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Reflections on the mire habitats seminar.
On the 5th of December, 2013, Project NAT-PROGRAMME organised a mire habitats seminar at the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development (MEPRD). The seminar gathered 38 participants, including mire experts, researchers from scientific institutions, representatives of the Nature Conservation Agency, JSC Latvia State Forests, NGOs and peat producers. Overall, around 50 people have expressed interest to get invlolved in the mire habitats working group.
The seminar was organised in two sections - first, participants listened to several presentations and afterwards worked in thematic discussion groups. The first part was opened by Ilona Mendziņa (MEPRD), who emphasized the importance of the Priority Action Framework (PAF) that has been prepared by NAT-PROGRAMME team of experts and the role of PAF in future financing of nature projects. Next, NAT-PROGRAMME Project Manager Juris Jātnieks provided an overview of what the Project has accomplished in its first year. Mire expert Māra Pakalne presented a broad overview about Latvia’s, as well as foreign experience in bog restoration, and mire expert Anita Namatēva presented Teiči mire monitoring results. Finally, NAT-PROGRAMME mire expert Agnese Priede described the state of mire habitats of EU significance in Latvia and explained the main challenges associated with mire conservation in Latvia. A.Priede also demonstrated the first draft of mire habitats management guidelines.
The most valuable part of the seminar for the development of management guidelines was the discussion session that was organised in 4 discussion groups in which specialists of various areas shared their views about mire habitats and their restoration.
Seminar participants concluded that the first mire habitats to be restored should be mires with rare species, those that are endangered by invasive species, as well as mires that require relatively little resources to be restored. It was also concluded that it is important to determine priorities in mire restoration at a state level . Perhaps legal changes are required as well regarding wider mire protection zones.
During the discussion about alkaline fens in the invertebrate discussion group, experts emphasized that it is very significant to research various organism groups before starting mire restoration. This is particularly significant for snail species living in the soil that have specific ecological needs – they cannot survive if wet grasslands are overgrazed or mowed with heavy machinery. Therefore, such habitats require traditional management. Currently employed management methods can cause a negative effect on rare species. Participants also emphasized that it is important to evaluate what are the priorities of the specific territory and define conservation and management aims according to these priorities.
Discussing re-cultivation of peat extraction sites participants emphasized that guidelines are needed for how to further manage abandoned peat extraction sites. Although the restoration of mire ecosystems is a very slow process, it is still possible to increase the overall area of mire habitats. During this process various management scenarios must be evaluated. Also the costs of mire restoration must be evaluated against the anticipated benefits of the desired result.
The working group that discussed mires as a tourism destination concluded that it is always important to evaluate what are the nature values that each specially protected area is protecting and conserving. Also the existing number of visitors must be evaluated – if it is high then infrastructure needs must be carefully examined. Planning for tourism infrastructure is needed at a national level, so that the mire trails would be regionally evenly distributed and new trails wouldn’t be opened at small, remote areas, where preserving natural processes is a priority. Also the discussion group agreed that a modern mire habitats scientific information centre in Latvia is needed; however the creation on several separate homepages dedicated for mires in practically every municipality’s website is unnecessary. They also recommended that some aspect of tourism should be included in the mire management guidelines.
Photogallery. Mire habitats seminar and discussions in working groups.

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