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European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency
Nieuwsartikel8 augustus 2023Europees Uitvoerend Agentschap klimaat, infrastructuur en milieu

LIFE for Insects: a restoration model on the White Carpathians

Experts in conservation have reported that they have successfully restored open pastures using traditional methods. This is significant because it indicates that the damage caused by modern farming can be reversed, even after decades of use.

Life for insects
©LIFE16 NAT/CZ/000731. All rights reserved. Licensed to the European Union under condition

The efforts of LIFE for Insects - a five-year, EUR 4.2 million initiative spanning both sides of the mountainous Czech-Slovak border – allowed for critically-endangered butterflies, beetles and plants to slowly make a comeback. 

Described as one of the most threatened habitats in Central Europe, open-canopy forests in the Western Carpathian mountains are home to a host of valuable Natura 2000 species. The species listed under the EU Habitats Directive, include: the stag beetle, Clouded Apollo butterfly and rare orchids. The area also covers a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.  

‘Meadows, clearings, mountain pastures - does this sound like something from a fairy tale? Such places are becoming more and more rare,’ notes the final LIFE for Insects Layman report. ‘Traditional forms of farming used to be common in the past, creating a colourful mosaic of of various habitats which used to be home to various types of insects.’ 

LIFE for Insects used a combination of clear-cutting, grazing, mowing and re-seeding to restore nearly 600 hectares of land - nearly three times the size of Monaco - which had either been damaged by modern agricultural methods or abandoned to self-seeding shrubs and trees. The project focused on the relationship between different plant and animal species, and how to make their habitats more liveable, sustainable and connected.  

By the time the project ended in December 2022, modest but significant progress had been made in protecting selected insect species and restoring habitats in line with the EU Nature Directives and biodiversity strategy for 2030. Surveys identified 720 beetle species - 200 of which were endangered - and 330 types of butterflies. Threatened plants did especially well, with the number of recorded species in one small area rising from 33 in 2019 to 129 in 2022.

Public engagement was also crucial to the project’s success. Children’s summer camps were held each year, and an annual Shepherds’ Day has proved popular with farmers, families and local people. Workshops, touring exhibitions, educational programmes and field excursions brought communities together with conservation experts to discuss progress and plans for the future.  

The LIFE for Insects project may have officially ended, but its work continues. As the final Layman report notes, ‘the benefit in the form of increased biological diversity in the area is almost incalculable.’


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