New habitats in the Natur- & Geopark Mëllerdall

On 1 January 2020, the Environmental Fund project “Restoration of FFH 6510 and FFH 6210 habitats and species-rich grassland areas” was launched in the Natur- & Geopark Mëllerdall. As the project organizer, the Natur- & Geopark Mëllerdall is responsible for implementing and coordinating this 5 year project. This project supports various highly-endangered habitats and species that play a fundamental role in national nature conservation. The project therefore makes an important contribution to the implementation of national nature conservation objectives at several levels.

The task of the project is the restoration of fallow and scrub-type grassland areas which, by integrating an appropriate management, have the potential to restore or establish calcareous dry grasslands (FFH 6210) and lowland hay meadows (FFH 6510) and have not yet been recorded as protected biotopes in the current biotope register.

Lean lowland meadow (FFH 6510) with the typical indicator species meadow sage (Salvia pratensis), oxeye daisy (Leucanthenum vulgare) and small burnet (Sanguisorba minor).

The target habitats are endangered by two fundamentally different trends: on the one hand, by the intensification of agricultural utilization, which leads to a reduction in floristic and faunistic diversity and on the other hand, the absence of agricultural use – particularly in locations with marginal yields – which leads to natural succession (that is, increasing encroachment of scrub on the land areas) and, as a result, to a loss of species.

To date, several smaller projects have been carried out in the Natur- & Geopark Mëllerdall by some municipalities or the local forest rangers to upgrade valuable grassland areas. The nature protection service has usually only been involved in such projects in an advisory capacity. On a significantly larger scale, the LIFE ORCHIS (natur&ëmwelt) project has re-upgraded potential areas in the east of Luxembourg, including numerous areas in the Natur- & Geopark Mëllerdall region. This project is limited to areas within the NATURA 2000 sites. That is exactly where the present project is intended to start. The aim is to draw on experience gained with the LIFE ORCHIS project and to work on areas that are outside the LIFE ORCHIS scope of action.

A dry grassland (FFH 6210) successfully restored within the LIFE ORCHIS (natur&ëmwelt) project, on which the lady orchid (Orchis purpurea) has become well established.

The intended backdrop to the project includes all 11 partner municipalities in the Natur- & Geopark Mëllerdall.  In preparation for this project, the Natur- & Geopark Mëllerdall commissioned a planning office in 2015 to conduct a study aimed at identifying possible land areas and their potential for upgrading. As a result, 18 land areas totalling approx. 13 hectares were selected.

Furthermore, the project will subsequently encourage the extensification of existing grassland towards valuable grassland biotopes (FFH 6210 and FFH 6510).  This is to be achieved primarily through the instrument of biodiversity contracts. Work will continue on identifying further potential land areas that were not covered by the initial mapping. The Natur- & Geopark Mëllerdall relies on good cooperation with the nature park municipalities, forest rangers, businesses and private individuals.

in cooperation with the Ministry of the Environment, Climate and Sustainable Development