Brimming with natural riches, peatlands and wetlands provide a variety of benefits to us all. The circulation of pure, clean water is vital to everyone, with berry picking sites, well-stocked game areas and waterfowl habitats offering a source of pleasure to many. The historically extensive project aims to safeguard Finland's peatlands, brooks and waterfowl habitats in more than hundred areas.
The project will help restore peatlands and wetlands that have been seriously threatened over the past 50 years, primarily by damming ditches and brooks, restoring valuable waterfowl lakes which have grown closed with vegetation, and by acquiring important mire areas for protection. Flood protection, water quality and game areas will also be improved.
The European Union is funding 60% of the nearly EUR 9 million budget of the Hydrology LIFE project. The funding for this historically extensive project will be used, for example, to restore over 5,000 hectares of mire areas and 34 km of brooks in an effort to bring them closer to their natural state.
" As one of the peatland-richest countries in the world, Finland has a special responsibility and opportunity to safeguard peatland biodiversity. The measures taken in the project will provide benefits right now as well as for Finland's next 100 years," explains Project Manager, Tuomas Haapalehto. "Restoring the natural hydrology of peatlands improves flood protection, while rising water levels secure peatland carbon sinks, thus slowing climate change over the long term. Water conservation costs are saved when we also develop new, more cost-effective methods for the harmonisation of ditch maintenance and restoration measures in commercial forests."
There is work in damming ditches, harvesting trees and restoring brooks for dozens of contractors all over Finland. In addition to this, information on the status and types of sites is collected and the importance of peatlands and wetlands is presented in a new way, such as with virtual nature paths.
New Methods and Benefits from Partners
The project is being co-ordinated by Metsähallitus, Parks & Wildlife Finland in co-operation with nine other partners.
Antti Otsamo, Sustainable Development Manager at Metsähallitus Forestry Ltd, explains that the project helps in an effort to preserve biodiversity on state-owned land:
"Damming ditches on the perimeter of protected areas ensures preservation of valuable peatland species within them. One of the key objectives of state-owned, multi-use forests is the management of game stock. The restoration of with peatland drainage systems is an effective way to improve the habitats of fowl. These peatlands are not profitable in terms of timber production. Their restoration is therefore an extremely cost-effective way to not only preserve nature value, but also safeguard the benefits that peatlands offer the users of state-owned forests."
Tapio Oy and the Finnish Forest Centre are involved in the development of methods, which can be used to take sites requiring restoration into consideration in connection with ditch maintenance.
"This promotes water conservation. The biodiversity of peatlands and, for example, the recreational value of these areas can also be preserved at substantially lower costs, which naturally appeals to many landowners and forest industry professionals," says water conservation expert Samuli Joensuu of Tapio Oy.
The Natural Resources Institute Finland is examining how people living in close proximity to protected areas as well as the recreational users of these areas feel about restoration. The information gained can be used to give greater consideration to recreational users as well as develop the cost-effectiveness of restoration.
Professor Anne Tolvanen of the Natural Resources Institute Finland points out that this is also vital from a landowner standpoint: "Finland has millions of hectares of ditched peatlands, and one alternative to their continued use is restoration – particularly the over 800,000 hectares of ditched peatlands, whose silviculture is not economically viable."
Professor Janne Kotiaho of the University of Jyväskylä emphasises the importance of long-term monitoring data. Without it, reliable data on gradual changes in the environment is difficult to obtain:
"The wide range of long-term monitoring measures taken in the project provide invaluable data on how restoration can be used to preserve the biodiversity of peatland biodiversity, improve water quality and slow down climate change. Using experimental designs created in an earlier, award-winning EU project, we have been able to produce a nearly 20-year time series during the project, which is unique even by international standards. Without close co-operation between researchers and the people actually involved in restoration work, the creation and long-term monitoring of these kinds of nation-wide experimental designs would be utterly impossible. Co-operation also guarantees the continuous development of restoration methods and the practical application of the results obtained."
Info: Hydrology LIFE:
- EU LIFE programme (Financial Instrument for supporting environmental, nature conservation and climate action projects throughout the EU)
- Project co-ordinator: Metsähallitus, Parks & Wildlife Finland
- Partners: North Savo and Central Finland Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centres), Finnish Forest Centre, Tapio Oy, Natural Resources Institute Finland, University of Jyväskylä, University of Oulu, University of Turku, Metsähallitus Forestry Ltd
- Duration: 1 August 2017 - 31 December 2023
- 103 sites throughout Finland (see map, www.metsa.fi)
- Measures include: Restoration of 95 peatland sites (approx. 5000 ha), restoration of 34 km of brooks, raising the water level of 14 lakes, acquiring 2 valuable peatland areas for conservation, extensive monitoring of measures taken and development of communications
Almost all protected areas of Finland are situated on state-owned lands and waters. Within Metsähallitus, the Parks & Wildlife Finland is responsible for the management of these areas: their species, habitats and cultural heritage as well as recreational services.
Metsähallitus is a state-owned enterprise that runs business activities while also fulfilling many public administration duties.