Agricultural areas play a key role for species that favour open land. Many species of birds, mammals and insects use fields or their margins and the pastures and meadows outside arable land created by traditional forms of farming as their primary habitats or nesting grounds, or visit them to feed. The area of Natura 2000 sites comprising agricultural land totals some 5,500 hectares (0.35% of the available agricultural land).

Biodiversity in agricultural areas cannot be preserved without cultivated fields, field borders, grazing animals and managed margin areas. Intensive farming, lack of production diversity, ploughing, decline of grasslands and the use of plant protection products hamper the success of these species. The afforestation of fields, natural regeneration of forests and vegetation taking over pastures and meadows also reduce suitable habitats. Therefore, continuing sustainable and diverse agricultural production is vital for biodiversity.

Several measures to promote biodiversity are funded under the Rural Development Programme. Natural constraint programmes enable agricultural production to be continued throughout the country. Increasing organic production improves the living conditions of different species. In conventional production, environment payment measures can provide better living environments for species by increasing plant cover on fields in winter and by sowing biodiversity strips, grassland and nature management field grassland in single-crop cereal cultivation areas. Many birds and mammals benefit from vegetation that is sown for them and not harvested, such as biodiversity fields, providing nutrition both in summer and in winter.

Field drains, margins, uncultivated field corners and open areas temporary left fallow are also significant for insect and plant species in agricultural environments.

The habitats and species of heritage biotopes and natural pastures are among the most endangered. They benefit particularly from grazing, mowing and clearing. Such management measures are funded under environment contracts in the environment payment scheme. Environment contracts can also be used for the management of border strips and wetlands with significant biodiversity. Many sites need renovation or other establishment measures before maintenance measures can begin. Restoration activities may be supported through funding for non-productive investments.

Landrace cattle, sheep, goats, horses and hens are still left in Finland. Their conservation can be funded under environmental contracts in the environment payment scheme. Funding is also granted to other measures concerning the conservation of landraces based on the national animal genetic resource programme. Funding is also available for the conservation of local crop varieties under the national plant genetic resource programme.

Further information

Anna Schulman, Ministerial Adviser 
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Food Department, Unit for Rural Development 0295162199