Ecosystem Approach Sourcebook - Case-Study Details

1. Project Details
Author or Responsible Organization MARTINA PILÁTOVÁ, Biosphere Reserve Pol'ana, Hurbanova 20, SK-960 01 Zvolen, SLOVAKIA, phone: 00421 45 5333657, fax: 00421 45 5334834, e-mail:
Project Title Biodiversity Protection and its Practical Realization Including Agricultural Areas in the Protected Landscape Area - Biosphere Reserve Pol'ana
Date of Publication
Project Status
Project Start Date
Project End Date
Countries Slovakia
Regions Central and Eastern Europe
Funding Source
2. Background to Project
Project Issue/Problem Statement The Poľana Mountain is one of the greatest former volcanoes in Europe and it is the highest volcanic mountain range in Slovakia. The area was developed in four periods of volcanic activity 13 – 15 million years ago. Since 1981 it has been a Protected Landscape Area. In 1990, Poľana was declared as a Biosphere Reserve. The Poľana Biosphere Reserve comprises an area of 203.6 km2. Agricultural land presents 15%, forest occurs on 84% of the area and 1% are buildings and water areas. The whole area is assigned to the European network of protected areas, Natura 2000.
Project Description In the period 1996 – 1999, the Poľana grasslands were analyzed and evaluated by the agricultural project “Biodiversity protection in the Protected Landscape Area – Biosphere Reserve Poľana and management of its grasslands” in cooperation with IUCN - The World Conservation Union. The final result of the IUCN project is the proposal for a strategy for the sustainable development of grassland agriculture, which is based on the integration of nature conservation with the agricultural use of these grasslands considering the results of the work of botanists and zoologists. Thus, this strategy takes into account the floristic composition of the grasslands, the nesting conditions for bird species and the migration of animal populations, and it aims for the application of natural management systems which do not require high energy inputs. Originally, the Poľana Mountain was covered by forests. After the arrival of the first settlers, the forests were cut down and the colonized land was used for agricultural purposes. Mountain meadows were regularly cleared, no fertilizers were used. Grasslands were regularly mowed, once or twice a year, and then grazed by cattle or sheep. The land was necessary for making a living, so people honoured it and had a highly positive connection to the land. In the 1950s, the agricultural production in Slovakia was collectivized. This process was connected with the creation of big agricultural cooperatives, who became owners and managers of all agricultural land. Agricultural cooperatives were focused on intensive agriculture. In the following time, parts of the meadows were converted into pastures. Step by step, old and approved practices of traditional farming disappeared and the number and diversity of livestock decreased. The extent of agricultural land was reduced, which was accompanied by a decreasing quality of the land. It was apparent that this trend had to be stopped. With state assistance, re-cultivations were carried out with the aim to increase the quality of the meadows and to intensify their utilization. However, agricultural cooperatives were motivated by economic incomes only. Therefore, less suitable grasslands were insufficiently used and thus degraded through the encroachment of trees, bushes, and less valuable plants. After 1990, further changes affected the agricultural system. They were characterised by a decline of the agricultural production and by the abandonment of agricultural lands, even previously re-cultivated ones. Agricultural cooperatives were broken up and agricultural lands were returned to the original owners. Therefore, the overgrowing of unused and abandoned grasslands is the most important problem on the Poľana Mountain nowadays. It takes only 10 – 30 years until unused meadows or pastures are totally overgrown. Today, 30.5% of the grasslands in the Poľana Biosphere Reserve are overgrown and influenced by the succession process.Proposal of a Sustainable Development Strategy for the Poľana Biosphere Reserve The proposal recommends technological parameters and procedures for the use of grasslands in the particular areas. Sustainable development of meadow and pasture communities 1) Preservation of specific wetland and spring communities requires: • protection against trampling by grazing animals through fencing by locally available wooden material; • mowing by light machinery in one or two-year intervals, during time of the soil drying (August), seeding and drying of copse and use of hay as litter in livestock stables; • informing herdsmen about the marked gene pool areas, which should be protected against devastation. 2) The first mowing of the alluvial meadows should be shifted to the time of decreasing underground water levels and increased mechanical carrying capacity of the soil. The second cut should be done no later than six weeks after the first one. Alternative autumn grazing is possible in case of dry weather. Hurdling is not recommended. 3) The following management is appropriate for mesophilous meadows to preserve both their productivity and biodiversity: • hurdling in intervals of 6 – 7 years; in early spring and summer the hurdled areas are mowed and the grass is used as a green fodder; careful grazing under dry conditions; • in the following spring, mowing of the sward in the phase of the appearance of the dominant grasses and, if possible, second cut 5 – 6 weeks after the first one; • additional careful autumn grazing of aftermath; • in the second till fifth year after hurdling: first mowing in the phase of full earing till the beginning of flowering; aftermath grazing in two grazing cycles; • one to two years before new hurdling: shift mowing to seed production time (in order to use the hay for game feeding) and graze aftermath in autumn; • preservation of nutrient-poorer wildflower meadows by selecting the most typical sites, in which hurdling will not be used, and fertilize some of them periodically with manure from permanent pens. 4) It is recommended to manage the prevailing grassland communities in the area the following way: • enlarge the harvested areas in all parts that are accessible for machinery by thinning thick swards and collecting the rocks; • include the prepared harvested parts of the fields into the cycle of regular hurdling – use similar management as for meadows with the difference that they will be mowed just once and grazed in summer and in the autumn; • one to two years after hurdling, the mowing should be done in the phase of earing of the dominant grass species and clovers, summer and autumn aftermath will be grazed; • in the following years, mowing can be postponed to the phase of flowering without a significant loss in quality;the last year before hurdling, at least one part of the swards should be left to over-ripen, the low quality hay should be used for game mangers and the aftermath left for wild animals; • in areas inaccessible to machinery, but suitable for hurdling, the sufficiency of nutrients should be utilized for repeated grazing, which will be started at the beginning of the grazing season (the same management can be applied in the second year after hurdling). 5) It is recommended to manage the degraded areas with high grown grass species (such as Brachypodium pinnatum, Calamagrostis epigeios, C arundinacea and Deschampsia caespitosa), which are less valuable from the fodder production point of view, in the following way: • on the places, where at least light machinery can be used, the swards should be cut in the phase of earing, using the lowest stubble height - a higher effect can be expected when using rotation mowers – swath should be removed from the area and used as litter; • graze the aftermath by herds of goats or horses; • the above process should be repeated at least three to four years (according to current experience, however, it is very hard to remove the swath). 6) After excessive hurdling, nitrophilous and ruderal communities are very persistent and their change into valuable, more diverse grass phytocoenoses is lengthy. The following precautions will help: • mowing swards before flowering of the ruderal species, if possible twice a year; • intensive grazing of aftermath to utilize the effect of heavy trampling, which is not in favour of ruderal species; • to exclude regular hurdling and to replace it by keeping livestock at one place – in a permanent pen, where a special layer, not allowing leakages, should be created on a fenced area (from plastic foil, asphalt) and the outflow of liquid waste into a waterproof cesspool should be safeguarded; • each year, a low quality hay-stack is prepared for each pen, which is used as a bedding throughout the following year; in this way the manure is produced, which can be used for autumn manuring of non-eutrophised swards – the effect is lower but the swards are more diverse; • the change can be speeded up through the liquidation of the growth by herbicides and by a subsequent direct drilling of clover-grass mixture; • the synanthropic species Cirsium vulgare and Urtica dioica are also found on heaps of stones and soil after reclamation; to get rid of these growths is only possible by patient mowing by hand. Sustainable Development of Fauna Communities Apart from interventions in swards, the following other biodiversity measures are important: 1) For insect feeding on pollen, nectar and seeds, grassland enclaves in the forests are important as well as ungrazed remnants in pastures, especially sheep pastures (due to higher selectivity of sheep), also aftermath with the occurrence of richly flowering leguminous plants and some other herb species as well as ungrazed steeper parts of pastures. 2) Preventing hurdling in poor parts of pastures with low vegetation for protection of the habitats of epigeic insects. 3) Gradual mowing of grassland and alternate grazing of the fields can provide enough food for insectivorous birds, and also possibilities of retreat for birds that are nesting on the ground. 4) Left-over shrub and tree growths and tree solitaires can provide a good nesting or feeding habitat for specific fauna species, e.g. birds and vertebrates. 5) Heaps and little walls, heaps of stones and soil from reclamation but also from the clearing of new areas provide good refuges for several groups of animals. 6) It is recommended to preserve existing hay-sheds and to build new ones and huts from the existing wooden materials to provide alternate hurdling in the individual pasture units – these huts do not only improve the scenic beauty of the territory but provide conditions for nesting of birds and serve as refuges for other groups of animals. 7) Sites with the occurrence of specific rare animal species can be protected by fencing and by means of ecological management of these areas.
3. Sectors and Biomes
Sectors Agriculture
Biomes Agricultural Biodiversity
4. Tools and Approaches
Tools and Approaches   Relevance
Governance, Law and Policy 3-High
Management and Incentives 3-High
Protected Areas and Land Use Policy 3-High
5. Issues
Issues   Relevance
Governance, Law and Policy 3-High
Protected Areas / In-Situ Conservation 3-High
Sustainable Use of Biodiversity 2-Medium
6. Ecosystem Approach
7. Lessons Learned and the Outcomes
Lessons Learned The IUCN project offers basic measures to reach both, sustainable development of agricultural use and biodiversity conservation. It should serve as the base for other agricultural projects in the area and for the practical cultivation of agricultural land as well as for the protection of nature values. However, first there must be resolved some actual human problems such as: • Lack of private farmers in the Poľana Mountain region. Agricultural cooperatives still dominate. • The willingness of the local people to live in the area and to work on the land is affected by an uncertain and limited market demand for animal products. • Traditional agricultural products do not meet new requirements and norms of the EU. • State subsidies are insufficient. • The complicated land ownership restrains decision-making on ways of grassland utilization. • Economic and social limitations, resulting in a lack of motivation for involved people.
Other Information
8. References
References This case study and further information can be found in Opportunities of EU Agricultural Policy Instruments for Biodiversity Conservation and Integrated Rural Development in Protected Areas of the New Member States, Report of the workshop convened by the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation at the International Academy for Nature Conservation, Isle of Vilm October 27 - 30, 2004. Editors: Horst Korn, Rainer Schliep Cordula Epple
9. Contact Details
Contact Person Ms. Diana Mortimer
Job Title Ecosystem Approach Officer
Organization Joint Nature Conservation Committee
Address Monkstone House, City Road,
Postal Code PE13 4LA
City Peterborough
ZIP/State/Province Cambs
Telephone +44 1733 866857
Fax +44 1733 555948
E-mail Address

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  • United Nations Environment Programme