“Panda of the central Europe”

Central European tundra vole (Microtus oeconomus mehelyi) or a root vole is just like a panda an endemic animal, meaning its world-wide population naturally occurs only in one specific area. Unlike the panda that lives in mountainous areas of central China, the root vole is found in the north-western part of the Pannonian basin, mostly near the Danube River which includes specific locations in Slovakia, Austria and Hungary.

The project LIFE Microtus II follows a previous successful project implemented from 2010 to 2016 focused on a protection of this priority species of European interest through restoring its habitats and building bio-corridors. It is a protected species that lives in the vicinity of rivers, wetlands and wet meadows, and whose habitats are gradually disappearing due to intensification of agricultural production, forestry and watercourse regulation.

Root vole monitoring continues

This year's autumn monitoring has yielded gratifying results. We found that the number of voles in the locality near the village of Čiližská Radvaň increased compared to previous years.

Education in the wetlands

Wetlands are used directly for educating the public. Microtus minibus runs in Hungary. In Austria you can sail among the reeds.

Restoration of bio-corridors and wetlands on Istragov

We have started with the creation of biocorridors, the so-called ‘Highways’ for root voles, which will allow them to move more easily between locations. The creation of corridors is nowadays a key point in the protection of animals living in isolated populations.

By Minibus to Microtus

Our Hungarian project partner, Pisztráng Kör, obtained a minibus, so called Microtus Minibus, for the purposes of this project.

Searching for Root Vole Biocorridors

Since the beginning of the year, we launched a regular field monitoring of potential biocorridors – „highways“ for the root vole together with the project partners, the Faculty of Natural Sciences of the Comenius University in Bratislava and the State Nature Conservancy of the Slovak Republic.

Wetlands and Their Significance

A wetland could be characterized as a habitat, existence of which is conditioned by water. This territory can be soaked with water on a permanent or seasonal basis.

Root Vole Monitoring

The Teriologists* from the Faculty of Science, Comenius University in Bratislava have been engaged in root vole studies for more than ten years. The root vole has been researched in the field as well as the samples in the laboratory using molecular methods.

Management of root-vole localities

In march 2020 we removed young poplars from root-vole habitats in order to maintain favourable habitat status of this endemic species.

Project title: Restoration of habitats for root vole *Microtus oeconomus mehelyi

 Financial scheme: LIFE Programme, Environment sub-programme, Nature and biodiversity

 Project acronym: LIFE Microtus II

 Coordinating beneficiary:

Bratislavské regionálne ochranárske združenie (SVK) – Regional association for Nature conservation and Sustainable development

 Associated beneficiaries:

Výskumný ústav vodného hospodárstva (SVK) – Water Research Institute

Univerzita Komenského v Bratislave (SVK) – Comenius University in Bratislava

Štátna ochrana prírody Slovenskej republiky (SVK) – State Nature Conservancy of the Slovak Republic

Észak-dunántúli Vízügyi Igazgatóság (HUN) – North-Transdanubian Water Directorate

Pisztráng Kör Waldorf Természetvédő és Természejáró Egyesület (HUN) – Trout Circle Association

Nationalparkgesellschaft Neusiedler See – Seewinkel (AUT) – National park Neusiedler See – Seewinkel

 

Main objective:

The project LIFE Microtus II is primarily focused on the restoration of habitats for the root vole (Microtus oeconomus mehelyi) through of one-time conservation measures to restore or modify wetland habitats such as swamps, marshes, bogs, wet meadows, naturally flowing and still water places, and reintroduction of sound sustainable management. Project measures will create habitats for root voles with an area of 580 hectares.

Specific objectives:

  1. Restoration of selected wetland habitats
  2. Restoration of selected wet meadows habitats and buffer riparian zones between wetlands and arable land
  3. Creation of bio-corridors and stepping stones for target species
  4. Acquisition of relevant scientific data on target species, especially on genetic structure of the population and quite new threat of competition with invasive species
  5. Creation of conditions (infrastructure and capacity) to reach favourable state of wetland habitats and ensure long-term sustainable use of their services in cooperation with various local stakeholders
  6. Increase the awareness of stakeholders and public on target species, conservation measures and importance of wetlands ecosystems

Central European tundra vole (Microtus oeconomus mehelyi) or a root vole is a glacial relict of a subspecies Tundra vole (Microtus oeconomus). Tundra vole is a species with holarctic distribution, it is found in the area from northern Finland, eastern Germany, through Poland, Belarus, northern and central European part of Russia to the eastern Alaska. Isolated relict populations were found in Netherlands, southern Scandinavia, Finnish coastal areas and in the western part of the Pannonian Basin.

The European population consists of several subspecies: Microtus oeconomus ratticeps in the north of Russia; Microtus oeconomus medius in Scandinavia; Microtus oeconomus stimmingi from Germany through Poland to Russia; Microtus oeconomus finmorchicus in Norway and Vesterålen, Microtus oeconomus arenicola in Netherlands and Microtus oeconomus mehelyi in the western part of the Pannonian Basin.

The occurrence of the subspecies Microtus oeconomus mehelyi is restricted to locations around Neusiedler and Seewinkel lakes in Austria that are directly connected to Hungarian ones near Fertő lake. Another population lives in the nearby system of fragmented wetlands Hanság east of the lake. Isolated population is found around Balaton lake; small populations live on Danube island Szigetköz. From there, the area of species distribution stretches to Slovakia, where the occurrence of root vole was recorded in the Danube Lowland, near Szigetköz as well as in a number of other wetland sites in the lowland. Isolated population was found in Parížske močiare marshes in the Hronská pahorkatina highlands, which represents the farthest eastern location of the root vole occurrence so far known.

 

The main part of the Root vole fodder consists of sedge (Carex), reed (Phragmites), bulrush (Typha) and grass (eg. Molinia). The mating season lasts from May to September, the number of litters is 1-3 per year and the number of youngsters is from 5 to 11. The spatial activity of the root vole is not great, it is restricted by the habitat characteristics and its size.
Females have their first litter in the spring still in their wintering habitats. Through late spring voles search wetter summer habitats and in late summer they find dryer habitat for wintering. These seasonal migrations might be influenced by local habitat conditions. The connection of populations by bio-corridors is one of important factors to avoid the populations isolation.

A.1 Elaboration of databases on land use and ownership within the area

A.2 Designing the network of bio-corridors and stepping stones

A.3 Study and technical documentation on wetlands restoration

B.1 Land purchase and lease

C.1 Restoration of habitats for root vole in Slovakia

C.2 Restoration of habitats for root vole in Hungary

C.3 Restoration of habitats for root vole in Austria

C.4 Creation of bio-corridors and stepping stones

C.5 Regulation of negative impacts on habitats of root vole

D.1 Monitoring of populations and habitats of the root vole

D.2 Monitoring of spatial activity and habitat use of root vole populations

D.3 Monitoring of socio-economic impact of project actions

D.4 Monitoring of ecosystem services

D.5 Monitoring of output indicators

E.1 Public awareness raising

E.2 Education aimed at schools and public

E.3 Education and training aimed at key stakeholders and decision makers in the project area

E.4 Exchange and transfer of information, knowledge and lessons learnt, networking with other projects,

replication of project activities

F.1 Project management

2018

  • project core personnel hired – project manager, financial manager, project assistant, field assistant (F.1)
  • 1,81 hectares of land acquired in cadastral areas of Číčov and Klížska Nemá and concerning SKUEV0077 Dunajské trstiny and SKUEV0227, SKUEV1227 Čiližské močiare and partly also SKCHVU007 Dunajské luhy (B.1)
  • project website launched (E.1)

2019

  • database of land owners created (B.1)
  • 5,27 hectares of land acquired in cadastral areas of Čiližská Radvaň, Ižop Číčov, Klížska Nemá, Veľké Kosihy, and Marcelová concerning the SKUEV0227, SKUEV1227 Čiližské močiare, SKUEV0182, SKUEV1182 Číčovské luhy, SKUEV0077 Dunajské trstiny and SKUEV0395 Pohrebište (B.1)
  • 12,28 hectares of grassland habitat in SKUEV1227 Čilížske močiare restored (C.1)
  • monitoring of populations and habitats of the root vole and monitoring of spatial activity and habitat use of root vole populations carried out (D.1, D.2)
  • 1st socio-economic monitoring carried out (D.3)
  • external provider for ecosystem services selected (D.4)
  • 1st set of promotional material printed and distributed – Hand printed T-shirts, notebooks and biodegradable pens (E.1)
  • Microtus minibus for open air laboratory was procured, contracted and delivered in June 2019 (E.2)
  • School education programme in Hungary and Slovakia was made, with first events carried out in September 2019 with 260 participants (E.2)
  • 3 workshops organized for for officers and local stakeholders like farmers and hunters and for school children from Slovakia and Hungary (E.3)
  • organization of 1st Conference – Györ, October 2019 (E.4)
  • one workshop for officers and one training event for students organised (E.4)

2020

  • 117,8 hectares purchased in cadastral areas of Číčov, Klížska Nemá, Veľké Kosihy and Gabčíkovo concerning SKUEV0077 Dunajské trstiny, SKUEV0227, SKUEV1227 Čiližské močiare and SKUEV0090 Dunajské luhy as well as SKCHVU007 Dunajské luhy (B.1)
  • 8,38 hectares of grassland habitat in SKUEV1227 Čilížske močiare restored (C.1)
  • 5,50 hectares of grassland habitat in SKUEV0090 Dunajské luhy restored (C.1)
  • 30 hectares along the reed belt of AT1110137 Neusiedler See (south and north of the Biological Station Illmitz) restored by adjusting of cattle grazing (C.3)
  • 6,6 km of biocorridors created (C.4)
  • ranger/field worker has been employed since 5/2020 by SNC (C.5)
  • monitoring of populations and habitats of the root vole and monitoring of spatial activity and habitat use of root vole populations carried out (D.1, D.2)
  • the KPI table submitted via the webtool and sent for verification within the Progress report in February 2020 (D.5)
  • the information leaflet which was designed as a postcard printed in December 2020 (E.1)
  • specialized workshop for water management personnel organized by EV in September 2020 (E.3)

2021

  • 0,49 hectares of grassland habitat in SKUEV1227 Čilížske močiare restored (C.1)
  • project T-shirt printed (E.1)

Žofia Filagová – project manager

filagova(at)broz.sk

Miriam Miláčková – financial manager

milackova(at)broz.sk

Jakub Sigmund – site manager

sigmund(at)broz.sk