The project

About the project

LIFE IP GrassBirdHabitats

The protection of grassland birds, such as Black-tailed Godwits, Lapwings and Curlews, and their habitats are the focus of this project, funded by the European Union under the LIFE programme. The aim is to create and connect optimal breeding areas. To this end, land use must be extensified and water levels optimised. 

To network activities more closely in the future and to coordinate measures for successful meadow bird conservation, a Strategic Conservation Plan for meadow bird habitats in Western Europe is being developed. Meadow bird-friendly measures are being implemented in 27 project areas in Lower Saxony and in one large project area in the province of Fryslân.

The project will run for ten years. Its total budget is around 27 million euros, including a 15 million share from the State of Lower Saxony. 

As the coordinating beneficiary, the Lower Saxony Ministry for the Environment has commissioned the State Agency for Bird Conservation in the Lower Saxony Water Management, Coastal and Nature Protection Agency (NLWKN) to implement the project. 

Partners in Lower Saxony are the Lower Saxony Wadden Sea National Park Administration and the planning office BIO-CONSULT OS. Project partners in the Netherlands are the Province of Fryslân, the University of Groningen, the agricultural collective Collectief Súdwestkust, and the nature conservation association Bond Friese VogelWachten.


Wet grassland breeding birds like the Black-tailed Godwit depend heavily on biodiverse cultivated meadows. However, the intensification of land use practices has created species-poor meadows that are primarily unsuitable for these birds. 

Combined with increased predation pressure, this leads to insufficient breeding success and population decline of almost all grassland breeding bird species in Europe.

Nowadays, these migratory birds face similar threats in their non-breeding areas in Southern Europe and West Africa, which accelerates the decline even more.

Policy efforts and conservation measures to counteract this decline at EU level have failed so far. Therefore, strategic actions for conserving wet grassland breeding birds in the Atlantic region are needed, covering breeding sites, stopover sites, as well as wintering areas in West Africa.

With this project, Lower Saxony and Fryslân take on the responsibility to protect wet grassland breeding birds along their entire flyway and counter their decline.

Learn more

What exactly are the objectives of GrassBirdHabitats? What results do we expect? Find detailed answers to these questions below.


The main objective of the LIFE IP GrassBirdHabitats is to boost the populations of wet grassland breeding birds along the East Atlantic Flyway. This includes measures to increase the birds' reproduction rates in the Netherlands and Germany, and to improve their return rates from their wintering areas in West Africa.

The total project area comprises around 281,000 ha in Lower Saxony and Friesland. In Lower Saxony, the goal is to create 21,000 ha of biodiverse wet meadows, of which 19,000 ha will be public land while another 2,000 ha will be acquired through complementary funds. In Friesland, conservation management in two pilot areas totalling 100 ha will demonstrate ecological and economic sustainability and motivate farmers to participate in grassland conservation. Additionally, measures to improve the quality of meadow bird habitats will be implemented in conservation areas on 600 ha.

Furthermore, the project team will develop and implement an international Strategic Conservation Plan for wet grassland breeding birds in the Atlantic region. It will include a habitat restoration plan to improve resting and wintering areas in Europe and it will be linked to a strategic plan for West Africa. The aim is to transfer the team's experience to other European regions.

The project aims to fully implement the Prioritised Action Frameworks (PAFs) for Natura 2000 for Germany and the Netherlands in all sections related to grassland breeding birds and their habitats. In addition to implementing EU policy on nature conservation and biodiversity, the project contributes to sustainable agriculture, water resources and climate change, to the EU Invasive Alien Species Regulation, the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, the 2030 Climate and Energy Framework and the European Green Deal.

Expected results
  • Creation of 21,000 ha of optimal habitat for wet grassland breeding birds in the Netherlands and Germany
  • Sustainable capacity building in an international framework (Germany, Netherlands, Senegal)
  • Increase ERDF and EAFRD funding for wet grassland management from currently less than 10 million euros to 353 million euros, including 50 million euros for land purchase
  • Development of a Strategic Conservation Plan for the Atlantic region to sustainably restore meadow bird populations
  • Development of an agricultural business model for wet grassland bird habitats
  • Implementation of the Dutch and German PAFs (Prioritised Action Frameworks), the EU Birds Directive, the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 and green infrastructure
  • Reduction of the density of mammalian predators and eradication of invasive alien species
  • In Senegal: Development and testing of rice cropping systems that are profitable for both birds and farmers

Project partners