Extraordinary Moth Outbreak in Finnish Lapland

An exceptionally large outbreak of the Common Heath Ematurga atomaria moth has been observed this summer in parts of the Ounastunturi fell, in northwest Finnish Lapland. A CHARTER project researcher Henri Wallen has been investigating this outbreak and its ramifications through the use of satellite imagery, on site visits and with local reindeer herders who have been reporting this as an issue of increasing occurrence and concern over the last few years. Henri has been working on this in collaboration with Work Package 2 leader Sari Stark. The sites in question are inside the Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park.

This moth has never been seen before to impact the landscape in this way in this region, which has led to extensive localised browning of the vegetation according to Henri whose findings have been widely reported in the Finnish media. In a demonstration of the interconnected and fragile nature of Arctic foodwebs, this will lead to the death of sparrows, which in turn will weaken reindeer’s winter food supplies.

Browning caused by Common Heath moth outbreaks in Ounastunturi. Pic: Henri Wallen.

Further reading, in Finnish

Metsämittariperhosen massaesiintymä Ounastunturilla, Arctic Centre press release

Karu näky: Poikkeuksellinen rypäs tuhoaa kasvillisuutta Ounastunturilla, Ilta sanomat

Metsämittari­perhoset tekevät tuhoa Lapissa – vastaavaa ei ole havaittu koskaan aiemmin, Helsingin sanomat.

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