Warta Mouth National Park was established on 1.09.2001 and like all National Parks in Poland is a budgetary unit. Currently, the Park covers the area of 8,074 ha, which is divided into two parts by the Warta River - the northern part called the Northern Polder and the south part. Environmental monitoring was conducted in the southern part of the present park from the ‘70s of the last century, since the formation of the Slonsk Natural Reserve. During the formation of the Park Reserve the area of 4,244 ha was already quite well-known in terms of nature. Additionally, part of the new park team recruited from former Reserve, hence the difficult area especially in terms of hydrological conditions (annual fluctuations of water level reach up to 4 meters) from the beginning of the park was skillfully managed. At the same time some problems that required the solution as fast as possible were known, and one of the most important was the problem of secondary succession. This phenomenon covered increasingly larger parts of the Park. Overgrowing the Park by willow resulted in a significant departure of the birds which need open space for the purpose of breeding and feeding. As an example here we can give a black-tailed godwit, a redshank or a little tern and a common tern, whose number of pairs acceding to breed in this area decreased each year. Because of the loss of foraging areas the number of Charadriiformes staying here also decreased.
In previous years, the problem of succession had been tackled in different ways: from attempts to remove the willows by employees of the Park to hire a professional company dealing with felling trees; it is worth mentioning that the recent works were financed from the resources of the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management. Unfortunately, all these activities did not produce the expected results, mainly due to lack of manpower involved in the removal of the willow thickets, and also due to incomplete removal of willows and consequently its rapid regeneration.
Currently, there are also other activities being carried out in the Park related to maintaining the most optimal habitat required by many species of birds. Based on many years of observation, the most favourable conditions for birds had been defined and actions that must be taken to obtain them. Purchasing two tractors together with accessories and employing the staff have allowed for the annual meadow mowing, and thus to keep them free of willows, and consequently to maintain the ideal conditions for breeding birds such as the black-tailed godwit and the corncrake. Also not without importance is the work done by local farmers who grazing their cattle and horses in designated quarters in the Park contributed to the maintenance of habitats, thereby conserving the nature. Grazing cattle in this area is a very important factor inhibiting sprouting by the willow, hence the planned project will also be associated with grazing, which would aim at inhibiting the development of new willow seedlings.
TASK A1 Zero Data collection
This activity includes operations which are necessary for obtaining reliable results in the rest of the project. Data related to the surface are collected within the framework of monitoring in the Park. However, it is essential to complete these data with additional information about the project in detail before moving on to the project. It is also important, before the start of the project, to have a complete knowledge of the area covered by these actions. The collected details must be comprehensive and cover issues concerning both the avifauna and botany.
TASK A2 The purchase of ornithological telescopes
The main objective of the project is to protect rare bird species using open spaces for the purpose of breeding, foraging and as a resting place during migration. The purchase of ornithological telescopes was made at the beginning of the project, and the telescopes will be used throughout its duration, and also after its completion. This high-end optical equipment is widely used in the field and thanks to proper use and maintenance, you can use it for years. Buying the ornithological telescope will serve to monitor birds, with particular emphasis on birds crucial for this project.
TASK A3 The purchase of Digital topographic maps of Warta Mouth National Park
When performing work on the project portable devices will be used, which require appropriate software and bases. The project involves the purchase of digital topographic maps - a total of 16 sheets. These maps were bought at the beginning of the project and will be an essential element through which the person managing the project and hired experts will define the direction and the range of the work. The accuracy of the measurements being made will significantly increase, and also determining the places of work. The experts appointed to the project have a long-term and complete knowledge of the terrain on which the removal of the willows is planned, therefore equipping them with digital topographic maps will only increase the accuracy of operations. These maps are also needed for marking and reporting progress. They will also greatly facilitate the analysis of the acquired data and reduce the amount of paper used for the purpose of the project.
TASK C1 Removing the willow thickets from the areas covered by the project
Willow shrubs, that are to be removed within the project, are riverside willows (Salicetum triandro-viminalis) developed with varying degrees. These scrubs reach a height of 10-15 meters. The oldest patches have been developing for 15 years. These are floristically poor phytocenosis, forming a dense scrubland.
Salicetum triandro-viminalis community is a stage of succession in the direction of riparian willow Salicetum or fragililis - priority habitat listed in Annex I of the Habitat Directive (code*91E0-1 riparian willow). These riparian forests grow mainly along the left bank of the Warta river and some of them is subject to strict protection. This habitat as a priority is not covered by this project. The main purpose of the protection is to care for rare and endangered wetland species of birds and their habitat. These habitats are primarily pastures used extensively, registered in the land registry as meadows of V class. Active protection should be maintained for their conservation, including grazing that prevents secondary succession. In the areas designated in the project the willow shrubs will be removed. This procedure will be conducted in several stages. At first, the willow shrubs growing on the surface will be cut by using a special machine (or in the case of corrections or places particularly difficult, using chainsaws). Then, also by the use of the machine the stumps will be removed, and if possible roots of the willows. This procedure should prevent the willow regrowth, and thus make the operation more durable than in the case of cutting the willow itself. The entire biomass that was acquired will be chipped on the project site and then exported outside the Park.
A very important element of the project is to completely remove the willow from the working area. Willow as a very easily and quickly regenerating species is extremely difficult to cut out. Hence, the only action that brings tangible results is to completely remove the plant, together with its roots. Such activities have already been carried out successfully in the Netherlands or Great Britain, where a similar problem occurred and all sorts of methods have been tried out for several years coping with woody species that are particularly difficult to remove. However, cutting the willow itself and leaving the stump and roots always result in a rapid plant regrowth, even when undertaking hindering actions, for example grazing cattle that bite growing willow.
Work on removing the willow thickets will start in the autumn of 2011 and will last until the desired effect will be achieved, practically for the entire duration of the project. Such a long extension of the work in time is caused by the inaccessibility of the terrain and unpredictable hydrological conditions. Each year the work will run from autumn to spring. These time limits are dictated by two main factors:
1. Spring breeding of birds in the project area and its nearby surrounding, and thus the unavailability of the land to work
2. Definitely easier access to the working place in these times of the year
It has also been decided, after consultations with the company engaged in similar activities associated with the removal of trees and shrubs, that time included in the schedule will be enough to perform this task.
The area of action is divided into two areas of about 100 ha each. The activities are separated into various stages, consisting of: cutting the willow, hauling wood, grubbing stumps, wood chipping, grinding stumps and rootstock. The expected environmental effect will be almost 200 hectares of open areas restored to a favourable conservation state. Scheduled treatments of bush clearing and mowing improve the structure and function of environmentally valuable semi-natural ecosystems, the existence of which is influenced by a constant extensive agricultural use.
Creating an open and difficult area to access should result in an increase in the number of waterfowl nesting in the region. Failure to do so will cause the loss of open space and also species impoverishment of habitats. The succession changes currently happening in grassland ecosystems, in 10-20 years will cause complete disappearance of meadow species in favor of forest species. Then, it will be more time-consuming, costly and therefore more difficult to plan actions aimed at restoring meadow communities. Long-term changes in the population will result in faunistic transformations of this area, concerning especially the world of birds. The immediate effect of clearing the shrubs and thereby restoring the open areas should increase population of birds requiring this kind of biotope for breeding and feeding. The removal of shrubs from the places that were open areas in the past, where birds species associated with meadows occurred, will restore suitable habitat for these species. Therefore, it is highly possible that birds inhabiting this area in the past will occupy it again. This will increase the number of particular species, some of which are currently very few (eg. The corncrake, the aquatic warbler).
TASK C2 The purchase of GPS receivers
GPS devices have been purchased before taking actions related to the process of removing the shrubs. It is very important that without zero data collection using mentioned devices for this purpose we will not be able to specify the area in which particular phases of the project were achieved. The devices are also used by workers involved in monitoring after completing the project. It will be necessary to use the latest techniques related to digital measuring and mapping the area during the work connected with the project and also after its completion. For this reason GPS receivers have been purchased together with appropriate software. They are used by workers, employed to perform the activities connected with the project.
TASK C3 The purchase of palmtops
Palmtops have also been purchased before undertaking crucial activities related to the removal of shrubs. The employees working in the field have been equipped with these devices and with their use they will collect data in electronic form. As a result, this allowed them to gather large amounts of data and rapid analysis even in the field.
Palmtops in conjunction with GPS devices allow us to implement data already in the field and their possible analysis. A collection of electronic data stored in the palmtop helps us to find them quickly even in the field, which also affects the improvement of actions performed by the field workers conducting monitoring. Palmtop enables you to gather a very large amount of data that are often necessary to work, where an ordinary notebook is unable to meet those objectives. Palmtops are used throughout the duration of the project, as well as after its completion.
TASK C4 The purchase of digital camera
A digital camera was purchased in the second year of the project and provides an additional means for keeping the records concerning the progress of the project. This equipment will have suitable optical elements allowing you to take pictures of good quality and a memory card that can contain large amounts of pictures taken at a certain time. Keeping an adequate and reliable photographic documentation on the progress of the project will enable an accurate analysis and evaluation of the final result obtained by the people associated with the project. Additionally, a digital camera will significantly make it easier and even enable post-processing of images that will be used to create a presentation about the project. Obtaining a more complete documentation of the progress and opportunity to present it during meetings, visits, conferences, and also attaching it to the reports on the project. Photographs are one of the best means of communication, which goes to the recipient easily and quickly, thanks to it photos taken during the project will be the ideal promotional support of the project.
TASKD1 Holding a conference on the project
Under the measure there will be a conference organized by the end of 2014, which will present the realization of project objectives, its prospects and the opportunity to continue conservation activities in the future. The representatives of institutions directly related to nature conservation will be invited to the conference: Ministry of Environment, National Forests, the Polish Hunting Association, non-governmental organizations and managing institutions, such as the regional authorities and local governments. In addition, the scientists involved in these types of problems will be also invited and any other people acting on the thematic area of the project. The conference is planned for at least 80 participants.
The conference will be a platform for exchanging ideas and knowledge concerning the protection of bird species requiring open areas for breeding, foraging and as resting places during migration. It will also allow us to formulate initial conclusions concerning the implementation of the project and evaluate its impact on protected species of birds and their habitats. The conference will also be a platform for the exchange of experiences and the beginning of further close cooperation between institutions and other participants attending the conference.
TASK D2 The installation of information boards
Information boards about the sponsors and the aims of the project were made and installed in the field in 2011. The boards were placed in the project area in the most exposed places to users, such as tourists. One of the boards was also installed in the headquarters of the beneficiary.
It is necessary to inform the public about the tasks carried out in such precious natural place as a national park. Additionally, each person visiting the project site will have a chance to get acquainted with the goals, objectives and implementation of the project. The result will be to inform the local community, institutions and organizations involved in nature conservation about the objectives and activities of the project, and for further information they will be directed to the website. In this way, this action will have its contribution to better understanding of the need to protect birds and their habitats.
TASK D3 Printing leaflets and information material
To get the information about the project out to the a larger number of recipients it is arranged to release the leaflets, folders and information brochures at the beginning and during the project. The cost of preparing promotional materials includes the preparation of texts, the purchase of photos, preparing graphics, layout, printing and distribution among potential recipients. We provide placing information about the financial support by the LIFE fund (including the LIFE logo, the NATURA 2000 logo) in all materials. The materials mentioned above will be distributed among the local communities, administration, institutions present in the area of the project, eg.: foresters, hunting clubs and non-governmental organizations. The action will be implemented over the entire project duration. The project concerning cutting the willow thickets may be incomprehensible to those not directly related to nature conservation. Hence, it is of high importance to promote the implemented activities properly and the availability of information on the subject. To promote the project suitably it is necessary to have materials presenting the topic in a brief and precise way. The information to include in the folders will be prepared in an accessible form, allowing each person to understand the objectives of the project. The effect of this action will be spreading information regarding the project among the local community, institutions and organizations involved in conservation. These institutions will receive information about the goals and activities of the project. In this way, it will have its contribution to better understanding of the need to protect birds and their habitats. 2,000 leaflets and brochures will be delivered to the society, containing information about the bird species and their habitats covered by the project.
TASK D4 Handling over post-conference
The organization of the conference during the project is an important element for both the dissemination of information on the completed activities, as well as consultation of their effectiveness with people dealing professionally with nature conservation. The conference will be organized in the penultimate year of the project and post-conference materials will be given immediately after the conference. Materials provided after the meeting will allow us to interest a wider range of people in the project, related and also not related to nature conservation. Post-conference materials also give participants the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the subject of the project and probably applying (after prior consultation) such activities in other areas that have problems with secondary succession.
All publications will contain information on the financing of LIFE, and they will also be provided with the logo of Nature 2000.
The post-conference materials will inform about the results of the project these people who did not have a chance to participate in the conference, but they are interested in activities undertaken by the park. In addition, participants will later have the opportunity to review the subject concerning the removal of the willow thickets.
TASK D5 Website creation
Under this action the project website has been launched (In English and Polish). The website provides information on the goals of the project, a description of the institutions participating in the project, current information on the progress of the project and current events related to the project. A significant part of the website will be devoted to descriptions of bird species - their biology, ecology and protection. The site presents also the information on the Natura 2000 and it will contain the links to other thematic sites. The site includes information about the EU financial support within the LIFE programme with its logo and also the logo of Natura 2000 network. The site was designed and launched within 18 months from the start of the project. To get the information to people interested in the project it is necessary to set up a website in order to inform the public about the implemented project and the dissemination of information about Natura 2000 network. Not doing so may cause lack of adequate information on the work carried on in Warta Mouth National Park for those interested in the project, visiting the web site. Raising the environmental awareness of people interested in the project will be the expected consequence. Creation of a professional site devoted to protected species and their habitats will be the result of the action.
TASK D6 Publication of popular science report (Layman report)
The report will include a description of the activities planned in the project. Each stage in the project will be presented objectively and in the form accessible to the average recipient. This report will sum up the results of actions undertaken in the project. First of all, it will give information how the completed project contributed to the improvement of birds situation and habitats covered by protective measures. The aim of the report will be to reach the recipients who are interested in nature conservation, but do not have the expertise. It will be published in the form of a book in Polish and English in 1,000 copies. The website will also offer its electronic version. The report will clearly refer to the financing of the project by the Life programme (with placing the LIFE logo). It will also contain information about Natura 2000 and its importance during project implementation. The report will be distributed to visitors of national parks involved in the project, handed over to institutions and organizations dealing with the protection of birds and nature conservation.
The lack of such a report could cause problems for average recipients with interpreting the topic of reducing secondary succession in protected areas. In addition, they will be delivered to recipients who do not have specialized knowledge about the project, its goals, activities and results. The information about the LIFE+ programme will be disseminated and the idea of the Natura 2000 network.
The expected result will be to raise the environmental awareness of a wider group of people, even those not interested in the project. The report will summarize the achievements of the project and will provide information on how to protect birds and their habitats. The report spread among the society will promote the conservation measures undertaken within the framework of the project and showed the benefits achieved through the applied techniques.
TASK E1 Project supervision
Appointment of a project coordinator took place in the first year of the project, and the person hired for this position has the necessary experience in project management and in the field of nature conservation. The task of the coordinator is constant supervision over ongoing activities and ensuring that the work is performed in an appropriate and accurate way. The coordinator of the project is responsible for: maintaining continuity of service, solving possible problems, coordinating communication between the contractor and experts, reporting the progress and for the direct contact with the European Commision. The project coordinator is a supervisor of the project. This role is extremely responsible and important for the smooth running of the project activities. The primary task of the coordinator is to ensure the efficient progress of the project and achieve its objectives. Proper management of the project should make it run smoothly and lead to the attainment of the objectives which were set at the beginning. The person appointed to manage the project will be also responsible for any additional work and tasks than may arise during the project.
TASK E2 Evaluation of environment effects made by an expert
Monitoring of avifauna has been carried out in the southern part of the Park from 1970s until today. Employing an expert is necessary for monitoring of the birds crucial for this project to be properly conducted and in a larger scale than the standard monitoring conducted in the Park. With the current staff and activities carried out by the employees of the Park, it is impossible to maintain an effective and detailed monitoring of both species and habitats. In addition, the process of revegetation on the cleaned surface will be monitored, thus ecological effect of the work will be defined. Monitoring after the completion of the project will be conducted by employees of the Park in the form in which it is currently carried out. The indicators that will be taken into consideration when evaluating the success of operations are: removal of shrubs and willow, colonization of the clean surface by birds crucial for the project and maintenance of the area before the next overgrowth, which will be a determinant of the durability of the project.
TASK E3 External financial audit
The external auditor appointed by the beneficiary will verify the financial statements submitted in the final report to the European Commision. The auditor approves not only
Compliance with laws and accounting rules in force in the country, but also in accordance with the terms of the Common Provisions.
Initial discussions with companies involved in financial services in relation to external audit showed that the cost of such services ranges from 0.5 to 2% of the total cost of the project. The amount of the percentage depends on the amount of the total cost of the project and in this project the average resulting from offers was 1.2%. In case of a more competitive offer the cost of audit will be reduced.
The external financial audit will allow for an objective and reliable verification of undertaken activities in financial terms. The audit will also consist in checking the rules for the implementation of the project.
TASK E4 Creating an action plan after Project completion (After LIFE Conseration Plan)
Post-project Action Plan will be prepared (in Polish and English) as a chapter of the final report. It will determine what protective measures will be necessary to continue and how to provide effective long-term protection for particularly valuable species of birds and their habitats. The plan will also indicate actions that can be or will be done in the future, when, by whom, and from which sources of funding. The plan will be created in the last year of the project.
The action plan after the completion of the project will prepare the basis and determine directions for the continuation of protective measures, provide the basis for further applying for external funding sources and secure the results achieved in the project. In addition, this plan will allow us to continue the activities on the ground, as well as to possibly transfer these activities to other areas requiring removal of willows in the area of the Warta Mouth National Park.