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 Description of the Action - Elaboration of Management Guidelines for Grassland, Heath and Scrub Habitats
 Why do We Need Management Guidelines for Grassland, Heath and Scrub Habitats?
 Expected Results
 News and Progress
Description of the Action - Elaboration of Management Guidelines for Grassland, Heath and Scrub Habitats
The aim of this action is to decrease the negative effects of the lack of appropriate management of grassland, heath and scrub habitats. Experts from NGOs, NCA, land owners and other stakeholders will collaborate in a special working group to elaborate guidelines for management of grassland, heath and scrub habitats in Natura 2000 sites in Latvia. The working group will  meet in workshops and seminars to discuss recommendations and final findings. The first draft of guidelines will be finished by the end of 2014/beginning of 2015, but the book containing the final version of the guidelines will be published in 2016.

Following the first recommendations from the grassland habitats working group in 2013, the management methods will be tested in a number of Natura 2000 sites. The appropriate management methods will be tested in Fennoscandian lowland species-rich dry to mesic grasslands (6270*), as this habitat is the most widely distributed grassland habitat in Natura 2000 sites and needs specific management depending on a wide range factors. The management methods will also be tested in Semi-natural dry grasslands and scrubland facies on calcareous substrates (Festuco-Brometalia) (6210), since these are especially species-rich habitats. These habitats will be restored with mowing, milling, hey gathering, cutting trees and scrubs.

The places where meadow restoration will be conducted, will be quite similar to those places where special management is necessary to restore forest glades. Therefore the testing of management methods will help to find the best solution as to how with limited resources isolated and hard to reach meadows can be managed. These meadows have been irregularly managed for hay in the past, but now they are overgrowing and losing their quality.

The managed/restored areas will be used as demonstration sites for land-owners, managers and other stakeholders in order to provide practical information on how to organise such activities elsewhere.
Why Do We Need Management Guidelines for Grassland, Heath and Scrub Habitats?
More than 520 plant species (1/3rd of Latvia’s flora) can be found in grasslands in Latvia. Grasslands found in Natura 2000 are natural meadows and pastures with high diversity of species (e.g. Fennoscandian woodland meadows (6530*), Xeric sand calcareous grasslands (6120*), Fennoscandian lowland species-rich dry to mesic grasslands (6270*)) and these are EU importance habitats.  Favorable conservation status of species and habitats of EU importance related to natural grasslands can only be ensured by appropriate management of these grasslands. Grasslands are important for protection of different species, for example, approximately 40% of protected plant species are found in grasslands, 82% of population of corncrake Crex crex nests in grasslands. Natural and extensively managed grasslands are biologically the most important, but nowadays they cover only 0.3%  of the territory of Latvia.

Endangered species of Community interest mainly occur in natural habitat types that are undisturbed and where appropriate conservation and management measures need to be adapted. Each habitat type is significant for biological diversity. For example, grassland habitats can be species-rich with vascular plants and those are also sufficient habitats for multiple bird species and insects, freshwater habitats are sufficient for fishes and molluscs as well as various plant species, rocky habitats and caves are sufficient for bryophytes and also mammals (bats). Thus, the management guidelines for habitats that will be elaborated within NAT-PROGRAMME Project will directly promote maintaining and restoring a favorable conservation status for habitats and species of Community interest.

All natural and semi-natural species-rich grassland, heath and scrub habitats are EU priority habitats and their quality and cover in Natura 2000 sites in Latvia are decreasing because of lack of appropriate management. These changes have a negative impact on many endangered and rare species. The guidelines will help to choose the best management methods for grassland, heath and scrub habitats taking into account available resources and priority needs for species and habitats. The testing of management methods in EU priority habitats will serve as a good practical example for all landowners. The elaboration of Guidelines for management of grassland, heath and scrub habitats and testing various management methods in Natura 2000 sites will help to strengthen the biodiversity in Natura 2000 sites, improve the quality of habitats and involve the local community. 

Expected Results
1. Management guidelines presenting various management approaches and explanations as well as including testing results as examples will be available electronically in Latvian, English and Russian on the Project website and on the NCA website .
2. Approximately 10 ha of EU priority habitats (6270*) and (6210 and 6430) will be used for testing management methods.
3. A book and a brochure on Guidelines for habitat management of Natura 2000 sites will be produced.
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