Cultural landscape Weidist

    How can the value of semi-open landscapes rich in trees be preserved and improved for the redstart? A case study in the Rhine valley may reveal answers.

    Aims

    From this project we will gain experience on how to proceed when restoring and enhancing an entire region. The conclusions can be applied to other regions as well.

    The following aims are of priority:

    • Improving conditions for rare birds such as the redstart and other species of semi-open landscapes rich in trees.
    • Gaining experience with new schemes to promote the redstart.
    • Restoring a cultural landscape and thereby also promoting an area to experience nature.

    Leaflet in German: Kulturlandschaft Weidist

    Approach

    This case study is conducted on a southern slope called `Weidist´ in the Rhine valley, near Altstätten, canton St. Gallen. To be able to document the effects of this project, an evaluation at the level of breeding bird densities and insect densities (grasshoppers and ants as indicators for food resources and biodiversity) is conducted. The first survey takes place before any scheme is implemented to assess the initial situation. An inventory of existing habitats is established. During the implementation of measures, a breeding bird census is carried out annually; then, breeding birds are censused two, four and six years, respectively, after the implementation of all schemes has taken place (evaluation).

    A close collaboration with local farmers is essential to guarantee that measures are successfully implemented. Farmers are regularly contacted and are encouraged to preserve and improve traditional orchard meadows. We make sure that the management is also economically optimised without compromising the ecological aims. The following measures are of priority:

    • Improving the availability of breeding opportunities for hole nesters by providing nest boxes.
    • Implementing replacement habitats: single trees (maple, lime, oak etc. or low management fruit trees such as wild cherry, walnut), shrubbery and small structural elements.
    • Installing novel extensive grazing systems (rotational pastures, paddock pastures, permanent fences; horses, donkeys, goats and cattle); extensive grazing on rough, overgrown sites (with goats).
    • Improving woodland and woodland edges ecologically (pronouncing transitions between open and wooded land, removing alien plant species); extensive woodland pastures.
    • Further measures to enhance insect diversity, i.e. staggered mowing, mowing strips, etc.

    Significance

    The populations of the so-called "orchard birds" have drastically declined over the last decades. In principle, these species inhabit arborescent savannah-like landscapes and/or traditional orchards. These species thrived in traditional orchards (with standard fruit trees) and are now forced to find alternative habitats. The redstart, for example, is a typical priority species of the Swiss Species Recovery Programme for Birds (a collaboration of the Swiss Ornithological Institute, BirdLife Switzerland and the Federal Office for the Environment FOEN).

    Little is known about the effectiveness and practicality of the planned measures. They are now investigated in this case study.

    Project management

    Petra Horch

    Partners

    Working group Kulturlandschaft Weidist
    Landowners and farmers in Altstätten, canton St. Gallen
    Stadt Altstätten
    Ökobüro Hugentobler AG, Altstätten

    Financial support

    Amt für Raumentwicklung des Kantons St. Gallen
    Stadt Altstätten
    Malou-Stiftung für Tierschutz
    Paul Schiller Stiftung
    Fonds Landschaft Schweiz (FLS)
    Dr. Bertold Suhner-Stifung
    Karl Mayer Stiftung
    Rotary Club Rheintal

    Publications