Restoration of peatlands, small water bodies and important bird lakes

Majority of peatlands in Finland are severely degraded by forestry-drainage, including also areas within Natura 2000 sites. The blocking of ditches and removal of trees on over 5,000 hectares in and around 100 sites recovers the wet and open habitats crucial for many valuable species. The measures also restore peatland’s ability to store water, nutrients and carbon. New methods for simultaneously improving biodiversity conservation and water protection are developed.

Dredging, channelization and drainage are widely decreasing the ability of streams and ponds to sustain their natural communities and control the circulation of water. We restore 34 km of degraded streams and raise water table in 17 ponds to recover their natural hydrological functioning, and to regain valuable species.

The open water areas and mosaics of water and vegetation, that are important as bird nesting and breeding habitat, are decreasing in many lakes due to overgrowth by vegetation and nutrient loading from the surroundings. We create open water areas and increase the mosaic structure of habitats e.g. by dredging and raising the water table to improve the habitat quality on four especially important bird lakes.

The most active years were 2021 and 2022. We blocked ditches in peatlands, returned small streams to their old routes and a better condition and restorered important bird lakes. In addition, many of the research works are were full swing.

During the year 2022 we restored over 1,300 hectares and completed restoration work in 30 sites. Over 5,200 hectares out of the goal of 5,222 hectares have already been restored, including over 70 peatland areas of the targeted 95.

A broad ditch and water on both sides of it on a mire. A person holding a steering gear of a drone.
Steering a drone over the restoration site called Kemihaaran suot where the water table has risen as expected after restoration work. Photo: Eerika Tapio.

Unique peatlands and wetlands require well planned actions

The peatland and wetland sites are often so called mosaic entireties including many different habitats forming unique sites. That’s why each one of the Hydrology LIFE site has got a special operation plan of its own.

Though the plan is done precisely, some challenges need sometimes to be tackled during the restoration work. For example, changing weather conditions like lack of winters sometimes force us to postpone the work to the next season or to invent other solutions such as hardening winter tracks by freezing them so that they can carry vehicles to the restoration sites.

Restoration of ponds and bird lakes

Year 2021 was successful for the restoration of small water systems and bird lakes. We took restoration actions, for example, on the lake Päätyeenlahti in Northern Carelia where the northern part of the lake was overgrown by vegetation. We created open water areas and builded nesting islands for birds. We carried out restoration works in two other valuable bird lakes in Northern Savo as well.

An excavator on the shore of a shallow lake in winter.
Restoration work of the bird lake Päätyeenlahti in 2021. Photo: Antti Below, Metsähallitus.

During the project we have already discovered promising results of the restoration. Based on the bird calculations of the years 2018–2020 we are happy to tell that the restoration work has had fast, clear and positive effects on bird population of the lake Keskimmäinen in Northern Savo. For example, it was observed that the number of waterfowl species such as the garganey had improved.

The target is to raise water table in 17 ponds, too, to recover their natural hydrological functioning, and to regain valuable species. The total goal is to restore over 400 hectares and most of it was carried out during the year 2022.

Inventories and monitoring

The wide range of inventories and long-term monitoring by the project provide invaluable data on how restoration can be used to preserve the biodiversity, to improve water quality and to slow down climate change. The information gained by examining how local people and the recreational users of protected areas feel about restoration can be used to develop restoration measures.

Plans, reports and other materials delivered by the Hydrology LIFE Project are mostly in Finnish (pdf files) but some in English. The materials are on the Finnish project site.

University of Oulu examines the impacts of restoration

Our project partner, the University of Oulu, examines the impacts of peatland restoration in a long scale, from 10 to 15 years. The impacts on the water quality of peatlands and drainage areas is monitored by hydrological measuring and analysing peat. The aim is also to find out how the remote sense mapping can benefit monitoring the impacts of restoration.

University of Oulu Science Garden videos present some of the main methods. You can choose text versions in English for the videos:

Remote sensing tools in restoration monitoring

Understanding and monitoring the effects of ecological restoration is one of the key challenges during the forthcoming United Nations Decade of restoration. Remote sensing provides huge possibilities for achieving data and results that cannot be reached by field work. Despite recent important advances, few methods can be directly taken up by practitioners interested in monitoring the change of peatland ecosystems.

Workshop on remote sensing tools

We arranged (September 2019) a workshop tackling the challenges of remotely monitoring ecosystem development after restoration. We invited experts developing or using drones, satellite images or other remote sensing tools in monitoring peatland ecosystems. Special focus was in peatlands restored after decades of forestry use.

Raising awareness

Successful conservation requires better public understanding on the wide range of wetland values. We raise public awareness by developing effective and innovative communication methods, such as a wetland simulator and material for teachers and nature centres.

A child has kneeled on a plank path to look at a flower growing in a mire.
In Salamajärvi National Park you can admire the orchid Dactylorhiza maculata. Photo: Sannamari Ratilainen.

The Hydrology LIFE project was seen in many medias. We kicked off our social media campaign and published educational materials.

Wetland Cards

In 2022, we published a set of Wetland Cards to give tips on how we all can help the wetlands and benefit from it, too.

Wetland cards are pdf files at the address

WetlandGame free online

In the WetlandGame, your task is to protect the vitality of nature and at the same time ensure people´s livelihood. The WetlandGame (Kosteikkopeli) is online:

Training and communication online

The pandemic years have challenged the Hydrology LIFE project to arrange all meetings and trainings on-line. On the other hand, this virtual way to arrange meetings gave usa chance to reach more people than we expected. For example, our partners, the Finnish Forest Centre and Tapio Ltd, arranged many webinars concerning the new method of returning water to conservation areas – and the number of participants was higher than it would have been without on-line webinars.


Last updated 27 June 2023