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VACCIA Action 11: Assessment of impacts of climate change on biodiversity in coastal ecosystems and implementation of new policies and conservation strategies

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This action will focus on the Bothnian Bay area (central Finland, Bothnian Bay LTSER-platform). Seashores in the northernmost Baltic Sea (the Bothnian Bay) harbour a number of plant and animal species that occupy a temporally and spatially narrow belt between the sea and dense upper shore vegetation. This belt is maintained by constant post-glacial (isostatic) land uplift that creates virgin land to be colonised by pioneer species. Naturally the population dynamics of species occupying these ecosystems is largely governed by this deterministic force but recent results have also underlined the significance of stochastic disturbances, such as ice scouring and floods on flat shores.

It has been predicted that the amplitude and frequency of extreme climatic events causing disturbance will increase due to global warming. Furthermore, there are already signs that sea level rise is counteracting land uplift and slowing down the emergence of new land and, hence, narrowing the successional zones and causing fragmentation. Similarly, in forest ecosystems along the coast of the Bothnian Bay deforestation has been supposed to impair winter survival of forest associated sedentary species by reducing the carrying capacity of the habitat.

Since there is plenty of information on dynamics of populations living in these more or less ephemeral habitats, this information can used to build more general (mathematical) models incorporating both existing information from the area and newest climate scenarios for regarding, for example, the impact of shift in North Atlantic Oscillations (NAO). Subsequently these models can subjected to a test in nother areas as well as other countries. This information together with assessment of different management policies as well as conservation efforts can be translated into a set of action plans on conservation plant and animal species either in situ or ex situ. The present 'case' will capitalize upon unique combination of precise individual based demographic series, number of management experiments and current databases on conservation status of threatened species.

Ex situ conservation or off-site conservation is preservation of biodiversity outside of the areas where it occurs naturally, either within botanic gardens or zoos or within germplasm (e.g. seed) banks (www.ensconet.eu). Ex situ conservation is not an alternative for the conventional in situ conservation methods, e.g., nature reserves, but a supportive method with an ultimate goal to reintroduce the ex situ cultivated plants back into the wild.  In the face of climate change, the collections safeguard the genetic diversity of the species, even if the original habitat becomes unsuitable due to the altered climatic conditions. Finnish botanic gardens hold both regionally or nationally and globally threatened plants in their collections. However, most of these collections were not originally founded for conservation purpose and it is difficult to estimate how much of the natural genetic variation is actually conserved. An analysis of the quantity and quality of these holdings has recently started as a part of the Action 11 of the VACCIA project. On the basis of the survey, a national plant ex situ conservation strategy and action plan will be compiled. By forming a steering committee of the specialists involved in plant conservation, the aim is to establish ex situ conservation in Finland as one of the conservation methods used. The Finnish efforts are intensively integrated with European and global plant ex situ conservation network.

One goal of the VACCIA project is to establish a national network of institutions and specialists involved in plant ex situ conservation. The first meeting of network will be held in April 2009.

Methods employed

Data on populations of chosen key species will be interlinked either through a Geographic Information System (GIS) or spatially explicit simulation models with newest climate scenarios with a special reference to changes in stochastic elements. This will yield critical change thresholds, for example, for storm frequencies, water level changes and habitat fragmentation.

Applicability of existing livestock seashore pasture network along Bothnian Bay as targets for transplantations and sowing of endangered seashore plant species will be tested. The prevalence of variable grazing practices and their effects on the vegetation structure and biodiversity of seashore meadows will be studied.

The influence of alternative grazing strategies on economical sustainability of agriculture in the LTSER-area will be estimated. Collaborative planning (including object-oriented workshops) will be used especially with socio-economical issues as well as ex situ network formation.

Expected results

  • two vulnerability assessment models for key species
  • a spatially explicit model for dynamics of seashore species
  • recommendations for the implementation of management in seashore meadows
  • recommendations for alternative methods to measure the management output for the authorities and the farmers
  • network of institutions involved in ex situ conservation
  • outline of a strategy for development and establishment of ex situ conservation and integration Finnish ex situ conservation efforts with European and global network

Contact person

Marko Hyvärinen, University of Oulu, firstname.lastname@oulu.fi

Published 2013-05-06 at 12:54, updated 2013-05-06 at 12:53