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Conservation actions already undertaken

Thursday 14 March 2013, by Julien Lusson

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For fifteen years, conservation action has taken place in the Moyenne vallée de l’Oise to safeguard the valley’s heritage and the survival of the Corncrake. Following the recognition of the site’s interest and its classification as a Natura 2000 area, the Conservatoire des Sites Naturels de Picardie purchased land through various financing transactions. This includes two LIFE projects, totalling 437 hectares, including 374 hectares of grassland (295 acres and 142 acres of property in long-term leases), making the Moyenne vallée de l’Oise the largest assemblage of sites managed by the Conservatoire. This will safeguard the outcome of various actions at both levels: at the level of the Natura 2000 site and through sites controlled by the CENP. Actions are also taking place at secondary sites.

At the level of the Natura 2000 site

Two types of action have been undertaken for the Corncrake across the Moyenne vallée de l’Oise: the Agri-environmental measures (AEM) and Natura 2000 contracts "Conversion of poplar stands into hay meadows".

Since 1994, AEM have been implemented in the Moyenne vallée de l’Oise in order to promote friendly farming practices in return for financial compensation. Practices to be promoted concern delaying mowing, mowing from the centre outwards, leaving refuge strips, and limiting inputs such as fertilizers. The Conservatoire d’Espaces Naturels de Picardie is the facilitator of these AEM, that is to say, it implements the measures in collaboration with the Chambers of Agriculture, and carries out awareness raising with farmers in order to increase the number of contracts. These contracts then commit farmers for a five-year period.

In 2008, of the total area of grassland on the Natura 2000 site, nearly half or 1 562 ha is contracted in AEM (reduction of fertilization and/or late mowing). Mowing on 16 % of the area has been delayed, so that less than 1 % is mown before 15 July, and 19% of the total area of grassland (mowing and pasture) is cut from the centre outwards in a circle or in large strips. Surfaces left in refuge strips constitute less than 1% of the grassland but they appear to be significantly useful.

The second type of action concerns Natura 2000 contracts "Conversion of poplar stands into hay meadows", intended to increase suitable habitats for farmland species including the Corncrake. Five such contracts were entered into in the Moyenne vallée de l’Oise in 2005, resulting in the conversion of 2 hectares of poplar. More contracts were signed recently (2007 and 2008), although no Corncrake was seen in the areas in 2007 and 2008. However, these conversions are currently too recent to draw conclusions as to their effectiveness. The intention of these actions in the LIFE programme is to leverage these operations so that their effectiveness can be better evaluated.

At the level of CSNP sites

The CSNP runs three types of contract for farming activities on its property:

  • Rural lease. These plots may or may not be CSNP property. Farming use is free provided management is carried out on these plots. The farmer may subscribe to the agri-environmental measures;
  • Loan for use. These plots are the property of CSNP and are freely available subject to compliance with specifications.
  • Subletting (126,7 ha). The CSNP is the lessee of these plots. The farmer pays rent and must comply with specifications.

The specifications include commitments such as the maintenance of landscape elements and flood plain grasslands. Grazing may be authorized in the first season in areas of lesser importance for the Corncrake, and most of the hay meadows are mowed during the first season. The date of mowing varies from case to case, but Corncrake-friendly mowing techniques must be applied. Furthermore, refuge strips are listed in the specifications when the size and shape of the hay meadow allows this measure.

Finally, various awareness campaigns have been undertaken in the Moyenne vallée de l’Oise, for farmers and inhabitants of the Valley.