K308 Cabinet

FRESHABIT: The LIFE integrated project for restoration of wetland ecosystems at the catchment level


Iiro Ikonen
Jari Ilmonen
Pauliina Louhi


Freshwaters provide multiple natural and cultural ecosystem services, which form the basis of Finnish water heritage. In most cases, the deterioration of freshwater ecosystems is due to a range of interacting background factors at many scales, and reversing the trend requires comprehensive restoration measures in catchment areas and water systems as well. Following this, to preserve our valuable water heritage, the co-operation across human-set boundaries is required.
Funding for restoration projects conventionally comes from one or few sources and is often targeted to a given habitat or species. However, enhancing the ecological status of many inter-connected habitats or species usually requires large-scale and multi-targeted solutions. LIFE Integrated Projects were introduced in 2014 to implement environmental legislation and strategies on the regional, multi-regional or national level, and to increase the impact of the EU LIFE programme.
FRESHABIT LIFE IP project, financed by the LIFE Integrated Projects funding, aims to improve the ecological status and biodiversity of N2000 freshwater sites in 12 selected catchment areas. Within FRESHABIT, common practices across the organizational levels of a range of actors is established, thus contributing importantly to ´capacity building` for further water management.
Due to the characteristics of the water bodies in question, most of the measures are implemented outside Natura 2000 sites on both state-owned and private-owned areas. Several water protection measures to reduce the environmental loading on water bodies are implemented, and habitats of waterfowl, fish, and other biota is restored. Especially the measures in the catchment areas include improvement and restoration of other habitats than freshwaters, e.g. peatland restoration. To secure the natural lifecycles of freshwater pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera) and migratory fish, six fishways are constructed and related support measures implemented. The impacts of measures on the aquatic environment is monitored on a broad basis.
Acknowledging the importance of appreciation of and interest in Finland's water heritage among water management professionals, decision-makers, residents and recreational users, a variety of public events, nature schools and voluntary work sessions is organized, and stakeholders involved with actions in the early stage. FRESHABIT also promotes rural business in many ways, and creates opportunities for contractors in different parts of Finland.