In many parts of Europe, including Slovenia, the species-rich extensive grassland habitat is declining due to shifts in agricultural practices. The reasons are found at both extremes of the spectrum; agricultural intensification on the one hand and the abandonment of former agricultural lands on the other.
In Slovenia, a project has been launched that will both preserve species-rich grasslands and create a seed bank for them. The project, which is coordinated by the Slovenian conservation NGO Društvo za opazovanje in proučevanje ptic Slovenije (DOPPS), is named Life For Seeds.
The project is focused on the most threatened grasslands habitats in Slovenia, and consists of several parts:
- The project will restore around 62 hectares of grassland habitats in five Natura2000 sites.
- Two different grassland restoration techniques will be tried and evaluated: the green hay method and the seed mix method.
- A seed bank will be created for plant species characteristic of the targeted grassland habitat types. The seed bank will hold 12,000 accessions from at least 300 different plant species. The seeds will be collected from 21 different Natura2000 sites in Slovenia.
The project started on 1 September 2021 and will continue until the end of 2026. The total budget is €5,351,723, of which slightly more than €4 million is contributed by the European Union.
The project is coordinated by the Slovenian conservation NGO Društvo za opazovanje in proučevanje ptic Slovenije (DOPPS).
The other participants are:
- Kmetijski inštitut Slovenije (The Agricultural Institute of Slovenia), Slovenia
- Javni zavod Krajinski park Goričko (Goričko Natural Park), Slovenia
- Javni zavod Triglavski narodni park (Triglav National Park), Slovenia
- Notranjski regijski park (Notranjska Regional Park), Slovenia
The Agricultural Institute of Slovenia is a research institute in the field of agriculture, environmental protection and ecology.
In situ conservation and restoration
In order to improve the conservation status of the targeted grassland habitats in Slovenia, the project will restore 61.8 ha of priority grassland habitats in five different Natura2000 sites: Drava, Julijske Alpe, Goričko, Notranjski trikotnik, Krimsko hribovje – Menišija.
12.9 ha of land will be purchased for the purpose of restoration at Natura2000 sites, and 12.3 ha will be restored at Special Areas of Conservation.
Research for the future
- As a part of the restoration efforts, two different techniques will be employed and evaluated: the green hay method and the seed mixtures method. Agricultural measures will be prepared for the production of green hay (from arable land) and seed mixtures (from intensive meadows).
- Landowners and farmers are not only of special important for the project´s outreach efforts, but are also a valuable source of information. Interviews will be conducted with at least 120 of them to develop appropriate management methods. A manual for grassland restoration will be printed in 6,000 copies and include information garnered from these interviews.
The seed bank
The seed bank will hold 12,000 accessions from at least 300 different plant species that are characteristic for their respective habitats. The seeds will be collected by volunteers in 21 different Natura2000 sites in Slovenia.
Thirteen collection events will be organised during the early stage of the project to teach volunteer seed collectors about the correct process.
Collection data (including information about collection date, location and name of the collector) will be entered into a data base that is open to the public.
Registry of landownership
A registry of landownership will be created and it will include ownership information for at least 1,000 plots of well-preserved grasslands at different Natura2000 sites. It will be useful for the implementation of agricultural methods developed by the project. (It will be possible to add new sites to the registry even after the end of the project.)
Planned outreach methods:
- Public events
- Research camps for students of biology and agriculture
- Field excursions for pupils
- Visits for landowners and farmers