Exhibition "Biological diversity in wetlands"

Are you interested in learning more about wetlands? The Wetland Centre has worked together with the Land Museum to create an exhibition on the biological diversity present in wetlands. Here you will be able to learn more about mires, beavers and wetlands, streams, rivers and river deltas. The exhibition is located within the Land Museum in Dokka (Villavegen 45). The museum is open Tuesday to Friday from 09:00 – 15:00 the whole year. In summer the museum has extended opening hours.

The exhibition contains four selected wetland habitat topics: marshes; beavers and wetlands; streams and rivers; and river deltas. The topics selected are all characteristic of the region, and in each habitat we focus on the biology and ecology of the species you will typically find there. The exhibition is a permanent feature of the Land Museum.

 

The exhibition aims to increase the public’s interest in and knowledge of wetlands. There is a focus on the variation that exists in the wetlands in the interior of Eastern Norway, and the importance of this for rich plant and animal life. It is important to us that this exhibition contributes to stopping the deterioration and loss of vulnerable and threatened wetlands, and the diversity of life that thrives in these areas.

 

What is a wetland?

Wetlands are areas which are inundated by shallow water for either the whole year or most of the year. The soils here are saturated and the plant life has adapted to these conditions. There is lots of variety in wetland types. There are standing water wetlands and running water wetlands; wetlands can be freshwater, brackish or salt water; and they exist in mountain areas and coastal areas. Together they cover 4-6% of Earth’s surface. When we talk about biological diversity, we mean the diversity of habitats, living organisms and the genetic variation.

Norwegian wetlands are often non-contiguous and mosaic, whether they are they located in the mountains, in forests, in cultural landscapes or coastal areas. The most common types of wetlands to be found in South Norway are different kinds of mires, river deltas, shallow rivers, floodplain landscapes with river backwaters, oxbow lakes and seasonally flooded areas, shallow and vegetation-rich ponds, tarns, dams, flood meadows, swamps, beaver dams, and shallow bays and inlets in large lakes.

 

Why are wetlands important?
Wetlands are amongst the most productive areas on the planet with a high diversity of different organisms. This means that we have a big responsibility to take care of these essential habitats. The draining and transformation of wetlands for human uses, pollution and the overexploitation of the resources found in wetlands are all unfortunate examples of how we have managed our wetlands. Wetlands are amongst the most threatened habitats on Earth.

 

Mires

Mires are the most common wetland type in Norge, and originally made up 10% of Norway’s land area. Unfortunately, the destructive drainage of mires in the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s resulted in a massive loss of this type of habitat. The purpose of the drainage of mires was to increase forestry production in Norway. But with this we lost much of the mires’ ability to store incredible amounts of water and the water table was reduced. The loss of the mires means that rainfall enters the water courses more quickly. As a result of this streams and rivers are now more subject to large changes in the water flow. 

Many mires act as nature’s library. They are cold and anaerobic, making them ideally suited to preserve biological material. Pollen and other plant remains that can be found in different layers of mires are an important source of knowledge about the historic climate and plant and animal life. This acts as an important reference for how we manage our planet today, especially in relation to climate change.

 

Beavers and wetlands
The beaver is a natural part of the Norwegian mammalian fauna, and the species was quick to migrate into Norway after the end of the last ice age. Beavers affect ecosystems both on land and in the water by creating fresh wetlands. The beaver is referred to as a key species because the changes beavers make to the landscape are important for a variety of other animal species. They are able to change a habitat suddenly and drastically by creating small wetlands in the form of stagnant water dams. After a while the dam is abandoned, and the areas around are transformed into rich and verdant meadows; eventually lack of maintenance to the dam results in the water draining out. The beaver is often treated with a lack of understanding of its importance and its vital ecological role. An example of this is local authorities allowing landowners to remove beaver dams using excavators. Areas that beavers are recolonizing after being absent for 200 to 300 years have been heavily modified by humans, with the beavers’ habitats often affected by human modifications such as drainage and water regulation.

 

Rivers and streams

Some of the biggest changes to water courses in Norway are a result of the development of hydropower. This required the construction of large reservoirs and significant changes to the water level and flow of rivers and streams. Many freshwater fish species migrate up rivers and streams to spawn. Their migration routes, spawning locations and natal streams are often significantly damaged by these human modifications.
Flood plain landscapes are characteristic for most of the larger rivers in Eastern Norway. This landscape includes a mosaic of oxbow lakes, meanders, connecting tributaries, sandbanks and flood meadows with a rich and diverse fauna and flora. Rivers and streams are still subject to human interventions such as flood defences and changes to the water courses.

 

River deltas

River deltas are associated with especially abundant plant and animal life and are therefore particularly vulnerable to human interventions. River deltas have historically been utilised by humans for many different purposes. This is especially true of South Norway, where many of the river deltas were destroyed before modern conservations measures were in place. There are a total of 39 river deltas in South Norway that have been developed to the point where their have lost their function as a natural ecosystem.