Heaths, meadows and biotopes

Humans have occupied the Kvarken archipelago since the first island rose out of the sea. Pasture and mowing have shaped the landscape of the islands, and continued grazing is supported today to keep these cultural biotopes open.

Heaths often occur at the highest point and in the centre of the islands. They are characterized by their dwarf shrubs (including crowberry and heather) and sparse tree populations of birch, rowan and spruce. Some of these dry heaths have been formed as a result of grazing or by land having been burned. Around the heath, dense juniper bushes often grow. Besides dwarf shrubs, wavy hair-grass grows here, as well as staggering, mountain everlasting and fireweed. Typical dry heaths can be found on the main islands at Rönnskär, Valsörarna, Björkögrunden and east Norrskär.

Image 1: Heaths, Valsörarna

The ice sheet has also left behind traces in the form of shingle beaches, and ancient beaches. Large stone fields can be found at Norrskär, for example. Smaller ancient beaches, or devil fields as they are sometimes called, occur all over the world heritage area, as on Mickelsörarna and Valsörarna for example.

Image 2: Ancient beach, Boskär on Mickelsörarna

Where land has been grazed, or grass has been cut for a longer time, meadows have formed. Grazing or mowing is important to keep this habitat "alive" because it gives new and rarer species an opportunity to grow here. Meadows often exist near buildings and are very small in area in the Kvarken area. They can be found in Bodback, Björkö, and at Gårdarna on Mickelsörarna.

Pastures are another type of grazed lands. Here you can find the typical meadow vegetation (e.g. lint oats (Helictotrichon pubescens), lady´s bedstraw and a species of moonworts (Ophioglossaceae)) between the sparse tree groves. Birch pastures, often with spruce, are the most common in the Kvarken area. If pastures are continuously grazed, but on a smaller scale than before, the area might turn into a forest pasture.

Image 3: Sheep, Valsörarna

Sources:

Airaksinen O., Karttunen K. (red.), 1999. Natura 2000 handbok över de finska naturtyperna, Swedish translation (Åhman M. och Stenberg M.) of the Finnish edition Natura 2000 – luontotyyppiopas, Suomen ympäristökeskus, Ympäristöopas 46, p. 194, 2001.

Hietikko-Hautala T. 2010. Jääkauden jälkinäytös – Merenkurkun saariston maailmanperintö. Waasa Graphics, Vaasa

Rinkineva L., Bader P. 1998. Kvarkens natur. Kvarkenrådets publikationer 10, Vaasa