Restoring populations of Lesser Spotted Eagle by landscape scale management in north-east Poland
Background and aims
Lesser Spotted Eagle Aquila pomarina, is a priority species for Europe (listed in Annex I of the Birds Directive); its status is regarded as unfavourable. It is also classified by BirdLife International as a SPEC2 species ie unfavourable conservation status in Europe which constitutes more than 95% of its global breeding range. Detailed surveys of Lesser Spotted Eagle have demonstrated an alarming decline in extent and rate in many European countries, especially at the western and southern boundaries of its range. These dramatic long-term declines in population numbers throughout Europe appear largely due to intensification of farmland management practices (particularly in Western Europe) and/or abandonment of land (some areas of Eastern Europe) resulting in a general loss of landscape mosaics, crop monocultures, unsuitable mowing regimes, large scale drainage of riverine habitats, unsuitable natural regeneration, aforestation, disturbance, etc.
This project is localised in one of the most pristine areas of Europe – in Puszcza Bialowieska (Bialowieza Forest) and Puszcza Knyszynska (Knyszynska Forest) in north-eastern Poland. The threats to Lesser Spotted Eagle populations on these two Natura 2000 sites began after the collapse of the state farm system in the early 1990s resulting in loss of profitability from farming, a significant emigration from the rural areas to cities and a growing tourism industry. As a result, these uniquely biodiverse productive landscapes, which are some of the most valuable reference areas in Europe, have significantly deteriorated through loss of habitat by natural succession. These losses have been further exacerbated by low water levels in Narewka river valley (one of the major river valleys in Puszcza Bialowieska), caused by canalisation, which has resulted in ox-bow lakes and interconnected canals to dry out earlier in the year, thereby decreasing the availability of amphibian prey. Lesser Spotted Eagle productivity has therefore decreased from 52% to 29% in Puszcza Bialowieska.
- Reverse the decline and enhance the breeding populations and range of Lesser Spotted Eagle in Puszcza Bialowieska and Puszcza Knyszynska by 2015. Achieved through implementation of both direct conservation measures, such as restoration of water levels, removal of scrub, installation of artificial perches, and re-introduction of grazing and creation of small wetlands.
- Secure the long-term conservation of Lesser Spotted Eagle at national and regional level. Achieved through the development of a National Species Action Plan for Lesser Spotted Eagle, Management Programme for Puszcza Knyszynska and engaging with organisations working with farmers.
- Develop and promote a landscape scale conservation models for sustainable land use for Lesser Spotted Eagle by 2015. Achieved by (a) determining the favourable conditions and management for Lesser Spotted Eagle in target areas and (b) by developing and implementing landscape scale strategies for integrated, sustainable land use.
- To involve and raise awareness of the local communities, especially farmers, children and tourists. Achieved through local events, educational trails, media campaigns and seminars.
- To develop guidance and share knowledge with colleagues in Poland, Europe and elsewhere. Achieved through the publication of folders, brochures and guidelines as well as through the project website and participation of project partners in conferences and seminars.
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