In the Czech Republic, natural thermophilic habitats occur only in very small fragments. The occurrence of these species-rich grassland and forest habitats in the České středohoří hills is related to human activities. Due to historical, political and social changes over past decades, cattle breeding decreased significantly and sustainable farming management was lost. Intensification of agriculture was accompanied by heavy mechanisation and frequent use of chemical fertilisers. Also non-indigenous tree species, including invasive species, were planted in many places, animal feeding racks were placed in valuable sites or nearby, and many meadows were abandoned or poorly managed. As a result, grassland habitats and species are endangered by ongoing succession. Although financial subsidy conditions for farmers are promoting conservation, valuable areas in terms of biodiversity have yet to be managed. A key obstacle for farmers today is the high cost of eliminating self-seeding shrub and trees. Both thermophilous grassland and forest target habitats, associated with the volcanic rock of the area, are at risk due to the spread of invasive species such as black locust.
The objective of LIFE České středohoří is to improve the conservation status of thermophilous habitats and species in the central part of the České středohoří hills (total area 277 ha) in the Czech Republic. Their stabilisation will support and enlarge the Natura 2000 network, and protect habitats and species listed in the annexes of the Habitats Directive.
Specific objectives are to: Enlarge the area of functional target grassland habitats, with restoration and stabilisation measures carried out over 175 ha; Stabilise target species populations: Eurasian toothed grasshopper, Jersey tiger, European green lizard, the grass Stipa zalesskii, lady's slipper orchid, and Eastern Pasque flower; Increase biodiversity of selected Natura 2000 forest habitats (on 99 ha) and reestablish the forest habitat 9180* (on three ha); Develop a GPS-based audio guide as an innovative aspect of the project; Support farmers and forest managers to assure the long-term sustainability of the project investment; Update the necessary data and knowledge, test optimal combinations of management measures for each site, and subsequently prepare a management plan for the project area; and Raise awareness among the public, especially in local communities and municipalities.
Expected results: Habitat conservation status improved in 127 ha of grasslands. The area of suitable habitats for target species will increase by about 60% and populations of target species are expected to rise by at least five per cent; Permanent elimination of the invasive species black locust up by 20%, and the elimination of false oat-grass and wood small-reed up by 30%; Target habitats will be stabilised by traditional management on 155 ha of grasslands, making them suitable for long-term sustainable farming; Populations of target species are expected to rise by at least five per cent; Natural species composition of the forest habitat 9180* will be re-established in the area of three ha where the invasive black locust was present (at least 19 200 trees planted). Natural species composition of the forest habitats 9110 and 9170 (99 ha) will be enhanced, with increased populations of the invertebrate species Jersey tiger, stag beetle and hermit beetle; GPS audio guide of Natura 2000 sites with 100 geographical points; Fifteen trained volunteers, museum exhibition, events, excursions, competitions for pupils, three certified training courses for teachers, dissemination materials; and Workshops and a brochure for farmers, support for regional label implementation (at least two new products). Assistance to at least five farmers with farm plans, and inclusion of 25% of restored sites into the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).