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Agricultural environments

Agricultural environments are the fifth most common habitat type in Finland. In total, there are about 2.7 million hectares of agricultural environments, which corresponds to just under seven percent of Finland's total surface area and nine percent of its land area. The proportion of species that primarily use agricultural environments as their habitat is about 16 percent of all well-known species in Finland. Agricultural environments are still quite species-rich and diverse habitats, although the variability and detail of the agricultural landscape have decreased over the past decades.

Agricultural environments are a mosaic

The agricultural environment is a broad and varied concept that is positioned between natural environments and urban environments. In agricultural environments, humans have modified the natural ecosystem into a farming ecosystem. According to agricultural statistics, the combined surface area of fields, gardens, natural meadows, and pastures is about 2.25 million hectares. However, according to the National Forest Inventory (NFI), there is significantly more agricultural land, about 2.75 million hectares.

The difference between the figures obtained from agricultural statistics and the NFI is due to different definitions of agricultural land. In the NFI, agricultural land also includes parts of the immediate environments of cultivated fields (e.g., property boundaries, small forest patches surrounded by fields, narrow wooded strips between fields and bodies of water, etc.). From the perspective of biological diversity in agricultural environments, the broader definition used by the NFI is more appropriate, as the significance of various edges is great for the species diversity of agricultural environments. In this context, agricultural land refers to a mosaic formed by actual cultivated lands and the small-scale forested and built lands immediately surrounding them.

Agricultural land is unevenly distributed, such that on the coastal belt, agricultural land covers nearly one-third of the surface area on average, but its proportion decreases sharply inland. The most agricultural land is found in Southwest Finland and Southern Ostrobothnia, where the share of agricultural land in the land area rises above 20 percent. The least amount of agricultural land is in Northern and Eastern Finland, in some areas less than five percent of the land area.

Traditional rural landscapes are species-rich

Outside of actual cultivation, traditional rural landscapes and biotopes in agricultural environments are the most species-rich habitats. Half of the species in agricultural environments are found on dry meadows. On fresh meadows, 15% of the species are found, on moist meadows and wooded pastures, 13% each, and on cultivated fields, 9% of the species. Of the species found on dry meadows, 42 percent are beetles and butterflies.