Heessen - Optimisation of the pSCI “Lippe floodplain between Hamm and Hangfort” (LIFE05/NAT/D/000057)
Heessen - Optimisation of the pSCI “Lippe floodplain between Hamm and Hangfort” (LIFE05/NAT/D/000057)
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The FORECASTER Team
Key features of the case study
In the following section, background and motives of the restoration project which led to the initiation of the project are introduced
Drivers and pressures
The Lippe and its related water bodies were heavily modified during the 20th century following a programme of engineering works aiming at turning the floodplain into arable land. Flood channels were converted into drainage ditches, meadows were drained, low dykes were built along the banks of the Lippe as flood protection for the agricultural land, etc. All this engineering work disconnected the water bodies of the Lippe (main stream, wetlands, floodplain, groundwater etc.) and altered natural flow patterns. The Lippe, which had previously been a wide, shallow and varied river, consequently scoured out a channel that was up to 4 m deep while its water meadows dried out. Besides, intensive agriculture resulted in a water quality decrease (nutrients pollution).
Despite the large pressures inflicted upon the Lippe ecosystems, the area still contains a diversity of species which need to be protected. For this reason, a 615 hectares section of the Lippe floodplain between Lippetal-Lippborg and Hamm was declared an FFH conservation area "Lippe floodplain between Hangfort and Hamm". It also forms part of the bird reserve "Lippe floodplain between Hamm and Lippstadt with the Ahse Water Meadows", which is over 2,300 ha in size. Nevertheless, protection was not suffisant; species needed more near-natural habitats and those were still few in the Lippe floodplain. Therefore, the Lippeverband presented the Lippe floodplain programme as a development concept in 1995 aiming to restore all those natural habitats, thus resulting in the implementation of the LIFE Project Lippe Floodplain in 2004.
The LIFE project - Optimisation of the pSCI “Lippe floodplain between Hamm and Hangfort” - tended to protect and improve the Lippeaue as a habitat for threatened species such as bird species protected under the EU’s Birds Directive like the marsh harrier (Circus aeruginosus), corncrake (Crex crex) and kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) all relying on the Lippe floodplain for habitat. Endangered fish species such as bullhead (Cottus gobio), Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), river lamprey (Lampetra fluviatilis) and asp (Aspius aspius) were also targeted. Besides, the flood risk was also taken into account while setting the objectives; the Lippe floodplain was actually considered as a retention area for floods.
Aiming to improve the Lippeaue habitats, the project didn’t foresee to restore the river to a past natural state but to assist the river and its related species and habitats in their progressive development by:
- the removal of bank reinforcements and near-natural restoration of the Lippe,
- the development of near-natural floodwater dynamics by restoring the connection between river and water meadows and allowing flooding,
- making the Lippe more hospitable and passable for migrating species,
- the maintenance, improvement and restoration of typical floodplain habitats and increasing the structural diversity,
- the preservation of meadows and grazing land, also in view of their value as a cultural heritage and the establishment of grassland farming with a low environmental impact.
The following section introduces which measures were prepared, implemented and whether they were successful in reaching their related goals
In order to restore the floodplain and let some "free space" to the river, a broad range of measures were implemented along the river Lippe and especially in its floodplain. Overall, the LIFE project renaturated a length of section of the floodplain of 17 km, purchased 100ha of land, renaturated approx. 6000 m of river banks and created approx. 7.6 ha of water area.
To undertake restoration work in the Lippe floodplain, land acquisition was the first priority for the LIFE project since most land in the Lippe water meadows was in private hands. During the planning of optimization measures, it was important not to affect any neighbouring private land. A study was therefore carried by the Chamber of Agriculture to determine the effects of habitat restoration work on the farmlands. The study quantified the potential loss of productivity in fields following an increase in ground water levels and more frequent prolonged periods of natural flooding. According to that study, special purchasing arrangements had been agreed in advance with farmers; previous owners either sold their areas or received alternative land. The areas acquired by the municipality of Hamm were rented out to farmers for extensive agricultural use without fertilizer.
Nevertheless, not all of the Lippe floodplain was available. The LIFE project had to focus on five action zones, so-called "Action Blocks”, whose terrain was such that the implemented measures could not affect the property of third parties. The Heessen restoration is one of the five restoration “blocks” undertaken under the LIFE project among Niederwerrieser Weg, Oberwerries, Ahlen-Dolberg, and Soest.
In order to improve the longitudinal continuity of the river Lippe, a 500 m long channel was constructed as a near-natural stream in the water meadows, providing a route for part of the Lippe water to flow around a weir at Heesen.
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The measures undertaken under the LIFE project resulted in enhancements of bird, fish and plant species all along the Lippe course as introduced below:
- Since new vertical banks were created, the little brown Swallow returned; the number of breeding pairs rose to over 150 after the restoration.
- Fish also benefited from a number of the implemented measures. More fry of the Dace, Nase, Barbel and Gudgeon were found alongside renaturated river banks than along comparable stretches of reinforced, rock-sloped banks. While Dace and Barbel prefer a slight current through their "nursery", Nase and Gudgeon also like quiet bays. This preference explains why these two species were to be found alongside slack water species in the new flood channels.
- Regarding to the plant community, the rare periodically inundated plant communities and stands of Pygmy Rush were spreading after restoration; resulting from re-waterlogging parts of the near-natural water meadows. The Common Centaury was also colonizing new areas.
More specific improvements were observed at Heessenwith regard to fish species. The trap set highlighted a large number of fish swimming up the bypass channel. A total of 10 000 fish of 33 species including the rare spined loach (Cobitis taenia) and bullhead (Cottus gobio) were counted in a twelve month period. Nevertheless, the mouth of the bypass channel seems to still be a bit too distant downriver of the weir, so that not all the fish following the main river are able to find the by pass flow.
Restoring the natural processes was one the goals of the LIFE project. Dynamic processes are now observed along the "uncorseted" river banks. Soil breaks away or is deposited, islands, steep banks and zones of shallow water are created – habitats for many animals, birds and plants.
Monitoring before and after implementation of the project
None specific monitoring was carried before restoration. However, biotic data were available while setting the objectives, previously compiled by the ABU NGO, especially regarding to bird species. The monitoring was actually not funded neither by the EU nor the State of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Nevertheless, a biotic monitoring was carried after restoration in the frame of the LIFE project focusing on specific species such as the sand martin, the vegetation in wet meadows, some fish species. Besides, the groundwater level was evaluated to assess the influence of new floodplain regime.
Besides, fish pass success assessment was conducted by members of the Heessen Fishery Association who counted and measured the fish. Where the bypass channel leaves the Lippe a large fish trap was installed. Once a day, members of the Heessen Fishery Association count and measure the fish and then release them upstream of the trap.
In the following section, ways of cooperation, interaction and information with partners, stakeholders and wider audience of the LIFE project are introduced as well as their related success in reaching their participation objectives.
The municipality of Hamm project applicant and initiator, worked jointly with the Lippeverband as technical project manager, the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Biologischer Umweltschutz in the district of Soest and the authorities of the district of Warendorf. The municipality of Hamm came up with a plan to restore the river Lippe floodplain to its former condition in 1995. An early consultation was then implemented to undertake optimized project by bringing together a wide range of river actors with technical knowledge as well as scientific knowledge.
Involving stakeholders like farmers, fishermen and citizens of Hamm was one the key factors of the LIFE project. They were involved at the beginning of the project during the design phase; conclusions from this preparatory work resulted in the design of the LIFE project proposal.
A series of consultation meetings and sessions were held in order to get feedbacks from them who would actually be the most affected by any changes around the Lippe. Agenda topics included discussing options for reinstating former wetland areas, converting intensive farmland into meadows, reconnecting river sections and improving recreation facilities. A large effort was put in farmer involvement since they were more concerned. Discussions were held with individual farmers, the Chamber of Agriculture and a farmer’s association to kick-start dialogue about what actions might be included in a proposal for a LIFE project application.
The good interaction with farmers ensured that the necessary land parcels could be purchased and that the change of land use was accepted. No serious conflicts with farmers arose, even though some 25 ha of agricultural land was transformed to water bodies or forests and all remaining arable land was transformed to grassland through the project.
Besides the restoration work, the project also aimed at visitor management, development of nature experience areas and information of the public with regard to the nature of the Lippe floodplain. “What people don’t know they don’t want to protect” was the catch phrase of the project. For this reason, public relations work for the Lippe water meadows and its nature was a vital part of the LIFE Project. For this reason, the project aimed to ensure good public relations combined with a reduction of disturbing factor by the creation of a nature trail with a cautious visitor-guidance concept, the creation of new observation hill and an observation tower. Presentations, discussions, field trips, a scientific conference, and other public events, etc. were also carried. The visitor facilities have been carefully located to direct people towards sites with higher ‘carrying capacities’ and away from parts of the floodplain which are more sensitive to disturbance. Parts of the Lippe water meadows remains inaccessible to the public while the Oberwerrieser Mersch site had the aim of developing the Lippe water meadows as a combined nature reserve and local recreation area.
Public participation and communication was a success while carrying the project. More than 3000 locals attended to an event. The local and regional press reported on the project more than 200 times.
The following section gives an overview of cost and funding of the project
Cost: 5,514,593.00 Euros
European Union: 50 %
State of North Rhine-Westphalia: 40 %
Other regional authority: 5%
Other local authority: 5%
Contact person within the organization
Stadt Hamm, Umweltamt
Oliver Schmidt-Formann, project manager/coordinator
Telephone: 0049 2381177137
Extra background information
LIFE project manager admitted that restoration works have not been totally completed. The bed of the river seems to be too deep and trough-shaped in many places. That is why, all of the restoration work on the Lippe floodplain is now being developed further by a new LIFE + project, which is expanding the coverage of the five action blocks and building on its predecessor core principles of stakeholder participation. The LIFE+ Lippe Floodplain Water meadows aims of raising the bed along a section of the river and stabilizing it by broadening the river and extending its course.
- Lippe Aue Life project website (language: English)
- Lippe-Aue - Optimisation of the pSCI "Lippe flood plain between Hamm and Hangfort" LIFE05 NAT/D/000057 LIFE Web Summary (language: English)
- Lippe Aue Life project Project report from a Layman’s perspective (language: English)
- Hydrological regime modification
- Artificial barriers downstream from the site
- Channelisation / cross section alteration
- Alteration of riparian vegetation
- Alteration of instream habitat
- Embankments, levees or dikes
- Loss of vertical connectivity