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Characteristics of earth hummocks (pounus) with and without permafrost in Finnish Lapland

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Finnish Lapland north of 68°30′N latitude is located in the zone of discontinuous permafrost. Two main types of permafrost have previously been found in northern Finland: palsas in the mires and frost in the bedrock on the barren fell summits. The aim of this study was (1) to investigate permafrost occurrence in the peaty earth hummocks (pounus) in several mires, and (2) model characteristics of pounus with and without permafrost.

This study showed that permafrost in Finnish Lapland occurs much more widely and commonly than was previously known. A total of 59% of the studied pounus were found to contain permafrost. Over 90% of the permafrost occurrence in the pounus was correctly classified in logistic regression modelling. The probability of permafrost in a pounu decreased with the height of vegetation, and increased with the pounu height and distance from the running stream. There were clear vegetation differences between pounus with and without permafrost. Unfrozen pounus are characterized by forest and mire species, whereas on the permanently frozen pounus the vegetation is patchier with species indicating drier conditions. Pounus provide an excellent object to study short–term and local variations in permafrost formation due to their small size. They react quickly to variation in temperature, snow depth and precipitation. We conclude that pounus can be classified as sporadic permafrost features in northernmost Europe under modern climatic conditions.

Keywords: earth hummocks; mire; permafrost; pounus

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Finnish Environment Institute, Helsinki, Finland, Email: 2: Helsinki University, Finland, Email:

Publication date: August 1, 2002


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