Biomass use for Aquatic W - Facilitating Aquatic Warbler (Acrocephalus paludicola) habitat management through sustainable systems of biomass use

LIFE09 NAT/PL/000260

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Contact details:

Project Manager: Dariusz GATKOWSKI
Tel: +48 22 761 82 05
Fax: +48 22 761 90 51
Email: biuro@otop.org.pl

Project description:


The aquatic warbler (Acrocephalus paludicola) is Europe’s rarest migratory songbird and a globally threatened species (its IUCN status is ‘vulnerable’). Some 99% of its population is confined to Europe, with Poland accounting for around 25%. The aquatic warbler is listed in Annex I of the Birds Directive and has been identified as a priority species for LIFE+ Nature funding. Once widespread and numerous on fen mires and wet meadows, the aquatic warbler has suffered from habitat loss and degradation. With its habitats now dependant on human land-use and being extremely susceptible to land-use changes, it is now effectively a conservation-dependent species. An earlier LIFE Nature project (LIFE05 NAT/PL/000101, Aquatic Warbler project) concentrated on the protection of a remnant Pomeranian population of the species, along the German-Polish border. It also tested and developed conservation methods at the Biebrza Marshes in northeast Poland, the principal site of the species in Poland. This project will build on this experience, focusing on six sites in eastern Poland, which jointly hold 80% of the Polish and 21% of the world population of the aquatic warbler. At these sites, the key threat to the species is the slow deterioration of the open fen habitat through overgrowth with reeds, scrub and trees after the abandonment of traditional low-intensity manual mowing several decades ago.


The objective of the Biomass use for Aquatic W project was to link the production of biomass as a renewable energy source with the large-scale mechanised management of aquatic warbler habitat. The aim was to demonstrate that conservation management of this habitat can also be economically viable. The project would be implemented in six project sites, all special protection areas (SPAs) according to the Birds Directive. Specific objectives were to:

  • Test and improve innovative systems for the use of biomass;
  • Increase the area of suitable habitat for the aquatic warbler in eastern Poland;
  • Implement regular, ongoing management of major parts of the project sites secured through income from the use of biomass; and
  • Raise awareness among conservation and business managers, site administrators and the general public.

  • Results

    The project succeeded in enlarging the area covered by recurring land management favourable to the target species from 1 551 ha to 6 344 ha. This habitat restoration was mostly achieved by tree and bush removal and first time mowing. As a result, the area now occupied by aquatic warblers has increased from 3 602 ha to 3 879 ha – a 7.71% increase. The number of individuals in the project priority areas between 2009 and 2014 has risen by 26%, that is by 575 individuals, significantly more than the hundred foreseen.

    As planned, the biomass at the project sites was utilised. This involved transporting it by caterpillar tracked vehicles used for mowing fen mires. It was then converted into pellets, specifically the OTOPellet, which proved to be a good fuel that carries 16 GJ per pellet. This is more than a pellet made of straw and only slightly less than wooden pellets. The OTOPellet is very price competitive and thus has already gained recognition among the local population. The setting up of the pelleting facility at Biebrza Valley, established under the project, had a positive socio-economic impact, creating four jobs. Moreover, a feasibility study was carried out of an electric power plant fuelled by at the power plant, in Mońki County. The plant could be modernised as a result, bringing more new jobs to the region and benefitting the environment.

    The project also resulted in indirect social-economic benefits by raising awareness of the value of the habitat. It helped to shape the Rural Development Programme for 2014-2020 in Poland, which included conservation measures for the aquatic warbler. The long-term management of the sites will be assured by agri-environment scheme subsidies for mowing and other conservation measures.

    The approach taken by the project was very flexible and can be adjusted to various habitat types used by the aquatic warbler – from mesotrophic mires, through Cladium rushes to river floodplains.

    Furthermore, land was purchased under the project by the co-ordinating to ensure the sustainability of the project results. The land managed by the associated beneficiaries (FUT Zelent and Eko-Różanka), as well as other land restored in the project, will also be supported by agri-environmental scheme payments. Additionally, the aquatic warbler population was included in the environmental monitoring carried out by the general inspectorate for the environmental protection (GIOŚ).

    Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Conservation Plan (see "Read more" section).


Environmental issues addressed:


Species - Birds


endangered species‚  migratory species‚  biomass energy‚  wetland

Target EU Legislation

  • Nature protection and Biodiversity
  • Directive 79/409 - Conservation of wild birds (02.04.1979)
  • COM(2011) 244 final “Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020 ...

Target species

 Acrocephalus paludicola     

Target Habitat types

  • 6510 - "Lowland hay meadows (Alopecurus pratensis, Sanguisorba officinalis)"
  • 7210 - Calcareous fens with Cladium mariscus and species of the Caricion davallianae
  • 7230 - Alkaline fens
  • 6410 - "Molinia meadows on calcareous, peaty or clayey-silt-laden soils (Molinion caeruleae)"

Natura 2000 sites

SPA PLB060001 Bagno Bubnów
SPA PLB060002 Chełmskie Torfowiska Węglanowe
SPA PLB060003 Dolina Środkowego Bugu
SPA PLB200001 Bagienna Dolina Narwi
SCI PLH060013 Ostoja Poleska
SCI PLH060023 Torfowiska Chełmskie
SCI PLH060032 Poleska Dolina Bugu
SCI PLH200003 Ostoja Suwalska
SCI PLH200008 Dolina Biebrzy
SPA PLB060019 Polesie
SPA PLB200006 Ostoja Biebrzańska



Coordinator Ogólnopolskie Towarzystwo Ochrony Ptaków
Type of organisation NGO-Foundation
Description The beneficiary is the Polish Society for the Protection of Birds (OTOP), an NGO founded in 1991, which works for the protection of wild birds and their habitats in Poland.
Partners FUT Przemysław Zelent, Poland Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), United Kingdom Eko-Różanka, Poland


Project reference LIFE09 NAT/PL/000260
Duration 01-SEP-2010 to 31-MAR -2015
Total budget 3,686,306.00 €
EU contribution 2,730,471.00 €
Project location Lubelskie(Poland Polska) Podlaskie(Poland Polska)


Read more:

Project web site Project's website
Publication: After-LIFE Conservation Plan After-LIFE Communication Plan
Publication: Layman report Layman report
Publication: Technical report Project's Final technical report


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