The agriculture in
was quite extensive as late
as in the 1950s. The amount of small cattle farms was still growing, in
contrast to other European countries. It was usual that cattle grazed freely,
and fences were not built to keep cattle within, but to protect the scarce and
small arable fields from grazing. This combined with the slash-and-burn farming
method used vastly in the 19th century transformed Finnish landscape
strongly, and diverse habitats nowadays described as traditional rural biotopes
covered vast areas of Finland . Finland
|Without cattle grazing valuable|
landscapes become overgrown.
Modern beef breeds are suitable grazers
also for traditional rural biotopes.
( K. Raatikainen)
After 1960s, national political decisions have strongly supported the intensification of farming. The amount of farms have since been decreasing, and the size of farms increasing. Grazing cattle has become a rare sight. Wood pastures and meadows that once were so abundant are either transformed to arable fields or silvicultural forests, or simply abandoned as the cattle grazes on cultivated pastures.
Only less than one percent of the area once grazed or mowed traditionally is left when compared to the estimated situation 100 years ago. The development is alarming: the number of valuable sites has continued decreasing drastically. At the moment, only half of the inventoried sites in
are managed, and for many of them the management is carried out in a way that
no longer maintains the characteristics of the sites. The persistence of these
valuable habitats and the specialist species dependent on them seems very
At the moment, several partly EU-funded projects are aiming at increasing the amount of managed sites, and improving the quality of management. The management is usually planned to maintain both the cultural landscape and the diverse species composition of individual habitat sites. This work has confronted several questions, which need scientific answers. For example, what is the motivational basis for site management and conservation? The cultural values and social aspects related to wood pastures are of great importance when management is reintroduced to an abandoned site, but we lack general information of the underlying values concerning traditional rural biotopes. Furthermore, many biological factors related to managing these sites are not clear. How should the past and present spatial connectivity of pasture habitat patches be considered? How deep is the extinction dept of the variety of specialist species of these habitats?
|Wooded pastures are important habitats |
for a variety of species.
In Finland, they are the most common
– and perhaps the most versatile –
traditional rural biotope type.
( K. Raatikainen)
Answering these questions, and applying the answers, need a holistic approach. The aim of my research is to examine the management of traditional rural biotopes in
as an entity
which is influenced by ecological, social, and economical factors. Finland
Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment for