European Life Project DELTA

Project title

Action Plan for the Improvement of Habitats of Threatened European Species in the Demer Valley through Broad Cooperation

Project objectives

The objective of Life Delta is to establish durable populations in the area of threatened European species tied to valleys to create a real stronghold within the Natura 2000 network.

Target species are Crex crex, Misgurnus fossilis, Apium repens, Luronium natans, Botaurus stellaris, Ixobrychus minutus, Lanius collurio, Triturus cristatus, Luscinia svecica, Porzana porzana and Circus aeruginosus, and as a result we also improve habitats 6510, 7140, 6410, 6430 and 3130.

Life Delta revolves around the Demer river, the backbone of the Natura 2000 European protected area ‘Demer valley’, and lies at the crossroads of three regional ecoregions with entirely different abiotic conditions. It has traditionally been a confluence of multiple streams with inverse deltastructures which created a floodplain comprising a broad and flat inland ‘riverpolder’ with a unique vegetation within the Atlantic biogeographic region. The area is particularly interesting for threatened species that thrive in open areas with floodplain dynamics and marshland which makes it ideal for the expansion of durable core populations of our target species.

These directive species however have an unfavorable status and are subject to different threats. The most important is a disturbed hydrological situation. In addition populations are too small with insufficient gene pools. Also their habitats are lacking quality and are fragmented. Finally the area is subject to recreation with disturbance for a lot of these species, regularly combined with a lack of support.

The ecological potential for nature restoration is immense. To counter the threats we will acquire land, improve and create habitat on a large scale with the help of an innovative ecohydrological study and eDNA research, zone recreation and use broad cooperation and networking.

We make the real difference with our partnership. It will stand at the core of a durable consultation aiming at harmonization with water management, agriculture and recreation in the area to maximize nature values.

Project actions

To reach the objective of the establishment of durable populations of the target species, the partners in the project have set out a clear path of actions which are carefully linked to each other supporting the concrete conservation actions.

In the preparatory actions we focus on the main threat being the disturbed hydrology with an ecohydrological study in which harmonization of optimal nature conditions with water retention is key. Furthermore we will apply an innovative e-DNA research on Weather loach Misgurnus fossilis. The results will strengthen our management plan and the concrete conservation actions.

To obtain large robust and thus durable habitats for the target species, it is absolutely essential to purchase missing pieces of land in the project area.

All this results in concrete conservation actions, the heart of our project, as follows:

1. The establishment of marsh and reedhabitat for Western marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus, Eurasian bittern Botaurus stellaris, Little bittern Ixobrychus minutus and Bluethroat Luscinia svecica.

2. Optimalization of hydrology for Weather loach Misgurnus fossilis, Corncrake Crex crex, Great crested newt Triturus cristatus and Red-backed shrike Lanius collurio.

3. Extension and restoration of grasslands as habitat (6510, 6430) for Creeping marshwort Apium repens, Corncrake Crex crex and Red-backed shrike Lanius colluri.

4. Lake restoration as habitat (3130) for Floating water-plantain Luronium natans, Little bittern Ixobrychus minutus and Kingfisher Alcedo atthis.

5. Development of habitat (6510,6430) for Western marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus, Corncrake Crex crex, Eurasian bittern Botaurus stellaris and Weather loach Misgurnus fossilis.

6. Optimalization of hydrology and restoration of transition mires (7140) as habitat for Spotted crake Porzana porzana and Bluethroat Luscinia svecica.

 

Our communication actions will, besides dissemination, also really complement the conservation actions by countering the threats of disturbance and  lack of support for the target species through zoning recreation and offering a qualitative nature experience. A real key is the action on durable consultation where we want take it a step further and harmonize with water management, agriculture and recreation and start a real knowledge centre on Corncrake. Finally we have monitoring actions.

 

The  after-life conservation plan at the end of the project guarantees the sustainability of the project results.

Expected project results

The actions of Life Delta will result in:

- Development of 28ha of reedland and 8,2 km of reed in reprofiled ditches will provide chances for min.3 pairs of Eurasian bittern Botaurus stellaris and an extension 1 tot 7 breeding cases of  Little bittern Ixobrychus minutus. Also Bluethroat Luscinia svecica will thrive with tens of breeding pairs as a consequence.

- Restoration of 62ha of grassland as habitat (partly 6510, 6410,6430) amidst lots of already open grasslands with upgraded hydrological quality which results in an expectancy of 7 to 23 breeding pairs of Corncrake Crex crex.

- Restoration of 9km of ditches, creation of 4ha of lagunes combined with hydrological measures leads to 7ha of habitat for Weather loach Misgurnus fossilis which could result in a population of 4500 to 27000 ind.

- Development of floodable grasslands with good structure for Creeping marshwort Apium repens aims at an extension of the existing population with 2 more populations of resp. >500 ind. and 150-500 ind.

- All the above mentioned habitats are favorable for Marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus and creates a habitat of 650ha in the project area, so we expect 3 breeding pairs.

- The creation of 11ha of habitat 7140, 8ha reedland in transition to wet grasslands (partly 6510,6430) together with upgrading of 60ha of existing habitat will lead to 5 breeding pairs of Spotted crake Porzana porzana

- Restoration of 12ha of lakes (3130) aims for Floating water-plantain Luronium natans at one durable population >50m² and 2 smaller spots of 5-50m².

- Qualitative grassland restoration which results in 40 ha of habitat for Red-backed shrike Lanius collurio for which we aim at an expansion from 1 to in total 4 breeding pairs.

- Creation of 3 ponds with possibilities for a population of Great crested newt Triturus cristatus of 30-50 ind.

 

Other (European) threatened species for which the project area is important, will also benefit from these measures. Thus the project also contributes to the biodiversity strategy of the platform Horizon 2020 of the EU.

 

The communication actions create broad support for the project and its nature values.

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