Funded by LBAYS: Learning from local ecological knowledge to improve biodiversity around boreal temporary wetlands

With a mission to explore the ecosystem functions of small temporary wetlands in Finnish harvested forests, Uma Sigdel focuses on biodiversity and socio-cultural connectivity. Integrating local ecological knowledge through participatory mapping, Uma aims to create value for sustainable management.

My interest in wetlands started when I was working back in Nepal and grew later when I got to research more during my MSc in the Netherlands. I had worked in Ramsar sites and the restoration of the urban lakes before, but I decided to pursue temporary wetlands as my research area for my PhD. I have always been interested to work in the interface of natural and social sciences, thus I saw great implications of my interests to study this important habitat which till date is an understudied topic. Thankfully, I also have supervisors with background in biology, ecology and social sciences that allows me to receive continuous support and feedback integrating both domains.

Often known as “'isolated”, “vernal”, “seasonal”, “ephemeral” wetlands, the temporary wetlands are isolated in the landscape, meaning that they are not connected to inlets / outlets. They are characterized by the seasonal hydroperiod meaning that they dry up usually once a year (with some exceptions drying in every few years). Seasonal wetlands are also widely used by terrestrial vertebrates as refuge, foraging sites and water point at different stages of their life cycle. In addition, they have been used as a source of water for different provisional services.

Due to their limited size, they can be extremely vulnerable to environmental changes, including climate change, and society development needs. The economic, cultural and biodiversity challenges surrounding these small wetlands are therefore important, yet the lack of rigor and coherence in the regulatory protection of small aquatic resources remain a global phenomenon.

However, due to their seasonality, sizes, occurrence and distribution in the landscape, temporary wetlands are quite complex when it comes to detection and monitoring only with remote sensing technologies. Thus, with an objective to study the ecosystem functions of small temporary wetlands in Finnish harvested forest, their biodiversity and associated socio-cultural connectivity and creating value through scientific and local ecological knowledge for their sustainable management. I am integrating local ecological knowledge (including knowledge, experiences and suggestions from the local researchers, visitors and experts) and deploying participatory mapping. 

My first goal was to investigate the previous knowledge on temporary wetlands. I am currently preparing for a review paper on current state of knowledge around the temporary wetland. A first draft has been written and awaits comments from co-authors.

My second goal was to identify and conduct interviews of stakeholders. With the help of my PhD supervisors and the established collaborations between Lammi Biological Station and a large network of stakeholders I was able to interview seven stakeholders for the research.

I have finished stakeholders’ assessment and have identified 23 stakeholders, their interests, influences and contributions to this project. The stakeholders involve experts from research organisations, NGOs, universities, local stakeholders, journalists and regular visitors and will continue to interview and conduct field works in the coming days.

The grant from Environmental Research Foundation of Lammi Biological Station was used at the beginning of my PhD project. The support from the foundation was crucial to start my project since it allows me to travel to and to stay at LBS to carry out interviews of stakeholders. I travelled and conducted field study in Evo five times during 2021.

With little over a year of starting my research, I am very thankful to the support I have received from different stakeholders and interests towards this research. Interviews, interactions and workshops are continuous process to this research, and I have only received positive responses to my approach for interviews, data collection and any collaboration requests. Most mentionably, I have been receiving continuous support from Lammi Biological Station, WATBRO and POOL Projects. This research project is a collaborative, multidisciplinary project and is involving multistakeholders. It is initiating many interesting  discussions on lesser studied topic around temporary wetlands and need of devising a monitoring tool to improve biodiversity in boreal wetlands.

The grant from LBAYS fund was crucial for the realization of my PhD project.

More research funded by LBAYS