The FFH Habitats Directive is a joint project of the European Community. Each EU member state is required to report to the Commission on the conservation status of the habitat types and species protected under the Habitats Directive. The reporting includes information on the following parameters:
- Range and trends in development
- The state of population and habitat
- The state of area and structure/functions
- Future prospects (adverse effects and threats)
- Conservation measures
The FFH Habitats Directive Report is a summary of national findings that has so far been published for 2007 and 2013. In the second reporting period in Germany, standardised nationwide data collection methods were worked out and compiled under the label "FFH monitoring". This systematic programme of observation allows Germany to check up on the state of the FFH habitats and species subject to protection regularly. For the FFH Habitats Directive Report of 2013, it was possible to use the results of the FFH monitoring for the first time. The value of the information contained in the 2013 FFH report is thus considerably higher than that in the 2007 report.
The FFH monitoring is carried out both within and outside the boundaries of the FFH area. This means statements can be made on the total range and total state of conservation of the habitats and species targeted by the FFH Habitats Directive, going beyond FFH area boundaries.
The conservation status of each habitat and species is assessed separately for each biogeographical region (BGR) in which it occurs. Biogeographical regions are a geographical classification of extensive regions with similar natural characteristics; in Europe there are nine BGRs. 95% of the land area of Bavaria is in the continental BGR, and the remaining 5% is in the alpine BGR.
The Bavarian State Forestry Administration is responsible for compiling the report and FFH monitoring for a total of 29 forest species from different taxonomic species groups (Tab. 1).
The conservation status is the key to determining the situation of a species targeted by the Habitats Directive. The assessment of conservation status combines individual results on range, population, habitat, threats and future prospects. The evaluation is based on a traffic-light system:
- green = favourable
- amber = unfavourable-inadequate
- red = unfavourable-bad
- grey = unknown (e.g. insufficient data available)
Even the amber evaluation level indicates an unfavourable conservation status. Here, the worst individual assessments determine the final result: if for example the future prospects of the rosalia longicorn (Rosalia alpina) are unfavourable-inadequate (amber), the conservation status of the rosalia longicorn is also amber.
In Bavaria, the majority of the forest species in the continental biogeographical region have an unfavourable conservation status (amber or red); almost one third of the assessed forest species have a favourable conservation status (green). For 15 percent of the species no assessment could be made (grey) as the data was insufficient (Figure 2, left). By contrast, in the alpine BGR the proportion of species with a favourable conservation status clearly exceeds the proportion of protected species and habitats that are classified as red and amber. The proportion of species of "unknown" status (Figure 2, right) is however strikingly high here at 38 percent. Living conditions for FFH forest species are thus more favourable in the Bavarian Alps than in the hilly country and low mountain ranges. The high number of species of "unknown" status is another reason showing that we must continue to improve and extend the basis of data recorded, especially in the Alps.
The Habitats Directive aims to maintain or re-establish a favourable conservation status for both habitats and species of flora and fauna. There is thus an increased need for action to protect amber and especially for red-assessed habitats and species targeted by the Habitats Directive (Tab. 2). Green-assessed species should not be completely ignored either, to prevent them falling into an unfavourable state of conservation. Different species can serve as target species for species protection measures in the forest.
Especially in the continental BGR, the proportion of red and amber-assessed species is very high. Here – and of course with the endangered species in the alpine BGR – there is a need to act. The following look at selected FFH forest species shows what we can do:
Amphibians: The great crested newt (Triturus cristatus) and the agile frog (Rana dalmatina) essentially have unfavourable conservation status because of the loss or deterioration of their reproduction habitats. We must therefore improve these habitats (water quality, no fish stocks, structural diversity, water environment) and create new spawning waters that are as free of fish as possible. Close-to-nature forest management measures can maintain or establish and develop the favourable state of the terrestrial habitats.
Beetles: The high moor ground beetle (Carabus menetriesi pacholei) inhabits high and transitional moors in Bavaria. Its conservation status was also classified as unfavourable in the FFH report of 2013. Renaturation of these moors gives rise to positive synergies between habitat, species protection and climate protection. The hermit beetle (Osmoderma eremita) lives in specific biotope trees with sufficiently large cavities and quantities of decaying heartwood. Suitable habitat trees should be preserved, promoted and marked; similar measures should be put in place for the rosalia longicorn and great capricorn beetle (Cerambyx cerdo).
Mammals: the Bechstein’s bat (Myotis bechsteinii) and lesser noctule or Leisler’s bat (Nyctalus leisleri) are in the amber category because of a mediocre quality of habitat. The main problem is a lack of suitable hollow trees. The preservation and promotion of these trees helps to improve the conservation status of bats.
A Bavarian-wide "overall action plan" has in fact already been put together and published. It highlights strategically expedient measures that can be taken. Many instruments exist already, but can still be improved. The Bavarian state government’s "Bavaria 2030" biodiversity programme includes statements on the handling of habitats and species targeted by the FFH Habitats Directive. Various funding programmes also offer incentives to promote forest nature conservation.
For the next FFH report due in 2019, the reporting period has already begun. The State Forestry Administration and external species experts are already in the process of mapping the condition of the species as part of the FFH monitoring process. The data is to be evaluated and summarised by 2018, before being published in 2019. By comparing it with the results of the FFH Habitats Directive Report of 2013, it will then be possible to evaluate the success of implemented species protection measures.