Viikki Sustainability Research Seminar

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Viikki Sustainability Research Seminar schedule now available!

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 seminar invites researchers and other interested guests to discuss and debate topical sustainability research. The monthly seminar will be held on Zoom (link below) until further notice.



When? Wed 11.11.2020 3 to 4 p.m.

Recording available on Unitube. 


  • Ilkka Leinonen, Research Professor(Luke)
  • Hanna Koivula, University Lecturer (HELSUS)
  • Pinja Näkki, Researcher (SYKE)

Presentation abstracts

Plastic litter in the marine environment – causes and consequences, presenter Pinja Näkki (SYKE)

The concerns and public debate related to marine litter revolve around plastic, since it forms most of all marine litter. Its predominance as a material among other types of litter is a consequence of many factors: the wide application in the society, ever-growing production volumes, irresponsible consumer behavior, lack of proper waste management practices and persistence to degradation. Not only does plastic litter threat the wildlife, it also causes economical and societal harm. While the impacts of visible, large macroplastics have been recognized since the 1970s, microplastics rose into the limelight only in the 21st century and the evidence for their effects is still partially limited. In this presentation, I will give a short overview on the origin of the plastic litter problem and the currently known impacts and potential risks of plastics in the marine environment.

Bio: Pinja Näkki works as a researcher in the Marine Research Centre at the Finnish Environment Institute SYKE. Her research focuses on microplastics, and currently she is finishing her doctoral thesis on the fate and impacts of microplastics on the seafloor. In addition, she has been involved in various projects related to the sources, abundance and effects of marine litter in the Baltic Sea and participated in environmental education and public outreach related to these issues.

Are bio-based packaging materials more environmentally friendly than fossil plastics?, presenter Ilkka Leinonen (LUKE)

Bio-based materials have generally a “green” image when they are compared to plastics. It is often thought that when materials come from renewable sources, also their environmental impacts are minimal. However, such ideas may not always be based on actual scientific facts. In this presentation, results from wide range of recent scientific studies are presented, showing comparisons between bio-based and fossil materials as carried out using the methodology of environmental Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). The results show that biomaterials indeed have environmental benefits, but also environmental problems that people are not always aware of. Furthermore, the presentation demonstrates the complexity associated with the environmental impact assessment of different materials. Especially the issues related to carbon sequestration and biogenic carbon storage are problematic, as there is a wide range of methodological choices needed when the environmental impacts are evaluated, and the results can be strongly dependent on such choices.

Bio: Ilkka Leinonen works as a Research Professor at the Bioeconomy and Environment research unit of the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke). Prof. Leinonen has long experience in applying and further developing systems modelling-based Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methods for quantifying the environmental impacts and resource use of food chains and investigating options for improving their environmental sustainability. Prof Leinonen has background in ecology and environmental sciences, and his earlier work includes development of process-based models for carbon cycles, as well as mechanistic models for energy balance and nutrient dynamics.

Plastics in food packaging, presenter Hanna Koivula (HELSUS)

Food is a necessity for human life. It is our fuel, source of enjoyment and central point for our social interactions. We have become more aware of how our food consumption has consequences for sustainability. The construction of our current food supply system heavily relies on packaging to protect the journey of food and to ensure the quality and safety of our food. It is essential to the way our food reaches our homes and eventually our mouths. Food comes in variety of shapes, colors, combination and consistencies. Each food has unique properties that need to be protected. Plastic is one category of materials that we use to protect our food on this journey. Why do we use it? How should we use it and what should we do to enhance sustainability of plastics for food packaging?

Bio: D.Sc. (Tech.) Hanna Koivula is a university lecturer in packaging technology at the department of Food and Nutrition, University of Helsinki.  The various research topics in her career have revolved around material science, surface interactions, transfer phenomena and complex applications and problems requiring collaboration between different fields of science. Therefore, she finds that packaging technology and research topics especially in food packaging are a great field to be working on. Her current focus is food-packaging interactions from material and food science points of view.

Local sustainable energy solutions

Watch recording here. 

When: Wed 7.10.2020 from 3 to 4 p.m.


How to participate? Due to the COVID-19 situation, the events will be held via Zoom until further notice. Recording will also be available later.

Zoom link: Click here

Passcode: Viikki


  • Erika Winquist, Senior Scientist (Luke)
  • Eeva-Lotta Apajalahti, Research Coordinatior, Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science (HELSUS)
  • Santtu Karhinen, Researcher (SYKE)

Presentation abstracts

Biogas as part of decentralized renewable energy system, presenter Erika Winquist (Luke)

How is biogas produced and from which raw materials? How can we use biogas and what could be the role of biogas in the future decentralized renewable energy system in Finland? The opportunities and challenges of biogas production and use were investigated during FutWend-project (2016 - 2019), Towards a future-oriented “Energiewende”, funded by Academy of Finland. The presentation summarizes the key findings from forerunner interviews, business model analysis, and webropol query carried out during the project. In addition, few examples are given from current existing farm-scale biogas plants and their business models.

Bio: Erika Winquist works as Senior Scientist in Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), Biorefinery and Bioproducts research group. She has several research interests all related to circular economy such as sustainable and resource efficient use of agricultural biomasses, and production of biogas and recycled nutrients.

Development of the city energy system. From distributed local practices to large-scale system and back again?, presenter Eeva-Lotta Apajalahti (HELSUS)

To be able to change and shape the current city energy systems towards more sustainable and renewable-based energy systems, it is important to know the history. The energy system of the City of Helsinki has developed to its current form from the early decades of 20th century when heating of the buildings and electricity production was block specific to a large-scale energy system with several fossil fuel based power plants. Strategic plans of carbon neutrality of the city of Helsinki is driving changes towards renewable and distributed energy system. I will shortly guide us through the development of the city energy system and give examples of the recent local energy solutions in the city context.

Bio: Eeva-Lotta Apajalahti works as a research coordinator at HELSUS. Her research focuses on energy transition, sustainability transitions, inertia and path dependency of energy systems, socio-cultural framing of technology and emergence of technological fields. Her work as a research coordinator focuses on developing inter- and intradisciplinary research collaboration, science-policy interaction and increasing the societal impact of sustainability research.

Regional employment and emission reduction potential of distributed renewable energy solutions in Finland, presenter Santtu Karhinen (SYKE)

Abstract: Utilization of distributed renewable energy sources is one of the key factors in achieving carbon neutrality. In this study we take national estimates and targets related to the deployment of wind power, solar power, ground-source heat pumps and air-source heat pumps as given, and the national figures are separated into regional renewable energy potentials in 18 regions in the mainland of Finland based on regional building stock characteristics and weather conditions. The energy potentials are translated into required investments, which in turn create regional employment possibilities. Emission reduction potentials are calculated for each renewable energy source with econometric methods. Lastly, investigated renewable energy sources are compared by the prices of reduced emissions and employment per invested euros. The purpose of the comparison is to provide information on the most cost-efficient ways to reduce regional CO2 emissions, while simultaneously producing information on the creation of green jobs.

Bio: Santtu Karhinen (M. Sc. in Economics) works as a researcher in Centre for Sustainable Consumption and Production at the Finnish Environment Institute. His main research focus is on the integration of variable renewable energy sources into power systems in cost efficient ways, which are related to electricity demand response, pricing and storage. He has also worked for the Hinku network in multiple regional development projects and in the Canemure (Towards carbon neutral municipalities and regions) project, where he has conducted regional economic impact assessments and developed calculation of municipal greenhouse gas emission inventories. He is currently finalizing his doctoral thesis on the economics of power market flexibility.

Clean Environment and Health

Watch the recording of the event from Unitube.


When: Mon 14.9.2020 from 3 to 4 p.m.

How to participate? Due to the COVID-19 situation, the events will be held via Zoom until further notice. Recording will also be available later.


  • Mira Grönroos, Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science (HELSUS)
  • Marko Tainio, Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE)
  • Ann Ojala, Research scientists (Luke)

Presentation abstracts

Effects of natural microbiota on human microbiota and health, Mira Grönroos (HELSUS)

Immune-mediated diseases, such as allergy and asthma, have increased among urban populations in recent decades. It has been suggested that one of the main reasons for this increase is the reduced microbial diversity in urban environments, which prevents immune system to develop properly. Correlative studies conducted in the ADELE project and other projects in Nature-Based Solutions Research Group at the University of Helsinki have shown that living in rural areas increases the resident’s exposure on diverse microbiota compared to more urban areas and that vegetation diversity and land use around homes affect human microbiota. Experimental studies have shown encouraging results: contacts to natural materials with diverse microbial communities have modified human microbiota and functioning of the human immune system. Results of the ADELE project have now led to development of new consumer products containing additional nature exposure to support the normal development of immune system. 

Bio: Mira Grönroos a post-doctoral researcher in Nature-Based Solutions Research Group at the University of Helsinki. Mira has been working in the ADELE project that aims to find solutions to balance and enhance the function of human immune system. Currently, she is working in the NATUREWELL project that studies how interacting with nature affects young urban people and their microbiota, health and well-being. The project studies various outdoor activities to identify attractive and efficient solutions to increase the opportunities to gain health and well-being benefits from interaction with nature.

Transport, environment and health: Improving health through travel mode shift?, Marko Tainio (SYKE)

Transport is significant source of air pollution, noise, collisions and greenhouse gas emissions with direct and indirect impact for human wellbeing. Past studies from Finland have estimated that traffic related air pollution, noise and collisions cause annually 208, 90 and 200 fatalities, respectively. At the same time active transport, walking and cycling, have positive impact for health through increased physical activity, with possibly hundreds of premature deaths prevented every year. This indicate that mode shift from motorized transport for walking and cycling could have large positive impact for the health. In this presentation I will present two examples on how mode sift to cycling, caused by the implementation of the bike sharing systems in Barcelona and London, have impacted human wellbeing through changes in physical activity, air pollution and collisions.

Bio: Marko Tainio (docent, DSc, PhD) is an acting director of the Sustainable Urban Programme at Finnish Environment Institute SYKE. Marko’s background is in environmental science and environment & health, especially within the topic of transport, environment and health. For past ten years his special focus has been cycling and health, which he has studied by using computer modelling and Health Impact Assessment (HIA) methods. Before joining SYKE in summer 2019 Marko was Senior Research Associate in the University of Cambridge, England (2013-2019), assistant professor is the Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland (2009-2013), and researcher in the National Institute for Health and Welfare, Finland (2002-2011).


What is known about the effects of nature on mental health and how these effects are studied?, Ann Ojala (Luke)

Mental health is determined by the individual, socio-cultural and environmental factors. In recent years, there has been an increasing interest among researchers to study the effects of environmental factors on mental health. This interest is partly related to the urbanization and (often not positive) changes in human living environment. However, our knowledge about how environmental factors are related to mental health is fragmented, and this topic would need more attention than it has received so far.  The modern technological solutions offer improvements in this research area, for example to conduct studies in different settings (e.g. outside laboratory) or to simulate nature experiences indoors. In addition, there is a risen capability to collect and combine data from different sources. In this presentation, I concentrate on the research about nature’s effects on human health and well-being, especially on mental health. I present, how these effects are studied, and what are the current problems and knowledge gaps. The presentation includes research examples from Finland and Luke.

Bio: Ann Ojala, DSocSc, is a Research Scientist at the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke). Her research focuses on health and well-being benefits of nature and human relationship with nature.

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