LIFE Project Cover Photo

Restoration and Management of Sand Dunes Habitats in Zahorie Military Training Area

Reference: LIFE06 NAT/SK/000115 | Acronym: ZAHORIE SANDS



In Slovakia, the pannonic inland sand dunes and dry heaths are among the most seriously threatened natural ecosystems. They represent unique habitats for many rare plant and animal species, and are therefore considered of special importance for biodiversity conservation. However, the total area of these habitats in Slovakia has been dramatically reduced, with the vast majority of the remaining natural and semi-natural sand dunes and dry heaths being seriously threatened by human interventions. The most significant threats are extensive afforestation and land reclamation schemes, abandonment of traditional land uses, and sand extraction. These activities have not only reduced habitat area, but also caused a dramatic decline in biodiversity. Military Training Area Zahorie is one of the most important areas in Slovakia for these particular habitats.


The ZAHORIE SANDS project focused on restoration and conservation measures, and the introduction of appropriate management, on the most valuable remaining pannonic inland sand dunes and dry heaths in the Military Training Area Zahorie. The project’s main specific objectives were to elaborate and test management planning to reconcile Natura 2000 network conservation requirements with military use; maintain favourable conservation status of the habitats and species targeted in three key sites; carry out habitat restoration work; raise awareness among military staff and within the local communities about sand dune and dry heath conservation issues and about the importance of military training areas for nature conservation; and strengthen the cooperation between the military and nature conservation institutions on conservation management on military training areas.


Numerous restoration and management measures were implemented during the ZAHORIE SANDS project (2006 - 2011). These focused on the restoration of sand dunes and dry heaths, and improving habitat conditions for threatened plant and animal species. The LIFE project made an important contribution to the development of the Natura 2000 network in Slovakia, providing direct environmental benefits for the targeted Natura 2000 habitats and species. Botanical and zoological inventories were completed for all project sites, with the results forming the basis for the elaboration of management plans for each project site. A database and a review of best practices on sand dunes and dry heaths were also developed.

The habitats of open sand dunes and dry heaths were restored on a total area of almost 500 ha at three sites of Community importance within the project area. On around a further 200 ha, the ecological conditions of these habitats was substantially improved. Therefore, the main goal of the project - improvement of the conservation status at three sites of Community importance and of the habitats and species targeted - was reached at all project sites due to the management works implemented.

Cutting of woody vegetation (pine trees) was carried out on selected plots over 285 ha, in order to enhance the development of the native vegetation of sand dunes and dry heaths. The woody biomass was removed from the site to avoid the development of weeds. At the most sensitive plots (e.g. with dense cover of Cladonia lichens) only hand-tools were used, to minimise damage to the plant communities. In addition, black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia), an alien invasive species, was eliminated on 5 ha.

Another restoration measure - sod cutting - was implemented on more than 170 ha. The purpose of this measure was to enable the development of natural sand dune pioneer vegetation on the areas of open bare sand, which in turn improves conditions for invertebrate sand specialists (e.g. ant lions). It also created fire protection belts, as large areas of bare sand functions as an efficient barrier against the spreading of forest fires.

Controlled burning was carried out on 218 ha to enhance the development of the native vegetation of sand dunes and dry heaths. This measure was focused on promoting the regeneration of the heather Calluna vulgaris and some other targeted species. The controlled burning was done exclusively during the winter, to prevent any unnecessary damage to wildlife and also for safety reasons.

An increased public awareness about sand dune conservation in the Zahorie military training areas was achieved through the installation of eight signposts in project areas, media appearances, the publishing of educational materials (e.g. calendars, booklets, and a documentary film), public meetings, workshops and excursions, and a bi-lingual (Slovak and English) LIFE project website (

The project disseminated its findings internationally, with presentations at fourteen international conferences. This activity enabled the project team to establish contacts with representatives of Ministries of Defence from several European countries interested in nature conservation. The project also built capacity among the implementing organisations, a key factor in carrying the project’s objectives forward post-LIFE.

The involvement of the Ministry of Defence in the implementation of a large-scale nature conservation project on military lands was the first such case of its kind in Slovakia, and marks a timely innovation. Two pieces of new legislation are being prepared in Slovakia – a new law on military districts and a new law on nature protection. The beneficiary and partners have representatives in the working teams preparing these new laws, so lessons from the project could be incorporated into this new legislation.

Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report (see "Read more" section).


Reference: LIFE06 NAT/SK/000115
Start Date: 01/09/2006
End Date: 30/06/2011
Total Eligible Budget: 1,538,438 €
EU Contribution: 1,076,900 €
Project Location: West Slovakia, Záhorská nížina/lowland


Coordinating Beneficiary: Military Technical and Testing Institute Zahorie
Legal Status: PUBLIC
Address: VTSÚ Záhorie, 905 24, Senica, Slovakia Slovensko
Contact Person: František PETRÁŠ
Email: Send Email
Website: Visit Website

LIFE Project Map



  • Grasslands


  • protected area


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


  • 2340 - Pannonic inland dunes
  • 4030 - European dry heaths
  • 91I0 - Euro-Siberian steppic woods with Quercus spp.


  • Maculinea arion
  • Euphydryas aurinia
  • Colias myrmidone


Type Code Name
SCI SKUEV0172 Beznisko
SCI SKUEV0173 Kotlina
SCI SKUEV0316 Sranecke piesky


Name Type
Military Technical and Testing Institute Zahorie Coordinator
BROZ - Regional Association for Nature Conservation and Sustainable Development, Slovak Republic Participant
State Nature Conservancy of the Slovak Republic (SNC SR) Participant