The main objective is to create a new frame and good start for the future nationwide program for wildlife habitat conservation, restoration and re-creation that will operate on local level in a participatory manner, strongly recognizing the landowner point of view and, utilizing the strong Finnish tradition for voluntary work at local level for common good.
In this project a demonstrative wetland to increase biodiversity and to provide habitat for waterfowl will be created to every 15 regions of Finnish Wildlife Agency in co-operation with local stakeholders and regional authorities in order to promote the interest for wetland restoration and re-creation and to develop the co-operation of public bodies.
- At least 30 wetland sites with combined surface area of more than 200 ha will be restored/re-created to provide biodiversity value and habitat for species, especially to waterfowl. There will be at least one demonstrative site in each of the regions.
- The co-operation between public authorities and NGO’s has increased. This will create better than present services to help people, especially landowners, interested in the restoration and conservation wetlands.
- There is more interest towards restoration and re-creation of wetlands, which will promote more wetland restorations/re-creations in the years following the Life project.
- The number of breeding waterfowl and the brood production has increased in the demonstrative sites due to the project, which will indicate that the wetland can provide habitat for a number of other species.
- The funding instruments for the restoration/re-creation of wetland will develop to become more simple and land-owner friendly.
The wildlife habitat restorations and conservation carried out by landowners and local level associations to provide habitat mainly for huntable species is very valuable conservation work that benefits a number of species and promotes biodiversity.
There are opportunities in every village for the restoration and re-creation of wetlands and waterfowl habitats. Wetlands are also vital for water protection, as they can bind nutrients and solid materials from the runoff waters of agriculture and forestry.
Return of Rural Wetlands -project will support wetland restoration/re-creations that are proposed by local landowners and associations for the values that wetlands can provide for nature, water protection, landscape, and for wetlands recreational values.
The concrete restoration/re-creation activities will be done in co-operation with local stakeholders. The idea is that local stakeholders will participate in the work and the later maintenance on voluntary basis. The work done by locals will be site dependent, usually tree removal but also heavy construction activities if for example landowner owns an excavator.
The maintenance of restored wetland is very important in order to maintain the achieved good results for the future. It also far more cost-efficient to do annual maintenance than carry out large scale restoration project every 10 – 20 years. Most common maintenance activities are cutting down bush in the shores, excavating sediments from the inlets, mowing waterweeds and continuous eradication of alien predators mink and raccoon dog.
Return of Rural Wetlands -project monitoring: It’s vital that local people can see the effect of the work they have done. Wetland restoration and re-creation have major influence on biodiversity and landscape. Monitoring the change in biodiversity is a complicated task, but it can be simplified by using an umbrella species as an indicator for the biodiversity. The umbrella species of wetlands are waterfowl. Waterfowl are highly valued and visual part of wetland nature and they are easily monitored by people at local level. The increase in waterfowl population is the major motivator for habitat conservation in wetlands, and it is easily monitored by local people.
The number of breeding pairs and broods of waterfowl will be monitored by point and/or transect count on the open water wetland sites of the project prior to the actions and annually after the restoration or re-creation measures has been accomplished.
The inventory will be done according to the waterfowl monitoring guidelines of the Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute RKTL. This count/inventory includes 3 separate annual counts at each wetland, two pair counts in the spring and one brood count in the summer. So actually there are three separate counts. This is considered to be sufficient to estimate the annual changes in the size of breeding population and brood production. The actual number of birds would require significantly more intensive counts and money, but it would also cause more disturbances on the nature sites and the needed result is not the absolute number of individuals but the achieved trend in the population due to the restoration.
In addition to the pair and brood counts there will be post breeding late summer migrating waterfowl count prior to hunting season using the same methods used in breeding pair and brood counts. Harvest bag data on the project wetlands will be monitored by hunters during the project.
Scientific monitoring will be done in for 10 representative project sites so that there is a study area in North and South to provide data from different geographical areas. This monitoring will produce two Master’s thesis about the influence of actions to the bird populations.