Grazing projects - landscape conservation with sheep

Grazing projects - landscape conservation with sheep
Traditional pasturing with sheep cultivates areas in a sustainable way. © www.sxc.hu

Involved sectors

Agriculture, Tourism and leisure, Nature protection, Other: Countryside management, Associations, Districts and other local authorities

Affected habitats

Bogs and fens, wetlands, Grassland

Description

For a biotope network with nutrient-poor and dry sites, sheep grazing plays a key role. Due to their lack of economic viability using conventional cultivation methods, there is often a risk that these valuable biotopes will cease to be managed and maintained. Furthermore, these areas are in many cases being drastically reduced, with remaining oligotrophic grasslands often becoming isolated. Site gradients are being lost, successional processes terminate at stages of maturity, and there is a lack of new pioneer sites. Traditional grazing using sheep can ensure the sustainable management of these sites. To this end, testing and development of practicable area management methods are required in cooperation with sheep farmers and landowners.

Impact

Impact in particular on Insects
Ecological impact  
Reduction of fragmentation or creation of new valuable habitats Tests using plant seeds have shown that the diaspores can been found in sheep's wool for a period of several months. Species and gene exchanges can take place in this way, or a new population of a species can occur, even between areas that are kilometres apart.
Improvement or preservation of habitats In grazed areas, certain plant species are promoted through the browsing and feet of the sheep while others are decimated. Overall, these processes are more dynamic than mowing. Bush encroachment is prevented in these areas.
Element of ecological network Grazing performs an important function in the biotope network. Flocks of sheep can promote the dispersion of species between individual areas by transporting diaspores and, in rarer cases, even small animals. This can be very important for the exchange of genes and species between isolated areas.
Time of realisation for measure Immediate: The direct impact of the grazing on the land, as well as the indirect impact from the transport function performed by the sheep, occur immediately after grazing is commenced.
Impact scope Regional: Regional strategies must be produced to enable sufficient grazing land to be provided for the sheep and achieve connectivity effects through migratory grazing.

Implementation

Implementation period Months: During the vegetation period, the flocks of sheep are herded along tracks from one area requiring treatment to the next in accordance with a fixed grazing plan.
Frequency Recurring: Optimal solution: integrate in a long-term regional grazing concept.

Economic and legal aspects

Costs Low (1'000-10'000 EUR): The costs of sheep grazing are around €175-385/ha/year.
Socio-economic impacts High: The products from sheep farming (wool, meat, dairy products) provide regional value-added. Sheep farming jobs are created.
Sources of financing Private sponsor, Other private sources, Public: local, Public: regional
Legal situation Grazing can be supported at local and regional level by means of contract-based nature conservation and maintenance premiums (approx. €160-260/ha/year).

Further information

Evaluation Plants and animals use sheep for transport. A roving flock of sheep can reduce isolation effects in many ways: on the one hand, the tracks create connectivity between the areas, and on the other, the wandering flock of sheep can act as a living biotope network by transporting various organisms in their wool or hooves.
Information Germany: e.g. the grazing strategy from the Bavarian Environment Agency in the Lech valley (http://www.lfu.bayern.de/)
Contact Germany: 'Lebensraum Lechtal (the habitat of the Lech valley) project management: http://www.lebensraum-lechtal.de/

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