In the second half of the 20th century, the landscape of the Western Carpathians was altered radically as a result of intensive, large-scale agriculture, fundamentally affected by Communist-era collective farming methods. Traditional, extensive agriculture was only continued in small, inaccessible sites, which consequently became refuges for many native flora and fauna species. Small-scale land owners, however, gradually lost interest in the traditional mowing of these pasturelands and use of animals for grazing of meadows. As a result, areas rich in biodiversity, which were inadvertently saved from intensive agricultural machinery, gradually became encroached by self-seeding shrubs and trees. At some sites, on both the Czech and Slovak sides of the mountain range, this negative trend has been successfully reversed and the original, open vegetation restored. However, hundreds of hectares remain unmanaged. Traditional management needs to be resumed on areas of abandoned wet meadows to safeguard for instance, rare and endangered butterfly species or other valuable invertebrates threatened by this overgrowth.
Another threat is the increasing fragmentation of the landscape and isolation of non-forest habitats. Invertebrates are especially vulnerable to these rapid changes because of their short life-cycles. It is feared some species many not be able to survive in the long term without an increase in other, suitable habitats. Most insect populations (e.g. the large blue butterfly species) operate under so-called metapopulation systems, requiring a sufficient number of other areas and their interconnection. For this reason, it is necessary to support and create ‘stepping stones’ between areas of suitable habitats and to eliminate physical barriers that may include inappropriately managed, uniformly-mown, extensive meadows and intensively grazed areas.
One of the most threatened habitats in Central Europe is open-canopy middle forests home to valuable Habitats Directive-listed species such as the stag beetle (Lucanus cervus) or clouded Apollo (Parnassius Mnemosyne) butterfly. With the disappearance of traditional coppicing of woodlands and forest grazing (and changes in forestry practices and legislation), the best way to support this habitat is through the restoration of open-canopy forests on sites that have been abandoned and are now covered by woodland, but still registered as non-forest areas.
LIFE for insects overall objectives are to conserve selected target insect species and enhance their populations through the restoration of wet grasslands, pastures, coppiced and open-canopy forest habitats in the transboundary area of the Western Carpathians; and to interconnect the species’ metapopulations in this area, thus contributing to the requirements of EU nature directives and Biodiversity Strategy to 2020.
Expected results: Restoration of the following habitats for the targeted insect species:
Various awareness raising activities will also be carried out, including a joint Czech-Slovak festival, educational trips, workshops, information boards and other educational activities.