Dry grassland habitats and their associated species are under threat in the northern edge of the Pannonian bioregion, and where it borders the Carpathian and Continental bioregions, in western and southern Slovakia and into the neighbouring Czech Republic. This is a result of overgrowth by shrubs and trees, and the spread of invasive alien species, mainly due to the abandonment of traditional and extensive farming practices, such as grazing, mowing and fruit cultivation. In addition, significant grassland areas have been destroyed by inappropriate afforestation, as they were once considered to be useless land. The restoration of dry grasslands requires the removal of invasive species and woody biomass, and the subsequent restoration of grazing and related infrastructure. Endemic plant species are threatened by habitat loss; while populations are often very small and isolated, making them genetically vulnerable. Improved management of these plants is needed, based on expert knowledge, to increase and reconnect the habitat patches.
The main objective of the LIFE SUB-PANNONIC project is to improve the conservation status of three Habitats Directive priority dry grassland habitats (sub-pannonic steppic grasslands, semi-natural dry calcareous grasslands, and pannonic loess steppic grasslands) and three plant species of Community importance (Onosma tornensis, Artemisia pancicii and Himantoglossum caprinum) in the northern part of the Pannonian bioregion in south-west Slovakia. The project will achieve this by removing encroaching shrubs and trees, controlling invasive plant species, and re-introducing mowing and grazing practices. This should also have a positive impact for other species of Community interest, including Thlaspi jankae, Dracocephalum austriacum, Iris aphylla ssp. hungarica, Pulsatilla patens, Bolbelasmus unicornis and Stenobothrus eurasius.
Expected results: Target habitats:
Policy: The project will directly implement the EU Habitats Directive, the Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 (Targets 1 and 2), and the Regulation on Invasive Alien Species. Furthermore, by improving the conservation status of xerothermic habitats it will mitigate the negative effects of climate change by providing stepping stones for the migration of xerophilous insect species. The project will also contribute to policies relating to sustainable and low-carbon economies, through the processing of biomass from extensive farming.