental Policy Center, Behavioral Change Unit, SYKE

Presentation abstracts

Co-creating nature-based solutions to promote carbon neutrality, environmental justice and well-being in urban areas: Insights from across Europe, presenter Christopher Raymond, HELSUS

Nature-based solutions (NBS) have the potential for promoting transformations toward carbon neutrality and improving well-being across Europe; however, carbon benefits need to be considered with respect to the potential impacts on environmental justice.  This presentation will outline a framework for assessing the co-benefits and costs of NBS for promoting carbon neutrality, environmental justice and well-being in urban areas, and then provide case insights from various nature-based solutions projects across Europe.  Results indicate that while NBS hold much promise for carbon sequestration and subjective well-being, in some cases NBS can create issues of social exclusion, gentrification and access.  I will present some guidance on how environmental justice issues can be addressed through new forms of urban governance currently being trialled as part of the VIVA-PLAN project in case areas in Stockholm, Copenhagen and Malmö. 

Bio: Christopher Raymond is a Professor in Sustainability Transformations and Ecosystem Services at the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry and Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science. His research examines the multiple ways in which people value nature, and informs inclusive approaches to the management of protected areas and urban green areas. He leads the Social Values and Sustainability Transformations research group that develops inter- and trans-disciplinary approaches for eliciting social values for ecosystems and their services, and for promoting transformations toward sustainability. He coordinates the ENVISION project (funded by BiodivERsA), which aims to develop new participatory techniques for balancing diverse industry and community visions for protected area management. He also coordinates the VIVA-Plan project, which aims to develop a sustainable spatial planning framework for revitalising in-between spaces in urban areas for social inclusion, biodiversity and well-being, including safety and security.

Urban forests and nature as an environment for residents physical activity: a case study from Helsinki, presenter Marjo Neuvonen, Luke

Inadequate physical activity (PA) is acknowledged as a key health risk factor both in Finland and in modern societies. Therefore, potential ways to increase PA at individual and population level is of high public health priority. Urban nature contributes to residents’ well-being in many ways including the reductions stressors and improving the urban resilience to climate change. Current research evidence indicates positive influence of nature on health and well-being through stress recovery, improved physical activity and social relationships.  

Luke has coordinated research based on both cross-sectional data and experimental studies on health and well-being effects of urban forests. The specific aim of this research is to study the importance of nature for promoting physical activity among the urban residents and to identify the attractive nature areas for PA, and the residents evaluated the valued properties and the development proposals of these areas.  

A public participatory GIS survey was conducted in three study areas of Helsinki in 2018. In total, 1106 residents responded to the survey, indicating 2598 places for their green exercise and outdoor recreation environments on the map. 

This study complements existing knowledge on the importance of the green environments: around 36 % of the residents’ spear time PA took place in nature environments. These areas were valued for their good accessibility, trails, sport facilities, possibilities for recreation, beautiful scenery, and possibilities for experience nature and silence. The estimated average distance to green exercise area was 1.28 km. 

These findings highlight the importance of green environments to residents’ wellbeing. The health and well-being of citizens can be supported by providing natural environments that support and motivate physical activity. Especially large green areas are important for the residents, as they offer opportunities for nature experiences and as well as places for different physical activities. 

Bio:  Marjo Neuvonen is research scientist at Luke and coordinates a nationwide survey on Finns' participation in outdoor activities (National outdoor recreation demand inventory, LVVI3). She is interested in developing statistics of outdoor recreation to support the decision making. Her work has focused on understanding the factors behind outdoor recreation visitation in the urban environment as well as in the context of national parks. 

Promoting health and well-being through urban nature-based solutions, presenter Riikka Paloniemi, SYKE

Health and well-being benefits of nature are achieved by spending time frequently in green areas. Recently such an active use of nature has been increasingly seen as health promotion complementing other approaches to health care. New concepts, such as nature-based solutions, may help in acknowledging multiple benefits of nature, including their health benefits. In the presentation, I will discuss health benefits of urban nature by presenting experiences from the Nature step project, in which new practices to encourage more active use of urban nature were co-created with kindergartens. In addition, I will discuss how to improve the accessibility of forests through planning and finally. 

Bio: Docent Riikka Paloniemi, works as the head of the Behavioral Change unit in SYKE’s environmental policy centre. Our multidisciplinary team aims to create prerequisites for more sustainable behavior, policy and decision making. We are studying the behavior of individuals and groups, and opportunities and challenges towards more sustainable behavior. Our current projects focus among other themes how  nature based solutions could help to solve current major societal challenges.

The information about Viikki Sustainability Research -seminars in year 2019 has been removed to the HELSUS Past events -section