Nordic-Baltic Wetland Initiative meets in Finland, 2008

01/12/2008

Networking with wetland managers in Nordic-Baltic countries

Networking with wetland managers in Nordic-Baltic countries was the focus of the 4th seminar (1) of the Nordic-Baltic Wetland Initiative on 23-25 September 2008 in Finland. It brought together 35 Ramsar focal points from national and provincial administrative authorities, wetland managers, environmental monitoring specialists and others. The main theme of the seminar was wetland management planning, aiming to increase the exchanges between Nordic and Baltic countries of lessons learnt and to form active planning networks for the future.

The seminar was perfectly organized by Ms Tiina Niikkonen of Metsähallitus, the Finnish state enterprise that administers more than 12 million hectares of state-owned land and water areas, with support from the Ministry of Environment, in the village of Kempele, close to Oulu airport at the edge of Ramsar site N°1523 Liminganlahti Bay Area. The concise but very substantial report of the meeting is attached (PDF). It does briefly review the implementation of the Ramsar Convention and the status of wetland management planning in the Nordic and Baltic countries. Probably of most interest, also to wetland managers beyond the Nordic-Baltic region, are the presentations and weblinks to successfully executed international wetland projects.

For example, the BIRD project focused on wetlands, nature reserves and cultural landscapes around the Baltic Sea for rural development. It was co-funded through the European Union Interreg IIIB instrument for regional development (www.eurowetlands.org). The project addresses the situation where decreasing population density in rural areas provokes the deterioration of local infrastructure for communication and transport, health care, education and markets, while wetlands and other nature reserves become more attractive for nature tourism. The project developed a number of tools for valuing and managing sensitive nature areas, with a strong focus on the development and improvement of visitor facilities, based on best practice analyses at many wetland sites around the Baltic Sea. Successful initiatives for rural development and wetland conservation, spatial planning, purchase of ecosystem services, market analysis for ecotourism, the development of wetland information centres and others were addressed.

Principles, tools and systems to extend spatial planning on water courses, leading to strategies for sustainable river basin management, were elaborated by “Watersketch”, another Interreg project. The project partners from five countries studied ambiguous and conflicting interests in the context of watercourse planning practices in view of the planning requests formulated in the EU Water Framework Directive. The project aimed to identify the most common problems of river basins as well as common tools to be used for their successful management. Their answers were compiled into a Baltic River Basin Management Handbook, available for download from the website www.watersketch.net.

The seminar also included two short Ramsar site field visits. First to the nearby shallow bay, mudflats, marshes and reedbeds of Liminganlahti, where the participants had the opportunity to discover the impressive visitor centre with its glass tower, meeting room, food and accommodation facilities and to learn about challenges to attract sufficient users in order to make the running of the centre economically viable. A second visit concerned the protected area of Ramsar site N°11 Martimoaapa-Luminaapa-Penikat Mires further north, mainly used for outdoor recreation, hiking, fishing and hunting. This is a fenland complex with active raised bogs and various mire types interspersed with small lakes, pools, streams and old forests, characterized by typical aapa mires. Aapa mires are nutrient and water-rich fens, regularly flooded during spring snow-melt, with peat typically formed by decaying brown mosses (Bryales) and sedgelike plants, not mainly peat mosses (Sphagnum) as in raised bogs.

The participating experts from six countries (Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Norway, Sweden, Russian regions around the Baltic Sea) and Wetlands Link International adopted a number of conclusions and asked the coordination group of the NorBalWet Initiative to look further into finalizing the network, to select a suitable date to celebrate World Wetland Day in the region (where wetlands are covered under snow and ice on 2 February), and to explore possibilities to fund the elaboration of a follow-up report to the 2004 Nordic Wetland Conservation overview. Finland will chair the NorBalWet Initiative for another year and promised its fellow countries to organize a follow-up seminar in spring 2009, hoping that at this occasion also missing representatives from Denmark, Iceland and Lithuania could take part. The meeting proved to be very successful and promising for substantially increased coordination and cooperation among Nordic-Baltic countries.

Note 1. Earlier seminars focused on restoration of wet forests and mires at Hindaas, Sweden, on restoration of rivers, floodplains, lakes and deltas at Randsfjorden, Norway (cf. www.ramsar.org/mtg/mtg_norbalwet_sep2006.htm), and on monitoring wetlands at Lepanina, Estonia (cf. www.ramsar.org/mtg/mtg_norbalwet_2007.htm )

-- Tobias Salathé, Ramsar

Participants warming up in the cafeteria of the modern visitor centre overlooking the marshes and reedbeds of Liminganlahti bay.

Further explanations are provided by the WWF manager of the visitor facilities in the observation hide.

Liminganlahti seen in the evening light from the observation tower.

Participants studying briefing documents on the Martimoaapa-Luminaapa-Penikat mires

The Metsahällitus expert explains the functioning of an aapa mire

Martimoaapa mire seen from the watching tower

and the final warming up before returning to the seminar hotel

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