At the beginning of May, Dinara back to LIFE project hosted a workshop where around 40 European experts from the field of nature protection gathered to contribute in drafting of the Guidelines for sustainable management of dry grasslands.
The exchange of knowledge and learning together are one of the biggest benefits of LIFE projects, and the contribution of international experts will certainly benefit the quality and results of Dinara back to LIFE project.
Guidelines for dry grassland management
The reason for this gathering of experts was to participate in the development of Guidelines for Dry Grassland Restoration and Management. In the 3-and-a-half years of duration, Dinara back to LIFE will test methods for dry grassland restoration and management. Based on the collected data and testing experience, the project will develop Guidelines for Dry Grassland Restoration and Management, suited for institutions that are managing dry grasslands in Croatia. International experts were invited to a workshop on behalf of their expertise and rich experience. Their input was crucial to incorporate European context and lessons of other similar grassland restauration projects to Dinara back to LIFE, helping the transferability of the results.
Brendan Dunford, Engin Yilmaz, and Elsa Varela are just few examples of the leading experts that have brought a fresh perspective and inspiration to our project. We are thankful for the contribution of all of the experts and their support means that our results are more likely to find application in a broader European context.
Three main topics discussed were:
Grazing for biodiversity
Livestock keeping as a tradition, way of life and an occupation is the key for dry grassland preservation. Compared to the past few decades, the system has been completely changed and remaining livestock keepers need stronger support now than ever before.
In order to preserve livestock farming and conduct grazing in a way it benefits biodiversity, the key challenges have been identified as these:
- Lack of institutional support for livestock keepers
- Lack of knowledge on which approach works/doesn’t work
- Biodiversity is not valued enough when pastures are leased out and leases are extended
Controlled burning as a dry grassland restoration method
Controlled burning is a traditional and, conditionally, a natural way of dry grassland preservation. This workshop explored the necessity of controlled burning for the preservation of biodiversity, primarily for species that prefer burned habitats. The fact that controlled burning does not increase carbon footprint as it is conducted in the colder part of the year, when burning intensity is much less and does not damage the rhizosphere was also discussed. Another important topic discussed was spatial planning that would increase the landscape’s resistance to wildfires. It would create a mosaic that includes areas for pasture and/or controlled burning over which summer wildfires could not spread out. Key challenges identified:
- Poor knowledge of current scientific literature on carbon sequestration in dry grasslands and carbon footprint of dry grasslands managed by grazing and controlled burning
- Legislation issues, namely inconsistency in forestry, environment conservation, and nature conservation legislations
- Technical implementation of controlled burning on large areas
- Public perception and approval of controlled burning
- Potential conflict with hunters
Financial instruments available for grassland restoration
Dinara back to LIFE is the beginning of the work on the protection of Dinara dry grasslands, and the project pointed out the many challenges that management institutions will face in planning dry grassland conservation activities. The lack of a stable source of funding for conservation activities is only a part of the problem, and in order to bring about positive change, we need to start from the coordination and cooperation of different sectors and different legal regulations.
- Non-existent sustainable economic model relating to extensive livestock farming and other activities which contribute to the preservation of dry grasslands
- Inconsistent legislation
- Lack of cooperation between different sectors (forestry, hunting, agriculture, nature protection) in managing dry grasslands
The workshop is one of the initial steps in preparing the content of Guidelines for Dry Grassland Restoration and Management. In the final year of project implementation, the project team will work intensively on developing these guidelines and they will be publicly presented in early 2023.
Participants also used this gathering to showcase some of their own projects which are an inspiration and examples of good practice in nature conservation.
- Network for the conservation of the threatened Karst Polje, EuroNatur Organization
- Grassland managament based on results, Burren programme
- An example of preservation of wet grasslands, Polish Society for the Protection of Birds (OTOP, BirdLife Poland)
- Life for Seeds, DOPPS – BirdLife Slovenia
- Josefov Meadows – management and its results in the first non-governmental bird reserve in the Czech Republic – Czech Society for Ornithology