Sustainable practises in managing mountain pasture habitats (A1, E3)
The objective is to unify criteria regarding objectives, guidelines for preservation and managing habitats and species from Directive 92/43 EEC existing in the French and Spanish Basque Country’s mountain pastures.
Technical-scientific coordination tables for mountain pastures were created, aiming to integrate all available information, so that the result is, on one hand, facilitating planning, and on the other, unifying criteria for authorisation and use of the most sustainable practises to manage the Basque Country’s mountain pastures. This will all come together in a Manual of Good Practises at the end of the LIFE project.
Monitoring Network for fodder production in habitats of community interest (A3)
The objective is to design, implement and maintain a monitoring network for fodder production to synthesise the most environmental (variation) and anthropogenic information.
With this information, the fodder production available for grazing livestock in each area studied can be established. This information is crucial to estimate potential livestock load as the basis to define sustainable management guidelines.
New method to monitor the evolution of brush spreading with LIDAR (D4)
The aim is to fine-tune an extensive automated monitoring technique for structural evolution indicators of mountain pastures, that complements the costly field work, both geographically and temporally.
With the information supplied by successive LIDAR flights with drones, changes in the surface and structure of mountain pastures can be detected and quantified. This means that, regionally, highly valuable data can be gathered to monitor the Preservation Status of the pasture habitats and contribute to compliance with article 17 of the Habitats Directive.
Manage to preserve
Planning preservation actions in each ZEC (A2)
Pasture Habitat Preservation Plans (Planes de Conservación de Hábitats Pascícolas) (PCHP) will be reviewed, or if applicable, drafted, for each one of the 15 ZECs in Euskadi. With the participation of owners, livestock users and technicians, the aim is to agree upon Objectives and Preservation and Monitoring Actions for each space.
Relaying concepts such as “load capacity,” “grazing unit,” etc., will help to establish appropriate objectives for preservation, always bearing the physical or biodiversity limitations in mind, along with plant evolution, the current balance between pasture supply and demand, and local socioeconomic needs.
Implementation of preservation measures in each ZEC (C1 – C15)
Per the short-mid term Plan prepared (action A2), throughout the duration of the LIFE project, the actions necessary to achieve preservation objectives in each one of the 15 Natura 2000 spaces will be undertaken.
These actions include:
- Creating attraction points to consolidate livestock use in underused zones.
- Recovery of pasture habitats with de-structured soil.
- Increasing grazeable surface area to reduce pressure in over-grazed zones, or to reduce the risk of fire.
- Excluding livestock to correct impacts on non-pasture habitats or under risk of erosion.
- Recovery of azonal habitats in grazing areas.
- Informative panels to minimise narcissus collection.
- Controlling species that invade the pastures.
- Demonstrative action of monitoring livestock behaviour and its efficacy to control brush spreading.
- Controlled burns to recover Molinia meadows.
Monitoring and evaluation
Monitoring the repercussions of the project’s actions on preservation objectives (D1)
By comparing the initial status of the habitats at specific points, before and after the interventions, the repercussion of the actions carried out under the project is verified. The monitoring protocol shall bear the initial status of the habitats, the specific objective, the expected result, the indicators and sources of verification in mind.
Moreover, demonstrative monitoring related to satellite tracking of the herds’ behaviour (with GPS collars) will be included, in order to establish guidelines that help to manage the livestock and control spreading brush.
Evaluation of the project’s socioeconomic impact (D2)
The project’s different actions are executed on elements that are conditioned, or upon which social players and economic forces operate. The base hypothesis is that sustainable use of natural resources helps to improve margins, or can at least buffer the uncertainties to which these uses are subject. Here, the aim is to discover the economic repercussions of using the mountain pasture resources in livestock operations, to which end a specific technical report will be issued on this subject.
Generally, it is of interest to discover first-hand what the livestock industry’s perception is of its own activity, which is obtained through interviews, surveys, workshops, etc., taking advantage of local participation forums (action E2).
Evaluation of the project’s impact on eco-systemic services (D3)
Proof of favourable repercussions from the project is sought, in terms of human welfare, based on the evaluation of eco-services.
This way, the public, technicians, users and political leaders will be more interested in the project, thereby guaranteeing its success and durability.
The conceptual frameworks for reference are the programmes Evaluación de los Ecosistemas del Milenio (Millennium Ecosystems Evaluation), Valoración de los Activos Naturales de España (Rating Spain’s Natural Assets) and Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystem Services.
Evaluation of historical changes in livestock practises and in the landscape (D6, A2)
The aim is to analyse trends in grazing activity, while comparing with the consequences that the changes occurring in said activity or in agricultural-livestock practises have had on the status of preservation of the pasture habitats and on the landscape.
This shared objective is proposed with two different, yet complementary, methodologies in Iparralde and in Euskadi. In the French Basque Country, this will be achieved by comparing photos and archive data, while in Euskadi, the plant distribution and the evolution of the livestock in different periods will be compared (within the framework of action A2).
Monitoring of the effects of actions included in the Natura 2000 contracts in the French Basque Country (D7, D1)
The objective is to monitor the preservation actions included in the Iparralde Natura 2000 contracts (funded by Feader funds: payments to livestock operators for voluntary commitments), by adapting the system included in this LIFE (action D1), to rate its efficacy within the scope of the preservation objectives, in order to provide for adaptive management in the 8 French ZEC.
The LIFE project does not include preservation actions (type C) in the French ZEC, but it funds monitoring and communication actions in them, insufficiently financed by other European instruments.
Participation and local communication (E2)
The greatest collaboration possible between local players from the ZEC included in the LIFE is planned, seeking their participation from the very beginning and throughout the project’s life cycle. Owners and users should feel like part of the project and collaborate in developing preservation actions.
Meetings are planned that are related to the general introduction of the project and the establishment of a shared framework, workshops related to planning the actions in each ZEC and their implementation, personal interviews, introducing sponsorships for the spaces and sharing through local news media.
Participation, communication and technical-scientific training (E3).
It is planned to have technicians and scientists participate to define sustainable practises in preservation of pasture habitats, from the beginning of LIFE until its results are disseminated.
Coordination tables shall be created to debate the issues of greatest interest, databases with technical-scientific publications related to mountain pasture will be reviewed and completed, etc.
One of the project’s planned results is drawing up a Manual of Good Practises, two scientific publications, a Guide to prepare Pasture Plans in MUP.
Moreover, within the programme “Training for Employment” coordinated by HAZI Fundazioa, as many Training Courses as deemed of interest for livestock operators or technicians will be conducted.
Projection and prospection in Europe (E4).
The strategy to transfer and replicate the project’s results throughout Europe will be established, and the conclusions from other related projects will be integrated.
With this task, the partner Euromontana plays a decisive role: it will prepare a report on managing mountain pastures throughout Europe, international work groups will be created and LIFE’s presence will be made clear in the two European mountain conventions planned for 2018 and 2020.
Communication and awareness
Communicating the socioeconomic and environmental interest of preserving mountain pastures to society, placing higher value on the role of livestock operators in maintaining them (E1).
Related tasks will be defined in a Communication plan, where dissemination and awareness actions will be suggested. These actions will be carried out by all partners conjointly, coherently and per the programme.
At the same time, society as a whole will be provided all information on the project (the problems that justify its existence, its objectives, actions, results), guaranteeing visibility for the EU’s LIFE financial tool.