Fishways, butterfly landscapes and meadow restorations: Fortum’s efforts in Finland and Sweden to improve biodiversity

24 November 2022, 11:49 EET

forest and river

In recent years, the protection and restoration of biodiversity have increasingly become a spotlight topic alongside climate change mitigation. The reason for this is clear: more and more species and habitats are threatened by climate change and human activities. The topic will be given even more attention later in the year when the parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity meet in Montreal to discuss how to protect and restore biodiversity.

Aligned with the targets of the EU Climate Pact and the Paris Agreement, our goal is to be carbon neutral by 2050 at the latest, and to be carbon neutral in European production by 2035. Given the close link between climate change and biodiversity loss, promoting carbon neutrality also supports the strengthening of biodiversity. However, emissions-free energy production also impacts biodiversity in a way that isn’t taken into consideration when focusing solely on climate impacts.

In fact, improving biodiversity requires systematic and long-term efforts. Our annually updated Biodiversity Action Plan lists the actions we are already taking and the actions we are planning to take. The majority of the actions focus on our hydropower production in Finland and Sweden.

For 2021, we set a Group-wide biodiversity target of at least 12 major voluntary measures promoting biodiversity. We carried out 13 projects, many of which are still continuing. In 2022, we have been developing a science-based strategy to measure and improve the biodiversity-relevant impacts of the Group’s activities and new projects. Some local examples of our biodiversity work are included below:

Read more on local biodiversity actions

Butterfly landscape in Kumla, Sweden

We are involved in a project coordinated by the Kumla municipality in Sweden to build a butterfly landscape near our waste treatment facility. The aim of the butterfly landscape project is to increase the biodiversity in the area and to restore former grasslands to benefit plants and insects – and butterflies, in particular. Additionally, the project includes a butterfly trail that can be used for educational purposes. Restoration measures made in 2020 included the creation of sandy habitats for solitary bees and the restoration of meadows. In 2021, the meadow areas were expanded and measures to support the ongoing maintenance of the areas were implemented.

In 2022, meadow flowers were planted on three hectares of the landfill and at the outer part of the Material Recycling Center. On top of the landfill we also placed sand beds as well as old oak and birch trunks and a small water pond to favour insects and bird life.

Inventory of plants and insects at the Avesta power plant

The project was launched in 2021 with a controlled burn of the meadow in the power plant’s surroundings. The controlled burn benefited the flora and the availability of nutrients for the insects in the meadow. It also enabled more detailed studies of the flora and fauna species in the area. Several endangered plant species were found in the study area, like blue bugle and broad-leaved thyme, as well as dry soil plants like maiden pink. Additionally, many butterfly species, including the six-spot burnet and small blues, were also found near the power plant.

Based on the biodiversity studies, we have continued the cooperation with Avesta municipality by setting a mutual maintenance plan. The plan involves measures such as cutting trees to create more sand areas, building fauna depots, and planting crucial plant species.

New, innovative fishway for the Väsa, Blyberg and Spjutmo power plants

Fortum is building fishways at three power plants in the Älvdalen and Mora municipalities, tailored to the conditions of each power plant. A fishway enabling upstream migration uses a strong pump that creates an attraction flow towards the fishway, bypassing the power plant. For fish migrating downstream, an inclined fine grid in combination with a diverter will be built to enable fish to bypass the power plant.

The fishway enabling upstream migration will be completed in 2025 at the Blyberg and Väsa power plants, while the fishway for downstream migration will be commissioned at the same plants in 2023. The construction of the fishways is the biggest fishway investment in Swedish history.

Fishheart fishway at the Leppikoski power plant

The hydraulic Fishheart fishway is a Finnish innovation enabling fish to migrate past obstacles. The fishway is installed in the power plant’s tailrace channel, where an attraction flow is created to guide fish into the opening of the device.

Fishheart was tested at the Leppikoski power plant for the first time in summer 2021. The fishway has been in use at the hydropower plant throughout the entire 2022 migration period, from June to mid-October. By the end of August, the Fishheart fishway had carried more than 12,500 fish over the power plant. The purpose of the Fishheart is to strengthen especially the natural cycle of endangered lake trout on the Hyrynsalmi route, which is part of the Oulujoki river system.

Habitat restorations upstream from the Tainionkoski power plant

Fortum, the City of Imatra, and the Southeast Finland and Southwest Finland ELY Centres will carry out joint habitat restorations in the area upstream from the Tainionkoski power plant located in the Vuoksi river system. The goal of the restoration work is to improve the trout breeding opportunities, e.g. by restoring areas suitable for trout spawning and by redirecting the water flow.

Landscaping the old Inkoo power plant, old landfill area/storage field

During the construction of the power plant in 1970s, the area was used as the construction site’s landfill. After construction, the area was levelled and resurfaced, and it served as a storage field during the power plant’s operational phase. In conjunction with the demolition of the power plant, further use of the landfill area was determined to be problematic, due to the waste in the soil. With the permission of the Inkoo municipality, the area was left untouched. In 2021, the sandy field was transformed into a meadow suitable for insects and for butterflies, in particular. In 2022, the plan is to maintain and monitor the meadow growth and the presence of insects in the area. The guidelines for maintaining the meadow have been prepared by ProAgria.

More information on other projects

View our Biodiverstity action plan