Ilkka Hanski Nature Network
Ilkka Hanski (14 February 1953 – 10 May 2016) was a highly respected scientist both in Finland as well as internationally. He was an ecologist best known for his research on metapopulation biology. Alongside a particularly successful scientific career Ilkka was actively involved in the political discussion around research, science and nature conservation.
When Ilkka Hanski died in Spring 2016, he left an interesting task to his wife Eeva Furman and to his children Katri Hanski, Matti Hanski, and Eveliina Hanski: to establish a network of protected areas which include plots of forest, wetland, and archipelago. To enable this, he left instructions in his will to use the large Frontiers of Knowledge award he received from the BBVA Foundation in 2016 for this purpose. He received the award in recognition of his academic work and achievements in changing the current understanding in the field of ecology and conservation biology.
Some of the protected areas that are now part of the Ilkka Hanski Nature Network were owned by Ilkka. However, most of the areas either have been or will be bought from local landowners at a jointly agreed price. Ilkka Hanski Nature Network also includes precious protected areas not owned by Ilkka Hanski’s family.
Together with the economically managed parts of the area, the nature network will form a socio-ecological system where animals and plants can remain diverse and co-exist with people.
The duties of Ilkka Hanski’s family are:
To protect the wetland, that already belongs to the family
To use the money to buy suitable areas from Virolahti and to protect them
To inspire other landowners to contribute to Ilkka Hanski Nature Network by protecting suitable areas that they own but wish not to sell
To provide a model for other local communities – both in Finland and other countries – that want to contribute to biodiversity protection with local action but without intervention from outsiders
Ilkka’s ancestors from his father’s side came from a village called Hanski, located in the municipality of Virolahti, and this is the area where Ilkka spent all his childhood summers. The family has spent much time together in Virolahti and therefore the area is familiar and loved by the entire family, much like it was by Ilkka.
Virolahti is a particularly biodiverse part of Finland. This is because in this area continental and maritime climates meet. In addition, new species regularly spread to Finland from the south and east due to favourable climate and wind conditions.
On the other hand, the use of forests in Virolahti for wood and the cellulose industry has been particularly intense, leaving small fragments of the original, biodiverse, old-growth forest. Ilkka Hanski Nature Network strives to increase the number of forest plots that are not part of forestry.
Why a network of protected areas?
Ilkka’s research dealt with theories on populations and ecosystems, making major contributions to the understanding of biodiversity, its challenges and to solutions to stop biodiversity loss. He showed that networks of interconnected patches of suitable habitat can, when suitable circumstances prevail, help nature to survive and even thrive. In addition to his research, Ilkka took part in public discussions on the importance of nature protection and on nature’s importance to human well-being. Ilkka wanted to leave something concrete for the good of nature and did so by enabling the formation of the Ilkka Hanski Nature Network.