Rewilding initiative launched in Finland to address climate change


Wetlands restoration project in Finland

Floods in continental Europe and a record-dry May in Finland’s forests are just two of many examples of climate change in action, says Rewilding Europe. But a new project to harness the carbon sequestration potential of boreal Finland hopes to bring about positive change at a time of intense climate crisis. CATHERINE HARTE reports

The project partners are working to ensure these peatlands positively contribute to local communities and economies and support Finland in exceeding their environmental goals and commitments.

A major new initiative to restore degraded wetlands and boreal forests in Finland has been launched.

Rewilding Europe, the non-profit organisation behind the project, hopes it’ll help restore biodiversity values and create new carbon sinks across the country.

Pilot sites are already operational and this re-wilding model has the potential to be replicated in up to 5 million hectares of degraded lands in Finland

An innovative model

The initiative also contains steps to address biodiversity loss and re-wilding opportunities with the Sámi, the only Indigenous peoples of Europe. New business models are a part of the initiative.

Matthew McLuckie, Investment Manager of Rewilding Europe Capital and Timon Rutten, Head of Enterprise commented:  “Restoring and rewilding valuable peatlands creates benefits for all Europeans. 

“This ambitious transformational project aims to connect ecosystems, businesses and communities in collaboration to protect these natural landscapes and their ecosystem services. 

“Not only focusing on climate change mitigation, the project partners are working to ensure these peatlands positively contribute to local communities and economies and support Finland in exceeding their environmental goals and commitments.”

Mitigation potential

Of all the countries in Europe, Finland has the highest potential for carbon sequestration in its natural forests, peatlands and wetlands.

With a growing global need to mitigate and offset carbon emissions and counter climate change, carbon credits could become an important tool for Finnish climate change policy and rural economic development. 

Rewilding of drained forests and rewetting of peatlands is an attractive strategy to combine climate adaptation with sustainable land-use models that support biodiversity, wildlife and nature-based economies such as tourism.

With support from the European Investment Bank’s Natural Capital Finance Facility, Rewilding Europe and Snowchange Cooperative have started their work to secure, restore and protect Finland’s forests and wetlands using new forms of finance. 

Starting this process, up to € 1.2 million is expected to be allocated over the next five years to expand the pilot stage. Across the 2020s the initiative is expected to be scaled up to thousands of hectares of restored wetlands as sinks and forests.

Pilot projects

Purchasing high natural value strategic locations aims to prove the ecological and socio-economic relevance of the rewilding model. In 2017 the Linnunsuo area (110 ha) at the source of the wider Jukajoki basin (9,000 ha) was chosen as the first test case for this new approach. 

Encouraged by the first results, three new pilot sites will become operational in 2018, covering 209 hectares but positively influencing another 19,000 ha. 

The project is now developing rewilding process and building income from carbon offsetting and other services. 

With the expected increase of the value of  carbon credits (from January 2019 the aviation sector will be obliged to monitor and offset their carbon footprint), the project aims to rapidly expand using funding from new investors within the private sector.

This Author

Catherine Harte is a contributing editor to The Ecologist. This story is based on a news release from The Gaia Foundation.

More from this author