Natural and cultural values of waters as well as recreational opportunities they offer form the basis of our water heritage. Preserving this water heritage requires the co-operation across the boundaries set by the people. Current and past human activities, including agriculture and forestry, peat extraction, the channelization for timber floating, and damming of waterways have reduced the diversity of aquatic habitats and caused eutrophication. Since, in most cases, the deterioration of ecosystems is due to a range of interacting background factors, reversing the trend will require comprehensive measures in catchment areas and water systems as well.
The exceptionally long-term Freshabit LIFE IP project, which will last almost seven years, accommodates a wide variety of practical measures and involves the creation of common practices across the organisational levels of a range of actors. The coordinating beneficiary is Metsähallitus, Parks & Wildlife Finland.
We implement a range of water protection measures to reduce the loading that catchment areas impose on water bodies. We improve the habitats of waterfowl, fish, and other biota by restoring streams, rivers and lakes. We implement fishways and the related support measures, to secure the natural lifecycles of freshwater pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera) and migratory fish. We monitor the impacts of measures on the aquatic environment on a broad basis.
Since many of Finland's inland waters are still unknown beneath the surface, the project also includes surveying and identifying such habitats and under water cultural heritage. We collect information on the ecological status of streams by habitat surveys from their riparian zones.
It is important to us to increase the appreciation of and interest in Finland's water heritage among water management professionals, decision-makers, residents and recreational users. For this purpose, we organise a variety of public events, nature schools and voluntary work sessions, and also want to involve stakeholders with actions in the early stage. Our project promotes rural business in a number of ways and creates opportunities for contractors in different parts of Finland.
The main objective of all of our activities is to improve the ecological status and biodiversity of water bodies in the Natura 2000 network. Due to the characteristics of the water bodies in question, most of the measures will be implemented on both state-owned and privately owned areas and outside Natura 2000 sites.
Freshabit operates in eight, large target sites including rivers, watercourses, waterfowl habitats and other lake systems with catchment areas. The measures implemented affect both the Natura 2000 sites situated in the target areas and area outside them.
Freshabit LIFE IP is one of the first integrated LIFE projects in Finland. These integrated projects contribute to the achievement of the objectives of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives (Natura 2000 network) and to achieving target 1 of the EU Biodiversity Strategy by implementing the Prioritised Action Frameworks (PAFs), which are priorities for managing and implementing the Natura 2000 network.
More information on the project:
Specialist Jari Ilmonen
Metsähallitus, Parks & Wildlife Finland
tel.int. +358 206 39 4718