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Habitat network Rhine valley of St. Gallen

The rich natural resources of the Rhine valley of St. Gallen are to be connected and secured in the long term.

Aims

In the Rhine valley of the Canton St. Gallen the Swiss Ornithological Institute is testing several measures to enhance biodiversity on farmland. Using a combination of wild-flower meadows, set-asides and coppices we try to attract stone chat, whitethroat, red-backed shrike and yellowhammer. Extensive strips along ditches and cultivated fields are thought to help marsh warbler, stone chat and yellowhammer.

The scheme is accompanied by a scientific project and an ongoing evaluation. We will try to answer the following questions:

  • How does land use, the landscape and bird populations change over the years?
  • Do the schemes affect the numbers or the composition of the breeding bird species?
  • Which kinds, quantity and quality of measures are needed to enhance breeding bird numbers in a grassland/mixed farming area?
  • How can additional semi-natural structures be created?

Approach

In collaboration with farmers high-quality ecological compensation areas are implemented, e.g. wild-flower and herbaceous strips, hedges, flower meadows and ponds. By offering a comprehensive farm-wide counseling, we aim at motivating farmers to manage additional areas in an ecologically diverse way.

Since 2004, meadows, wild-flower strips (set-asides), ponds and hedges have been implemented to improve the ecological connectivity between four adjacent communities.

The implemented measures are mapped each year, the breeding bird census is conducted every second year in a sub-perimeter, and landscape changes are recorded every 5 to 10 years.

Significance

Biodiversity in the Rhine valley of St. Gallen is still high. The core area is a peat bog with an exceptional diversity of plants and animals. The 53 ha-nature reserve is a moor and amphibian breeding site of national importance. For viable populations, semi-natural habitats have to be (re)created and linked across the entire valley.

Results

Outside the nature reserve, over 90 ha of semi-natural habitats have been created and/or ecologically enhanced in collaboration with farmers. Thanks to this restoration, the white-spotted bluethroat bred in this valley in 2006 for the first time. This is a sensation since it is only the second recording of a brood in Switzerland after the first one in 1927 at Lake Neuchâtel! Red-backed shrike, stone chat, reed warbler, yellowhammer and reed bunting have benefited from the ecological improvement as well.

Project management

Petra Horch, Simon Birrer

Partners

Verein Pro Riet Rheintal
Ökobüro Hugentobler, Altstätten

Publications

Rudin, M., P. Horch, I. Hugentobler, U. Weber & S. Birrer (2010):
Bestandsentwicklung von Brutvögeln im ökologisch aufgewerteten St. Galler Rheintal.
Holzgang, O. & H.P. Pfister (2003):
Der Feldhase im Alpenrheintal.