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Aquatic Warbler given LIFE-line

The wildlife of the Biebrza Marshes is incredibly important and distinctive

A significant step has been taken toward the protection of key habitat for Europe’s rarest songbird. OTOP (BirdLife Poland) is embarking on a large-scale project to protect key sites for the Globally Threatened Aquatic Warbler in Poland and neighbouring Germany.

The OTOP project - which is funded by the EU LIFE Nature Fund and also supported by the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) – aims to promote Aquatic Warbler-friendly management of 42,000 hectares (approximately 160 square miles) of fen and wet meadow, mostly in Poland, but also in a small part of Germany. For this area, suitable management plans will be developed and agreed with the local landusers. Of this, an area of about 3,000 ha will be restored as the project progresses. Where necessary, OTOP will also purchase land in key areas.

News of the project represents a significant step toward the protection of the legendary Biebrza Marshes in Northeast Poland, which are one of the focus areas of this project. OTOP has secured the purchase of the first parcels of land in what is planned to become a very valuable place for birds, local people and visitors. “The wildlife of the Biebrza Marshes is incredibly important and distinctive. Four out of five of all the European Union’s aquatic warblers occur here, as well as around half of the EU’s greater spotted eagles, along with great snipe, elk and beaver.” said Izabela Flor, Chief Executive of OTOP.

Commenting on the news, the RSPB’s chief executive, Graham Wynne, said: “We are delighted that we can support this project with RSPB funds, to help ensure that this bird has a secure future in its European stronghold. The threatened Aquatic Warbler Acrocephalus paludicola is thought to have declined significantly in Europe as a result of loss of suitable fen mire habitat – an estimated 95% of habitat has been lost in the last century. The project represents new ground for both of the BirdLife Partners involved. For the RSPB, it represents their first contribution to overseas land purchase.

For OTOP, the project is also new ground; as a recent member of the EU, they have access to EU LIFE Funds, a vital resource for conservation in EU member states. Since joining the European Union in 2004 there have been new challenges to wildlife conservation in Poland like intensive agriculture, but alongside this there are more opportunities like the EU LIFE Funds that will allow us to protect important habitat like these marshes.”
- Izabela Flor, Chief Executive of OTOP.

4th July 2014