Finland, the land of thousands of lakes and uncountable wetlands, has experienced a major loss of wetland habitats due to drainage for agriculture and forestry. The results of the drainage have provided income to landowners and national economy, but with costs for nature due to decline of wetlands habitats, water quality and flood retention services. In many sites, where drainage has not provided good land for agriculture or forestry, wetlands can be restored or newly built to compensate for the lost habitats.
Life+ Return of Rural Wetlands, implemented by IUCN Member Finnish Wildlife Agency, is a biodiversity project targeting the nature values of agriculture and forestry areas outside of protection/conservation programs such as Natura2000. It promotes the establishment, restoration and management of wetlands — the most important habitats for waterfowl — in the everyday environments of agricultural and forest areas.
The Rural Wetlands project has two main objectives. The first one is to motivate local people to take care of their home village wetlands for the benefits they provide, such as recreational use (i.e. hunting and birdwatching), water protection and landscape. Secondly, it aims to demonstrate a national level landowner based frame for cost-effective wildlife habitat conservation, restoration and re-creation, by acting locally and utilising voluntary work. These objectives will be achieved through the development of a network of demonstrative wetland sites created with the help of landowners, and through active communication, education and awareness rising to all stakeholder groups.
In January 2014, the project had already accomplished 43 demonstrative wetlands with sizes varying from half a hectare to more than 20 hectares. Waterfowl have welcomed the sites with high brood production already in the first summer. If the project's approach will be continued in a long term, it could have a meaningful effect on waterfowl populations and wetland biodiversity on a landscape level.
The value of wetlands has also been promoted in hundreds of events and presented to thousands of people.
The Finnish Wildlife Agency has also prepared a Life+ proposal to take the same approach to forests in order to promote wildlife friendly forest management and active restoration of peatlands to benefit Grouse species and Taiga Bean Goose.
For more information, visit the project website.