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University of Malta (2021)

Management of xeric grasslands to improve connectivity for stenotopic biota

Puglisevich, Erika

Titre : Management of xeric grasslands to improve connectivity for stenotopic biota

Auteur : Puglisevich, Erika

Université de soutenance : University of Malta

Grade : Master of Science (MS) 2021

Xeric grasslands are hotspots of biodiversity in the Maltese islands and are important habitats for many species of farmyard birds and butterflies. Grasslands are of interest to the European Union, given their importance at ecosystem scale, and so are protected under the European Habitats Directive and the European Birds Directive. Despite their importance, little is known about the state of and prospects for local xeric grasslands. In view of this, this study aimed to devise possible management strategies through expert interviews. Interviews were conducted to identify threats to and pressures faced by grasslands, as well as their state and the impact of pressures on these. The primary stakeholders identified and interviewed were local farmers, non-governmental organisations, scientists and policy makers. Key points emerging from the interviews included the need to rely less on the Common Agricultural Policy’s agri-environmental measures as well as lack of awareness regarding the importance of xeric grasslands in the Maltese Islands. The need for baseline data on indicator species and for an awareness-raising campaign were also highlighted. Interview responses were also used to identify Ras il-Pellegrin in Mġarr as a grassland that could potentially be used for demonstration purposes, to show how such xeric grasslands could be managed locally. Using satellite imagery and ground truthing, management recommendations for this site were identified, with these including measures to maintain the connectivity of the site to the nearby Lippija plateau, and implementing a scheme to subsidise farmers to leave grassland verges to improve connectivity at the southern part of the site. A hands-off restoration strategy is recommended, given that grasslands form through secondary succession. It is further recommended that baseline data be compiled to allow monitoring, and that indicator species such as farmland butterflies are used as a measure of success. It is also critical that local communities are engaged in such restoration efforts, to encourage a sense of belonging with the site.

Présentation (OAR@UM)

Page publiée le 25 mai 2022