The Guidelines


General statement
Especially in the cultural landscapes of Europe with high human population densities, forestry and agriculture are the most important influences on the grouse habitats in Natura 2000 (N2000) areas. As N2000 is not sufficient to preserve grouse, guidelines should also refer to the areas outside of N2000.

  • In N2000 areas and their surroundings certain forestry and agricultural practices may be necessary to sustain grouse.
  • Silvicultural/agricultural concepts developed to support grouse habitats should refer to the area necessary for a Minimum Viable Population as a whole, not only to single N2000 areas.
  • The issue of connectivity of habitats should be included in these concepts

According to the N2000 network idea, the funding of measures applied to areas inbetween N2000 sites may be essential for achieving the conservation targets inside the N2000 areas.

  • Forestry/ agricultural management which aims at maintaining / improveing grouse habitats, should primarily concentrate on areas, where the landscape ecology and site conditions favour suitable habitat structures for the species.

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General measures

  • Forestry should maintain or improve the habitat quality for grouse
  • Forestry should improve or maintain the connectivity of habitats
  • Forestry should take natural dynamics into consideration and should not try to maintain certain conditions
  • Habitat management should focus on the leks, as well as the breeding habitats, which are the areas of major importance

EU-subsidies for forest roads or trails can counteract grouse protection.

  • Forest tracks should be integrated into the zoning concept.

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Habitat improvement measures
Most grouse species require habitats with a high structural diversity.

  • For capercaillie structural measures such as creating open spaces (0.1-0.5 ha) or small clear-cuts (up to 1 ha) should be supported
  • But: avoid large clear-cuts (especially with respect to capercaillie and hazel grouse)
  • Natural succession should be favoured over plantations
  • Site adapted natural tree species composition (esp. mixed tree species) should be favoured
  • Bogs and mires should be maintained or restored
  • The age of trees / stands should be increased
  • In parts of the forests the whole life-cycle of the trees should be allowed

Especially in Central Europe forestry measures can be an indispensable precondition for maintaining grouse habitats.

  • In areas presently or potentially suitable for grouse, habitat management should be integrated into forest practice.
  • For each species target values of the most relevant habitat parameters must be defined, so that they can be easily integrated into forest management.

e.g: Studies from different regions found that capercaillie require a minimum of suitable habitat on 30 %, of the total area (Angelstam 2003; Suchant und Braunisch 2004). As a result, open structures on at least 10 %, open canopy on 20 %, spruce/pine stands on 10 %, and a sufficient ground vegetation cover (> 40 %) on at least 66 % of the total area are recommended for capercaillie management. In addition, the proportion of area with dense structures should not exceed 30 % and there should be an edge line density of 50 m/ha3.

The current practice of funding nature protection measures (e.g. maintaining open areas) often does not involve qualitative criteria.

  • Implementation rules should be defined and introduced as a condition for funding

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As grants / subsidies for nature protection measures decrease, concepts are necessary to minimise costs and maximise outputs.

  • Economic principles should determine habitat management as much as possible: preferably, measures are to be applied in places, which require little input or where gains can be expected. This will reduce the risk of habitat-management measures not being financially feasible in the long run and allows managing a larger area with the same financial input.
  • Mechanisms which integrate habitat improvement measures into regular forestry with little additional effort are necessary

e.g: To improve capercaillie habitat: extend the regular thinnings and thin the stands in a non-uniform way.

  • Planning measures should favour practices that minimise costs or even produce profits

e.g: Although gaps in thickets may be advantageous, creating open spaces in the pole stage instead of the thicket stage produces a longer-lasting result and it may even yield a profit from wood.

  • Natural processes should be integrated into forestry practices

e.g: Habitat improvement measures should first concentrate on areas with favourable landscape ecological conditions (e.g.: the long term success of creating open structures will be higher in areas with poor soil conditions or at higher altitudes/colder climate)

  • Funding mechanisms for private forest owners are required, to compensate them for the additional effort, if grouse habitat management is included in their forestry practices
  • The use of timber and fuel wood should be promoted to finance the costs of habitat improvement measures for capercaillie.

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Forestry and tourism
Tourists normally perceive forests that are suitable for forest grouse as ’beautiful forests’.

  • Forestry can support visitor management by enhancing the landscape for tourism in ’activity zones’ (e.g. creating vantage points) and making ‘grouse refuges’ unattractive (e.g. barricade a footpath by leaving cut trees)
  • Habitat development measures should be implemented primarily in refuge zones
  • Forest planning should include stakeholders of other interest groups (e.g. tourist board, hunters’ association)
  • Forest planning should be within the framework of an overall N2000-site management plan

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In the Alps, due to to poor economic returns, many alpine pastures have been abondonded in recent years. This has led to spontaneous colonisation of these areas by scrub and to a loss of black grouse and capercaillie habitat.

  • Alpine pastures should be maintained and an extensive use of alpine pastures should be supported

The increasingly dense structure of forests can be regarded as one of the main problems for capercaillie in Central Europe. Moderate browsing and grazing pressure by herbivores such as deer and cattle can significantly improve grouse habitats.

  • Extensive forest pasture should be promoted, to preserve open forest structures.

Alpine pasture also serves as the ideal landscape for alpine tourism. Therefore, it is often supported by income generated by tourism.

  • Make use of this mutual dependency between the needs of alpine pasture and alpine tourism by developing concepts for alpine pasture management in cooperation with tourist associations. To benefit grouse, these concepts must also include visitor management measures.

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Education and exchange of experience

  • Educational programmes should be implemented to train foresters and forest workers how to incorporate habitat management into forest practice
  • Partnerships should be developed between areas with similar landscape / habitat conditions
  • A local person should be assigned in order to communicate the management practices to the local people (private forest owners, farmers etc.)

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Differences within Europe
There are big differences throughout Europe regarding forestry and agriculture in relation to grouse and tourism.

In the following, the potential differences with respect to selected aspects of grouse and tourism are estimated and illustrated for the different regions:

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