Europe and Central Asia

Restoration of avian populations by facilitating insect communities: benefit for business and nature - Netherlands

 

Background

The red backed shrike Lanius collurio is a rare breeding bird in the Netherlands and most of NW Europe. As large insects are the most important food item for this species, their disappearance from a landscape, due to unfavourable land use practices, can lead to local extinctions of this bird. Additionally, eradication of the non-native invasive Butterfly bushes may hamper insect populations, as this bush represents a rich nectar source. However, it also outcompetes many native shrub species which are believed to be of better nutritional value for leaf herbivores. Many organisms depend on insect rich grasslands and shrub habitats, which makes their restoration a conservation priority.
 
 
Location : Maastricht, Province of Limburg
Size : ENCI quarry
Mineral type : Limestone
Habitat(s) created : Calcareous grasslands, shrubs and meadows
Target species : Red-backed Shrike, beetles and invasive Butterfly bush Buddleja davidii
Protected areas : Natura 2000 site Sint Petersberg & Jekerdal (NL9801025)
Organisations : BioSphere Science Productions and ENCI (HeidelbergCement Group)
 

Why is this project needed?

The ENCI quarry is soon to be closed and the whole area of Mount St. Peter will be given back to nature. The future users of the territory, the citizens and guests of Maastricht, are interested to inherit an ecologically vibrant area, rich in biodiversity and stable ecosystems. Red backed shrikes can be a perfect indicator for the quality of ecological restoration achieved at the former quarry. Conservation NGOs have teamed up with the industry to deliver quality restoration results.
 

Project objectives

• Understand the limitations for insect communities (e.g. the absence of large beetles from the Scarabeidae family) on the ENCI quarry and the bottlenecks this causes for avian populations, using Red-backed shrikes as indicator species.
• Evaluate the role of different plant communities, including such of non-native invasive plants as habitat for large insects and birds.
• Develop habitat management recommendations and training for the ENCI staff, to improve the ecological restoration works on the quarry.
 

Principle activities

• Analyse the food preferences and hunting behaviour of the Red backed shrike in similar sites in the province of Limburg.
• Collect samples and analyse the abundance and diversity of insects at and around the ENCI quarry and compare with control sites, specifically targeted to the above objectives.
• Determination of soil characteristics in relationship with suitable conditions for insect larvae.
• Measure the nutritional contribution of the Butterfly bush to the insect communities at the ENCI quarry site.
• Develop strategies to control invasive Butterfly bush, without causing population declines of (rare) local fauna that may have become nutritionally depended on this bush.
 

Public benefits

The future manager of the ENCI site Natuurmonumenten is interested to receive and manage an ecologically balanced area. A functioning ecosystem with all its representative species is the target for the ENCI transformation, agreed among the key stakeholders in the city of Maastricht. Habitat improvements will be performed in nature areas owned by Natuurmonumenten and open to the public for their enjoyment.

Benefits to the public also stem from a reduction in the spread of invasive alien species which are an important driver for the extinction of local species, with implications on biodiversity and the health of ecosystems.

However, in case of the Butterfly bush, many species also benefit from this plant as it represents an important nectar source, visited by rare and protected insect species, such as Euplagia quadripunctaria. People usually like Butterfly bushes (as they plant them a lot in their gardens) and Butterfly bush control can best be explained to the general public when underpinned with actual data about its effect on the ecosystem.

 

 


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