Chagra ‘2000: Ukrainian project of conservation and studying chalk grasslands
Chalk grassland is an unique ecosystem of North-eastern Ukraine. Chalk grassland sites occupy relatively small areas along elevated right banks of rivers. The sites are well remote one from each other and can be considered as typical isolates. The territory occupied by chalk grasslands in Ukraine can be considered as a centre of endemism (Tallis, 1991) due to high share of endemic plant species. Also some rare bird species such as globally threatened Lesser Kestrel were registered in these sites. Nevertheless, there is no current information on status, distribution and abundance of endemic plant species in the region. Very little is known on the extent of human impact on plant & bird species populations. Protected areas already created to conserve chalk grasslands constitute only 0.017% of the territory of the region. The protection is restricted to prohibition of land use changes. The proposed work will enable to assess the impact of habitat fragmentation and threat factors on the population state of rare and vulnerable plant & bird species. Most valuable sites requiring protection will be identified along with evaluation the existing system of protected areas. A lot of conservation education activities is planned under the project. Teachers of biology in local schools are considered as main target group. We intend to use the experience of local teachers and amateurs to search for most important sites for rare species protection. Lectures on problems of chalk grassland conservation for teachers and excursions for local schoolboys will be organised. Local teachers will be provided with releases stressing the uniqueness of chalk grassland ecosystems. Special programme will be developed to familiarise local people with rare plant & bird species. We consider development of scientifically grounded programme for creation new protected areas as a main long-term conservation outcome of the project. The programme will be presented to the Ukrainian Ministry of Environmental Protection. Another important outcome will be involvement of local teachers and amateurs in conservation work.