Reclaim LIFE - conservation and restoration of two wetlands in Örebro County
The County Administrative Board of Örebro ran during the years of 2012 to 2018 a conservation project in Tysslingen and Venakärret, recreating historical grazing and mowing.
Just like its name implies the project wants to take something back, restore something to an earlier natural state, to rescue something. The goal of the Reclaim project is to restore two overgrown wetlands, to reverse existing negative trends, to create long-term sustainability for plants and to animals. The project was carried out during 2012–2018 by the County Administrative Board in Örebro County, Sweden. It was funded by the EU environmental action programme LIFE and the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency.
Restoration of two wetlands
Te project has been performed in two overgrowth-threatened wetlands in Örebro County, Sweden – the mineral-rich fen Venakärret and the nutrient-rich lake Tysslingen. Through clearing, cutting, mowing, and removal of vegetation, as well as creation of an infra-structure favouring modern and rational conservation methods. Project actions have made significant improvements towards sustainability for the wetlands and their management. To highlight the values of these wetlands and to bring more awareness towards modern conservation efforts, the project has also worked with public information. This through meetings, production of dissemination materials, on-site noticeboards, and accessibility improvements for visitors.
Conservation through grazing
Tysslingen and Venakärret are both supplied with a steady stream of nutrients from contributing waterways. Plant life thrives from this. Humans have taken advantage of this by mowing the meadows and using the hay to feed our livestock. However, with the developments and changes seen to agricultural practices in the last century wetlands are no longer profitable. Without grazing and mowing, combined with human water regulations, the long continuation of open wetlands started to get overgrown with trees and reeds.
Efforts for efficient grazing
A large part of the actions in the project have been about creating favourable grazing conditions. Long-ago-abandoned pastures have been prepared for grazing again. Improvements for transport and oversight of animals and animal accessibility to hard-to-reach pastures have been made. And equipment to compliment grazing has been acquired. More specifically, this has included cutting and clearing of vegetation, fencing, building access roads, and strengthening bank walls for animals to walk on.
Conservation 2.0 – production of habitats
Restoring a wetland back to its natural state is rarely an easy task. In most cases it would require restoring all historical conditions for that wetlands natural water cycle. This would likely result in a series of undesirable effects on areas surrounding the wetland.
Modern conservation efforts are therefore mainly focused on simulating the disturbances from historical farming practices and flooding events. The purpose of the project has been to restore and reverse the overgrowth problem in two wetlands. With modern equipment at our disposal and adaptations made to fit modern agricultural methods, we have created the conditions for sustainable and modern nature conservation. Venakärret and Tysslingen are prepared for the future, where humans and nature are working side-by-side again.
Outdoor activities and information
The Reclaim project has not only worked on restoring two wetlands so that its birds, critters, and plants will find their way back. An important goal has also been to make both wetlands accessible to us humans. The once so-hard-to-reach-and-even-harder-to-cross Venakärret has been equipped with a partially wooden foot-trail and a viewing platform from where visitors can enjoy a full view of the fen. At Tysslingen a new viewing platform has been built and a nature exhibit has been made in an abandoned but now restored electrical station. At both wetlands different information signs tell visitors about the plants, animals, and history for both areas. During the project several information meetings and guided tours have been arranged for both areas. Landowners, neighbours, and people from the general public have been invited to these events.
Example of actions performed during the six year long project:
25 hectare tree cutting
5 000 m fencing
16 hectare shrub and tree clearing
1 100 m wooden foot path and trail
55 hectare grassland mowing
2 viewing platforms
245 hectare stump/tussock removal
1 picnic and fire place
9 hectare open water creation
1 nature exhibition
2 000 m bank and wall structures
21 information signs
5 700 m management and access roads
22 habitat and species surveys
What happens after the project?
Both project areas have a history of overgrowth which has had a negative impact on their natural values. During the Reclaim project a wide variety of improvement measures have been performed, laying the foundation for a future sustainable management and conservation effort. But how will the project results live on? What will prevent the same thing from happening again?
Nature preserves with clear plans for the future
As part of the project a specific plan for how project results will live on after the project has been developed, an After-LIFE Conservation Plan. The single most significant condition that will keep Tysslingen and Venakärret open wetlands in the future is the fact that they are both protected as nature preserves. This means that the Swedish Government, through the County Administrative Board in Örebro, has the practical and financial responsibility for the management of these two wetlands. Each nature preserve has its own specific management plan, based on its own individual purposes, that specifies management needs. For Tysslingen and Venakärret these will be based on the monitoring efforts, conservation measures, reports, management
Natura 2000 is the largest coordinated network of protected areas in the world. It offers a haven to Europe ’s most valuable and threatened species and habitats.