Minuartia smejkalii is a postglacial flowering plant that is endemic to the Czech Republic. A type of sandwort, M. smejkalii is nowadays only found in two Natura 2000 network sites in the country. However, its population has undergone a 65% decline in the last five years and in some parts of the project sites it is already extinct. The main causes of this drop are forestry and associated natural processes, notably the increased formation of dense pine forests that create habitats not suitable for this plant, and human disturbance (unlicensed angling, fly tipping, vandalism and intensive collection of flowers).
The Life for Minuartia project aims to rescue the priority endemic species, M. smejkalii, from the threat of extinction by enhancing its population at two Natura 2000 network sites. This will be achieved by addressing the main threats to the species and by establishing sustainable and practical management at the sites where it is found.
To achieve its main goal, the project will work towards the following objectives: Restoration of 17 ha of natural sites through various management best practices; Establishment of self-sustainable ex-situ conservation to be used for plant reintroduction; Direct enhancement of population size by sowing of M. Smejkalii seeds and reintroduction of plants on a site of recent extinction; Involvement of the local community in reducing vandalism and plant collection by applying a participatory approach that will be tested for the first time in the country context; Increased awareness of Natura 2000 and dissemination of results at local and EU level.
The project will contribute to the implementation of the EU Habitats Directive, by acting to improve the conservation status of a priority species of Community interest and by incorporating best practices in conservation. Preserving the endangered M. smejkalii will have a positive impact on the halting of biodiversity loss at both national and European level and thus will contribute to the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020.
Expected results: The project expects to achieve the following results: To increase M. smejkalii population by 40%; To revive 50% of the sites within the species? distribution through suppression of plant competition on 15.7 ha, removal of the humus layer on 1.37 ha to allow spontaneous colonisation by 20 specimens, tree clearing on 5.75 ha to enhance plant flowering by at least 10%, and reduction of excessive grazing by some 20% to decrease plant damage by 30%; To create self-sustainable ex-situ protection with 600 individuals (3/4 of total population size in nature), by sowing of seeds from 300 individuals and transplanting of 1 500 pre-cultivated plants; To directly enhance M. smejkalii population size by 30%; To reduce vandalism and plant collection by 90%, by blocking road access to an illegal waste dump and through the involvement of at least 10 local people in active species protection; and To increase awareness by about 10% and dissemination of results to at least 60 000 people through a range of dissemination activities, including a project website, social media and print publications, activities targeting schools and tourists, as well as expert seminars.