English summary - Dutch Crane Resort

Improvement of hydrological conditions of peat bog area Fochteloërveen

Improvement of hydrological conditions of peat bog area Fochteloërveen 
The Dutch Crane Resort

The nature reserve Fochteloërveen is a famous Dutch peat bog area on the border of the provinces Drenthe and Friesland. Like all Dutch peat areas the quality of the habitats, especially of active raised bog, was impoverished severely during the last decades. In 1999 the hydrological conditions of the most species rich peat area of the peat bog were improved by an ingenious combination of dams. The project resulted in the active development of Sphagnum species and other characteristic peat bog species in this area. It was a great surprise that, starting in 2001, cranes were breeding in this area; the first breeding cranes in the Netherlands since the 18th century. They appreciated the combination of higher water levels, the quiet atmosphere in the large peat area and the increasing possibilities for feeding in the neighbouring grassland areas. Nowadays, also the number of non-breeding cranes in summer is increasing. 

Restoration

During the last years possibilities developed for restoration of the peat bog area east of the area restored in the earlier project. In this part an intensively cultivated arable land and grass land area is situated (‘Kolonievaart’), together with nature reserves with heath land, forest, open water and formerly peat bogs (the so called ‘Norger petgaten’ and the ‘Esmeer) area. Between these nature reserves another area, named ‘Stallaan’ 63 ha is situated. This area has been obtained by Staatsbosbeheer organisation. In 2008 the agricultural use of Stallaan is ended. The present hydrological system in these areas is strongly impoverished. The area is drained by ditches and drains. Part of the peat has been removed in previous centuries and the area has been used intensively for husbandry.

Nature areas

The goals of this Natura 2000 project are to increase the size as well as the quality of several Natura 2000 habitats especially active raised bogs, degraded raised bogs still capable of natural regeneration, and Northern Atlantic wet heaths with Erica tetralix). All these habitats need nutrient poor conditions in combination with high levels of rain water.
Both grassland areas will be transformed into nature areas including optimizing the hydrological system. Apart from hydrological measures, the increasing quiet atmosphere in the area will attract more breeding birds, perhaps even the cranes that now already are seen in this area sometimes. To obtain this result some footpaths and cycling paths will be removed and trees will be planted to create buffers. On the other hand the possibilities for observing the area will be secured by a platform. Also a new cycling path around the Fochteloërveen will be developed, in good coordination with some local parties. However, this is not part of the Natura 2000 plan. 

Measures

Actions and means involved:
 In order to restore the hydrological system and, if possible, to remove nutrients from the system, several measures will be performed:

  • The project area “Kolonievaart” will be rewetted in combination with the removal of the top soil, being saturated with phosphates. Development of a substantial area of Northern Atlantic wet heaths with Erica tetralix is expected here.
  • In the areas Norger Petgaten and Esmeergebied the water level will be raised and trees will be removed. We hope the active raised bogs will increase in size and the quality of the degraded raised bogs still capable of natural regeneration will improve.
  • The water levels in the area Stallaan will become much higher. The present ditches will be removed and dams with barrages will be placed, securing higher water levels.
  • A relatively nutrient rich wetland will develop in this area, with gradients to willow brushwood and birch forest. We hope this will prove to become a habitat for rare wetland birds.

Increasing calm

The measures will also result in increasing calm in the total area, offering more possibilities for breeding as well as feeding and resting for rare birds like Cranes, Whinchat, Bearded reedling, Bluethroat, Eared grebe, Little grebe, Red-backed shrike, Great bittern and Spotted crake. Also the possibilities for wintering birds like Tundra swan and Whooper Swan, Tundra bean goose and Greater white-fronted goose, Eurasian teal and Northern shoveler will increase. The presence of a new observation platform offers possibilities to overview large parts of the area.