BESTBelt - Mapping and restoring fens and lean wet meadows

Duration: 01/10/2022 – 31/12/2022

Funding: European Green Belt (EGB) – BESTBelt initiative

Fens and lean wet meadows are among the most endangered habitats in the cultural landscape of Central Europe and by this also a pressing issue along the European Green Belt. These habitats are dependent on the water regime to maintain their functions not only as habitats but also as major CO2 sinks besides numerous other ecosystem services. Many of these species-rich habitats have been lost in recent decades. The main reason for the degradation of many fens and wet meadows is drainage, to make the land usable for other purposes such as agriculture, forestry or urban areas. As a further result, the various important ecosystem services such as drinking water supply, flood protection or CO2 sequestration can no longer be provided. This development is still taking place at a rapid pace and the already rare landscape elements will vanish more and more.

The occurrence of fens and lean wet meadows in the project region is not known in detail, there is no biotope mapping. Thus, the basis for efficient and effective measures is missing.

The project pursues the goal of preserving and restoring fens and lean wet meadows in the project region at the European Green Belt. This is both an important contribution to biodiversity protection and adaptation to climate change. The goal is going to be achieved through a series of activities that are described as followed:

1. The fens and lean wet meadows will be classified and located via a machine learning approach using Sentinel-2 satellite data and different data sources such as habitat catalogues, field mappings as ground truth as well as data on soil and water supply to find suitable mapping areas. Satellite imagery of the entire project area will be evaluated in order to find potential locations for habitats and restoration measures.

2. Restoration measures are going to be implemented by closing drainage ditches on several sites. The drainage ditches will be closed so that they can be opened just prior to mowing so that the meadows are dry enough to be mown and then they are closed again. Those measures will be not very costly and easy to apply, which makes them easily replicable.

3. In cooperation with the communities and the protected areas administrations, the fens and lean wet meadows that are under there administration will be presented, measures will be proposed and discussed in workshops.

4. A Green Belt Workcamp for the implementation of conservation measures will be prepared.

5. The public relations work will point out the value of fens and wetlands as a measure for adaptation to climate change and their importance for the preservation of biodiversity. This will raise awareness of the critical role of these habitats and their impending destruction through social media and press articles.

Contact: Stefan Fuchs