EKOenergy Environmental Fund helps rivers

We support ten projects at the moment

The EKOenergy label: a green plug coming out of a plant with two leaves.With the help of EKOenergy Environmental Fund, several projects are launched each year. Duration of projects varies between one year a couple of years. Ongoing projects are described below, starting from freshly started projects.

 

 

Stream restoration in the Lake Näsijärvi catchment area

The aim of the activities is to re-establish brown trout populations in the Lake Näsijärvi cathcment area. The restoration works by volunteers have already been started in the streams, including cleaning up the spawning gravels, inventories of relevant sites, helping with egg box plantings and consulting local fishermen. Present target areas include the streams in the catchment area of Lake Näsijärvi and upstream from it, in the Ruovesi-Kuorevesi area. The funds will be spend on machine work, gravel, travelling and electric fishing controls, while the work is done on voluntary basis. Tens of volunteers participate in the activities.

  • Responsible organisation: Stream Restoration Society, Finland
  • Contact: Tuomas Rinne, tuomas.juhana.rinne@gmail.com
  • Funding granted from EKOenergy Environmental Fund: 8,000 €

Electric fishing in a stream in the Lake Näsijärvi catchment area, Finland. Photo: Stream Restoration Society

Hunting the lost pearl

The purpose of the project is to improve the conservation status of the endangered freshwater pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera). The goal of this project is to develop a tool to identify the potential rivers and streams that could be suitable for freshwater pearl mussels, in order to establish protection measures and priority areas for conservation and/or restoration initiatives. A geographical information system platform will be developed and tested in the Hämeenkyrö municipality area. The only two currently known recruiting populations are found in Hämeenkyrö. Stream Ruonanjoki has a rapidly declining population and the stream Turkimusoja freshwater pearl mussel population was discovered very recently (2014). It is probable that small populations still exist but they are not known.

The freshwater pearl mussel used to be widely distributed in the rivers of the northern hemisphere from west/north-west Europe to eastern North America. However, due to a steep decline, it is estimated that the mussel is now present in 5% of its former range. The life cycle of the freshwater pearl mussel is complicated by the presence of the parasitic glochidial stage. Survivorship of this stage depends on locating a suitable host fish and the subsequent settlement of the post glochidial stage in a suitable habitat. The only suitable hosts for the mussel are the brown trout (Salmo trutta) and Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), which have been impacted by hydropower and dams. Results from river surveys in Europe indicate that there is no recruitment in most rivers and there has not been any for tens of years. It is estimated that a great majority of the populations are in terminal decline. The freshwater pearl mussel is a flagship and umbrella species that in the past has populated and purified the water of rivers all over Europe. Today it is Critically Endangered (IUCN) and its EU conservation status in all biogeographical regions is Unfavourable-Bad. The mussel has almost disappeared from Southern Finland where it used to be abundant.

  • Responsible organisation: Hämeenkyrö Municipality, Finland
  • Contact: Environmental officer Kaisa Pieniluoma, kaisa.pieniluoma@hameenkyro.fi
  • Funding granted from EKOenergy Environmental Fund: 36,000 €

Let migration be free

Migrating fishes are endangered, and many populations are close to extinction in Finland’s archipelagos due to man-made barriers on their migration routes, habitat degradation, poor water quality and overexploitation. The migration barriers in the rivers flowing to the Archipelago Sea are mainly old unused mill dams and culverts. There are estimated to be more than 100 migration barriers in South-West Finland’s streams.

Most of southwest Finland’s trout (Salmo trutta) populations have become extinct or are very small due to hydropower plants, dams and dredging of streams. However, some genetically original trout stocks have survived in the Rivers of Southwest Finland.

The project goal is to enhance these extremely endangered trout stocks through the removal of migration barriers and restoring trout habitats in Southwest Finland. The project aims to improve habitats of the endangered Sea Trout and other endangered species aiming to actually prevent the extinction of some of the last native sea trout populations. The project will also raise public awareness about migratory fishes and stream restorations.

  • Responsible organisation: Valonia, Finland
  • Contact: water specialist Janne Tolonen, janne.tolonen@valonia.fi
  • Funding granted from EKOenergy Environmental Fund: 25,000 €

Fisheries restoration in River Isojoki

River Isojoki is located in Central Finland. Brown trout and graylings reproduce naturally in the river but the reproduction can be enhanced with restoration. The measures include enlarging the areas with bottom substrate suitable for spawning and safeguarding water levels during dry seasons. The restoration measures will mainly be done in the downstream areas within a 6,5 km route Jokirinne-Pyyrinlahti close to lake Keitele. Restoration will be done both with machines and by manual labour.

  • Responsible organisation: Liimattala Fisheries shareholders, Finland
  • Contact: chairperson Markku Isoviita, markku.isoviita@gmail.com
  • Funding granted from EKOenergy Environmental Fund: 25,000 €

Connection of a meander in Schnegaer Mühlenbach

The “Schnegaer Mühlenbach“ is a fast flowing and quite natural small river, meandering in wet lowlands, which has its source in the uplands and is therefore cold in summer. Formerly, the Mühlenbach was used to drive water mills with the effect of reducing the natural state in some sections.

Characteristic for the biological importance of the river are its gravel banks, the rich and vast moist meadows and the adjoining old softwood riparian forests, habitats of a rich fauna and flora. Also noteworthy are the numerous sources, where the fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra) – a rare amphibian in the northern lowlands – has remarkable populations. Some fauna of the Schnegaer Mühlenbach itself are freshwater crayfish (Astacus astacus), a rare mussel (Unio crassus), trout (Salmo trutta) and the otter (Lutra lutra).

Since the meander, which was formerly part of the Schnegaer Mühlenbach, was cut off, the river was straightened and lost its gravel banks. The original shape of the meander can still be seen as a basin-shaped depression in the ground. The former meander has the remarkable length of nearly 200 metres, meandering through a large variously wooded area.

It is necessary to connect the meander, which is now totally dry, with the Schnegaer Mühlenbach again, and also to give the stolen gravel banks back to the river. These steps will be essential elements for a better ecological morphology of the Schnegaer Mühlenbach. The project includes the concrete connection and restoration work of the meander, according to the plans. The project budget includes the costs of the excavator and gravel needed.

  • Responsible organisation: Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz (BUND), Ökologische Station Landgraben-Dumme-Niederung, Germany
  • Contact: Petra Bernardy and Eckart Krüger, station@bund-ldn.deFunding granted from EKOenergy Environmental Fund: 21,000 €

Bless the Sieriniemi – Rowing event for the last remaining free-flowing part of River Kemijoki in 19.-23.7.2018

The aim of the event is to prevent the building of the Sierilä dam on the last unconstructed stretch of the river Kemijoki. The sandy river bank at the planned Sierilä power plant is home to the surviving populations of many endangered species. For example, a rare butterfly, the scholarly herd (Capricornia boisduvaliana), is only found in Finland in this specific area. For more information see https://www.sll.fi/mita-me-teemme/vedet/vapaakemijoki. The project costs include planning, organisation and the realisation of the rowing event Sieriniemen soutu in Rovaniemi 19.-23.7.2018. The organiser is the local nature conservation society in Rovaniemi in co-operation with the local association Oikarainen. A steering group and a media planning group have been established to support the project. Publicity and visibility in the media will play a key role in the project.

  • Responsible organisation: Nature Conservation Society of Rovaniemi, see FB page “Free River Kemijoki“, Finland
  • Contact: chairperson Sari Hänninen, sari.hanninen@rovaniemi.fi
  • Funding granted from EKOenergy Environmental Fund: 10,000 €

Let River Mustijoki be a living river for salmon

The final aim of the project is to re-establish a route for migratory fish such as seatrout, fromdownstream areas to upstream areas where larger spawning areas are now located behind a dam. A proper fishway plan and a 3-year study are needed to make progress towards this goal. The money will be used as seed money for fostering these plans, finding further funding and relevant participants.

Free waterways in the Kokemäenjoki catchment area

Kokemäenjoki catchment area is located in South-West Finland, mainly in the Pirkanmaa county. The target areas of the project are selected on the basis of earlier distribution and genetic studies of the brown trout populations in the catchment area. The ultimate goal of the project is to re-establish river connectivity to enable the expansion of the genetically original trout populations. The information on the existing sub-populations of brown trout is used to further develop other measures for the benefit of the fish.

The 2-year project includes concrete river restoration and fish migration study in this catchment area, in the Pirkanmaa county. The restoration includes eliminating migration obstacles and restoring spawning areas. At the same time a study of the migration of naturally reproducing trout populations is carried out.

Responsible organization: The Water Protection Association of the River Kokemäenjoki (KVVY) Contact: Limnologist Heikki Holsti: heikki.holsti(a)kvvy.fi

Funding granted from EKOenergy Environmental Fund: 50 000 euro, to be used in 2017-2018 for specific river restoration measures and migration studies.

Saving the freshwater pearl mussel of river Mustionjoki by rehabilitation in a hatchery

Freshwater pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera) is a critically endangered species. The lifecycle of the mussel is peculiar. In the early stage of its lifecycle the larvae/juvenile freshwater pearl mussel lives in the gills of salmonid fish (salmon or trout), from where it drops to the river bottom to start the long, up to a 100-year life as an adult mussel.

In Finland, River Mustionjoki supports the southernmost population of freshwater pearl mussels that are presently on the edge of extinction. The number of individual mussels in this population have dropped dramatically between 2010-2016 (from 3038 to 1353). The remaining individuals are in weak condition and do not produce glokidium larvae. Thus, if no extra measures are carried out, the population will disappear while waiting for the results of habitat restoration measures in situ.

Freshwater pearl mussels in the hatchery. Photo: Jouni Taskinen

Freshwater pearl mussels in the hatchery. Photo: Jouni Taskinen

In Norway there is evidence of successful  removal of individual mussels from threatened populations to be reared at a hatchery where they are fed and cared for, until they start to produce glokidium larvae again, typically within 1-2 years. Salmonid fish are then exposed to the larvae and the developing juvenile mussels are then planted back to the home river to areas that have suitable conditions and best possible habitats.

Responsible organization: University of Jyväskylä, the laboratory of bio- and environmental sciences
Contact: professor Jouni Taskinen: jouni.k.taskinen(a)jyu.fi

Money granted from EKOenergy Environmental Fund: 9 000 euro, to organize the care for freshwater pearl mussels in Konnevesi Hatchery.

Developing a new fish passage type

A remarkable challenge of fish passage planning is the task of creating a sufficient attraction flow that would show the animals the direction to the fish passage. In hydropower plants operations water is a resource to be used for electricity production and thus to be used effectively. On the other hand, in many plant operation bypass flow – the excess water that cannot be used in turbines to generate electricity – occurs regularly during the fish migration time in spring and autumn. In current fish passage installations (in Finland and internationally) the bypass flow is not utilized for the benefit of the fish. The goal of the project is to create a new fish passage type that would utilize this opportunity, especially with regards to upstream migration but to some extend also downstream migration.

Responsible organization: Kala- ja vesitutkimus Oy
Contact: Researcher Petri Karppinen: petri.karppinen(a)kalajavesitutkimus.fi

Money granted from EKOenergy Environmental Fund: 6 000 euro to be used in 2017 to conduct a preliminary survey on the feasibility, applications and cost of various types of dam structures.

Restoring river habitats in River Merikarvianjoki

River Merikarvianjoki is located in the Satakunta county. The brown trout population of the river suffers from the lack of reproduction areas. The restoration project will focus on the replacement of unsuitable sharp-shaped bottom stones with natural-like gravel and rock material. It is possible that also salmon and whitefish populations will benefit from this restoration.

Responsible organization: Merikarvia municipality
Contact: Executive manager Marianne Hakala: marianne.hakala(a)merikarvianjoki.fiMoney granted from EKOenergy Environmental Fund: 3 700 euro to be used in 2017 for organizing volunteer work to restoring river habitats in Puukoski and Lankoski river rapids.

Lankoski rapids, Merikarvianjoki river. Photo: kallerna (CC0 1.0)

Lankoski rapids, Merikarvianjoki river. Photo: kallerna (CC0 1.0)