Biodiversity conservation, cultural heritage, and adaptive governance in the context of modern agriculture: The case of traditional rural biotopes in Finland.

Authors and Affiliations: 

Kaisa J. Raatikainen, University of Jyväskylä, Department of Biological and Environmental Science

Corresponding author: 
Kaisa J. Raatikainen

Traditional rural landscapes sustain biodiversity and cultural heritage throughout Europe (Plieninger et al. 2006), but their diversity is diminished by agricultural intensification and abandonment (Benton et al. 2003; Strijker 2005; Beilin et al. 2014). Currently, low-intensity agricultural management supports several habitats and species of conservation concern (Halada et al. 2011). Traditional rural biotopes (TRBs), which are heterogeneous semi-natural grasslands and wood-pastures maintained through grazing and mowing, are one type of these high-nature-value habitats. In Finland, over 99 percent of TRB cover disappeared during the 20th century due to agricultural modernization (Raunio et al. 2008), leading to severe endangerment of TRB habitats and species (Raunio et al. 2008; Rassi et al. 2010).

Management of TRBs is a critical conservational and agri-environmental issue in Finland, but addressing it remains difficult (Heikkinen 2007). This is not surprising, as environmental management is plagued with complex scale-related problems (Cash et al. 2006; Cumming et al. 2006). Agri-environmental policies often are impaired by spatial mismatches between levels of landscape management and those of ecological processes upholding biodiversity (Pelosi et al. 2010). TRB management is no exception of this. Although agri-environmental measures support TRB management, subsidies are not directed to valuable sites; thus the conservational status of TRBs is deteriorating (Arponen et al. 2013; Raatikainen et al. 2017). In my PhD thesis, I have adopted a social-ecological systems approach (McGinnis and Ostrom 2014) in order to take into account ecological and governance aspects of contemporary TRB conservation in Finland. This interdisciplinary research provides possible solutions for better conservation of TRBs through cross-level and cross-scale exploration (Fig. 1).

I start with determining ecological effects of spatio-temporal changes in land use on meadows in Central Finland (theme A in Fig. 1; Raatikainen et al., in prep.). Then, I analyze modern TRB management within social-ecological systems framework (B in Fig. 1; Raatikainen and Barron, unpublished manuscript). Based on these results and experiences from an EU project that promoted collaborative landscape management (C in Fig. 1; Raatikainen, submitted manuscript), I discuss the potential of adaptive co-management practices in improving the governance of TRB conservation. Finally, I present a national-level spatial prioritization of TRB management (D in Fig. 1; Raatikainen et al. 2017) and explore the practical applications of its results.

I reflect key interactions across spatial, management, and jurisdictional scales through three main questions: 1) What social-ecological factors promote TRB management on farm level?; 2) Can adaptive co-management build resilience in TRB management?; and 3) How ecological and cultural features of TRBs are affected by changes in rural landscapes and livelihoods?


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