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Traditionella fodermarker i mellansverige (Pastures and meadows in the middlemost part of Sweden) (Foder och Fägring )
Start date: Jan 1, 2010, End date: Dec 31, 2014 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Background Grasslands provide important habitats for many species, including herbaceous plants, insects and birds. Maintenance-dependent grasslands were once widespread throughout the agricultural landscape in Europe. However, the modernisation and intensification of agriculture, together with economical pressures, has led to the abandonment of traditional management practices and a decrease in maintenance-dependent meadows, pastures and wetlands. The areas that remain are often in poor condition, and species dependent on them are faced with not only smaller and fewer suitable sites but also with increasing distances between such sites. Objectives The Foder och fägring project aimed to preserve traditionally-managed grasslands and their associated flora and fauna. The overriding objective was to restore the meadows, pastures and wetland meadows in 62 Natura 2000 network sites in Jämtland, Gävleborg, Värmland and Dalarna County in Sweden. These grasslands all need to be maintained through grazing or cutting, to preserve their good conservation status and the conservation status of the species they harbour. In particular, the project targeted 13 maintenance-dependent grassland habitats listed in the EU Habitats Directive, including five priority habitats, and a range of bird species listed in Annex I of the Birds Directive. Results The Foder och fägring project preserved alpine and boreal grasslands and their associated flora and fauna in Sweden, in sparsely-populated alpine regions where the abandonment of traditional farming practices has endangered their biodiversity. In particular, the project contributed to the better conservation status of grasslands by restoring 13 habitats of EU importance in 62 Natura 2000 sites, including 4 priority habitats (1630*, 6210*, 6230*, 6270*). In total, 16 species listed in the Habitats or Birds directives were present within the project sites. The project’s restoration actions were conducted over a total area of 1 338 ha, in maintenance-dependent meadows, pastures and wetland meadows in the counties of Jämtland, Gävleborg, Värmland and Dalarna. The project team cleared bushes and trees from 378 ha of overgrown meadows and pastures, and implemented a number of methods (burning, mowing, grazing, mulching) to restore typical ground vegetation over 404 ha. In total, 17 390 m of fencing was erected to manage grazing on 14 of the Natura 2000 sites. In addition to the restoration actions, the project made substantial investments in machinery and fencing to ensure the long-term management of the sites, including the purchase of mowing machines, chain saws and a hay baler. With the restoration actions completed during the project’s duration, most of the sites are in such a condition that further maintenance can be financed through environmental subsidies. The project performed a SWOT analysis to identify future aims and objectives; an important strength was found to be the increased knowledge about grassland management gained through the restoration actions, while major weaknesses identified were the decreasing number of farms with grazing animals, a lack of contractors for grassland maintenance and the unclear situation about the new rural development programme. The project’s long-term objectives are largely dependent on continuing communication with landowners and other stakeholders. The project put in place agreements and sustainable partnerships to make the continued maintenance of sites easier and longer lasting. The project team improved visitor access at two of the areas, for example, with the construction of three footbridges, and produced a range of information materials to raise public awareness of maintenance-dependent grasslands. The project erected noticeboards at 31 sites, and produced 11 different brochures or leaflets. The project also contributed to networking and the exchange of experience concerning grassland management in the Nordic region, through a series of seminars and other activities. All the project actions used ‘best practice’ methods. These were mainly tried-and-tested methods, but several were developed by the project, such as the strategy of meetings with landowners and keepers of livestock to further the project’s long-term objectives. A storytelling/information tool, developed in cooperation with the Department for Information and Naturum Vålådalen, helped facilitate dialogue with landowners and the general public. It was designed to make the information recipient curious and want to learn more, and to create feelings of proudness and ownership for the restored sites through learning about their history. Another best practice innovation, involving the beneficiaries learning about available clearing techniques for overgrown grasslands, was the development of a two-step method to remove juniper stumps. The project utilised clearing saws and tractor-mounted equipment to remove tussocks and junipers from target grassland habitats. To save boreal and alpine grasslands in the Natura 2000 network, urgent actions will be needed at the highest political level in Sweden. With the support of the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Environment and Energy, small and middle-sized farms could again be managed in Sweden, especially in alpine and boreal zones, to conserve biodiversity and produce socio-economic benefits. The equipment purchased by the project makes future management of the sites easier and at a lower cost than previously. The huge volumes of hay that need to be harvested in some sites may become a source for bioenergy (e.g. gas, fuel pellets) or fodder for nearby cattle. Cooperation with the University of Karlstad has started, for example, to look at possible uses for the harvested grass on large wet meadows, using the Brosjön Natura 2000 site as an example. Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Conservation Plan (see "Read more" section).
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