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Open Access Research

Users or producers of ecosystem services? A scenario exercise for integrating conservation and reindeer herding in northeast Finland

Hannu I Heikkinen1, Simo Sarkki2* and Mark Nuttall3

Author Affiliations

1 Faculty of Humanities, University of Oulu, PO Box 1000, 90014, Oulu, Finland

2 Thule Institute, University of Oulu, PO Box 7300, 90014, Oulu, Finland

3 Department of Anthropology, University of Alberta 13–15 HM Tory Building, Edmonton, Alberta, T6H 2H4, Canada

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Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 2012, 2:11  doi:10.1186/2041-7136-2-11

Published: 28 September 2012


Nature conservation is often seen as incompatible with pastoralism: conserved predators can cause significant harm to livestock, or livestock may conquer space from natural species. Currently, nature conservation and related policies are increasingly framed through the notion of ecosystem services, which form basis for human well-being. What are the implications of this framing in the relationships between pastoralism and conservation? To answer this question, we draw from our previous research to build four scenarios on the relationships between reindeer herding and nature conservation in northeast Finland. In the two ecosystem service, ‘user’ scenarios reindeer herders are seen to degrade nature, and thus should be controlled. In the first scenarios, reindeer herding is still compensated for its losses to predation, but in the second scenario, ‘reindeer farming’ and free grazing practises are eroded for achieving conservation objectives. If herding is viewed as a producer of ecosystem services, the herders' incentivised function would be to sustain predator populations and resemble natural species (wild forest reindeer). In our two ‘producer’ scenarios, new professions as ecosystem stewards or as ecotourism entrepreneurs emerge and herding changes from meat production priority to supporting the production of other ecosystem services. Novel solutions to conservation-pastoralism dilemmas might emerge if pastoral communities are seen as potential producers of ecosystem services. However, ‘producer-based’ conservation practises also include various uncertainties and might have negative impacts on pastoral communities' well-being, especially on the continuity of social and cultural traditions.

Predators; Semi-domesticated reindeer; Wolf; bear; Ecosystem services; compensations systems; Payments for ecosystem services