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Protection of aapa mire wilderness in Ostrobothnia and Kainuu (Olvassuo)
Start date: Dec 1, 2001, End date: Dec 31, 2005 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Background Olvassuo (27 073 hectares), Litokaira (30 382 ha) and Iso-Tilansuo-Housusuo (3 449 ha) are three extensive aapa mire areas in central Finland. Most (80 percent) of their surface area consists of priority habitats: aapa mires (65 percent), virgin forests, raised bogs and bog woodlands. Olvassuo is one of Europe's most impressive bird nesting areas, and Litokaira is the last natural wilderness area south of the Arctic Circle in Europe for aapa mires, boreal virgin forests and bog woodlands. The fauna of the area includes the flying squirrel (Pteromys volans), brown bear (Ursus arctos), wolf (Canis lupus), lynx (Lynx lynx) and otter (Lutra lutra). The strongest population of Hamatocaulis lapponicus (Lapland moss) in Europe is found at Olvassuo. Nesting birds include the red-throated diver, whooper swan, hazelhen, capercaillie, crane, and ruff. Despite their value, these areas were not subject to integrated management, and had suffered from poorly planned drainage, which altering the altered the water management of the mires, fragmentation of virgin forests, the fragmenting impact of forestry roads, and the lack of public awareness of the importance of the Natura 2000 areas. Objectives The project aimed to draft and begin the implementation of a 10-20 year management plan for each area. The local population was to take part in drafting of these plans. Under the project, the last privately-owned land in these areas (around 1 000 hectares) was to be brought under state ownership. The project also set out to restore 520 ha of mires, 150 ha of forests and to remove 10 km of old forestry roads. At Olvassuo, the project sought to carry out an experimental ecological study of the Hamatocaulis lapponicus. A subsidiary aim was to to promote nature tourism through a mire tourism seminar and a mire tourism guidebook, along with signposting of hiking routes, and establishment of informatin sites at the Ranua animal park and the Juorkuna holiday centre. Results The project fulfilled all of its objectives: Extensive inventories were done (flora-fauna-habitat, fungi, birds, epiphytic lichens, historical land use) as a basis for the management plans. Results were published in good quality publications. Ecological survey and conservation plan completed for moss species, Hamatocaulis lapponicus. Management plans were completed for all project areas, with future land use and management actions defined. The beneficiary committed to the implement the plans within next decade. 12 restoration plans were completed for mires, forests, old forest roads and meadows. Plans nearly fully implemented. 924 hectares of land (mainly aapa mires) were acquired for the state for nature conservation purposes. 606 ha of aapa mires were restored. 154 ha of forests were restored (44 ha by controlled burning and 110 ha by increasing decaying wood/creating small openings) Experimental harrowing carried out (creating small patches of bare soil) to boost forest regeneration in one forest restoration site. 10 km of old forest roads was restored. Disturbance to the areas subsequently decreased. 2.4 ha of meadows were restored and managed. The beneficiary commited to continuing the management of these areas after the close of the project. There was active media work, with 42 press articles and eight radio reports. Local people were involved in the preparation of the management plans (15 public meetings, six field visits, with hundreds of participants). The first recreational facilities were built in the project areas (two nature trails, three bird observation towers, six resting sites (lean-to, huts), 5.7 km of boardwalks to prevent damage to fragile habitats, eight information points). This was important because before the project there were no recreational facilities in the project areas, and this had resulted in uncontrolled use of the areas (e.g. damage to fragile areas, illegal firewood cutting, and littering). The project also had socio-economic benefits. It was implemented in an area with severe unemployment problems. The project employed or subcontracted mainly local people to its restoration and construction actions, and the total number of the working years generated by the project was calculated to be 29.3 (including permanent and temporary personnel). One of the employed special planners gained a permanent position in Metsähallitus (the beneficiary) after the project, and the project co-ordinator was employed by the city of Oulu. Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report (see "Read more" section). This project has been selected as one of the 26 "Best" LIFE Nature projects in 2007-2008.
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