LIFE IP GrassBirdHabitat - Conservation of wet grassland breeding bird habitats in the Atlantic Region

LIFE19 IPE/DE/000004

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Contact details:

Contact person: Stefan Heitefuss
Email: Stefan.Heitefuss@mu.niedersachsen.de

Project description:


Grassland breeding bird populations have declined dramatically throughout Europe. Modern agricultural land use practices almost all over Europe, and more recently also in the wintering areas in Africa are the main cause of this decline. The most important threats are the increasing intensification of the land use practices, including increasing drainage of formerly wet grasslands, habitat loss e.g. due to a shift from species-rich grasslands to grassland monocultures, intensively used mineral and organic fertilizer, use of pesticides, landscape fragmentation, ground water depletion and negative impacts from adjacent areas. Furthermore, a large increase in predator densities, especially invasive like red fox, mustelids, racoon, racoon dog and American mink, represents an additional threat to the ground nesting birds. Policy efforts and conservation measures to counteract these declines on a large landscape scale at EU level have failed so far. Therefore, strategic actions for the conservation of wet meadow breeding birds in the Atlantic region are needed, covering breeding sites, stop-over sites, and wintering sites in West Africa.

Lower Saxony provides the most important breeding sites for wet grassland birds in Germany. For example, a significant proportion of the of the worlds breeding population of the black-tailed godwit (Limosa limosa), occurs in Germany and the Netherlands. Hence, the Federal State Lower Saxony and the province of Friesland (Netherlands) have a particular international responsibility for this species, and this applies for many other grassland breeding species. In the last 20 years, the area of permanent grassland in Germany has declined by more than 12%, and in Lower Saxony by around 31%.


The main objective of the LIFE IP GrassBirdHabitat project is improving the conservation status of wet grassland breeding birds. This includes measures that increase the breeding populations and reproduction rates in Germany and the Netherlands, and returning rates of the birds from their wintering areas in West Africa. Optimising water levels of the breeding habitats will be done on both public and private land. On private land, long-term leasing agreements will allow farmers to remain land owners and be financially compensated for increased water levels and land management for meadow nesting birds. The total project area will be around 143 000 ha. In Lower Saxony (Germany), 19 000 ha is public land, while another 2 000 ha will be acquired for bird protection through complementary funds, to enable arable land to be converted into biodiverse wet meadows. In Friesland, conservation management in two pilot areas totalling 100 ha will be used to demonstrate ecological and economic sustainability, and to motivate farmers to participate in grassland conservation. Additionally, measures to improve the quality of bird habitats will be implemented in conservation areas on 600 ha. The aim is to transfer the experience to other EU regions.

In Senegal, the project aims to improve habitat quality within the most important wintering sites formigratory grassland breeding birds.

The project team will develop and implement the Strategic International Action Plan for wet meadow breeding birds in the Atlantic Region, which will include a habitat restoration plan to improve wintering and resting areas in Europe and be linked to a strategic plan for West Africa.

The project aims at fully implementing the Prioritised Action Framework (PAF) for Natura 2000 for Germany and for the Netherlands, in all sections related to grassland breeding birds and their habitats. In addition to implementing EU policy on nature conservation and biodiversity the project contributes to sustainable agriculture, water resources and climate change, Regulation on invasive alien species, Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, 2030 climate & energy framework, and the European Green Deal.

The project also aims at fully implementing the PAF of Germany and PAF of the Netherlands in all sections related to grassland breeding birds and their habitats.

The project intends to facilitate the coordinated use of some 383 million of complementary funding from EAFRD, ERDF, INTERREG and LIFE, as well as public national and regional funds. Of that, about 78 million is current funding up to 2024 and 1 million has already been granted, while other funds have yet to be requested or approved.


Expected results:

  • Creation of 21 000 ha of optimal habitat for wetland breeding birds in the Netherlands and Germany;
  • Sustainable capacity building in an international framework (Germany, Netherlands, Senegal);
  • Increase ERDF and EAFRD funding for wet grassland management from less than 10 million to 353 million, including 50 million for land purchase;
  • A Strategic plan for the Atlantic Region to sustainably restore grassland bird populations;
  • An agricultural business model for wetland grassland bird habitats;
  • Implementation of the PAF, EU Birds Directive provision, EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2030, and Green Infrastructure;
  • Reduction of the density of mammalian predators and eradication of invasive alien species;
  • In Senegal, development and testing of rice cropping systems that are profitable for both birds and farmers.

  • Top

Environmental issues addressed:


Habitats - Grasslands
Species - Birds
Environmental management - Integrated management


endangered species‚  grassland ecosystem‚  migratory species‚  monitoring‚  Agriculture‚  nature conservation‚  restoration measure‚  land use

Target EU Legislation

  • Nature protection and Biodiversity
  • Regulation 1143/2014 - Prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien ...
  • Directive 2009/147 - Conservation of wild birds - Birds Directive (codified version of Directive ...
  • COM(2011) 244 final “Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020 ...
  • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directiv ...
  • Climate Change & Energy efficicency
  • COM(2014)15 - Policy framework for climate and energy in the period from 2020 to 2030 (22.01.2014 ...

Target species

 Limosa limosa     

Natura 2000 sites

Not applicable



Coordinator Niederschsisches Ministerium fr Umwelt, Energie, Bauen und Klimaschutz
Partners University of Groningen-Netherlands Coöperatieve vereniging Sudwestkust U.A. (Collectief Sudwestkust)-Netherlands Nationalparkverwaltung Niedersächsisches Wattenmeer-Germany Province of Fryslân-Netherlands BioConsult OS-Germany


Project reference LIFE19 IPE/DE/000004
Duration 01-NOV-2020 to 31-OCT -2030
Total budget 27,061,079.00 €
EU contribution 12,000,000.00 €
Project location


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