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Restoration and management of meadows in Finland, Sweden and Estonia (Meadow restoration (WWF-Fin))
Date du début: 1 avr. 2001, Date de fin: 31 mars 2004 PROJET  TERMINÉ 

Background Traditional semi-natural biotopes are particularly species-rich natural habitat types and are important features of the landscape. They are the result of traditional land use procedures such as mowing, grazing and leaf fodder collection, so that the upkeep of such biotopes requires constant work. Over the years the traditional land use practices have had to be abandoned because of the efficiency requirements of agriculture. Many traditional biotopes have already disappeared or are in danger of disappearing, which has in turn led to the decline of many species, in particular the impoverishment of insect species, and to changes in the landscape. It has been estimated that in Finland about 28% of nationally endangered plant and animal species occur in traditional semi-natural biotopes. Of the 138 butterfly species classified as endangered in Finland, 57% are traditional biotope species. In Sweden the corresponding figures for butterflies are 172 species and 67%, and in Estonia 12 species and 23%. Objectives The 17 subsites covered by this LIFE project are located on the Baltic coast and island areas of Finland, Sweden and Estonia. Within them, the project aimed to restore and manage four priority natural habitat types and three other natural habitat types, improving the living conditions for the species found in these habitats over a total of 307 hectares. The butterfly species dependent on the traditional biotopes would be taken as the indicators for the success of the restoration and management, in conjunction with the monitoring of plant species. The project would also develop cooperation between Finnish, Swedish and Estonian authorities and associations in order to pool traditional biotope management experience and know-how. The aim was also to build on existing approaches to long-term management of traditional biotopes as well as to develop new ones. Local people would be employed by the project. In addition, labour-intensive parts of the work, such as clearing, would be done by volunteers. The project would also carry out communications activities such as organising a seminar, building nature trails and producing leaflets. Results This LIFE-Nature project included 14 sites in Finland, 7 subsites in Sweden and 2 in Estonia. It targeted 21 different habitat types of the Habitats Directive. Seven of these are priority habitat types. All sites targeted were managed by farmers in earlier days, but overgrown after traditional management by grazing or mowing had stopped. Most of the habitats are meadow habitat types; some were already forest habitat types after a long period of overgrowing. Thus the restoration and management by the project changed the quality of some forested habitat areas like broad-leaved deciduous forests (9020, 9050) to wooded pastures (9070). Wooded pasture was in fact the main habitat type targeted in this project (148 ha restored by the end of the project). All main restoration targets were achieved or even exceeded. Over 200 ha of overgrown meadows have been restored and well over 300 ha was under recurring management at project end, mainly by grazing with agri-environment support. The project managed to incite much positive interest among cattle and sheep farmers, as well as finding other kinds of solution for the long-term management of meadows. It tackled the long-term management of the sites restored by the project mainly by finding farmers who were interested to apply for agri-environment support, which it promoted. Most of the restored project sites will be managed until 2007-2009 through agri-environment support. Only some small areas will be managed by volunteer camps. This is significant as the sites in question are small areas and often difficult to access (they include small islands). The publicity, momentum and finance provided by the LIFE project played an important role here. Media work has been very active; especially the volunteer camps attracted publicity in national/local TV and radio stations. This project gained a lot of positive publicity in the media in all three countries it covered. Because of this publicity, many cattle owners in Finland contacted the project and were interested in bringing their animals to meadows restored by LIFE. One farmer brought his beef cattle from 170 km away to graze 3 project sites. In some project sites the cattle returned after a long break; for example in the Hanko peninsula sites in Finland the last cows were there in the 1960s. In Finland the project was involved in developing a GIS-based database storing information about farmers interested in grazing semi-natural grasslands, plus present and future grazing areas in protected areas. This will make it easier to combine two things: farmers seeking more grazing land and grasslands in need of grazing. This is innovative at the Finnish level. Butterflies were chosen for monitoring, because they are directly dependent on semi-natural grasslands and thus excellent indicators of the state of semi-natural grasslands. The project beneficiary underlined the importance of taking butterflies as well as plants into account in management planning. On the basis of inventories, a limited number of butterfly species was selected for monitoring (best possible indicator species). In summer 2002, the new butterfly inventory method based on indicator plant species (caterpillar food plants) was tested to further improve the quality of the butterfly data and reduce weather effects. Knowing the food plant of the caterpillar gives vital information for the timing of management actions. This action improved co-operation between butterfly experts and management planners at the sites, which could have positive consequences for future management of meadows in all 3 project countries. Two project sites in Hankoniemi, Finland, are considered to be very good demonstration sites for meadow management and will be used for example during university courses. In total 86 persons worked for the LIFE project, for a total 282 working months. Some persons continued working after the LIFE project in the organisations where they were hired. The project organised 21 volunteer restoration camps: 16 in Finland, 4 in Estonia and one in Sweden. Some camps were international ones, e.g. a camp organised in summer 2003 in Sweden, Rävsten. The project also organised some volunteer camps in Tvärminne subsite, Finland, where people from the environment department of Nokia LTD participated. Long-term unemployed people participated in the restoration of meadows in Uusimaa region in Finland. The volunteer camps restored about 50 ha of meadows. The total number of volunteers in the restoration camps and courses was 415. Finally, the project produced a booklet (Katso maalaismaisemaa) with material for teachers about changes in the landscape and its future in terms of biodiversity, with a a separate workbook for pupils.



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