SOTKA Wetland Habitats & Management of invasive predators

Halting the loss of biodiversity and restoring waterbird populations

Many ducks of Western Europe hatch in the boreal wetlands of Finland, where several waterbird populations are currently declining due to degradation of habitats and invasion of non-native species such as Raccoon Dog and American Mink. Most quarry ducks such as Wigeon, Pintail and Teal, raise their broods outside the protected areas and SPA network, in the wetlands of agricultural and forestry areas.

The Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is investing three million euros annually in restoration of brood habitats, development of predator management, creation of a waterbird staging area network and improvement of waterbird monitoring.

The Finnish Ministry of the Environment is leading the restoration of 80 valuable wetlands in the Natura 2000 SPA network, which will be completed by 2023. These sites are key staging areas for migrating ducks and breeding areas of many threatened species.

The government is currently preparing a broader environmental program, until 2030 the HELMI-program will give significant resources for the restoration of habitats and biodiversity.

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The brood habitat restoration through the SOTKA-wetlands project is implemented by the Finnish Wildlife Agency, continuing the work of the MARKHOR Award-winning Return of Rural Wetlands LIFE project. The project is carried out and funded in co-operation with landowners and local associations for the benefit of declining duck species. The restoration and construction of wetland contributes to surface water protection, flood retention and biodiversity of the rural landscapes.

The development of landscape-level working models to manage high-density Raccoon Dog and Mink populations in inland areas and archipelagos are developed by the Finnish Wildlife Agency. The project provides a framework to effectively reduce the negative effects of non-native species on waterbirds. The HELMI-program invests in the management of invasive predators in the Natura 2000 SPAs using hunting as a conservation tool.

Objectives:

  • Help landowners, hunters and other interested parties to restore wetlands as brood habitats for waterbirds.  These actions in part can secure the duck populations and stop the loss of biodiversity.
  • Restore at least 40 wetland sites covering over 400 hectares.

Implementation:

  • The main restoration methods are damming and increasing the level of water, mowing, clearing, pasturing and controlling the level of water. Sustainable hunting, small predator management and other management are carried out with commitment at the wetlands. Without active management the created positive impact on nature is soon wasted.
  • The wetlands are mainly restored through building dams. In these wetlands under water vegetation provides nutrition for aquatic invertebrates which creates ideal feeding habitats especially for waterbird broods. Restoration of shore meadows by removing reeds and thickets also create excellent brood habitats for waterfowls.
  • Co-operation with all the landowners and other local associations is prerequisite to proceed in the project.
1. Wetland restoration proposal
2. Two phase site selection

  1. Proposed sites are prioritized and the best sites are selected for field visits.
    • Field memo and further research.
  2. According to field visits and further research the best sites are chosen for planning.

3. Planning
  1. Detailed workplan
  2. Cost estimations and funding plan
  3. Hunting arrangements and plans for predator control
  4. Preparations for the wetland agreement

 

4. Signed wetland agreement

The site is chosen as a SOTKA-wetland site
5. Wetland restoration
  1. Selection of contractor and worksite material acquirement
  2. Worksite
  3. Final inspection: Responsibility of the site is given to the local responsible body.
6. Wetland management

According to wetland plan

Funding:

  • SOTKA-project provides for planning and work-site supervision. Concrete restoration costs are shared with
    the project, landowners, local associations and possibly by sponsors.
  • Co-financing to identified wetland site restoration
    • Contribution of co-financier/sponsor is written down at the wetland restoration plans cost estimate and funding plan to identified cost. For example 2000 euro worth of machinery work or regulation well and pipes of 1 500 €.
    • Co-financier signs the wetland agreement and commits to pay an invoice of agreed sum received directly from the contractor or manufacturer.
    • Example:
      Cost category Cost Funding
      Dam construction 3000 € SOTKA-project
      Well and pipes 1500 € Flyway sponsor
      Nesting islands 1000 € Local hunting association
Updated 19.11.2020