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The Valuation of Habitats for Conservation

Concepts, methods and applications

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This report summarises the work carried out in the last two years of a four-year project funded by Nordic Council of Ministers. The objective of the project was to develop concepts and methods for assessment of nature quality in selected habitat types. The motivation for the project lies in increasing societal demands for information on the state of our natural environment and especially the state of our biodiversity has attracted increased attention over the last decades. The project have explored the normative concepts of conservation, and found that consensus about objectives are needed before numerical methods for quality assessments can be developed. In this project naturalness has been adopted as the overall conservation objective, and it is described how this concept is related to other concepts in conservation biology. The criteria for conservation as they have been used in the Nordic countries till now have also been reviewed.

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Criteria for value assessment

Nature conservation has a long tradition in the Nordic countries. In the late 19th century nature conservationist were influenced by national romantic thoughts. Their primary concern was the protection of untouched nature such as large pristine mountain areas, virgin forest and beautiful scenic landscapes. In Sweden and Finland Nordenskjöld was an early proponent of preserving typical nature types, and his promotion led to establishment of national parks in Sweden and Finland. In Sweden nine national parks were established in 1909, the first in Europe. In Finland similar ideas about nature conservation was established late in the 19th century, and the first national park was established in 1914. In Norway the first national park was not established before 1962, but several smaller areas was protected from the beginning of the 19th century and onwards. In Norway, the increasing demand for hydroelectric power provoked an increasing concern for the protection of major streams and waterfalls. During the 20th century ecological theory became increasingly important in value assessment of nature, and around 1970 conservation programs for several main nature types was initiated. A similar development has occurred in Sweden. In connection with these programs a discussion of evaluation criteria for nature conservation has emerged (e.g. Moen 1973, NOU 1983, Nilsson 1984). Several criteria were introduced, aiming at covering all aspects of conservation value, although some were claimed to be more important than others. The use of such criteria is important for comparing the natural value of different areas, and for establishing a sound basis for public discussions about the need for, and objectives of, nature conservation.

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