FA7 Traditional rural biotopes
Traditional rural habitats are areas which have been created by traditional livestock farming. These biotopes used to be mowed and grazed, but occasionally also cleared, burned or flooded. The area of traditional rural biotopes decreased steeply already during late 19th and early 20th centuries mainly because of clearing for fields and closing caused by afforestation and the ending of mowing and grazing. Construction and eutrophication have also had a part in accelerating the disappearance of traditional rural biotopes.
Traditional rural biotopes were surveyed during 1992–1998 in Finland. In the survey, a little less than 19 000 hectares of traditional biotopes were found, from which 57 % were managed in a traditional way. One third of the surveyed sites were biologically less valuable woodland pastures which usually only slightly differ from commercial forests. The state of meadows, wooded meadows, heaths and slash-and-burn fields appeared to be especially weak. In addition, many large meadows are known to have become extremely fragmented during the last decades. Sufficient information is not available to evaluate the current state of traditional rural biotopes.
Impact on biodiversity
Approximately one quarter of endangered species in Finland depend on traditional rural biotopes. These biotopes are thus essential for farmland biodivesity. Thousands of species are found on traditional meadows including more plant, butterfly and wasp species than in any other habitat in Finland. Also some species of mosses, lichens and fungi only live meadows.
The vast plant species diversity of traditional rural biotopes is a result of several factors, among others lowered nutrient and acidity levels, higher intensity of light and a warm and dry microclimate. These habitat characteristics are favorable to most plant species. A great diversity of plant species then enables a diverse fauna to develop. Eutrophication is a great problem, because an increase in the amount of nutrients in the soil leads to increasing plant biomass and poorer diversity. Eutrophication also hastens the closure and forestation of open habitats after mowing and grazing ceases.
The state of all traditional landscapes found in Finland is currently weak and not one of them is large enough in area or managed enough to preserve their species diversity, ecological variability or specific regional features. A tenfold increase in traditional rural biotope area would be sufficient to stop most of the now endangered species from becoming even rarer and prevent a decline in the numbers of many currently common species.
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- Updated (14.05.2013)