DRAGONLIFE – Securing Leucorrhinia pectoralis and Pelobates fuscus in the northern distribution area in Estonia and Denmark

LIFE08 NAT/EE/000257

Partners: Allerød Municipality, Denmark Hjørring Municipality, Denmark Vejle Municipality, Denmark Hillerød Municipality, Denmark Gribskov Municipality, Denmark Amphi Consult, Denmark

Project duration: 2010-2015


The overall objective of the DRAGONLIFE project was to secure the small and isolated populations of yellow-spotted whiteface dragonfly (Leucorrhinia pectoralis) and common spadefoot toad (Pelobates fuscus) in the northern part of their distribution range in Estonia and Denmark, and to draw up conservation measures for successful population management of these toad species that are applicable on a wider national and European scale. Specific project goals were to safeguard isolated populations of Leucorrhinia pectoralis in four out of seven known localities for this species in Denmark; to rescue populations of Pelobates fuscus from extinction in the extreme northern part of its distribution range in Estonia and in isolated sites in Denmark; to carry out large-scale habitat restoration to preserve populations of the two target species; to establish three reserve populations of Pelobates fuscus in the Danish project sites with high-quality habitat conditions; to identify small freshwater bodies that are valuable habitats for the target species and also other rare and threatened species; to raise awareness about the target species; and to establish an international network of experts and nature managers.


The DRAGONLIFE project conducted a range of conservation actions to protect small and isolated populations of yellow-spotted whiteface dragonfly (Leucorrhinia pectoralis) and common spadefoot toad (Pelobates fuscus) in Estonia and Denmark. The success of these actions has resulted in both these Annexes II and IV-listed Habitats Directive species gaining favourable conservation status in Estonia. In Denmark, populations of both species were secured: the important remaining Pelobates fuscus populations (including their genetic variation) and Leucorrhinia pectoralis populations due to the renovation of their few remaining habitats.

The project team carried out conservation actions at eight sites in Estonia and eight sites in Denmark, and facilitated the surveying of habitats over a much wider area. A total of 511 water bodies were inventoried in Estonia, Denmark and the Netherlands by an international team of amphibian and invertebrate experts, using an inventory form elaborated in the project. The project team defined habitat requirements and developed criteria for assessing the favourable conservation status of both target species.

At the project sites, the DRAGONLIFE team created 82 small water bodies, and restored a further 105, in Estonia and Denmark, as suitable habitat for the reproduction of the two species. Complementary actions resulted in a further 37 ponds being restored or created elsewhere in Estonia, and 54 in Denmark. Private landowners agreed to maintain ponds in the future. Aquatic invasive alien species (Crucian carp (Carassius auratus gibelio), goldfish (C. auratus), and plant species of Elodea) were eliminated from numerous water bodies, and guidelines were compiled for the eradication of invasive alien species based on practical experience. The project team cleared 50 ha of terrestrial habitats around the new and restored water bodies by removing scrub and creating suitable hibernation sites for Pelobates fuscus; established three reserve populations of Pelobates fuscus; reared over 10 000 tadpoles; and released young newly-metamorphosed toads into the ponds. These actions were particularly important in saving the remaining Pelobates fuscus populations and their genetic diversity. By restoring small water bodies, the project also contributed to the conservation of many other species, and to maintaining biodiversity in Estonia and Denmark.

The project team greatly raised awareness concerning the two endangered species and their habitats, with activities that involved different ages (e.g. students and adults) and target groups (e.g. landowners, nature conservation specialists, local government, community groups) in conservation activities These actions encompassed a variety of methods, including TV and radio (including spots on the Estonian environmental TV show OSOON), a website, a video film, printed publications, 18 information boards, 2 permanent and 1 temporary exhibitions, a study trail on dragonflies and amphibians, 4 site visits for experts, 3 international workshops and a final seminar, and 16 guided tours in Estonia and 38 in Denmark (together engaging around 1 400 people). The publications included identification keys on the target species and invasive alien species, Best Practice guidelines, and species action plans.

In terms of policy, the project directly contributed to the objectives of the EU Habitats Directive (Leucorrhinia pectoralis is listed in Annexes II and IV and Pelobates fuscus in Annex IV) the Water Framework Directive and the EU2020 Biodiversity strategy. The project was also relevant to the implementation of the EU invasive alien species regulation.

Project outputs (e.g. inventory forms, best practice guidelines) could be used elsewhere in Europe, contributing to significant savings in time and expense. The project team made suggestions for improving dragonfly inventory methodologies, as part of the Estonian action plans, including adding the new water bodies. As the restoration of ponds has become increasingly popular, small local businesses stand to gain by an influx of work.


European Commission under the LIFE Financial Instrument


Total budget: 1,050,430.00 €

EU Contribution: 525,215.00 €