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batraciens - Conservation of 4 endangered species of amphibians in Luxembourg

LIFE96 NAT/L/003195


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version  
 

Contact details:

Project Manager: Fernand SCHOOS
Tel: 352/63 82 62
Fax: 352/63 97 87



Project description:

Background

Once farmland in Luxembourg was dotted by stagnant pools, or 'mares', which, with their immediate surroundings, were ideal habitats for amphibians. The optimal biotopes for many amphibians are those pools which virtually dry up in summer, during a period when the amphibians inhabit the surrounding vegetation, as such pools cannot harbour fish, which feed upon the eggs and tadpoles. These micro-habitats were used in the past as water reservoirs against fires, as drinking pools for cattle, in irrigation and soil fertilisation or as fish ponds. However, only 10% of the 'mares' existing in the 18th century are left. The main cause for this has been the consolidation of rural land holdings, eutrophication provoked by agricultural chemicals and the mechanization of farming. Since all amphibians depend on water, this has caused a significant reduction in the number of amphibians. Aware of this decline, the Musée National d'Histoire Naturelle, the Service Conservation de la Nature of the Ministry of the Environment and the beneficiary, SICONA, had already undertaken urgent conservation actions from the 1980s onwards. These mainly consisted of preparatory studies or small site restoration projects. However, the need to acquire ownership of the microhabitats had been a major hurdle for long-term conservation.


Objectives

The objective of this project was the conservation, stabilisation and revitalisation of the remaining populations of the following amphibian species which are endangered in Luxembourg: Hyla arborea, Triturus cristatus, Bombina variegata, and Bufo calamita. The LIFE project was part of a comprehensive, nation-wide programme for amphibian conservation, itself in turn part of the national strategy for the establishment of the Natura 2000 network. Its task was to provide the funds to acquire the sites of existing or potential 'mare' microhabitats, especially in sunny locations; when this foundation has been laid the national programme could build on it through biotope restoration, recurring management and awareness-raising. Unique about this project was the central role of the local authorities, who, similar to more classic inter-municipal structures for water distribution, waste management etc, had set up an intercommunal body, SICONA, with the sole objective of managing their natural areas and sharing equipment, personnel and expertise.


Results

Technically speaking, this project was a success. Moreover, for the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg it was an important project because of its emphasis on land purchase. Land purchase for nature conservation purposes was hardly ever practiced by public bodies, especially not at national level, before this project took place. Thus, this LIFE-Nature project has been innovative and instrumental in increasing the degree of acceptance for land purchase as a conservation tool. LIFE-Nature demonstrated that land purchase can be a useful and cost-effective strategy to protect species and habitat types and that public support for it is available. Additionally, the collaboration of several municipalities in a legal structure (Intercommunale SICONA) which has been set up only for the conservation of the natural values in the collaborating communes also gave this project an important demonstrative value. • 19 ha, distributed over 20 small plots, was bought, well above the 12 ha which was foreseen in the revised application. Land purchase was less expensive than thought. This measure was indeed a precondition for habitat restoration measures. The areas targeted were located in the southern and south-western part of the country. They harboured either species targeted by the project or represented sites with a potential for the creation of new habitats replacing destroyed areas (stagnant waters, ponds, backwaters and their immediate surroundings – grasslands, pasture and shrubs). • A parallel instrument was the ‘servitude rurale’, in which a landowner accepts an easement on his land (similar to the ones normally given for access to neighbouring land, pipelines, power lines etc) to protect corridors or habitats for the amphibians, for an indeterminate period. This easement is registered through a notarial or administrative act, with payment of a one-off compensation equal to 80% of the land value. • Habitat restoration (creation of new ponds to improve the network between the existing sites harbouring species targeted by the project; restoring the existing ponds; creation of a network of summer and winter biotopes like hedges and fallow strips) was not charged to LIFE but done in parallel. Over 180 pools were restored: 65 of these for the benefit of Hyla arborea and Triturus cristatus. 60 ‘micro-pools’ were dug for Bombina variegata. The most important site restoration took place on the purchased plots in the Commune of Clemency (“Neidriesch”), Commune of Dippach (“Im Weiherchen”) and Commune of Mamer (“Hinterste Rohr”). The annual recurring maintenance of the habitats (mowing grass and cutting bushes around the pools) is ensured by SICONA’s staff or by farmers under management contracts. • Management plans (not co-financed by LIFE Nature) were drawn up by SICONA. Population monitoring of the 4 species and of the concrete conservation measures took place during the project. • The LIFE-Nature project included public awareness actions towards elected officials, schools and media. Six guided visits to amphibian pools were held and 30 landowners received technical advice on how to manage such pools. A mobile exhibition, a video and a brochure were funded with parallel resources. In spite of the modest size of the project, the conservation benefits have already been important for two species : Triturus cristatus and Hyla arborea. Whereas there were 24 stations, with declining populations, of Triturus at the beginning of the LIFE project, by the end the number had increased to 30. There were only 3 stations of Hyla at project beginning; by project end 15 stations suitable for colonisation had been created. The Annex II butterfly Lycaena dispar also benefited indirectly from the measures. As for the European importance of this project, the conservation actions have been important to allow dispersal of the target species to or from neighbouring areas. Hyla arborea may migrate to Wallonia where it is extinct, while Bombina variegata which has its northern limit here, may migrate to Luxembourg from French Lorraine. In terms of the build-up of the Natura 2000 network, this project has made a contribution. Although adopted as an NA3 project for which no pSCI designation of the purchased area was compulsory, even so 20 % of the land purchased was indeed designated.


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Environmental issues addressed:

Themes

Species - Amphibians


Keywords

land purchase‚  restoration measure‚  management contract‚  endangered species‚  environmental impact of agriculture‚  protected area‚  animal corridor‚  biotope network


Target EU Legislation

  • Nature protection and Biodiversity
  • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directiv ...
  • Decision 93/626 - Conclusion of the Convention on Biological Diversity (25.10.1993)
  • COM(95) 189 - "Communication on the judicious use and conservation of wetlands" (12.12.1995)
  • COM(98)42 -"Communication on a European Community Biodiversity Strategy" (05.02.1998)
  • COM(2001)162 -"Biodiversity Action Plan for the conservation of natural resources (vol. I & II)" ...

Target species

 Bombina variegata   Bufo calamita   Hyla arborea   Triturus cristatus     


Natura 2000 sites

Not applicable


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Beneficiaries:

Coordinator SICONA (Syndicat Intercommunal de l'Ouest pour la Conservation de la Nature
Type of organisation Public enterprise
Description SICONA or the "Syndicat Intercommunal de l'Ouest pour la Conservation de la Nature" is a public body set up in 1989 by 10 municipalities in the district south-west of the city of Luxembourg, in order to pool their resources to better protect the natural and semi-natural areas in the different municipalities. This aim is reached through the restoration and appropriate management of natural and semi-natural sites and through the implementation of specific species conservation measures. To achieve this, a successful collaboration with the farming community is held to be essential.
Partners Ministère de l'Environnement du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg Musée National d'Histoire Naturelle Administration des Eaux et Forêts, Service Conservation de la Nature

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Project reference LIFE96 NAT/L/003195
Duration 01-JAN-1997 to 31-DEC -1999
Total budget 259,641.99 €
EU contribution 129,820.99 €
Project location Luxembourg(Luxembourg)

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Read more:

Brochure Title: Mir erhalen Dëmpelen a Weieren: Naturschutz an der Gemeng (Wir erhalten Tümpel und Weiher: Naturschutz in der Gemeinde) Author: Anon Year: 1998 Editor: SICONA et al.

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Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version