LIFE Project Cover Photo

Management of wetlands along the Gulf of Finland migratory flyway

Reference: LIFE03 NAT/FIN/000039 | Acronym: Gulf of Finland

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

BACKGROUND

Along the flyway of Northern Coastal Gulf of Finland, waterfowl and waders wintering in the southern part of the Baltic Sea and the coasts of the North Sea migrate in the spring to their breeding regions and in the autumn back to their wintering regions. The 12 project areas along the flyway are internationally valuable bird-rich wetlands in which 35 species mentioned in Annex I of the Birds Directive either rest or breed. Important species such as Cygnus cygnus, C. columbianus and Mergus albellus use them for resting. Among the breeding species are Crex crex and Botaurus stellaris. These areas are also important habitats for many plant and insect species mentioned in the Habitats directive. A major part of the Leucorrhinia pectoralis population in Finland and of the entire Natura 2000 network lives in the project areas. Overgrowth of meadows, lack of open water areas, small predators, uncontrolled visitor access and low public awareness in some places are threats to these project sites.


OBJECTIVES

The main objective was to establish a functional network of N2000 wetland areas along the northern coast of the Gulf of Finland flyway and to secure favourable conservation status for wetland species mentioned in the Birds and Habitats Directives, by restoration and management of 12 wetlands in southern Finland. Participatory planning was to be used to settle the conflicts between conservation and other land use. Mowing, grazing and clearing of trees and bushes would increase open meadows by more than 200 ha. Removal of aquatic plants would increase the open water area by 70 ha, thus extending the area of mosaic habitats by almost 190 ha. Improving hydrological conditions of coastal meadows (70 ha) would enhance the quality and naturalness of coastal habitats. Hunting of small predators would improve the breeding success of wetland birds and thereby the diversity of bird communities. Controlling of recreational use would reduce the damages and secure undisturbed breeding and resting for many bird species. The accessibility and recreational facilities would be improved through the addition of information boards, nature paths and bird towers and the removal of eyesores. Dissemination and awareness activities were planned to increase interest in and appreciation of the project areas among the local population.


RESULTS

The project reached all foreseen targets, taking into account minor amendments to the restoration and management actions. Management plans were drafted and approved for all project areas (covering 3 353 ha in total). These plans were largely implemented during the project period.

A number of restoration activities took place. Some 87 ha of land was cleared of trees and bushes, while reed beds were removed from approximately 185 ha of coastal meadows by crushing, mowing and grinding.

A total of 176 ha of new pastures were established and the grazing was started during the project. The long-term management of the pastures is secured through agri-environmental support agreements made with local farmers.

The water vegetation was removed and dredged and the mosaic structure of wetlands was increased in some 163 ha. The project redirected and branched ditches and created canals to improve the moisture conditions of 76 ha of wetlands.

In all, 40 small ponds were created as foreseen to benefit wetland insects, mainly dragonflies. An old dumpsite was restored and landscaped to benefit insects preferring dry sandy slopes. The risk of power lines for birds was reduced by cabling a power line to the bank and placing visible balls on the power lines.

To reduce the risk to the offspring of wetland birds during the breeding season, small alien predatory mammals (e.g. American minks and common raccoons) were trapped with the help of the regional game management districts and volunteers from local hunting clubs.

The results of the restoration and management actions are outstanding, in particular on wetland birds. Numbers of both nesting and staging birds have increased considerably in the project areas.

The project actively developed nature education about wetlands and organised excursions for pupils and the public and education material for schools (including wetland cards, a book and a video on wetland excursions). To enhance the recreational use of the project areas, 14 bird watching sites were added, as well as car parks, nature trails and general information boards.

The value of wetlands for nature conservation and education and recreational use was actively promoted to the media with good success. Thirty public meetings (or working group meetings were held). The project received mostly positive feedback.

Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report (see "Read more" section).

This project has been awarded the title of "Best of the Best" from a shortlist of 26 "Best" LIFE Nature projects in 2007-2008.

In April 2017, 10 years after the project closed, an ex-post mission was carried out by the LIFE external monitoring team. This found a high level of sustainability of the project’s actions: all 12 restored wetland sites were still being maintained. The project actions have led to improvements in the conservation status of target coastal wetland habitats and have facilitated the designation of Natura 2000 network sites in Finland. The hunting of small invasive predators has continued as a voluntary procedure by the hunting associations in the areas. Monitoring at all sites has revealed a continual increase in total numbers of all bird populations, except for bottom-feeding ducks. The detailed bird monitoring data conducted within and after the project (2003, 2006, 2007 and 2012) has been widely used for scientific purposes. Research in the project sites (Scientific Reports 7:41391; January 2017) indicated that wetlands management is correlated with a rapid increase in wetland bird numbers; with positive correlations especially for cattle grazing together with cutting and harrowing, which creates a favourable mosaic of habitat types for migratory birds. The research also showed a significant correlation between the funds invested in wetlands restoration and numbers of red-listed migrant birds. Environmental education initiated by the project was ongoing in 2017, and this has raised awareness and established a feeling of local ownership at the sites. The recreational use of several sites has been much larger than expected. Birdwatching towers erected by the project have been particularly popular, for instance, and in several cases these have been enlarged or new towers and platforms built to accommodate the growing number of visitors. Hiking trails and other infrastructure created by the project has enabled people to get to know the Natura 2000 sites without threatening their natural value. The good working relationship established between the various stakeholders (e.g. birdwatchers, hunters and landowners) remains active and, as many personnel from the project partners still work there, technical, financial and administrative expertise remains within the organisations, facilitating long-term site management. The project’s positive results and its high visibility serve as an inspiration for similar projects in the region.

ADMINISTRATIVE DATA


Reference: LIFE03 NAT/FIN/000039
Acronym: Gulf of Finland
Start Date: 01/07/2003
End Date: 30/06/2007
Total Eligible Budget: 3,290,718 €
EU Contribution: 1,645,359 €
Project Location: Nothern Gulf of Finland

CONTACT DETAILS


Coordinating Beneficiary: Uudenmaan ympäristökeskus
Legal Status: PUBLIC
Address: Asemapäällikönkatu 12 B, PL 36, 00521, Helsinki, Finland Suomi
Contact Person: Marjo PRIHA
Email: Send Email
Website: Visit Website


LIFE Project Map

ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES ADDRESSED

THEMES

  • Birds
  • Freshwater
  • Ecological coherence

KEYWORDS

  • animal corridor
  • aquatic ecosystem
  • controlled hunting zone
  • ecotourism
  • environmental education
  • environmental impact of recreation
  • freshwater ecosystem
  • grassland ecosystem
  • hunting
  • landscape conservation policy
  • migratory species
  • wetlands ecosystem
  • wildlife sanctuary
  • periurban space
  • public awareness campaign
  • integrated management
  • sustainable development
  • development planning
  • social participation
  • land purchase
  • management plan
  • informal negotiation
  • restoration measure
  • coastal management
  • conflicting use
  • pest control
  • recreational area
  • environmentally responsible behaviour

TARGET EU LEGISLATION

  • Recommendation 2002/413 EC - "Implementation of Integrated Coastal Zone Management in Europe" (30.05.02)
  • Regulation 1257/1999 - Support for rural development from the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF) (17.05.1999)
  • COM(2001)162 -"Biodiversity Action Plan for the conservation of natural resources (vol. I & II)" (27.03.2001)
  • COM(98)42 -"Communication on a European Community Biodiversity Strategy" (05.02.1998)
  • COM(95) 189 - "Communication on the judicious use and conservation of wetlands" (12.12.1995)
  • Decision 93/626 - Conclusion of the Convention on Biological Diversity (25.10.1993)
  • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directive (21.05.1992)
  • Directive 79/409 - Conservation of wild birds (02.04.1979)

TARGET HABITAT TYPES

  • 1130 - Estuaries
  • 1630 - Boreal Baltic coastal meadows
  • 6430 - Hydrophilous tall herb fringe communities of plains and of the montane to alpine levels
  • 7140 - Transition mires and quaking bogs
  • 9070 - Fennoscandian wooded pastures

SPECIES

  • Mergus albellus
  • Cygnus cygnus
  • Cygnus columbianus bewickii
  • Porzana porzana
  • Philomachus pugnax
  • Tringa glareola
  • Botaurus stellaris
  • Leucorrhinia pectoralis

BENEFICIARIES

Name Type
Uudenmaan ympäristökeskus Coordinator
Metsähallitus-Laatumaa, Finland Participant
WWF Suomi, Finland Participant
Birdlife Suomi, Finland Participant
South-East Finland Regional Environment Centre, Finland Participant
City of Helsinki, Finland Participant
Finnish Environment Institute, Finland Participant
Metsähallitus-South Finland Natural Heritage Services, Finland Participant
Central Uusimaa water protection municipality coalition, Finland Participant
Uusimaa Game Management Distric, Finland Participant
Kymi Game Management District, Finland Participant
Finnish road administration-South-East Finland region, Finland Participant
Finnish road administration-Uusimaa region, Finland Participant
City of Espoo, Finland Participant