The recent scientific, political and legal debate over the pros and cons of Finnish peat production can be interpreted as a sign of regulatory failure. In particular, erosion and sedimentation of particulate organic matter from peat production sites to downstream lakes have in many cases caused local distrust and conflicts between communities and peat industry. Besides ecological impacts, organic matter loading diminishes recreational value of waters and reduces property prices in the shore areas.
The project is divided into following operational research tasks:
A. to study the leaching of organic material from peat production sites to surface waters
B. to examine the conditions of local acceptance for defining and solving problems in the management of peat production and analyse the role and implications of local knowledge in constructing a relevant understanding of peat production and its impacts to watersheds
C. to analyse current legislation and its implementation practices, in particular to what extent they capture relevant scientific and local knowledge of the water impacts of peat production
D. finally, the project aims to identify improvements to the regulation of peat production and the protection of the aquatic environment.
A) Water impacts of peat production
This study aims at recognising and quantifying the effect of peat mining on organic loading and sedimentation in receiving waters. Instead of monitoring material fluxes, we focus on the realised situation after continued peat mining activities, which also enables connection to other subprojects in the case studies. Our goal is to verify if organic loading from peat mining has led to increased sedimentation, which is the main issue of controversy in most cases of peat mining impacts. This effect will be mapped in detail in case studies with a view to providing backbone to other subprojects. In addition, we aim at quantifying carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus pools of the relocated organic sediments and developing methodology for inference of the origin of organic sediments from peatlands.
B) Capacities of local acceptance and response
Public acceptance and community involvement and participation are means to achieve social sustainability in water management. In this sub-study we first ask how local acceptance of peat production and its impacts to watersheds can be constructed. Secondly, the aim is to identify what are the practical possibilities and challenges of participation for the local actors within the existing regulatory regime.
People along the watershed possess local (ecological) knowledge through intimate and on-going relationships with the local water ecosystem. Local knowledge is built on mostly undocumented land use and oral histories, observations and place-based subsistence practices such as fishing. This local knowledge forms a delicate, often unseen matrix of human-ecosystem relationship and it may be a useful tool in assessing changes in ecosystems.
C) Legal analysis
This subproject provides a fundamental legal analysis of the regulation of peat production and emissions to water in particular. We will focus on the legal and institutional qualifications of the permit system, more specifically as follows:
• According to the Environmental Protection Act and other relevant national and EU norms, how exactly should organic materials loading to water be addressed in the environmental permits issued for peat production sites?
• How laws are implemented and enforced in practice? What types of stipulations on process technology, emission limit-values etc. are issued in permits in order to prevent and monitor organic material loading from peat production sites?
• What are the legal implications and effects of river basin management plans.
D) Synthesis: regulatory analysis and design
We assume that no major reform to the present regulatory instruments (general pollution prevention standards, permit procedures including impact assessments) is needed, but the water protection could be significantly enhanced by more explicit and case-specific permit stipulations and improved monitoring schemes which would include public participation. This would strengthen the adaptive and participatory elements of the regulatory system by enhancing its capacity to take into account the characteristics of recipient waters and local knowledge.