Creation and maintenance of dry stone walls

Creation and maintenance of dry stone walls
Walls made from rock fragments are important structural elements of the landscape. © Yann Kohler

Involved sectors

Agriculture, Spatial planning, Nature protection, Local population/citizens

Affected habitats

Shrubs and wooded areas, Bogs and fens, wetlands, Grassland, Arable land

Description

Dry stone walls are traditional landscape elements. They provide various types of habitat depending on their specific micro-climate, especially for thermophilous (warmth-loving) open-country species. The cracks in the walls, which are filled with fine earth, provide specific micro-habitats in which various plant communities and wild flora occur. Dry stone walls are also important habitats for insects, reptiles and amphibians, and provide breeding sites for birds (e.g. wheatears (Oenanthe), Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros), Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus), and Great Tit (Parus major)). They constitute valuable stepping stones and insular biotopes in the agricultural landscape and due to their linear structure, have a connective effect. Other near-natural structures such as pioneer areas and margins should also be preserved along dry stone walls.

Impact

Impact in particular on Small mammals, Reptiles, Amphibians, Birds, Insects
Ecological impact  
Improvement or preservation of habitats Promotion of typical plant species such as algae, lichens and mosses, moths and snails. Quiet areas and winter quarters for invertebrates and reptiles. Some species of wild bee (mason bee - Chalicodoma siculum) nest in the cracks in the walls.
Element of ecological network Dry stone walls often have a corridor function and are important for connectivity. Their significance increases when linked to other near-natural landscape structures and they can, among other things, enhance structurally rich forest edges.
Time of realisation for measure Immediate: Dry stone walls can be populated immediately after construction.
Impact scope Local (municipality): Due to their impact as a stepping stone biotope, dry stone walls also play a role in regional biotope networks.

Implementation

Implementation period Weeks: The construction of new walls takes place from November to March, and damage is then monitored every year. Heavily overgrown walls should be partially cleared of shrubs, at least half of the wall should be left to grow wild and loose growth should be tolerated.
Frequency Non-recurring: Regular maintenance of existing or new stone walls is needed.

Economic and legal aspects

Costs Low (1'000-10'000 EUR): Depending on the quality of the stones (one tonne per continuous metre), a new construction costs in the region of €310-470 per m2 (excluding excavation works), time expenditure: 2-4 m/day with experienced workers.
Socio-economic impacts Low: With appropriate subsidies, the additional costs for building and maintaining dry stone walls will be low.
Sources of financing Public: local, Public: regional, Public: national, Public: European
Legal situation Subsidies for dry stone walls are possible through countryside management programmes and also within programmes for steep slopes (e.g. viticulture).

Further information

Evaluation Dry stone walls are regarded as important structural elements of the landscape and provide habitats for various species of flora and fauna. Their importance in the biotope network is increased when linked to other suitable near-natural landscape structures.
Information Other: e.g. BirdLife: http://birdlife.ch/sites/default/files/documents/trockenmauern.pdf (de) or: http://www.landwirtschaft-mlr.baden-wuerttemberg.de/servlet/PB/menu/1063566/index.html (de)
Contact Switzerland: Schweizer Vogelschutz SVS/BirdLife Schweiz

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