Landscape and Landscape Structure

The sight of water in a rural landscape is pleasing to the eye – who wouldn’t want to see the glimmer of water from their window? Wetlands bring variety to an otherwise monotonous landscape. Often wetlands established or restored in the middle of fields, or under cliffs in the shade of the forest have great scenic value. Wetlands in the middle of fields, or in a marshy hollow in the forest, bring life to the landscape also in the form of water birds that circle above them.

Wetland established in an appropriate place close to the agricultural landscape brightens up the local scenery. The Härmälä wetland in Sauvo. Photograph: Mikko Alhainen

Wetland established in an appropriate place close to the agricultural landscape brightens up the local scenery. The Härmälä wetland in Sauvo. Photograph: Mikko Alhainen

A network of wetlands offers water birds the brood-rearing habitats they need. A network of several wetland spots on just one field or in a farm’s woodland will improve the habitat for waterfowl and the local yield of nestlings more than a single site. Both in villages and wider regions, the system of wetlands and nutrient-rich lakes will determine the future and size of waterfowl populations, as well as whether the populations are robust enough for hunting. A network of high-quality habitats will determine the welfare and abundance of game populations.

The first summer already saw the three-hectare wetland in the middle of the forest teeming with broods. The Isoahde wetland in Raseborg. Photograph: Timo Niemelä

The first summer already saw the three-hectare wetland in the middle of the forest teeming with broods. The Isoahde wetland in Raseborg. Photograph: Timo Niemelä

Game populations are considerably larger in a landscape with enough places to find shelter and food. In an agricultural landscape, the key factors for species’ habitability and rural biodiversity are wetlands, strips of grass by streambeds, environmental fallows, functional crop rotation and wintertime plant cover. The key factors in forests are a controlled lack of management – i.e. sparing the undergrowth and shrubs that provide shelter – plus mixed forest stands and the management of ecotones and forests areas with bilberries, in addition to establishing wetlands.

For the success of many water birds and waders, the land use of the agricultural areas surrounding the wetland is equally as important as the good condition of the wetland. For example, the Pintail, Shoveler, Curlew and Lapwing nest in the fields surrounding a bird lake or a wetland located in the middle of a clearing. A large proportion of the nests and broods get destroyed during the springtime sowing and related work, or when the first grass crop is harvested. The destruction of nests can be avoided by favouring environmental fallow meadows, or grains and oil plants that are sown in the autumn in fields surrounding the wetland.

Game birds don’t stay in a desolate landscape. It’s another case altogether if…

Game birds don’t stay in a desolate landscape. It’s another case altogether if…

...you are prepared to give them a chance to thrive in the middle of your agricultural land and forests. Drawings: Tom Björklund

…you are prepared to give them a chance to thrive in the middle of your agricultural land and forests. Drawings: Tom Björklund

Updated 23.7.2013