Nature conservation management of wet grasslands, by Baiba Galniece

Matsalu National Park, Estonia - photo by Baiba Galniece, winner of the Alfred Toepfer Natural Heritage Scholarship in 2016

Published on:

Nature conservation management of wet grasslands

Issued by Baiba Galniece

Every year, the Alfred Toepfer Natural Heritage Scholarship (ATS) supports the work of young conservationist in protected areas across Europe. Baiba was one of the winners of the Scholarship in 2016. She works for the Environmental Conservation Agency in Latvia and with the Scholarship visited 4 protected Areas – 2 in Hungary and other 2 in Estonia. 

Applications for the 2018 Natural Heritage Scholarship edition are now open! Get to know how to apply.

Floodplain grasslands play an important role in the context of climate change mitigation and adaption and they serve different ecosystem services such as flood protection, water purification, nutrient and water retention and, of course, food production.

However, these habitats are strongly threatened by human activities. This is very important for Eastern and Central Europe where many examples from the last decennium have shown a shift in flooding periods from winter to summer which generates more severe consequences. Therefore, nature-based approaches need to be taken into account where restoration of floodplain functions, safety and habitat creation are combined together.

photo by Baiba Galniece

The above mentioned issue – a shift in flooding periods from winter to summer floods due to climate change – seems to appear more frequently among Latvia’s rivers and therefore there is an urgent need for projects with nature-based approaches for climate change mitigation and adaption, and projects with sustainable long-term effect on nature conservation.

The aim of the study was to visit several protected areas in Estonia and Hungary where large-scale projects on floodplain grassland restoration have been realised, to see how these areas are managed after the end of the project. I collected and compared examples how project sites on grasslands are managed and monitored, and how these data are used in decision-making for nature conservation in both countries.

In Hungary, I visited the Őrség National Park and Balaton Uplands National Park, whilst in Estonia, I visited Matsalu National Park and Sooma National Park.

To be able to reach the aim and objective of this study, several activities were implemented:

  • visits of the protected areas’ headquarters;
  • field trips on grasslands areas;
  • discussions with experts about protected area administration, management plans, operational plans, grassland management practice and monitoring, available agri-environmental programme, collaboration with landowners, implemented projects;
  • presentations about nature protection and conservation in Latvia.

Outcomes of the study

At the end of the study tours, I have collected different examples about wet grassland management practices – the main techniques and methods that are used in grassland management according to different biodiversity targets (plant, bird, butterfly species etc.). Also information on monitoring system and evaluation mechanism of the effectiveness of grassland management practice. Moreover, the linkage of grassland management and agri-environmental programmes was explored.

main findings in Hungary…

  • 1) Mowing time and frequency has changed (mowing once and mostly in May)
  • 2) Low willingness to participate in the agri-environmental  subsidy programme
  • 3) Cannot influence grassland management on private land
  • 4) Due to lack of management, abandoned grasslands are infected by alien species
  • 5) Every grassland has a yearly management plan
  • 6) In Balaton, a large scale wetland restoration work runned for over 30 years, to combine flood prevention and nature conservation and water buffalos are used as grazers

main findings in Estonia…

  • EU funds enabledNature conservation management of grasslands to be initiated
  • Land managers are interested to join agri-environmental programme, which definitely has helped to maintain biodiversity in their grasslands
  • Good cooperation with Estonia’s State Forests
  • Problem: a solution is needed to start using collected hay in reels, on the margins of fields

During the study, I broadened not only my practical and professional experience, but it also benefited to my personal development.

For more detailed information, download the full report here.

Baiba Galniece is also the face of the Alfred Toepfer Natural Heritage Scholarship! more info at:

European Tree of the Year 2018 – Where is it rooted?

ELO Tree of the Year 2018_Finalist Bugaria

Published on:

In Search for the most fascinating European Tree & its Story

A contest highlighting the role of old trees for our natural and cultural heritage that deserves our care and protection

Every year, the European Tree of the Year Contest looks out to gather and celebrate the most fascinating trees across Europe. What is special about the contest: Neither a pretty look, nor size or age of a tree are what matters. What does matter is the story it tells and the way people, the local communities, feel connected to it.

The first European Tree of the Year Contest was inspired by the much older national Tree of the Year Contest run in Czech Republic, by the Czech Environmental Partnership Foundation.  Since 2011, and this year for the 7th time, the European winner out of the winners at national levels is chosen via a public online voting.


Votings are now open until 28th February 2018 – Read the 13 finalist trees’ stories & choose your favorites!

Winners will be announced at the official Award Ceremony in the European Parliament Brussels, the 21st of March, hosted by The Environmental Partnership Association, together with the European Landowners’ Organization and Tetra Pak.

Open call for young professionals: Alfred Toepfer Natural Heritage Scholarships 2018!

Published on:

Each year the EUROPARC Federation, with support from the Alfred Toepfer Stiftung F.V.S., awards three Alfred Toepfer Natural Heritage Scholarships to promising young conservationists, who are committed to working for the benefit of Protected Areas. The aim of the scholarships is to enhance international cooperation and to advance the quality, innovation and European dimension of Protected Area management.

Each scholarship is worth €3.000 and enables successful applicants to undertake a study visit on a particular theme to one or more Protected Areas in European countries.

The call is open to all young professionals studying or working in topics related to Protected Areas in Europe. Conditions to apply:

  • candidates must be under 35
  • have a European nationality
  • be employed by a Protected Area or nature conservation organisation
  • or be a student or a recently graduated student

Applications for study visits to prepare master or doctoral thesis will not be considered.

5 steps to win your Scholarship:

1) Choose one category

The application must address one of the following selected themes faced by Protected Area Management:

2) Apply

To apply, candidates must submit:

  • Application form – that includes your motivation letter, the proposed programme of your study visit and contact details of protected areas you want to visit
  • Curriculum vitae (max. 3 pages) – EU format (Europass)
  • Letter of reference
  • Proof of enrollment into a University Programme, copy of the Diploma, or proof of employment

Applications due on 4th May 2018 at 15:00 pm and must be sent to t.pastor @

Download the complete Guidelines and the application form.

3) Be awarded at EUROPARC Conference 2018

The winners of the Alfred Toepfer Natural Heritage Scholarship will be awarded in Scotland, at EUROPARC Conference 2018.

The Alfred Toepfer Stiftung E.V.S will generously cover your travel expenses and participation at the biggest gathering of Protected Areas professionals! This year, especially, we will be looking at the important contribution of youth to our European Protected Areas, so there will be plenty of opportunities for you to learn, network and share experience.

4) Travel and Learn

fungi as a tool for biodiversity, Plitvice Lakes National Park

Photo by Eduardo Batista, Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

The scholarship covers your travel costs to one or more protected areas in Europe. Visiting different countries enables you to gather new perspectives and deepen your subject of study. Check out the example of Bryonny Slaymaker or Ágnes Balázsi, who visited 5 protected areas in several countries, or Eduardo Batista who made a deep study in one protected area.

5) Share your results

After the trip, the scholars are expected to present the Federation their findings within a report and a short film. These reports are made available to EUROPARC members, as they are full of interesting facts on observation and solutions to common Protected Area management issues.

You will find all the reports since 2007 in our library and in this page you can learn more about the past scholarship winners.

The scholarships enhance international cooperation and the advancement of quality and innovation, and promote the European dimension of Protected Area management.

Need inspiration?

Get to know the previous winners of Alfred Toepfer Scholarship!

Open Call to Natura 2000 managers: Join the IUCN Green List Testing Phase

©IUCN Green List

Published on:

The IUCN Green List Sustainability Standard is a new global standard for Protected and Conserved Areas which aims to improve the contribution that equitably governed and effectively managed Protected Areas make to sustainable development through the conservation of nature, but also through the provision of associated ecosystem services and social, economic, cultural, and spiritual values.

What this call is all about

To determine the feasibility of the application of the IUCN Green List Sustainability Standard to Natura 2000 sites, IUCN is carrying out an EU-funded LIFE Preparatory Project – ‘Improving the performance of the Natura 2000 network through a Green Listing approach’ (LIFE16 PRE BE 001).

As part of this project, IUCN is issuing an open call to Natura 2000 site managers, inviting them to apply for the testing phase of the project. Selection of Natura 2000 sites identified for inclusion will be based on a number of criteria, such as

  • management type,
  • land ownership,
  • geographical scope,
  • size,
  • boundaries,
  • and participation in existing schemes.

Successful candidates will be asked to provide information about their site against a set of Criteria and Indicators. Site managers will also provide feedback on the general process, evaluate how effectively their site is being managed, and whether successful conservation outcomes are being achieved.

Why apply?

By participating in this project, sites will begin the process towards achieving IUCN Green List status. Selected site managers will have the opportunity to help tailor the Green Listing approach to the Natura 2000 context, and will receive feedback from Protected Area management experts on the management effectiveness of their sites. In addition, participating in this process will allow site managers to better understand if and how they can improve the management of their site.  Participation in this project will also increase the visibility of the site being tested, providing a good communications opportunity.

When & How apply?

The testing phase of the project is expected to start in June 2018 and will run for at least one year, ending in May/June 2019. Selected site managers will be expected to allocate some time to gather the necessary information and provide their feedback to IUCN during this period. Please note that this testing phase is applicable to terrestrial Natura 2000 sites only, and that participation in the testing phase of this project does not guarantee the Natura 2000 site will be awarded Green List status.

In order to apply for participation in this project, please complete a short 2-minute survey, where you will be asked to answer a series of questions about the site you are proposing for participation in the project. You can access the survey through the link below:

Participation in the application procedure is free of charge. IUCN will get in touch with you soon if your site has been selected for testing.

More Information?

For more information please contact the Project Manager Ana Nieto (