Anne Evers & Heike Jeromin

A cooperative approach of farmers and conservationists in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany

In 1999, a conservation program named „joint meadow bird protection“ has been initiated in the Eider-Treene-Sorge (ETS) region  in Schleswig-Holstein, northern Germany. The program aims to protect meadow birds on conventionally used private grassland that is not subject to any other agri-environment scheme. The program approach is result oriented and participation is straightforward for farmers.   

Clutches are marked with two bamboo sticks and families are observed until fledging by volunteers. The volunteers only work in a defined area, so that volunteers and local farmers do know each other after a short time. For protection, volunteers and farmers arrange appropriate measures together. The measures depend on what is needed to protect the birds. For early breeders, this is usually a constraint in spring farming activity, such as slurry spreading or harrowing. Later in the breeding season it mainly comes to a delayed mowing or a partial mowing. For grazed meadows a delayed or partial cattle grazing can be arranged with the help of a mobile fence. For all constraints the farmers do get a monetary compensation provided by the Ministry of Energy, Agriculture, the Environment, Nature and Digitalization of Schleswig-Holstein (tab. 1).

number of nests / hacompensation
Constraints in spring farming activitiesonly one nest150 €
Constraints in spring farming activitiesmore than one nest350 €
Delay or partial mowing / delay or partial grazingone or more nests or family350 €

As soon as all birds have left a field, the respective field is set free by the volunteers and farmers can directly continue in their usual farming practice. Agreements can be arranged in a very short-dated and flexible way and are only valid for one year, which makes it easier for farmers to participate. All ground breeding meadow bird species can be part of the program, yet the most common bird species are Northern Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit, Eurasian Curlew, Redshank and Eurasian Oystercatcher.

The close collaboration between volunteers and farmers has formed a mutually trustful relationship throughout the years. Today the program is well known and broadly accepted, so that additionally to the ETS five further project areas where initiated between 2007 and 2013.

This type of program approach needs some basic requirements, such as a good breeding habitat for meadow birds, well trained volunteers and also professionals who all need to show a strong dedication to their work. In a well working network, the approach can easily be adjusted to local species compositions.

In 2019, 146 farmers took part in the programme. A total of 966 meadow bird clutches and families were saved from loss through agricultural practice. The success of the program has been monitored at a study side of 431 ha size since 1999. Here, the number of lapwing pairs varied from approximately 30 to 50 and annual reproductive success strongly fluctuated with a range of zero to 1.4 fledglings per breeding pair. However, lapwing numbers were stable over time and mean reproductive success was at least 0.5 fledglings per pair.

published: 02/2020


Anne Evers & Heike Jeromin
Michael-Otto-Institut im NABU, Goosstroot 1, 24861 Bergenhusen