Improvement of the conservation status of species-rich open terrestrial habitats on management-depending small fragmented sites and establishment of a conservation-specific success assessment

  • Background

    Background

    The majority of endangered open terrestrial habitats of the European Union's Habitats Directive's  (92/43/EEC) Annex I are dependent on extensive agricultural land use. Predominantly, this encompasses management-dependent different dry grasslands (e.g. habitat codes 6210(*), 6240*), lowland hay meadows (6510), species-rich humid meadows (6410, 6440) and mountain pastures (6230*, 6520) as well as naturally small-sized sites like inland salt meadows (1340*) or Calaminarian grasslands (6130), which are at least dependent on sporadic management. These habitats are usually very rich in both animal and plant species and often harbour a high percentage of endangered species. A higher land use intensity on the one hand and predominantly lack of use on less productive sites are the main reasons for the endangerment of these species and habitats.

     

    Recently, concepts for larger complexes with open terrestrial habitats have been developed in Saxony-Anhalt, which may ensure their long-term preservation, for example the extensive grazing projects with mega herbivores in the Oranienbaumer Heide and the „Toten Tälern“. Additionally, precursors to this project initiated goat grazing at different sites in the Lower Saale Valley, which will be continued here.

    Endangered open terrestrial habitats as well as habitats of rare plant and animal species are currently often rather small-sized.Many of the sites we find today are only relics of former larger occurrences that remain as islands of small, fragmented areas (e.g. dry grassland fragments within shrub encroachment) - basically the last safe-harbours for many specialized species and endangered habitats.

    The majority of these small, fragmented sites lies within Natura 2000 areas. Nevertheless, many of them have lain fallow for several decades, but others have been abandoned more recently for socio-economic reasons. A reason for this is that land-use on these sites is often hampered by specific characteristics like unfavourable terrain, high ground water level, isolation or lack of a necessary first instalment.

    However, exactly these small, fragmented sites often represent very species-rich remainders of open habitats and are home to populations of rare plant and animal species. We have to urgently find solutions for these, from a conservation standpoint, highly valuable sites with respect to management and financing. Since species diversity in open terrestrial habitats is aggregated in these small areas, the solution of this problem is essential for the conservation of species diversity in Saxony-Anhalt.

  • Project aims

    Project aims

    >>Subproject: A 

    Subproject B

    The most important goal of subproject B was to determine a pool of small species-rich fragmentated areas (focus on botanical species protection), initially based on three model regions (districts of Börde, Harz, Wittenberg), on the basis of existing data material and in close cooperation with the regional authorities (State Office for Environmental Protection, Lower Nature Conservation Authorities) and local experts (e.g. Saxony-Anhalt Working Group for Native Orchids, Saxony-Anhalt Botanical Association). In the course of the project work, the pool proposal was extended to all Saxony-Anhalt.

    Within the scope of plausibility checks, the area boundaries had to be adjusted, re-mapping of species and LRT occurrences had to be carried out and management difficulties had to be examined.

    In addition, subproject B researched recommendations for the maintenance of open habitat and biotope types as well as costs for suitable maintenance measures, developed exemplary profiles for the maintenance of priority areas and initiated and implemented selected maintenance projects on priority areas in the model regions.

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