LIFE Project Cover Photo

Restoration of Wetlands at Zahorie Lowland

Reference: LIFE05 NAT/SK/000112 | Acronym: WETREST

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

BACKGROUND

In Slovakia, wetlands are among the most seriously threatened natural ecosystems. They represent unique habitats for many plant and animal species. They are important for biodiversity conservation and for stabilising the water regime of the landscape. They retain water from rain and snow, only releasing the water slowly through natural processes of evaporation and out-flow.

During the preceding two decades, the total wetland area in Slovakia had declined dramatically and the vast majority of remaining natural and semi-natural wetlands were seriously threatened by human activities. The main cause of the decline were changes in the natural water regime, brought about by extensive drainage, peat extraction and land-reclamation schemes - mostly to provide more agricultural land, but also as part of intensification of forest management.

The changes had led to a decline in habitats and species associated with the wetlands and a reduction of the retention capacity of the areas concerned. Many species that were once common - such as amphibians or storks - had become rare, some of them even locally extinct. One of the most valuable remaining wetlands is located in the Zahorie Lowland, which is also one of the most important regions in Slovakia for biodiversity in general.


OBJECTIVES

The overall objective of the project was to contribute to the development of the Natura 2000 network in Slovakia and the conservation of habitats and species at national level. The project aimed to restore eight proposed Sites of Community Interest (pSCI) in the Zahorie Lowland, within which are found a network of mountain rivers and ponds, bogs, dunes, and riparian and alder forests.

The project aimed to restore the original water conditions at the eight project sites to enhance the quality of the river and adjacent habitats. It planned to do this by restoring river banks, installing five small weirs and filling in over a kilometre of drainage ditches. It also planned to construct a system of fish bypasses. These actions targeted improvement of the conservation status of some 1800 ha, as well as benefitting a number of species.

The project planned to re-establish traditional use on 165 ha of lowland hay meadows to restore their ecosystem functions. This would involve management through regular mowing and grazing To respond to the lack of appropriate long-term management, the team aimed to elaborate long-term restoration and management plans and amend existing forest management plans through a process involving extensive stakeholder participation.


RESULTS

The WETREST project succeeded in improving the conservation status of the habitats and species at eight Sites of Community Importance (SCIs).

The project comprehensively analysed the threats and challenges facing each of the SCIs using existing data and botanical and zoological surveys on the project sites. On this basis, it developed long-term Management Plans for each respective SCI. The plans were due to be officially approved after the end of the project. It also submitted amendments to seven official Forest Management Plans, with an acceptance ratio of 74% to 100%.

A total of two training courses - with 26 and 19 participants - and four study visits with around a dozen participants each were organised for project personnel, as well as five additional short study visits with just two or three key personnel at a time Restoration plans were made for non-recurring restoration and management activities in each of the project sites. In implementing these activities, the project exceeded its target of filling one kilometre of drainage ditches across all sites and also cleared dead trees from a targeted site. The project constructed one large weir and a fish by-pass on the Rudava River. The project also restored meadows along the Rudava River, removing woody vegetation and herbaceous weeds from 178.4ha. The actions were deemed to have improved the conservation status of the areas with noticeable improvements in the water regimes. The habitat improvements should enable wetland tree species such as the European alder (Alnus glutinosa) to prosper at the expense of pine in the long run. The beneficiary already noticed higher numbers of wetland species of orchid (Liparis loeselii), dragonfly (Leucorrhinia pectoralis), butterfly (Maculinea teleius; Lycaena dispar), beaver (Castor fiber) and stork (Ciconia nigra).

There are good prospects for the continuation of the project management plans, however at the same time, further threats to the vulnerable habitats from policies in areas of forestry, hunting and tourism are increasing. The project produced information in various printed and electronic formats as well as erecting information posts, holding public events and meetings, and engaging actively with the media to build public support for the protection of the sites.

Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Conservation Plan (see "Read more" section).The WETREST project succeeded in improving the conservation status of the habitats and species at eight Sites of Community Importance (SCIs).

The project comprehensively analysed the threats and challenges facing each of the SCIs using existing data and botanical and zoological surveys on the project sites. On this basis, it developed long-term Management Plans for each respective SCI. The plans were due to be officially approved after the end of the project. It also submitted amendments to seven official Forest Management Plans, with an acceptance ratio of 74% to 100%.

A total of two training courses - with 26 and 19 participants - and four study visits with around a dozen participants each were organised for project personnel, as well as five additional short study visits with just two or three key personnel at a time Restoration plans were made for non-recurring restoration and management activities in each of the project sites. In implementing these activities, the project exceeded its target of filling one kilometre of drainage ditches across all sites and also cleared dead trees from a targeted site. The project constructed one large weir and a fish by-pass on the Rudava River. The project also restored meadows along the Rudava River, removing woody vegetation and herbaceous weeds from 178.4ha. The actions were deemed to have improved the conservation status of the areas with noticeable improvements in the water regimes. The habitat improvements should enable wetland tree species such as the European alder (Alnus glutinosa) to prosper at the expense of pine in the long run. The beneficiary already noticed higher numbers of wetland species of orchid (Liparis loeselii), dragonfly (Leucorrhinia pectoralis), butterfly (Maculinea teleius; Lycaena dispar), beaver (Castor fiber) and stork (Ciconia nigra).

There are good prospects for the continuation of the project management plans, however at the same time, further threats to the vulnerable habitats from policies in areas of forestry, hunting and tourism are increasing. The project produced information in various printed and electronic formats as well as erecting information posts, holding public events and meetings, and engaging actively with the media to build public support for the protection of the sites.

Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Conservation Plan (see "Read more" section).

ADMINISTRATIVE DATA


Reference: LIFE05 NAT/SK/000112
Acronym: WETREST
Start Date: 01/02/2005
End Date: 31/12/2008
Total Budget: 624,000 €
EU Contribution: 312,000 €
Project Location: Malacky

CONTACT DETAILS


Coordinating Beneficiary: State Nature Conservancy of the Slovak Republic
Legal Status: OTHER
Address: Tajovského 28B, 97401, Banská Bystrica, Slovakia Slovensko
Contact Person: Zuzana GUZIOVA
Email: projekty@sopsr.sk
Tel: +421 2 6428 3982
Website: www.wetrest.broz.sk


LIFE Project Map

ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES ADDRESSED

THEMES

  • Freshwater

KEYWORDS

  • protected area
  • wetland
  • forest management
  • restoration measure

TARGET EU LEGISLATION

  • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directive (21.05.1992)

TARGET HABITAT TYPES

  • 91E0 - "Alluvial forests with Alnus glutinosa and Fraxinus excelsior (Alno-Padion, Alnion incanae, Salicion albae)"

SPECIES

  • Castor fiber
  • Liparis loeselii
  • Leucorrhinia pectoralis
  • Lycaena dispar
  • Maculinea teleius
  • Maculinea nausithous
  • Osmoderma eremita

NATURA 2000 SITES

Type Code Name
SCI SKUEV0115 Bahno
SCI SKUEV0120 Jasenacke
SCI SKUEV0163 Rudava
SCI SKUEV0169 Orlovske vrsky
SCI SKUEV0170 Mesterova luka
SCI SKUEV0171 Zelienka
SCI SKUEV0173 Kotlina
SCI SKUEV0226 Vanisovec

BENEFICIARIES

Name Type
State Nature Conservancy of the Slovak Republic Coordinator
Slovak Water Management Enterprise, Department Bratislava, Slovakia Participant
Regional Association for Nature Conservation and Sustainable Development (BROZ), Slovakia Participant