Measure Corridors for small animals
Underpasses for small animals are pipes made from concrete or steel which are incorporated into the road-body crossways or at angles as crossing aids for small mammals, amphibians, reptiles and invertebrates. Conduits obstruct animals’ free access to the road and lead them to the underpasses. An uninterrupted link between the conduits and the underpasses is essential. The conduits should run parallel to the road, and should if possible be supplemented with guide structures placed at right-angles to the tunnel openings. These crossing aids for amphibians and small animals should be incorporated at an early stage during road-building and should be ready for operation before traffic is permitted to use the road. Retrofitting of these systems is rarely possible due to the high costs involved. The advantage of these permanent protection systems is that they work all year round and require very little management.
Measure Agricultural field margin projects
Agricultural field margins are managed strips, a few metres wide, along agricultural fields. They are cultivated without the use of pesticides so that wild herbs and the fauna adapted to them are able to disperse and survive. In some cases, the strips are sown with a mixture of flowering plants (“blossoming belts”) or planted with shrubs and trees. The agricultural field margins not only provide a habitat for rare species of plant and contribute to the protection of soils and water resources; they also constitute important linear transit routes and form buffer zones between various forms of use.
Measure Measures for seasonal amphibian migration
Most amphibians in Central Europe undertake various migrations during their lives, including the seasonal spring migrations to their spawning grounds. They invariably encounter numerous barriers which they must overcome, especially the dense transport network where millions of amphibians are killed by vehicles every year. There are many measures which could be taken to protect amphibians during migration and to help reduce the barrier effects; these include warning signs for drivers; mobile seasonal fences for amphibians; substitute spawning grounds; temporary road closures; and permanent protection systems (amphibian tunnels), etc.
Measure Species-Rich Grassland Programme
The species inventory of a grassland reflects the way in which it is managed and its location. If the management method remains unchanged, the species composition will generally remain unchanged as well. This correlation opens up the opportunity to link subsidies for extensive grassland to the occurrence of key species of flora. In order to implement this innovative, results-oriented approach, a list of meadow flowers serves as a simple tool for reliable identification of extensive species-rich grassland. Promotion depends on the occurrence of certain easily identifiable plant species (indicator plants). Participating farmers undertake to preserve the species richness of their grasslands (meadows and pasturage). Farmers retain the choice of practices and resources to be used, so that biodiversity is not seen as a constraint: it calls upon their technical skills and sense of responsibility. They are also sensitised to issues such as nature conservation and biodiversity.
Measure Conservation of ecologically significant trees i.e. trees with holes
In a commercial forest, besides the creation and maintenance of old-growth and deadwood islands, the conservation of specific individual trees (nest and hollow trees, trees with rotten sections or fungal infections, or bizarre trees) in the forest stand plays an important role. Between the old-growth and deadwood islands, these individual trees serve as stepping stones or transitional biotopes, especially for less mobile species of fauna in search of new habitats. These trees are particularly important in intensively used forest stands. They also help to safeguard, in the medium to long term, a sufficient high proportion of biotope trees in the forest. The definition of the number, distribution, species and characteristics of these trees must take place in line with local conditions.
Measure Grazing projects - landscape conservation with sheep
For a biotope network with nutrient-poor and dry sites, sheep grazing plays a key role. Due to their lack of economic viability using conventional cultivation methods, there is often a risk that these valuable biotopes will cease to be managed and maintained. Furthermore, these areas are in many cases being drastically reduced, with remaining oligotrophic grasslands often becoming isolated. Site gradients are being lost, successional processes terminate at stages of maturity, and there is a lack of new pioneer sites. Traditional grazing using sheep can ensure the sustainable management of these sites. To this end, testing and development of practicable area management methods are required in cooperation with sheep farmers and landowners.
Measure Specific species conservation measures: beaver
Hardly any other species shapes and influences its habitat as actively as the beaver. The beaver makes burrows in riverbanks, builds dams, and fells trees. Before humans began to shape the landscape actively through their land use, there was a broad network of pools, created by beavers, along the watercourses. Many other species of fauna have developed in a water landscape which the beaver has done much to create. And yet the beaver was on the verge of extinction in Europe. It is now progressively recolonising numerous watercourses. Since its return, the beaver is bringing many of the watercourses made moribund by human activity back to life and restoring their dynamism. It creates a mosaic of new habitats and structures by opening up vegetation, promoting deadwood, and creating pools and dams. This results in more attractive landscapes and a biotope network along the watercourses and helps to improve watercourse and flood protection.
Measure Environmentally compatible design of power lines
Power lines have been a feature of the landscape for almost 100 years. At present, there is virtually no alternative to them when it comes to Europe’s extra high voltage sector. Wide aisles of low-growing woodland emerge, particularly when the conductor cables cross large forest areas at the normal height. Nonetheless, there are still interesting options to promote ecoconnectivity in this cultural landscape, even in areas with encroaching woodland growth due to lack of agricultural use. With well-thought-out and systematic biotope management planning, these areas can become important habitats, connecting routes, stepping stones and corridors in the biotope network.
Measure Creation of fish passes and other fish migration aids
Obstructions such as river bottom steps, weirs, retention basins etc. can be found along many Alpine streams and rivers. These constitute insurmountable obstacles to the migration of fish and other organisms in flowing waters. Fish migration aids (also known as fish ladders or fish passes) are installed in flowing waters in order to give fish, in particular, the opportunity to overcome these artificial obstacles. There are numerous versions of these aids (river bottom slides, fish ramps, fish passes, bypass flume(s) …), which can be deployed to suit the target species, the obstacle to be overcome, and local conditions.
Measure Green bridges/ wildlife crossings
A wildlife crossing, or green bridge, is intended to serve as an aid to wild animals, enabling them to cross busy transport routes such as motorways, highways and even railway lines safely and thus mitigating the impacts of increasing landscape fragmentation. The position of these crossings is particularly important: wildlife crossings should be located at known animal crossing points or specific “conflict points” in the transregional transport network. In order to screen the view of the transport routes to be crossed, the edges of the bridge are often planted with hedgerows, with much of the rest of the surface of the bridge being covered in vegetation as well. There are now numerous studies which provide information about required dimensions, vegetation, technical construction details etc.
Measure Information campaigns in towns and municipalities
Settlements are among those areas which may contribute to the fragmentation of the landscape and whose development may contribute to habitat decline. However, it may be possible to mitigate these effects with measures adopted in the gardens and green spaces of towns and villages. The permeability of the areas and, above all, of the spatial restrictions can be increased, habitats can be created or made more environmentally compatible, and the use of pesticides and herbicides can be dispensed with, etc. By means of information campaigns and brochures sent out along with building permits, for example, the public can be encouraged to adopt these measures. Possible measures include: creation of near-natural hedges from local timber, permeability of fencing around properties, “insect hotels”, bee forage etc.
Measure Trail concepts and visitor guidance for winter sports
Ski touring and snowshoeing have become increasingly popular winter sports in recent years, offering an experience of the winter landscape off the pathways and pistes. However, they take sportspersons into the refuge areas of wild animals, which are highly sensitive to disturbance in winter. For critically sensitive zones, the German Alpine Association (DAV) publishes information for touring skiers regarding recommended routes (this includes demarcation of sensitive areas, waymarking, and information boards and maps at car parks). Efforts are also being made to promote cooperation with the authors and publishers of guidebooks.
Measure Agreements on environmentally compatible practice of sports with sportspersons and associations
Many of the sports carried out in the natural environment can cause major disturbance and even the destruction of habitats. Mountain biking, paragliding, canyoning and climbing are just a few examples. In order to guarantee that sports are practised in a more environmentally compatible manner, agreements for sensitive areas can be reached with sports groups and associations. One example is the climbing strategy adopted by the German Alpine Association (DAV). Many rocky crags and rockfaces provide refuge for rare and protected species of flora and fauna. To ensure that these unique biotopes are not damaged by climbers, strategies for environmentally compatible climbing are both useful and necessary. The package of measures adopted by the German Alpine Association (DAV) on eco-friendly climbing involves working with public authorities and nature conservation organisations to develop climbing strategies. The DAV is relying on a wide variety of solutions to identify, at micro level, those areas where environmentally compatible climbing is possible and those where no climbing should take place in the interests of nature conservation. Uniform marking of crags, temporary closure of crags or sections of them, and local wardens with responsibility for crags are just some of the key elements of these strategies.
Measure Maintenance of open areas by controlled burning
Open-country habitats such as embankments in wine-growing areas or terraced landscapes, dry grasslands, heaths or peat bogs are ecologically valuable areas. However, as they are often only of marginal suitability for agricultural use, and are costly and time-consuming to maintain, they are at risk from bush encroachment or the occurrence of problematical vegetation (e.g. Goldenrod (Solidago virgaurea) and blackberry). This impacts on the appearance of the landscape and on the ecological functionality of these areas. The maintenance of these areas through controlled burning may be a viable and cost-effective option here. However, this management technique will only be successful, from a nature conservation and technical perspective, if the personnel undertaking the measure are properly trained, as practical implementation of controlled burning requires strict adherence to procedural guidelines.
Measure Tree maintenance and preservation of pollarded trees
Pollarded willows are characteristic elements of the landscape in various Alpine regions. The unusual shape of the heads of the trees is created when the young trunks and main branches are cut back to promote a more bushy growth of foliage. At the head of the trunk, cavities are formed over time, and in the branches, the bark and especially the cavities, numerous species find a habitat and niches in which to breed. As many as 200 species of fauna can occur in the willows found in intact river meadows, for example. In the past, pollarded willows provided a source of wood, e.g. for fencing, shafts for tools, bindings for wine, basket-making etc., but they have no current value from this perspective today. In the context of large-scale agriculture, too, stands of pollarded willows are often regarded as a nuisance and are therefore removed. The management of pollarded willows is time-consuming and labour-intensive, and if they are not maintained, the trees often break apart. In networks of interlinked biotopes, they constitute important stepping stones and transit routes.
Measure Corridor contracts
In 2008, the French region of Rhône-Alpes completed the mapping of its regional ecological network. In order to support projects and initiatives which contribute to maintaining or improving ecological connectivity, the region offers so-called “corridor contracts”. Ideally, projects receiving support should involve several local authorities. Contracts are awarded for a period of five years. Support is provided for schemes which directly help to maintain or improve connectivity, as well as to schemes which aim to safeguard the elements of a biotope network in the long term via planning tools, environmental education and public relations work. A guide has been produced for prospective stakeholders which contains detailed information on the regional scheme and the contractual process.
Measure Creation, maintenance and preservation of rock fragment piles
Rock fragment piles are important structural elements of the landscape. From a nature conservation perspective, they constitute valuable stepping stones and insular biotopes in the agricultural landscape. A wide diversity of flora and fauna (insects, spiders, amphibians, reptiles and even small mammals) depend on these man-made habitats as their original habitats have disappeared in today’s cultural landscape. These ecologically valuable structural elements must therefore form a key part of future landscape planning. As far as possible, the rock fragment piles should be created near waysides or forest edges or by hedgerows, not in an isolated position, in order to safeguard connectivity with a biotope network. Management involves occasional clearing of vegetation and, if necessary, re-stacking.
Measure Determination of light pollution
The term “light pollution” denotes the brightening of the night sky caused by artificial light sources whose light is dispersed into the atmosphere. This can have various effects: the growth cycle of plants, for example, may be influenced by an artificially brightened environment. The sensory organs of nocturnal animals are specially adapted to night-time conditions, which makes them particularly sensitive to artificial light. Animals therefore attempt to avoid sources of light, so a well-lit street can therefore constitute a major barrier and contribute to habitat fragmentation. A large proportion of light pollution comes from poorly constructed or poorly installed light sources and can be avoided without any negative impacts, e.g. on road safety. An audit of public lighting can help to identify problem areas and offer appropriate solutions.
Measure Taking account of the elements of ecological networks in planning tools (land-use plans, landscape development strategies etc.)
The consideration of central elements of a biotope network in spatial planning is extremely important for the long-term and sustainable creation of a biotope network. This is the only way to ensure long-term connectivity. Planning must, however, be flexible enough to take account of the dynamic character of the biotope network. Depending on the type and significance of the elements, they should be taken into account in different tools and at different levels (at local level, areas for a small-scale network; at regional level, key migration corridors and solutions for major conflict points). There are already a number of examples in existence, notably in Switzerland with the creation of the REN in guidance planning (Richtplanung) or in France, where individual municipalities have incorporated elements of the local biotope network in their land-use planning.
Measure Safety measures on electricity masts and cables
In the Alps, too, the energy supply is generally reliant on a dense network of overground cables. For birds, especially migratory species, these cables – and to an even greater extent, dangerously constructed electricity masts – pose a major hazard. Masts are a popular roosting and resting place for many species of bird. The type of mast construction determines whether these are safe places for birds. On many masts in the mid-voltage network, for example, the arrival or departure of a bird in flight may trigger an earth fault or short circuit which kills the bird. For large species of bird in particular, such as white and black storks, the Eurasian Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo), Lesser Spotted Eagle (Aquila pomarina) and Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus), electrocution by power lines is now one of the main causes of population decline. In areas which birds regularly fly over in large numbers at low altitude (e.g. topographical bottlenecks in valleys), the cables should be laid underground or the areas bypassed altogether. If this is not possible, safety measures should be applied to cables and masts.
Measure Conservation and development of old-growth and deadwood islands
In the normal commercial forest, trees are grown for optimum timber quality and are felled before they reach biological maturity. However, many species of flora and fauna are dependent on old, very old and even dead trees. In areas of woodland, groups of trees should therefore be preserved beyond the commercial cutting interval in order to create old-growth and deadwood habitats. These old-growth and deadwood islands also perform an important role in ecological connectivity.
Measure Hunting ban areas, game protection areas, quiet zones, game reserves
These various types of areas are intended to protect flora and fauna from disturbance or pressure from hunting. They are subject to different regulations, depending on the country or region: in Switzerland’s “quiet zones” for game, for example, tourists, sportspersons and visitors may not leave the paths at specific times or enter the habitats of sensitive and rare species of fauna. Other activities such as skiing, snowshoeing, camping or organised sports events are also governed by specific rules. Alpine farming and agricultural/forest management are not affected by restrictions in the quiet zones, and hunting is also permitted. In France, on the other hand, hunting is strictly prohibited in the game reserves, as it is in Switzerland’s hunting ban areas and game protection areas.
Measure Wildlife warning systems to avoid wildlife collisions
This involves the installation of warning systems for the prevention of accidents involving deer at known deer crossing points. A network of infrared sensors covers both sides of the road to a distance of around 300 m. If an animal enters this area, it is detected by the sensors. These send an impulse to a traffic warning signal which lights up and warns approaching drivers of the immediate danger.
Measure Specific species conservation measures: wood grouse (capercaillie)
The wood grouse (capercaillie) (Tetrao urogallus) is a characteristic species of light, structurally rich boreal and montane forest habitats. Due to its extensive spatial and specific habitat requirements, it is regarded as an umbrella species for the high-montane community. Acutely endangered as a result of habitat losses and degeneration, it is a target species under the EU Birds Directive. The species therefore plays a key role in nature conservation and spatial planning, not only from a conservation but also from a socio-cultural and socio-economic perspective. Due to its habitat requirements, support measures for capercaillie contribute directly to the implementation of biotope network concepts, e.g. through the creation of mosaics of different habitats and corridor and stepping stone structures.
Measure Reduction or targeted use of fertiliser, pesticides and herbicides in agriculture
Appropriately managed agricultural spaces can act as stepping stone biotopes and connecting areas in a biotope network. As a rule, these areas, if they are to fulfil their function, must be managed extensively and in an ecologically compatible way. Non-use, or at least highly targeted use, of fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides encourages the development of appropriate characteristics and, even if no biotope networking strategy is in place, can help to introduce more biological diversity in the landscape matrix.
Measure Maintenance and restoration of traditional irrigation systems
As early as the Middle Ages, complex irrigation systems were created in various Alpine regions with low precipitation, in order to bring water from the mountains to the farmed areas in the valleys, often at some distance away. These artificial water transportation systems, often many kilometres in length (e.g. the “suonen” channels in Valais, Switzerland, the “acquedotti” in Val di Non (Trentino/Italy) and the “waale” in South Tyrol) are important landscape features with great significance for various associated habitats (lines of trees, mosaics of wet, semi-dry and dry sites). The conservation, restoration and maintenance of these elements are supported on a project basis or through the payment of maintenance premiums.
Measure Guided tours and information events
In the implementation of measures and thus the realisation of biotope network projects at local level, spatial and landscape planners and municipal administrations have a role to play as key actors alongside the nature conservation organisations, which are often the driving forces behind biotope network projects. Local information events and guided tours are a good way of informing these actors (as well as other stakeholders such as farmers, hunters etc.) about the issue of biotope networks and ecological connectivity and ways of realising them in practice. What is important, to ensure the success of these initiatives, is to prepare summary documentation (e.g. a manual with decision-making aids) and to present the benefits and value-added which such projects can generate at local level (multifunctionality of corridors which are significant not only in ecological terms but also perform key social functions as spaces for leisure and recreation as well as economic functions, e.g. through the sustainable management of roadside grass verges).
Measure Preservation, maintenance and replanting of hedges
Hedges are linear biotopes. They contribute to biodiversity and biotope connectivity, especially in heavily cleared landscapes with a small amount of, or no, forest or grassland. A healthy hedge with structural diversity provides a habitat for a large number of animals and is an important transit route for numerous small mammals and insects during migration and dispersion and when searching for food. Nowadays, hedgerows have virtually no commercial use and the trimming required for their regeneration tends not to take place. This means that a conscious decision must be taken to maintain the hedgerows as part of a biotope network as ageing hedges accommodate a far smaller number of species.
Measure Educational pathways
The purpose of an educational pathway is to impart and increase knowledge while offering an experience of nature, recreation and raising environmental awareness. Pathways also offer a good opportunity to bring the issue of biotope networks closer to the public and thus publicise a local or regional project. The “Green Light for Ecological Corridors” educational pathway, for example, was developed as part of a transnational Interreg III A project by three nature conservation organisations: Pro Natura Genève, Appollon 74 and FRAPNA Haute-Savoie. Along the pathway, there are numerous information boards which explain the significance of ecological corridors. The boards were designed in conjunction with school classes from the local area. As part of this collaboration, teachers and students explored the topic of habitat connectivity in great detail. 20 classes were involved in total. In addition, various other educational tools, such as a brochure and a touring exhibition, were developed as part of the project.
Measure Roadverge management to encourage species diversity
Delaying mowing gives plants the opportunity to bloom and form fruits and seeds. In this way, they can provide food and cover for insects and other small animals. The habitat quality of green strips and roadside verges depends on various factors, and mowing is one of the factors which are easiest to influence. By delaying mowing of verges until late summer, or by using mosaic-type mowing techniques, which involves mowing only a small area at a time, habitat conditions can be improved, e.g. for butterflies and various other species.
Measure Development and provision of educational materials on biotope networks and ecological connectivity
The description of this measure is based on the “Nature sans frontières” (Nature without Frontiers) games kit from the French nature conservation organisation FRAPNA. Children are the adults of tomorrow – and will be responsible for decision-making and action. For that reason, it is important to teach them about ecological relationships and the key functions of natural systems. This can be achieved simply and effectively through play. That is the aim of this educational games kit. It is a practical tool which enables children and young people to learn about the mobility needs of various sample species, recognise possible barriers and identify simple solutions to overcome them. The easily accessible games are ideally suited to the classroom and excursions into the local environment. The kit comprises a theoretical guide with explanations of the issues, suggested action and solutions (80 pages); an activity book with instructions for observations, 12 experiments and various activities (60 pages), and several games (card games, board games, identification sets etc.).
Measure Wildlife/ ecological spatial planning
Wildlife/ecological spatial planning (WÖRP) is an instrument developed in Austria and is used in a number of Austrian states, as well as the canton of Graubünden in Switzerland and Liechtenstein. The aim of this concept is better long-term incorporation of native species of wildlife into the cultural landscape. In this context, the protection and sustainable use of wildlife populations and the avoidance of damage to wildlife in agriculture and forestry are of key importance. An integrated planning approach aims to harmonise the creation of biotope networks with studies on game stocks and the carrying capacity of biotopes. WÖRP can be applied, in principle, to all wildlife species. It includes large-scale spatial planning (nationwide basic planning) related to the spatial distribution of wildlife populations and detailed regional planning.
Measure Species rich seeding on agricultural fields
Species-rich seeding of wild and cultivated plants on set-aside or other areas (e.g. "green" areas created in compensation for natural spaces lost through construction of roads etc.; fallow land in residential areas), can enrich the landscape’s appearance and make a valuable contribution to the biotope network. Seeding with wild species provides a source of food and cover for wild fauna and, depending on the mix of seeds used, can also provide habitats for insects (butterflies, bees, ground beetles, spiders). Sown areas are also used by hedge dwellers (e.g. the Red-Backed Shrike (Lanius collurio)) as substitute habitats. Seeding should take place from mid-April to the end of June, and depending on the condition of the site, may require preparatory measures (e.g. removal of weeds, ploughing etc.). Suitable seed assortments are commercially available.
Measure Land set aside
Set-aside areas distributed across the agricultural landscape can create high-quality habitats for wild fauna and flora and thus contribute on a sustainable basis to the conservation of characteristic communities in open farmland. Diverse vegetation structures, e.g. areas of wild herbs on agricultural fields, provide important areas for resting, breeding, feeding, mating or cover (e.g. for Corn Bunting (Emberiza calandra), Skylark (Alauda arvensis) and Brown hare (Lepus europaeus)) and provide overwintering areas for insects and spiders. They can compensate for the loss of former near-natural habitats and take on regulatory functions. They also act as a buffer to other habitats and due to their insular distribution, are important elements of the biotope network in the otherwise intensively used agricultural landscape. Areas of wild herbs on agricultural fields can be established as rotational fallow and wildflower strips (established for 2-6 years in the agricultural landcape; the fields are sown with native field species and wild herbs and are not fertilised or treated with pesticides).
Measure Extensive use of grasslands
Extensively used grassland is extremely important for the biotope network due to its species richness. Alongside direct extensivisation of use (e.g. zero to moderate fertilisation, no use of plant protection products, no ploughing up of grassland or sowing), low frequency of cutting (max. 2-3 times a year), together with later cutting and specific mowing techniques can also help to improve biotope functions. High cutting (mowing height 10-12 cm) can protect amphibians, ants and ground breeders. By using mosaic and phased mowing (i.e. mowing at different times on different areas), and by leaving peripheral areas unmown, food sources can be created for insects (especially bees) as well as refuges for wild fauna.
Measure Extensive agriculture
Agricultural extensivisation measures include extensive (restriction of intensive crop cultivation, i.e. maize, wheat) and diverse crop rotation (cultivation of at least five different crops per year), reductions in the use of mineral fertilisers and chemical plant protection products, suspension of cultivation during breeding periods, and reduced density of grain sowing. Winter vegetation as well as green strips and patches of flowering plants can make a contribution to the extensivisation of use in the farmland biotope. In the long term, such measures promote the conservation and improvement of ecologically valuable habitats on farmland sites, especially for field breeders and wild herbs on agricultural fields. By upgrading farmland as a habitat, extensivisation measures make an important contribution to the biotope network. Extensively used areas are important insular and stepping stone biotopes, especially in an intensively used agricultural landscape.
Measure Promotion of organic farming
Many endangered species of fauna and flora are dependent on agricultural habitats, so in terms of conserving biological diversity, extensivisation of agricultural use should be the aim on ecologically significant areas. In this context, organic farming has an extremely important role to play, one reason being that it avoids and reduces the environmental stresses which can otherwise arise in farming. Furthermore, the targeted creation of landscape elements (ecological compensation areas such as hedgerows, fallow areas, forest strips and extensive meadows) make an important contribution to the promotion of biological diversity. These areas are also important elements of a biotope network.
Measure Maintenance and preservation of mixed orchards
Mixed orchards are a characteristic and attractive feature of the cultural landscape in many Alpine regions and are among the most valuable patch biotopes. Due to the structural diversity in mixed orchards and the resulting diverse mosaic-type habitats, they provide a habitat for a wide range of species of flora and fauna. Scientific studies have shown that mixed orchards – unlike modern dwarf-tree intensive production systems – form very richly structured habitats with species-rich communities. As a result of their declining economic significance, and being fairly high-maintenance, however, more and more mixed orchards have been cleared in recent decades or have fallen victim to ageing. However, in intensively used agricultural landscapes, they constitute important connective structures in the local biotope network. The conservation measures for these areas must include arrangements for mowing, fertilising, management and maintenance, the preservation of ageing trees, etc.
Measure Planting of individual trees or tree groups
Individual trees and small tree groups are a key element of the landscape and have high ecological significance. They provide habitats and refuge for many different animal species and are therefore valuable stepping stones in the biotope network. They also enrich the appearance of the landscape (e.g. by visually enhancing large areas of farmland) and increase its recreational value (e.g. by providing shade for seating areas). Due to their cultural and historical value, too (e.g. as symbols of peace, or where they had a role in the execution of justice), individual trees have landscape significance. Old trees in particular should be preserved in farmland, one reason being that their cavities provide particularly valuable micro-habitats. The planting of new trees should also be supported. Trees with a trunk circumference of at least 12-14 cm should be planted, and should be well-adapted to the chosen site.
Measure Creation and maintenance of dry stone walls
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.
Measure Encouragement of unpaved paths
Depending on their type and the way in which they are built, paths can have a low to high barrier effect. Pathway systems and their peripheral areas do not necessarily have a fragmenting effect on species of flora and fauna, however: if properly designed, they can also form important elements of the biotope network. They provide ways through the landscape and also form buffer zones to intensively farmed areas. From an ecological perspective, unpaved and “greened” paths and the strips of grass and vegetation, wooded areas, hollows, ditches etc. at their margins are extremely important. If the construction of new pathways is unavoidable, the need for sufficiently wide wayside areas should be taken into account during the planning process (at least 2.50 m wide grass and vegetation strips, at least 5 m wide wooded strips along pathways). Sunken paths and 'greened' dirt tracks, too, have diverse ecological functions as they provide many niches for flora and fauna with highly diverse requirements.
Measure Establishment of riverside margins with site-specific/typical riparian vegetation
Riparian strips, as the transition between water surfaces and land, are of particular ecological significance for water quality and are an important connecting element in the biotope network. These riparian strips play a key role in intensively used landscapes in terms of maintaining water functions (filter/buffer functions, protection of embankments, prevention of erosion). The restoration, or the development and maintenance, of existing riparian strips is thus a key priority in the active protection of the aquatic environment. The riparian zone also creates habitats, provides food and serves as a protective and resting space, and also provides nesting and breeding places. Riparian strips should therefore be equipped with site-appropriate near-natural vegetation and typical tree species, and, depending on the body of water, be at least 5-15 m wide.
Measure Revitalisation of flowing waters
Flowing water systems, from source to mouth, form linear connecting elements and, together with their associated ecosystems (riparian forests, woodland), form important corridors for the migration and dispersion of flora and fauna. Very often, the space and dynamics left to most of the rivers in the Alpine region are severely limited. At the same time, flowing waters are highly conducive to cross-border cooperation as they generally flow through several countries and often form natural boundaries which may also constitute national borders. To improve flowing water functions, a range of measures can be adopted to return flowing waters to a natural unimpeded state, at least in part, thus enabling them to develop in a near-natural manner (restoration or revitalisation measures). Possible measures range from the introduction of deadwood to comprehensive rehabilitation measures and expansion.
Measure Management and maintenance of flowing waters
Near-natural flowing water systems are important connecting elements which make a substantial contribution to reducing fragmentation. In many cases, however, the space and financial resources required for the comprehensive revitalisation of obstructed rivers are not available. However, upgrading can be achieved with near-natural, differentiated management concepts which can be integrated into the legally prescribed management work along water bodies (flood protection). As part of this process, a holistic view should be taken of the embankments, riparian zones and water bodies, and adjacent green spaces (biotope network) should also be included. Appropriate maintenance measures include management of meadows, woodland (bank stabilisation), and regeneration in the areas of erosion. An individual management plan should be produced for each body of water, clearly defining the development goals.
Measure Establishment of resting areas for birds along streams
The structures associated with flowing waters, such as gravel banks, provide important habitats for a number of species which breed on gravel areas (e.g. the Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) and Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius)). These areas are often used for recreation and sporting activities. Management strategies, such as the creation of quiet zones for breeding birds at particular times (including bans on access), can cut through existing conflicts and contribute to habitat improvement. Relevant measures can include the adaptation and development of infrastructure, the creation of observation points, and channelling of and information for visitors using info-boards and signage.
Measure Restoration of wetlands
Wetland habitats are especially species-rich and are a dominant feature of the natural landscape structure in the Alpine region and the pre-Alps. Wetlands also provide a habitat for numerous rare and highly endangered species (e.g. the Azure Hawker (Aeshna caerulea)) and are therefore important elements of a biotope network. Wetland restoration measures can bring about an improvement in the hydrological regime of degraded wetlands and generally enhance habitat quality. Peat growth resumes in the rewetted areas, allowing an increase in typical wetland species. This also improves the function of wetlands as CO2 sinks and water stores, supporting the avoidance of and adaptation to climate change. Rewetting can include impounding measures, e.g. blocking drainage ditches, changes in the type of use, and management measures such as the removal of tree and shrub cover.
Measure Controlling invasive species
Invasive species are alien plants and animals that have negative impacts on other species, biological communities or biotopes and thus pose a threat to biodiversity. Invasive species may also cause economic problems (e.g. when present as weeds) or health problems (such as allergies and diseases). Hybridisation with native species can also occur. In Switzerland, 107 alien species are classed as problematical, including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects and plants. When dealing with alien species and adopting measures to limit them, prevention, monitoring, acceptance, surveillance and control all have a role to play. In the context of ecological connectivity, particular account must be taken of invasive species as they are able to use the emerging connecting bridges in the landscape to penetrate into new areas. In the case of invasive neophytes, this applies especially to stream margins and riparian zones (distribution along collapsed river banks and via erosion and flooding), which, as natural connecting elements in the landscape, are also important elements of the biotope network.
Measure Conservation, management and creation of new standing water bodies
Standing water bodies include a wide variety of aquatic habitats such as lakes, pools, ponds and tarns. They are refuges for rare protected aquatic plants and animals (amphibians, reptiles, birds, etc.) and are therefore key elements of a biotope network. At appropriate sites, they can be networked with other wetlands and with flowing waters. Standing water bodies are often drained or filled in so that they can be used for other purposes, making their conservation particularly important. Management interventions may be helpful in keeping smaller standing water bodies clear; they may also be conducive to various siltation stages and beneficial to habitats and the transformation of nutrient-rich and silted-up water bodies into near-natural ecosystems. The creation of standing water bodies (e.g. as protected areas for amphibians) is also an option, although conservation should take precedence over the creation of new small water bodies.
Measure Use of indigenous seeds and plants
During renaturation measures and other construction projects (construction of roads, railways and watercourses, and landscaping), but also in gardens and city parks, it is important not only to select site-appropriate species but also to use indigenous seeds and plants of local origin. The use of non-local seed may result in locally specific adaptations and regional biotopes being squeezed out or impaired, which may have a negative impact on other organisms, such as nectar-collecting and pollinating insects. Furthermore, some individual species may behave in an invasive manner. The use of indigenous seeds also helps to safeguard biotope-specific species diversity and promote native wild plants, thus contributing to the biotope network and the preservation of genetic diversity in line with the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
Measure Site-appropriate “greening” in road and watercourse construction and landscaping
When creating green areas during the construction of roads, railways and watercourses and landscaping projects, seed assortments are often used which, due to their species poverty, are not suitable for ecologically valuable “greening” or are not site-appropriate and therefore result in biologically impoverished landscape areas. The result is a large number of seriously eroded sites at higher altitudes, vegetation-free embankments, and river banks which are far from being in a natural state. If, on the other hand, site-appropriate seed mixtures are used, with adapted species which are suitable for elevated sites, for example, the green spaces can become valuable elements of a biotope network.
Measure Creation of forest reserves
Areas of woodland which are particularly valuable in nature conservation terms are important elements of a biotope network; these include areas with remnants of potential natural vegetation, old-growth forest, coppice forest and special sites (river-meadow and humid forests, gorges, steep slopes). Natural forest reserves can constitute an important tool in maintaining a representative network of forested areas of appropriate quality. Here, the various stages in the development of forest structures and their typical fauna and flora can be maintained, without use, in the various natural forest communities and habitat types. They also act as significant biotopes or stepping stones in a more or less non-natural environment (especially forests on valley floors, (former) river-meadow forests).
Measure Maintenance and management of coppice forests
Coppice forests are particularly species-rich habitats and make a contribution to the preservation of cultural and historical diversity. Newly coppiced areas of woodland are sunny spaces which are notable for their diverse habitat mosaic in a relatively small space. They thus contain important habitats for many species of flora and insects, as well as the Sand Lizard (Lacerta agilis) and Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis), and provide substitute habitats for the Hazel Grouse (Bonasa bonasia). Regular cutting on 3- to a maximum of 40-year-old rotation areas can improve the species inventory by promoting structural diversity and, in intensively used farmland, can serve as a stepping stone in the biotope network. Oak, birch, hornbeam, sycamore, black locust, sweet chestnut and black alder are the main species of tree found at colline to sub-montane altitudes. Coppice forests also play a major role in river-related ecosystems (e.g. grey alder coppice forests) and are particularly important elements of a biotope network here.
Measure Extraction of timber: conserving stocks and soils
Extraction of timber is a major intervention in forest stocks and inevitably causes disturbance to flora and fauna. Despite careful planning and implementation, it is impossible to avoid damage to the remaining stands. Known as skidding damage, this can have sometimes considerable negative impacts on individual trees and on forest stands. Furthermore, extraction often also involves the creation of forestry roads, which have a fragmenting effect. In terms of landscape permeability, alternative methods of extraction (e.g. cable logging, horse logging etc.) should be given preference. The use of horses, in particular, causes less damage to stands and regeneration areas, and protects the forest floor as it does not leave tracks or cause widespread compaction of soils or oil pollution etc. Horses can also be used on slopes, and if sledges are used, can continue in winter.
Measure Calming measures for forests that merit protection
Forests are increasingly being used for recreational and leisure purposes by individuals and groups seeking an experience of nature. This can have negative impacts (e.g. noise, creation of informal pathways), especially in forested areas which are valuable from a nature conservation perspective and which form important elements of a biotope network. Areas with remnants of potential natural vegetation, old-growth forest, coppice forest and special sites (river-meadow and humid forests, gorges, steep slopes) are particularly valuable in nature conservation terms and should be kept free from negative influences as far as possible. As a way of calming these areas, various measures can be adopted, including the targeted creation of circular pathways and infrastructural services (visitor and parking facilities) in areas of woodland which are less in need of protection, as well as the production of information boards and brochures and the development of educational pathways.
Measure Structurally rich forest edges
The edges of forests and woodland are often located next to agricultural areas, lakes or rivers, open meadows, pasturage or roads and railways. Together with other structural elements such as hedges, forest strips or riparian strips, they are an important element of a biotope network. Due to their function as transitional zones, they provide a place of refuge and particularly valuable habitats (e.g. for rarer species of deciduous tree or shrubs). They are also important as stepping stone biotopes, e.g. for wild bees, beetles, bats, birds and hedgehogs. Valuable forest edges comprise a shelterbelt, shrub belt and herbaceous fringe. These three components vary in age and are layered and irregular in structure. They require regular management measures.
Measure Flight bans over sensitive areas
Many near-natural landscapes and landscapes which are valuable from a nature conservation perspective are very attractive recreational spaces, for besides offering ideal conditions for sports and leisure, they also offer very special experiences of nature. With the increasing pressure of use, however, conflicts can emerge between the interests of “nature consumers” and nature conservation objectives. These may affect areas which constitute important habitats for rare and sensitive species and which are of major importance for the biotope network. Various types of sport (kite-flying, paragliding, gliding) may also have a negative impact. With the development of quiet zones and the simultaneous creation of alternative offers for sportspersons and holiday-makers in areas which are relatively tolerant of disturbance, incentives can be created for sportspersons to abandon those areas which are highly sensitive to disturbance. The provision of attractive substitute sites is intended to create “win-win situations”.
Measure Maintenance of alluvial forests
Riparian forests are the natural type of vegetation along streams and rivers, and are strongly influenced by flooding and high groundwater levels. Due to their small-scale mosaic of different site conditions, riparian forests count among Europe’s most species-rich habitats. Due to their preference for river meadows as their habitat, near-natural riparian forests have virtually disappeared from Central Europe, however, as many riparian forests have been cleared and transformed into pasturage. Riparian forests have high recreational value, store water and improve groundwater quality. Depending on their size and condition, they can also contribute to flood protection. As ecosystems associated with flowing waters, they are extremely important for ecological connectivity. Measures to maintain and develop the riparian forests may include, for example, planting of typical tree species, near-natural management, securing of existing areas and maintaining structures associated with the riparian forests (e.g. small water bodies).
Measure Visitor information
Information boards can be used to sensitise the public to the issue of biotope networks and inform them about relevant measures, e.g. in a nature conservation area. Visitors can also be channelled through a specific area by the information boards. In this way, usage can be shifted towards less sensitive areas, while efforts are made to preserve the tranquillity of, and reduce the burden on, areas in special need of protection and quiet zones. Information points are a good way of providing information and supporting active learning processes and “light-footprint” observation opportunities. Depending on the area, cultural and historical information can also form part of the pathway.
Measure Coordination of cultivation competition
A particular commitment to nature and species conservation and the preservation of valuable regional cultural landscapes, also within the framework of biotope network initiatives, can be rewarded through competitions. At the same time, the public can be informed about farmers’ commitment, thus increasing the acceptance of biotope networking measures. In this way, the services provided by agriculture for the preservation of the cultural landscape or networks of interlinked biotopes can be rewarded, while raising awareness of measures adopted within the framework of regional cultural landscape programmes. For farmers, the provision of public information and the ensuing recognition of their work create incentives to manage their areas in a manner conducive to biotope connectivity.
Measure Monitoring by farmers
Farmers, with their areas distributed through the landscape, are key elements of transregional networks of interlinked biotopes and are therefore important partners in the implementation of relevant measures. They also possess extensive knowledge and many years of experience which they can contribute to the planning and implementation of biotope networking measures. It is therefore extremely important to involve farmers as stakeholders. They can also perform a key function by monitoring the development of endangered and/or rare species on their own farmland. This observation process raises awareness and also improves their understanding of the purpose of certain management requirements (e.g. areas of extensive use, set-aside etc.). For the monitoring of the biotope network, appropriate and effective indicator systems must be defined.
Measure Landscape preservation days
Countryside management measures can involve joint action between various stakeholders (nature conservation bodies, hunters, fishermen, farmers etc.) and the local community. Within the framework of these events, measures of relevance to ecological connectivity can also be implemented. They include, for example, maintaining richly structured, semi-open areas through the removal of wood, meadow management, or promotion of near-natural structures along watercourses. Activities can be undertaken at local or regional level at various intervals. The implementation of measures also increases the acceptance of the biotope network and raises public awareness at the same time.
Measure Tourist marketing of the biotope network
Valuable habitats of different species of fauna and flora also have high recreational value which, with appropriate sustainability strategies, can generate synergies between nature conservation and tourism strategies. On the one hand, appropriate tourist offers can inform visitors and guests about the biotope network. On the other, tourism can contribute to the conservation and protection of habitats. Corresponding effects can be achieved through an integrated marketing strategy in which the biotope network is actively promoted via the marketing and imparted through appropriate guided tours, for example. The focus should be on particularly attractive biotopes which also increase regional value-added (e.g. mixed orchards). In this way, sustainable agriculture, crafts and commerce in the region can be promoted and the biotope network will be increasingly appreciated in the long term by locals and visitors alike due to its positive economic effects.
Measure Trails to connect protected areas
In Switzerland (Haute-Engadine, Haut-Valais, southern Tessin), the WWF, together with regional tourism offices, has created three transboundary Emerald Trails with a total of 50 stages. The stages and their attractions, as well as accommodation options, are described in detail on the Internet. The trails link various protected areas, Natura 2000 sites and emerald areas and can thus draw attention to aspects of ecological connectivity.
Measure Volunteer programmes
Some providers offer various target groups, e.g. families, companies, schools and private individuals, the opportunity to undertake voluntary work in the ecological sphere (e.g. in woodlands). Participants thus make an active contribution to forest, climate and species protection while gaining a very intensive experience of the ecosystem at the same time. The purpose of the volunteering is to improve habitat quality at specific project sites. Relevant programmes also inform the volunteers about connections within the various habitats and make a contribution to sensitisation and awareness-raising. Focussing measures on the creation of a biotope network is an option in this context. Cooperation through current "corporate social responsibility" initiatives also helps to raise environmental awareness and increase knowledge of the importance of connectivity measures in an up-to-date way while drawing attention to the problems arising in this context.
Measure Taking account of bat roosts during the restoration and renovation of old buildings
Because of its near-natural state and landscape diversity, the Alpine area is characterised by a fauna rich in bat species. Many species of bat are heavily dependent on buildings for their roosts because natural hiding places have become rare in woodlands as a result of intensive forms of cultivation. During the restoration or renovation of old buildings, disturbances to the bats and their roosting places can therefore easily occur. Appropriate measures during the restoration or renovation of old buildings can help to preserve bat roosting places. There is already a wealth of experience among bat experts, who often provide support during the renovation of buildings. Targeted consideration of relevant information on the ecology of roosting places of various species of bat can thus make a major contribution to habitat connectivity.
Measure Connectivity measures with support from church-owned land
The churches are important owners of land and farmland which are also suitable for the creation of a network of interlinked biotopes, and can thus serve as an important partner in the planning of biotope network measures. If the church backs the development of a biotope network and works actively to ensure that appropriate measures are implemented on its property, the tenants can also be sensitised to the importance of the biotope network, and the tenancies are then linked to the implementation of relevant measures. In order to increase acceptance of the biotope network and plan appropriate measures, the planning process should involve as many different stakeholders as possible (besides church workers, this should include nature conservation experts, local community representatives, farmers etc.). Appropriate public relations work can be used to encourage similar initiatives in other regions.
Measure Sports competitions
Sports competitions can help raise public awareness of biotope networks. In particular, the importance of wildlife corridors can be conveyed very effectively through the selection of a high-profile species of fauna. Organising races at local level (e.g. wildcat runs in Thuringia, Bavaria and Hesse) can encourage hikers, walkers and runners and draw attention to the need to network habitats of specific species. Besides the sports competition, information can be provided, e.g. through an appropriate flanking programme and exhibitions which raise awareness of how the animals live and the obstacles to their migration. Additional funds (e.g. for the purchase of areas to create a biotope network) can also be sought in this way. This raises awareness of rare species of fauna and sensitises the public to the issue of landscape fragmentation.
Measure Preparation of Natura 2000 management plans
Natura 2000 is an EU-wide network of protected areas intended to preserve the endangered habitats and species in the EU. It comprises the protected areas defined in Council Directive 79/409/EEC on the conservation of wild birds (Birds Directive) and in Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (Habitats Directive), and aims to build a coherent ecological network. Binding provisions apply to the implementation of Natura 2000, including a requirement to produce management plans defining mandatory conservation measures for the area in question. The plans consist of a basic part and a section containing relevant measures, which describes which species and habitat types contribute to the specific ecological value of the area and the conservation objectives that this creates for the area concerned. This gives rise to an obligation to maintain and where appropriate develop connecting features of the landscape with a view to improving the ecological coherence of the Natura 2000 network (Articles 3 and 10). Member states are also required to take measures to improve the connectivity of the Natura 2000 areas outside these areas themselves (Article 10).
Measure Reporting duties and general monitoring in the Natura 2000 framework
Natura 2000 is an EU-wide network of protected areas intended to preserve the endangered habitats and species in the EU. It comprises the protected areas defined in Council Directive 79/409/EEC on the conservation of wild birds (Birds Directive) and Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (Habitats Directive), and aims to build a coherent ecological network. The designation of Natura 2000 areas creates an obligation to maintain, on a permanent basis, favourable conservation status of the species and habitat types through appropriate protection and development measures (management plan). To this end, member states are required to draw up a report at regular intervals (6 years) on the implementation of the measures taken under the two Directives. The Habitats Directive also requires member states to undertake surveillance of the conservation status of the natural habitats and species of Community interest. The reports should therefore include the key findings of this surveillance. Consideration should also be given to improving the ecological coherence of Natura 2000 outside the designated Natura 2000 areas.
Measure Near-natural gardening
Near-natural gardens with large quantities of robust indigenous trees and shrubs, herbs and other plants are an asset for built-up areas that can also contribute to the creation of biotope networks. Near-natural gardens ideally offer a large number of structures and biotopes for a wide range of species of flora and fauna. Dry stone walls, piles of stones and twigs, deadwood, fruit trees and ponds all play an important role as living spaces, refuges, sources of food, and hunting and nesting grounds. In the near-natural garden, the compost used as fertiliser completes the natural cycle. Synthetic products such as pesticides, herbicides and mineral fertilisers are superfluous.
Measure Biotope network plans on the local scale
Targeted and functional measures are important for effective biotope networking. An area-wide biotope network plan is essential if the right measures are to be implemented in the right way and in the right place. At the level of the local authority, priority areas for the biotope network can be included in the appropriate planning documents. This permits the land use interests of the various sectors to be weighed up at the same time. Ecological interests and development potential for the residential and economic area need not necessarily conflict.
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