LifeELMIAS - Saving wooded Natura 2000 habitats from invasive alien fungi species on the Island of Gotland, Sweden
The biodiversity associated with broadleaved woodlands, wooded pastures and wooded meadows has long been under serious threat from the intensification of agriculture, abandonment of grazing or conversion to conifer plantations.
In the last few years however, the threats from the invasive fungi Dutch Elm Disease in combination with Ash Dieback, which cannot currently be eradicated, pose an even more serious threat to the several listed Annex 1 Habitats Directive Fennoscandian wooded meadows, Fennoscandian old broad-leaved deciduous forests, Fennoscandian wooded meadows.
Elm (Ulmus spp.) and ash (Fraxinus excelsior), makes up almost 70% of the old growth tree layer on Gotland and is significant even in a national context given that 17% of the Swedish population of old elms and 24% of the old ash are on Gotland.
If no action is taken, and taken soon, there is a substantial risk that the majority of the veteran ash and elm trees on Gotland will be dead within a decade which will have a significant impact on the associated biodiversity.
The project has four main objectives:
- To eradicate Dutch Elm Disease from Gotland.
- To ensure the 'favourable' conservation status and sustainability of the wooded Annex I habitats affected by Dutch Elm Disease and Ash Dieback by implementing complementary management actions to make the habitats more robust (towards an EU strategy on Invasive Alien Species) and securing a sustainable population of old trees for the future.
- Prepare a contingency plan in the event of the short term failure of Dutch Elm Disease eradication. This will provide an insurance policy for the island's Natura 2000 sites.
- Implement a communications programme to increase knowledge and understanding of the problems related to invasive alien species and their impact on biodiversity.
- Mapping of all elms on Gotland and felling and destruction of all trees infected with Dutch Elm Disease.
- Eradication of Dutch Elm Disease from Gotland by the end of the project, thereby protecting 6774 ha of Annex I-listed habitat will be protected;
- The project team will study the ecology of the elm bark beetle (Scolytus multistriatu - vector of the disease) and establish the DNA provenance of the Dutch Elm Disease pathogen on Gotland.
- A control programme for the import of timber will be established and implemented
- A database and site seed bank with 100 apparently disease-resistant ash genotypes for replacement planting will be produced
- The production of 25 restoration plans. By the end of the project 30 ha of Annex I habitats will have been restored, 2 500 trees planted, 200 trees veteranised, 400 trees pollarded, 500 trees cleared around and 500 trees protected from grazing animals. 800 trees will have been vaccinated and the outcome of this action evaluated.
- The project will monitor the mortality rates of the veteran trees and their replacements as well as the health of the trees subject to the treatments.
- Twenty-five baseline survey descriptions for the Natura 2000 sites will be produced.
- Populations of Ficedula albicollis, bats, mosses and lichens (specifically Dicranum viride, Lobaria pulmonaria, Gyalecti ulmi, Arthonia vinosa, Bacidia rosella a n d Megalaria grossa) will be monitored.
- The socio-economic impact of project operations as well as assessment of the project's impact on ecosystem functions will be carried out
- Dissemination activities will include information boards, a website and printed publications, visitor events, training sessions and specialist workshops and conferences.
Target habitat types
6530 - Fennoscandian wooded meadows
9020 - Fennoscandian hemiboreal natural old broad-leaved deciduous forests (Quercus, Tilia, Acer, Fraxinus or Ulmus) rich in epiphytes"
9070 - Fennoscandian wooded pastures