Semi-natural grassland as a source of biodiversity improvement

Twenty years ago, it was considered nearly impossible to restore semi-natural grasslands back to their fully natural state. In Central Europe, the Salvere biodiversity project has proved this possible.

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Species rich semi-natural grasslands are an important source of plant and animal biodiversity © Michele Scotton Species rich semi-natural grasslands are an important source of plant and animal biodiversity © Michele Scotton

" Salvere has had a major impact on the biodiversity increase in central Europe. The techniques used are now implemented in several other projects, e.g. using threshed material for green roofing and greening tram tracks with site-specific seeds. "

Ulrike Pitha, Assistant at the Institute for Soil Bioengineering, University of Life Sciences Vienna, Austria

Semi-natural grassland can be a valuable resource. It has both a high ecological and economic value - seed and plant material harvested from high-value grassland helps to maintain and protect grassland with its biodiversity and can be a profitable source of income for farmers.

With this in mind, the Salvere project was set up in 2009 to promote High Nature Value Farmland (HNVF), which comprises those areas where agriculture is a major land use and where agriculture supports, or is associated with, either a high species and habitat diversity or the presence of species of European, and/or national, and/or regional conservation concern, or both.

Salvere was focused on the promotion of HNVF in Central Europe. The project involved eight public and private partners from six EU countries – Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Poland and the Slovak Republic. Together, they developed a handbook and guidelines for seed production and harvesting on potential donor sites as well as best practice methods for establishing species-rich grasslands aimed at enhancing the exchange of knowledge about ecological restoration all over Europe.

Project propagation

Salvere has effectively increased specialisation in sustainable landscape management and, more specifically, in the production and market of environmentally friendly products and services. All Central European countries now have a common technical methodology for restoring semi-natural grassland. This is particularly important in light of the new EU directive on the trading of native ecotypes of herbaceous plants.

Experts in nature protection regard the methods proposed by Salvere as having enhanced their skillset. Public administrations are also now defining restoration protocols for the improvement of degraded habitats and the re-vegetation of surfaces subjected to infrastructural works and are introducing these methods within regulations or measures with regional value.

All in all, Salvere has brought to life the 1992 Rio de Janeiro Convention on Biological Conservation as well as the EU regulations on the protection of biodiversity.

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “Salvere – Semi-natural grassland as a source of biodiversity improvement” is EUR 1 567 942.58, of which the EU’s European Regional Development Fund is contributing EUR 1 218 254.33 from the operational programme “Central Europe” for the 2007 to 2013 programming period.

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