The Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies

Landscape structure, patterns of biodiversity and conservation strategies in the Baltic Sea region

Field: Miljövetenskap, ekologi
Project leader: Kari Lehtilä
Starting year: 2008

Natural landscapes vary substantially among different parts of the Baltic Sea region. Northern parts are forested, whereas agricultural and urban landscapes are common in the south. Harmonization of biodiversity conservation policies of EU member states is a part of the European integration process. Due to landscape variation, patterns of biodiversity may be very different in different countries, which would make an effective harmonization difficult. For instance, possibilities to use a reserve network as a tool in biodiversity conservation are better when small areas contain a substantial part of the total biodiversity.

We will analyze landscape structure and patterns of species distributions at several scales indifferent EU states around the Baltic Sea. We will use forest biotopes as a model system. Our own fieldwork will be concentrated on vascular plants and we will use published data of other taxa. Our hypothesis is that the effects of landscape configuration on species distributions depend on the scale of landscape patterns. Furthermore, we expect that there are systematic differences among species depending on their ecological characteristics. In that case, management actions are most effective when they are applied in a scale appropriate to focal taxa.

At the first part of the study, we will determine which landscape characteristics and scales are important for species distributions in our study areas in Sweden and the Baltic countries. Within each region, we will carry out own inventories of forest field layer taxa at the scales of 5 × 5 m and 50 × 50 m. We will integrate smaller scales with 5 × 5 km and 50× 50 km data from secondary sources. We will then use the most important landscape characteristics to describe the variation in landscape structure and to test how they explain species distributions in other parts of the Baltic Sea region. Finally, we will carry out a gap analysis to assess the efficiency of management strategies in different landscapes and to discuss the management and governance implications of landscape variation.