29 May 2015The 2015 edition of Green Week, the biggest annual conference on European environment policy, takes place from 3-5 June at The Egg, Rue Bara, Brussels. The theme is nature and biodiversity. Green Week offers a unique opportunity for debate, exchanges of experience and sharing of best practice. The conference has become an unmissable event for all involved in protecting the environment. The LIFE programme is again playing a prominent role during Green Week, in Brussels and at satellite events around Europe.
For full details of LIFE events during Green Week and a list of LIFE project beneficiaries taking part in the exhibition, download the programme here)- IMPORTANT: In order to attend LIFE-related events at Green Week, it is necessary to register via the Green Week Website (before 03/06) or directly at the Green Week desk at the Conference Centre after. N.B. It is not possible to register for individual LIFE events; rather, it is essential to complete the general registration form for Green Week to gain access to the venue.
21 May 2015All across Europe today [21 May] events are being held in honour of the third annual Natura 2000 Day. The day was established by Spanish LIFE project, LIFE Activa Red Natura 2000 (LIFE11 INF/ES/000665), to spread awareness of the importance of Natura 2000, the largest network of protected sites in the world.
Recognising the significance of even the smallest acts, the interlocked thumbs ‘butterfly’s wings’ hand sign has once again played a role in promoting the Natura 2000 Day. Public figures including former Spain and Real Madrid footballer, Emilio Butragueño, Olympic medallist Gemma Mengual and German MEPs Martin Schulz and Michael Cramer are among the many people who have been photographed making the hand sign in the run up to the day. These have been uploaded on the Natura 2000 Day website and via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (tagged #Natura2000Day). The sign has also featured on posters with the caption, ‘A small gesture can change everything’.
19 May 2015An introductory event on the European Commission's (EC) new Natural Capital Financing Facility (NCFF) in Brussels on 8 May 2015 attracted a variety of participants. Launched in February this year, the new financial instrument will fund pro-biodiversity and pro-climate change adaptation projects across the EU.
Pia Bucella, Director of Natural Capital at DG Environment, and Humberto Delgado Rosa, Director of Mainstreaming Adaptation and Low Carbon Technology at DG CLIMA, introduced the event. Ms Bucella highlighted that an aim of the new financial instrument was, "to ensure better development and preservation of our natural capital," alongside traditional avenues such as the Common Agricultural Policy, regional funding and the LIFE programme.
Mr Delgado Rosa noted another key aspect of the NCFF, attracting the private sector to leverage the funding available for natural capital. "It won't be easy," he commented, "it's very innovative, there's a lot of learning to be done. But I'm sure it will be a success."
18 May 2015An introductory event on the European Commission's (EC) new Natural Capital Financing Facility (NCFF) in Brussels on 8 May 2015 attracted a variety of participants. Launched in February this year, the new financial instrument will fund pro-biodiversity and pro-climate change adaptation projects across the EU.
Pia Bucella, Director of Natural Capital at DG Environment, and Humberto Delgado Rosa, Director of Mainstreaming Adaptation and Low Carbon Technology at DG CLIMA, introduced the event. Ms Bucella highlighted that an aim of the new financial instrument was, "to ensure better development and preservation of our natural capital," alongside traditional avenues such as the Common Agricultural Policy, regional funding and the LIFE programme.
Mr Delgado Rosa noted another key aspect of the NCFF, attracting the private sector to leverage the funding available for natural capital. "It won't be easy," he commented, "it's very innovative, there's a lot of learning to be done. But I'm sure it will be a success."
13 May 2015The European Commission is currently performing a ‘Fitness Check’ of the Birds Directive and the Habitats Directive — Directive 2009/147/EC and Council Directive 92/43/EEC respectively. In this context, it has launched a public online consultation.
As part of the Commission’s Smart Regulation policy, the Fitness Check is intended to verify the effectiveness, efficiency, coherence, relevance, and European added value of the directives in question. In particular, it will analyse successes and problems with regard to implementation and integration, related costs, opportunities for improving implementation and reducing administrative burden, and the state of play in the implementation in different EU countries, while taking the views of key stakeholder groups into consideration.
08 May 2015The LIFE Albufera project (LIFE12 ENV/ES/000685) is running an innovative online seminar, entitled Constructed Wetlands: working with water for biodiversity. It consists of a series of 11 videos featuring renowned international experts. The videos deal with different aspects of constructed wetlands management, including water, biodiversity and overall management issues and can be viewed on the project’s website, in English or Spanish.
Visitors to the online event are requested to provide feedback or ask questions by contacting the project’s communication manager: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The deadline for contributions is 24 May 2015. All of the information and answers will be published on the website and in the next edition of the LIFE project’s international newsletter.
05 May 2015The NEWsolutions4OLDHousing (LIFE10 ENV/ES/000439) project presented details of its methodology for the sustainable retrofitting of social housing at the Fifth Buildings Meeting (V Encuentro-edificación), held in the School of Building Construction at the Polytechnic University of Madrid on 24-26 March 2015. The theme of the meeting was integration and reactivity: key concepts in the efficient rehabilitation of high-density residential housing. The event was broadcast online and was the subject of a virtual congress for several weeks afterwards.
Roberto Díaz, from the LIFE project’s coordinating beneficiary AITEMIN, talked about technological innovation for the efficient use of resources and energy in housing rehabilitation. In particular, he outlined how the NEWsolutions4OLDHousing project has identified new technologies, products and building systems for the retrofitting of social housing, and has developed an online tool to quantify and classify the sustainability of actions for retrofitting buildings.
05 May 2015The foreword to the 7th International Woodpeckers Conference Proceedings was recently published in the scientific journal Acta Ornithologica and is now available to download online. The conference, which was organised by the Spanish LIFE project PRO-lzki (LIFE10 NAT/ES/000572), was held in Vitoria-Gasteiz in February 2014, attracting 110 experts from Europe, America and Asia.
The international conference, Woodpeckers in a Changing World, featured 22 presentations and 21 posters. The publication of the best papers in an international journal recognises the scientific value of the conference and helps publicise the actions and results of the LIFE project.
The PRO-lzki project was launched to improve the conservation status of the vast Pyrenean oak (Quercus pyrenaica) woodland of the Izki Natural Park, in the Basque Country, northern Spain. The project area is home to middle spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos medius), one of several species benefiting from the conservation measures coordinated by the Provincial Council of Álava and the Hazi Foundation under the project.
27 April 2015Dorota Nvotová has become the public face of the LIFE ENERGY project (LIFE13 NAT/SK/001272) in Slovakia. The famous actress and singer has participated in project actions, which aim to protect endangered bird species. A short film featuring her involvement, and explaining the project’s objectives, will be available to view online soon. Dorota Nvotová is associated with landscape and wildlife through her travelling, which includes leading hiking expeditions in Nepal.
The main objective of the LIFE ENERGY project is to reduce bird deaths due to collisions with electricity power lines in 13 Natura 2000 sites in Slovakia. The project is targetting 10 bird species listed in Annex I of the Birds Directive, including the Eastern imperial eagle (Aquila heliaca), Saker falcon (Falco cherrug) and lesser white-fronted goose (Anser erythropus). Power lines that are identified as the most dangerous to these birds will be fitted with flight diverters, which make them more visible. During the first seven months of the project, more than 8 000 km of power lines were surveyed by over 50 trained field experts. The survey will continue until February 2016.
24 April 2015 Each year the best LIFE projects are recognised at an award ceremony.
This year's event promises to be a little different as — for the first time ever — it will include two LIFE Community Awards.
You are being asked to vote for your favourite environmental project and your favourite nature project, from the winners of the Best of the Best LIFE Projects 2014.
The Best of the Best are those judged to have been the most inspiring LIFE projects. They are meticulously selected by environmental experts according to rigorous criteria.
This year's Best of the Best winners have just been announced. In all, some 13 projects have been recognised as being particularly exemplary. Of these, eight fall under the environmental category and five under the nature category.
The public voting for the LIFE Community Awards is now open to everyone! Voting will end on 01/06/2015 at 23:00 Brussels time.
21 April 2015The most inspiring LIFE projects completed during 2014 will be honoured at a prestigious award ceremony taking place during EU Green Week in June 2015. And they can now be exclusively revealed online…
In all, some 42 Best Projects have been selected across three categories: Environment; Nature; and Information & Communication. Of these, 13 are recognised as being particularly exemplary and will be awarded Best of the Best project status. The 42 outstanding projects come from 16 EU Member States. In this 10th year of the LIFE Best Project Awards they include the first winners from the Czech Republic and Malta.
In the Environment category, there are six Best of the Best projects and a further 16 Best projects. The Nature winners include four Best of the Best projects and nine Best projects. The seven outstanding Information & Communication projects consist of three Best of the Best projects, as well as four Best projects.
Below you will find the full list of the 13 Best of the Best winners. To find out more about all 42 winning projects check out the Best Projects section of the LIFE website.
18 April 2015The LIFE project Up & Forward (LIFE11 ENV/UK/000389) recently held a closing seminar to present the results of all the individual awareness campaigns that were carried out across Greater Manchester to encourage residents to waste less and recycle more. The event attracted 95 attendees.
Up & Forward, which focussed on ‘hard-to-reach’ places, was led by Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority (GMWDA) with the strong involvement of local communities.
The project carried out awareness campaigns focussed on small target areas of 1 500 households. Since June 2013, 42 campaigns were carried out, each seeking to find a different solution to help residents recycle.
16 April 2015The LIFE project Gypsum to Gypsum (GtoG, LIFE11 ENV/BE/001039) has just published a European handbook on best practices in the deconstruction of gypsum-based systems and a handbook on best practices in audit prior to the deconstruction of buildings.
The project consortium designed the books to become standard guidelines for more eco-friendly deconstruction and ultimately to help achieve the goals of the Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC).
The publications describe in detail the results of deconstruction pilot projects conducted in Belgium, France, Germany, and the UK, and contrast the cost of deconstruction versus demolition. At the pilot sites, the project partners deconstructed a variety of buildings, identified materials and wastes to be removed and examined relevant deconstruction techniques.
10 April 2015The WaterLIFE project (LIFE13 ENV/UK/000497) in England is successfully engaging with civil society groups and stimulating the public consultation foreseen by the Water Framework Directive (WFD) that will feed into the development of the second River Basin Management Plan (RBMP), foreseen by 2015.
Public consultation is a requirement of the WFD. The WaterLIFE project goes one step further by actively empowering civil society to engage with RBMP development. The project’s Save Our Waters website, set up in October 2014, enables communities across England to respond quickly and easily to the Environment Agency’s consultation on draft RMBPs.
09 April 2015Portuguese nature conservationists are celebrating the results of LIFE’s Habitat Lince Abutre project (LIFE08 NAT/P/000227), which is helping to establish the start of a new breeding colony for Eurasian black vultures (Aegypius monachus). Two pairs of this critically endangered bird species have set up home on nesting platforms provided by the LIFE project in Alentejo. It marks the return of breeding black vultures to southern Portugal after an absence of several decades.
Eggs have already been confirmed in one nest and another breeding pair is busy making preparations for what is expected to be an additional clutch of new vulture chicks. This first step towards re-establishing a breeding population of black vultures in Alentejo has been warmly welcomed by the LIFE project partners. They worked hard to create the necessary conditions to encourage re-colonisation of the species and the results of their endeavours represent an important milestone for black vulture conservation in Portugal.
08 April 2015The LiveWell for LIFE project (LIFE10 ENV/UK/000173) has identified eight policy recommendations that they believe can greatly support the adoption of healthy, sustainable diets. This includes a recommendation for a supportive and cohesive policy environment and national and European levels and a request that, "governments put policy measures in place to support informed action for and monitoring of progress by all stakeholders." It also calls on existing stakeholder platforms at European level to swap best practices between Member States and other stakeholders.
The Commission has identified food as one of three key sectors for achieving a circular low-carbon economy in its Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe’ (COM (2011) 571). A subsequent public consultation in 2013 helped identify effective policy solutions. This fed into a draft strategy for ‘Building a sustainable European food system’ in 2014, but the corresponding communication has still to be adopted.
07 April 2015On 24 March 2015, Karmenu Vella, the European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, visited the unique 25-metre high mural titled ‘Save the Imperial Eagle’, which is painted on the facade of the St. Kliment Ohridski School in Sofia, whilst on an official visit to Bulgaria.
The giant graffiti is the first of its kind in Bulgaria and was created in 2012 by the Bulgarian graffiti team 140ideas for the Best LIFE and the 2014 Natura 2000 award winning LIFE project BSPB LIFE+ Save the Raptors (LIFE07 NAT/BG/000068).
"I congratulate you on the inspirational idea to create this beautiful mural and particularly for producing real results in the conservation of this endangered species," said Commissioner Vella during his meeting with the Bulgaria Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB).
20 March 2015 On 27 February 2015 representatives from all seven partners of the LIFE project AIRUSE (LIFE11 ENV/ES/000584) participated in a meeting with the European Commission in Brussels. The objective of the meeting was to provide an overview of the project results to DG Environment staff.
The AIRUSE project aims to develop and adapt cost-effective and appropriate measures to ensure better air quality in urban areas, with a particular focus on the cities of Porto, Barcelona, Milan, Florence and Athens. By identifying the most effective mitigation measures to reduce particulate matter levels to acceptable limits, it thus contributes to meeting current and future EU targets regarding air quality.
17 March 2015 Led by the Moors for the Future Partnership, the MoorLIFE project (LIFE08 NAT/UK/000202) staged a well-attended closing conference in Halifax, Yorkshire (UK) earlier this month. Titled 'An integrated approach to upland biodiversity', the two-day conference (3-4 March 2015) highlighted some of the five-year project's impressive results, placing them in the context of landscape-scale efforts to restore Europe's most degraded active blanket bog, the South Pennine Moors Special Area of Conservation (SAC), a Natura 2000 network site.
Sarah Fowler, chief executive of Peak District National Park, one of Moors for the Future's partner organisations, said, “we’ve seen over the last 10 years the partnership really mature from projects through to programme level, spending £20 million." She also highlighted the value of LIFE's support for the restoration work.
10 March 2015 The final event of the Futurescapes (LIFE10 INF/UK/000189) project, held in Bristol, UK on 4-5 March 2015, was a workshop entitled, the future of landscape-scale conservation in Europe. It was structured around interactive ‘super brain’ sessions to tackle the key challenges facing landscape-level conservation. LIFE project beneficiary, the RSPB, organised the event in partnership with the National Trust, The Wildlife Trusts and Bristol 2015 European Green Capital.
Two keynote speakers put the event in context. Sir John Lawton, the Vice President of the RSPB and President of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, summarised the message of the Making space for nature review of England’s wildlife and ecological network that he chaired in 2010. He said landscape-level conservation is, “all about putting the mantra of that report – More, Bigger, Better and Joined – into practice.” By placing conservation efforts on a continuum, from the smallest reserves to the largest rewilding projects, it is clear that size matters in terms of the efficiency and effectiveness of nature conservation. The review led to the establishment of 12 Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs) in the UK in 2012, to create joined-up and resilient networks at a landscape level.
04 March 2015 In the framework of the LIFE project Natura 2000: Connecting people with biodiversity (LIFE11 INF/ES/000665), the Spanish Ornithological Society (SEO)/BirdLife España has now published a brochure entitled Positive Natura 2000 Experiences.
Aiming to demonstrate the numerous benefits of the Natura 2000 network sites, of which there are over 2 000 in Spain and more than 27 000 all over Europe, the brochure features articles about Natura 2000 and sustainable agriculture, forestry, fisheries/marine farming, and tourism.
“Natura 2000 is much more than nature reserves. It’s about people and nature, because it ensures that conservation and sustainable use go hand in hand with benefits to local citizens and the wider economy,” Pía Bucella, director of the Natural Capital Directorate in the European Commission’s DG Environment, writes in the introduction.
03 March 2015 The LIFE project Monti della Tolfa (LIFE08 NAT/IT/000316) recently hosted a national networking workshop on issues relating to raptor feeding platforms, which attracted more 145 experts and policymakers.
Speakers shared their experiences and presented findings on the use of feeding platforms for raptors. Discussion focused on conservation and management techniques for improving the conservation status of birds of prey as well as the legal issues surrounding the supply of meat and the costs of management. The event featured presentations from five LIFE project beneficiaries as well as invited experts from similar Italian projects, the ministry of health and the national environmental research institute.
02 March 2015 The positive impact of the AgriClimateChange (LIFE09/ENV/ES/000441) LIFE project continues to grow as it has now been included in a set of technical guidance notes from the European Commission.
Produced by the DG Climate Action for Member States’ rural development programme authorities, the recent publication Mainstreaming climate change into rural development policy post 2013 features much of the transnational knowhow developed with LIFE support by the AgriClimateChange partners.
The guidance aims to promote the design and integration of new and innovative climate operations. There are at least 16 references to the LIFE project’s practical tools to help farmers both mitigate the causes of climate change, as well as adapt their businesses to become more aligned with changing weather patterns.
26 February 2015 Ireland’s BurrenLIFE project (LIFE04 NAT/IE/000125) has produced innovations in results-based approaches to agri-environment action that have been highlighted as good practice by EU rural development authorities. This accolade comes from the first phase of a new initiative by the European Parliament and European Commission promoting wider uptake by Member States of results-based agri-environment payment schemes (RBAPS).
Whilst the LIFE programme has supported many projects that have fed into the development of management-based agri-environment schemes, the BurrenLIFE project is a pioneer of this new results-based approach to agri-environment payment. RBAPS differ from conventional agri-environment schemes because they focus their payments on recorded biodiversity results, rather than compensating for specific land management actions.
20 February 2015 With the start of the project LIFE Berlengas (LIFE13 NAT/PT/000458) in June 2014 the Portuguese Government and SPEA (BirdLife International Portugal) began work to ensure the sustainable management of the Berlengas archipelago, in particular its endemic flora and seabird population.
The group of islands is a popular tourist destination that lies 10 to 15 kilometres off the Portuguese coast, west of the town of Peniche and is a designated Natura 2000 network site. The main aim of the project is to establish a legally-binding management plan with clear, measurable actions and targets for archipelago.
18 February 2015 A new in-depth thematic report on LIFE and forests has just been published. Authored by An Bollen and Darline Velghe from the LIFE programme’s external monitoring team, the 118-page publication gives an insight into the diversity of LIFE+ forest projects, analyses revealing trends and evaluates their overall relevance to EU forest policy.
The Forest Thematic Report is intended to provide useful insights for EU decision- and policy-makers, to share lessons learned amongst project practitioners, to disseminate results more broadly, to showcase projects for future LIFE applicants, to account for spending of EU public funds and to raise awareness on new approaches.
17 February 2015 In anticipation of the award of the first action grants from the LIFE sub-programme for Climate Action, the latest LIFE Environment Focus publication takes an in-depth look at LIFE's work till now in support of climate change mitigation.
The LIFE and Climate change mitigation brochure gives an overview of EU climate policy and provides a host of best practice examples from more than 200 featured projects from across the European Union.
With a foreword by EU Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, Miguel Arias Cañete, the 88-page publication includes interviews with representatives of DG Climate Action and with NGOs active in the field. These highlight the climate mitigation challenges ahead and LIFE's role in the transition to low-carbon agriculture.
16 February 2015 Migrating birds share the burden of leading the flock in v-formation flight to save energy, a part LIFE-funded study now published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) has found.
The ground-breaking research, which was supported by the LIFE project Northern Bald Ibis - Reason for Hope - Reintroduction of Northern Bald Ibis in Europe, is generating huge public interest with the story being picked up by major media outlets across Europe and beyond, including the BBC, Spiegel, etc.
Following on from a paper on the reasons for v-formation flight in Nature in January 2014 (more information), an international team of researchers led by Oxford University scientists now provides evidence for ‘turn-taking’ reciprocal cooperative behaviour in birds, after studying 14 juvenile Northern bald ibis (Geronticus eremita) migrating from Salzburg in Austria to Orbetello in Italy. Such cooperation contravenes the basic notion that evolution favours selfishness.
12 February 2015 The latest LIFE Nature Focus publication takes a close look at the work LIFE projects have done to protect threatened freshwater fish species and improve their habitats. The 64-page brochure, LIFE and freshwater fish, highlights the status of key species and the threats they face, as well as providing an overview of LIFE's efforts to improve their conservation status, help in the management of the Natura 2000 network, and meet the targets set by the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020.
Since 1992, more than 135 LIFE projects have directly targeted over 50 threatened freshwater fish species listed in the annexes of the EU Habitats Directive or in the IUCN European Red List. Hundreds more projects have indirectly benefitted fish populations through restoration of river, lake and other habitats vital to the lifecycle of freshwater and migratory fish populations.
11 February 2015 Two new LIFE brochures are now available to access online. An achievements brochure outlines the broad range of activities funded by LIFE operating grants for NGOs in 2013, while the NGO compilation brochure overviews all the NGOs funded under this aspect of the LIFE programme in 2014.
Last year, 28 NGOs successfully applied to the European Commission for LIFE operational grants totalling around €9 million (19% of the total budget). These NGOs focus on a wide range of fields including nature and biodiversity conservation, sustainable use of resources, water quality, climate change mitigation and adaptation, environmental education and awareness raising, clean transport and sustainable production, farming and food consumption.
The 2013 NGO achievements brochure highlights the specific achievements of four environmental NGOs covering different policy areas, namely: Carbon Disclosure Project, Health Care Without Harm, NGO Shipbreaking Platform and Slow Food. It gives short profiles of the NGOs and their environmental aims, outlining how the operational grants have enabled them to meet those goals in 2013.
09 February 2015 Work preventing bird electrocutions on power lines carried out by LIFE+ Save the Raptors (LIFE07/NAT/BG000068) has been recognised by the international Renewables-Grid-Initiative (RGI). The project beneficiary – the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB - BirdLife partner) – was presented with the good practice award, in the environmental protection category, at RGI’s annual conference, held in Brussels in January 2015.
Accepting the award on behalf of the BSPB, Svetoslav Spasov, project manager said, “I am delighted that in two particular cases we were able to secure the over-head power lines and prevent the death of many eastern imperial eagles in Bulgaria and Egyptian vultures in Sudan. There’s a lot still to do though – for a permanent solution, we need active cooperation and partnership between state authorities, private electric companies and the nature conservation community.”
28 January 2015 The BiodivERsA ERA-Net has announced that it will launch a new call for pan-European biodiversity research proposals. The call, with an indicative global budget of roughly €30 million, is due to be launched in May 2015 with a closing date in early November 2015.
The call – co-funded by the European Commission – will cover two themes:
27 January 2015 Today Commissioners Arias Cañete and Vella, the European Commission and EIB Vice-President for Environment and Climate Action Jonathan Taylor have launched two financial instruments funded through the LIFE Programme for Environment and Climate Action.
The Private Finance for Energy Efficiency Instrument (PF4EE) aims to address the limited access to adequate and affordable loan financing for energy efficiency projects targeted by schemes developed by EU Member States to implement their Nation Energy Efficiency Action Plans. The Commission has committed €80 million for 2014-17 anticipating an eightfold leverage effect. The PF4EE will combine lending from the EIB to intermediary banks in Member States with protection against losses associated with making loans for energy efficiency projects, and technical assistance aiming at increasing the technical capacity of the financial intermediaries. The beneficiaries could include SMEs, private individuals, small municipalities or other public sector bodies. The size of the energy efficiency loans to be provided to the final beneficiaries could range from €40 000 up to €5 million and higher in exceptional cases.
20 January 2015 LIFEnews, the monthly LIFE newsletter, covers themes that are of importance to European policy on the environment and nature conservation, as well as the LIFE programme itself. So what were the five most-read articles of 2014?
Let the countdown begin…
The fifth most-read article was published in February. The European Commission had recently adopted a new Clean Air Policy Package and our article focused on how LIFE can play a key role in helping Member States reach their objectives. Compliance with the package could be achieved by, “various funding instruments at European level, in particular the LIFE programme,” according to Scott Brockett of the European Commission's Directorate-General for the Environment.LIFE vital for EC's new Clean Air Package
19 January 2015 The European Commission has published a report following the LIFE Information and Communication (LIFE INF) platform meeting about raising awareness of Natura 2000, which was held in Kraków, Poland on 13-14 October 2014. The meeting allowed a range of nature projects from the information and communication strand of the LIFE programme to exchange experience and discuss ways of improving awareness and understanding of the Natura 2000 network.
The projects were presented in two sessions: the first assessed the impact of LIFE INF projects that sought to increase awareness of key stakeholder groups (such as farmers, local communities, public administrations and managers of protected areas) and ensure public involvement in the conservation of Natura 2000 areas; the second looked at the role of targeted information campaigns as a tool for resolving specific protection issues. The event concluded with workshops designed to share knowledge and to develop recommendations on how to best promote Natura 2000.
07 January 2015 The National IUCN Committee of Finland has awarded the Finnish Biodiversity Award 2013-2014 to the project Saimaa Seal LIFE (LIFE12 NAT/FI/000367). The project received the award specifically for one of its Actions (C2), which involved improving the breeding conditions of the Saimaa ringed seal (Pusa hispida saimensis) with man-made snowdrifts.
The action was necessary because the snow on Lake Saimaa was extremely thin during the winter of 2013/2014 and the snow mounds which the seal needs to reproduce did not form naturally. To solve this problem a large number of volunteers created 240 artificial snow mounds for the seals. Their hard work paid off: in spring 2014, some 59 seal pups were born in nests in the manmade mounds. “Without the help of the volunteers this work would not have been successful,” says Dr. Raisa Tiilikainen, project manager. The solution has caused quite a stir outside of Finland because it is seen as a new, simple and innovative way to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change on seals.
06 January 2015 You are invited to participate in our new call for ideas! As part of the work programme 2016-2017 of the societal challenge 5 “Climate Action, Environment, Resource Efficiency and Raw Materials” (SC5) of the Horizon 2020 framework programme, the European Commission intends to open calls for large-scale pilot/demonstration projects in the areas of circular economy, nature-based solutions, climate services and water.
The present call for ideas for pilot/demonstration projects is intended to:
05 January 2015 A red-breasted goose (Branta ruficollis) recently observed in a mixed grazing flock of greater white-fronted goose and red-breasted goose at Nagy-szik in the Hortobágy National Park, Hungary, was identified thanks to a yellow plastic ring with which it had been marked in 2013 by the Bulgarian LIFE project Safe Ground for Redbreasts (LIFE09 NAT/BG/000230).
The observed individual was feeding at a site that was restored by the LIFE project, Sodic lake habitat restoration in the Hortobágy (LIFE07 NAT/H/000324). This site hosts large flocks of wintering geese, and through the network of goose experts across Europe, the site managers were able to inform the Bulgarian project team.
The Bulgarian LIFE project, which is being coordinated by BSPB/BirdLife Bulgaria, is carrying out land-management measures in the Dobrudzha region of northern Bulgaria to provide secure foraging grounds for the red-breasted goose – the most threatened goose species in the world.
24 December 2014A recent FAO publication on climate change has referenced conservation measures carried out by two LIFE projects: a Swedish (LIFE08 NAT/S/000268) mire restoration project; and a German alkaline fen restoration project (LIFE08 NAT/D/000003).
The publication, Towards climate-responsible peatlands management, highlights the challenges facing the alkaline fens in Brandenburg and the actions undertaken by the LIFE project beneficiary, Naturschutzfonds Brandenburg to meet them. The project sites have been heavily drained and converted to arable land, but thanks to LIFE these areas are being restored through raising the water level and removing nutrients.
Grazing is another key restoration measure. “The project worked in collaboration with local farmers to establish pastures for Asian water buffalo and sheep. With proper grazing management, the livestock keep the growth of reed and other larger vegetation to a minimum,” the publication reports.
The project, which is set to end next year, has carried out measures on six sites, mowing a total of 140 ha of reed, filling in 27 km of drainage ditches and cutting peat on an area of around 14 ha. Water buffalos are grazing on more than 30 hectares.
The restoration of fenland, and peatlands in general, is an effective climate-change mitigation measure, as several LIFE project are demonstrating. The ongoing Swedish project is an excellent example and one that will feature in a forthcoming LIFE brochure on climate change.
23 December 2014The European Commission and the European Investment Bank (EIB) have signed an agreement entrusting the EIB with the management of the Natural Capital Financing Facility (NCFF), the second of two new financial instruments under the LIFE Programme.
The NCFF will provide loans and investments in funds to support projects that promote the preservation of natural capital, including adaptation to climate change, within the EU-28.
The EIB will contribute a total budget for the Investment Facility of €100-125 million for 2014-2017. The European Commission will contribute €50 million as a guarantee for the investments, and €10 million for a support facility. Beneficiary companies and financial intermediaries will provide significant additional financing.
19 December 2014An announcement on 9 December 2014 introduced a new financial instrument to operate under the LIFE Environment and Climate Action sub-programmes (2014-2020). Agreed by the European Commission and the European Investment Bank (EIB), the Private Finance for Energy Efficiency (PF4EE) instrument is dedicated to increasing private investment in energy efficiency projects. The instrument will support Member States' progress towards EU targets for energy efficiency.
The PF4EE instrument is to bridge the gap in affordable commercial financing for energy efficiency investment. It does this by making lending a more sustainable activity for European private sector financial institutions and by increasing the availability of debt financing. To this end, the Commission has committed €80 million for 2014-17 through the LIFE programme to fund credit risk protection and expert technical support services. Management of the PF4EE instrument is entrusted to the EIB and the bank has committed making a minimum of €480 million available for long-term financing.
17 December 2014The Best LIFE Environment projects 2013 publication highlights exemplary environment projects, which received recognition at the LIFE Environment Awards. The projects, which were completed before the end of 2013, achieved outstanding results, demonstrating best practices and pioneering innovative solutions.
This year, the 10th consecutive year of the awards, was the first time that LIFE Information & Communication (LIFE INF) projects with an environmental focus were also recognised.
Four projects were awarded the ultimate accolade of being a ‘Best of the Best’ project, including one LIFE INF. In addition, a further 19 projects (including three LIFE INF) were recognised as ‘Best’ LIFE projects for their excellent work.
Presenting the awards, Dr Hans Bruyninckx, Executive Director of the European Environment Agency said: “The innovation that we find in many of these projects will be an inspiration for the European institutions and for Member States and for a number of other actors.”
16 December 2014The Best LIFE Nature projects 2013 publication highlights the exceptional achievements of nature conservation and restoration projects that were completed before the end of 2013.
The 6th edition of the annual awards ceremony for the winning projects was held in Brussels earlier this year. And for the first time, the achievements of LIFE Information & Communication (LIFE INF) projects with a nature focus were also recognised.
Four projects received the ultimate accolade (‘Best of the Best’ project), including a LIFE INF project in Greece. In addition, a further nine projects (including two from the LIFE INF strand) were recognised as ‘Best’ LIFE projects for their excellent work.
All 13 outstanding projects - drawn from nine Member States - are featured in this new publication. Together they demonstrate the significant contribution that the LIFE programme can make to nature conservation practice and policy.
08 December 2014The LIFE AgriClimateChange project (LIFE09 ENV/ES/000441) was awarded first prize for its website in the Better World category for environment-related projects at the .eu Web Awards on 19 November 2014.
“We are very honoured to have been awarded this prize. By recognising the work of the project team it inspires us to continue communicating the importance of a more sustainable European farming sector, which is essential if we are to achieve any significant improvements,” said Eduardo de Miguel, managing director at Fundación Global Nature and coordinator of the project.
He added that, “this is one of the reasons why communication and the effective dissemination of the project’s results play a key part in the project.”
05 December 2014The LIFE project BulPlantNet (LIFE08 NAT/BG/000279) has won the Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation's annual award for the most successful campaign for biodiversity conservation. The foundation handed out the awards in this and seven further categories during a ceremony in Sofia.
“The award is of great value to us, since it shows that our efforts have been highly appreciated by the broader public,” says BulPlantNet project coordinator Prof Dimitar Peev of the Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.
03 December 2014The call for applications for the second edition of the European Commission's Natura 2000 Awards is now open.
The Natura 2000 Awards celebrate and promote best practice in nature conservation. Specifically, the awards recognise excellence in the management and promotion of the Natura 2000 network.
The initiative is all about bringing the success of the Natura 2000 network to the public's attention and to demonstrate its importance in protecting natural heritage throughout Europe. The winners will be announced at an award ceremony in Brussels on Natura 2000 Day – 21 May 2015.
Natura 2000 works to assure the long-term survival of Europe's most valuable and threatened species and habitats, and is the centrepiece of the EU's nature and biodiversity policy.
27 November 2014The long conservation history of the Apennine chamois – a chamois subspecies (Rupicapra pyrenaica ornata) - received a welcome boost with the birth in May 2014 of five kids in the Sirente Velino Natural Park (PRSV) in Italy, a site from which the species had disappeared in the recent past. That the new arrivals appeared in the first birthing season following animal release is a good omen for the long-term conservation of the subspecies.
The newborns mark a successful conclusion to the LIFE COORNATA project (LIFE09 NAT/IT/000183). The initiative builds on two previous LIFE Nature projects that also build on a long-standing conservation tradition. In fact the species recovery efforts can be traced all the way back to 1918.
At the end of the First World War, only 30 individuals of the Apennine chamois survived in a restricted area of the central Apennines. Today more than 2000 individuals live in 5 populations in the main parks of the central Apennines: Abruzzo, Lazio e Molise National Park (PNALM), Majella National Park (PNM), Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park (PNGSL), Monti Sibillini National Park (PNMS) and Sirente Velino Natural Park (PRSV).
25 November 2014The latest LIFE Nature Focus publication takes a timely look at one of the greatest threats to Europe's biodiversity, ecosystem services, human health and economic activities. The 76-page LIFE and invasive alien species brochure links the work of LIFE projects with the aims of the new EU Invasive Alien Species (IAS) Regulation.
There are an estimated 1200-1800 IAS in Europe and the impact of such species is of growing concern. The LIFE programme has been addressing the problems posed by invasive alien species for more than two decades. Indeed, in that time some 265 LIFE projects have included measures to deal with IAS, ranging from steps to prevent their spread to control and eradication actions in places where invasive alien species are already present and having a negative impact on native species and habitats. LIFE also provides a deep well of learning on trans-border cooperation, dissemination and awareness-raising efforts with regards to IAS.
This new brochure examines the lessons learned from the LIFE programme's extensive experience of dealing with the impacts of IAS. As such it is essential reading for policymakers and practitioners in this field.
24 November 2014 The LIFE project VULTURES' RETURN (LIFE08 NAT/BG/000278) has discovered that a young vulture released in Bulgaria has managed to travel as far as Jordan. It is the first time that a released vulture has been tracked at such a distance. The story came to light when a Bedouin man, who had trapped the live bird close to the village of Jafir, called the Bulgarian phone number written on the bird's wing tag to ask for a reward.
After the initial contact had been cut short due to communication difficulties, the project partners mobilised colleagues from Jordan, Israel, and Germany. They found out that the man had caught a young male specimen which had originally been ringed, tagged, and released in Bulgaria in September 2014. However, when the local Jordanian police located the trapper, he claimed that he had re-released the bird.
20 November 2014The project LIFE Chiro Med (LIFE08 NAT/F/000473) recently won first prize at the international ornithological film festival, held in France, for their documentary film entitled, The Life of the Greater Horseshoe Bat. The film, directed by Tanguy Stoecklé and produced by the Groupe Chiroptères de Provence, is about a colony of the rare greater horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) that live in the Camargue Natural Regional Park, France.
The greater horseshoe bat is one of the most amazing and mysterious bats in Europe. The film gives an insight into the life a young female bat and its mother and takes viewers on a thrilling but challenging journey.
12 November 2014Researchers from the AMIBIO project (LIFE08 NAT/GR/000539) have established a song library for orthopteran insects that facilitates automated species recognition in the Mediterranean. Their work has now been published in the Journal of Insect Conservation (October 2014, Volume 18, Issue 5, pp 909-925).
Orthoptera is an order of insects, including grasshoppers, crickets, locusts, and other species, many of whom produce sound (known as stridulation). The AMBIO project identified 20 different species on Hymettus Mountain in Athens. Hymettus Mountain is a Natura 2000 network site where AMBIO installed an innovative acoustic biodiversity monitoring system to collect sounds produced by the local insects, birds, mammals, and amphibians.
12 November 2014An English egg collector has been convicted in Bulgaria for the plundering of eggs of rare and endangered bird species. Jan Frederick Ross was handed a six-month prison sentence, suspended for three years, and a BGN 5000 (€ 2500) fine after pleading guilty to the illegal possession of 16 bird eggs and 3 taxidermy specimens.
Central to his conviction in October was the testimony of experts from the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB) who are involved in the LIFE projects, LIFE for Eagles Forest (LIFE12 NAT/BG/001218) and Return of the Neophronria and Greece’ (LIFE10 NAT/BG/000152). The egg-collecting conviction, the first of its kind in Bulgaria, followed a lengthy investigation carried out by the BSPB, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)/ BirdLife UK and the Bulgarian police.
07 November 2014The LIFE project Saving Danube Sturgeons (LIFE11 INF/AT/000902) has produced and published award-winning videos on the plight of the highly endangered species the Danube sturgeon. In Bulgaria the films were broadcast by several TV stations, including the national television channel. The project teams in Bulgaria and Romania also used the films in a web and information campaign about the sturgeon. The videos were directed by Dragomir Sholev, one of best young Bulgarian directors, and the TV campaign "The Invisible Fish", won bronze in the prestigious FARA 2014 advertising awards in Bulgaria.
03 November 2014The results of the ambitious Swedish electro mobility project, LIFE+ Hyper Bus (LIFE10 ENV/SE/000041) have surpassed expectation. This public-private sector collaboration has developed and trialled three new plug-in hybrid buses with fast-charging batteries in Gothenburg.
It was the first time that the vehicles were tested in regular service. As a measure of the international interest in the project – in September 2013, the technology behind the Hyper Bus was showcased to US President Barack Obama during his visit to Sweden.
03 November 2014The achievements of Murerleben (LIFE08 NAT/A/000614) have been recognised by the Australian-based International RiverFoundation (IRF), which has awarded the LIFE project a prestigious River Prize.
The IRF rewards outstanding sustainable management projects that benefit the world's rivers, lakes and wetlands. Its flagship programme comprises the Thiess International, the Australian and the European River Prizes. Although the International prize was founded in 1999, the European River Prize was first awarded in 2013. This prize is administered from the IRF Europe office in Vienna and is judged by a panel of European experts, with the winner receiving an elegant trophy and €25 000 thanks to sponsorship by Coca-Cola Europe.
The LIFE Murerleben project won the award for restoring, maintaining and improving the landscapes of the upper Mur River in Styria (Austria). The upper Mur had become badly degraded due to river channelling, which causes a reduction in river dynamics and a loss of habitats, and the construction of weirs and hydropower stations that disrupt river continuity.
27 October 2014 Jane Goodall, the eminent primatologist and UN messenger of peace, joined the LIFE project ‘LIFE Northern Bald Ibis – Reason for Hope’ (LIFE12 BIO/AT/000143) and representatives from two Italian hunting associations, to sign a pioneering agreement on 12 October 2014 that supports the sustainable reintroduction of migratory northern bald ibis or waldrapp (Geronticus eremita) in Europe. Crucially, the signatories agreed to protect this and other endangered migratory bird species from illegal hunting in Italy.
The signing of the agreement took place during a ceremony held at the Parco Natura Vivia (Bussolengo, Italy). The Italian park, one of the nine LIFE project partners, plays an important role within the campaign against illegal hunting in Italy. At the signing ceremony, Dr Goodall awarded honorary patronages to representatives of the two Italian hunting associations and also to ten school groups, who all adopted individual birds.
16 October 2014 The deadline for submitting "Traditional" Projects has officially been extented until Friday 24th October 2014 at 16:00 Brussels local time instead of 16th October.
06 October 2014 DG Environment and the LIFE programme will be present at the 2014 IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia next month (12-19 November). The DG Environment stand will include an area showcasing LIFE project videos and other programme achievements.
All LIFE projects also are invited to participate in the Saved Nature Photography Competition that will be running throughout the 2014 IUCN World Parks Congress (entrants need not be present at the congress). To enter, click here.
Held every 10 years, The IUCN World Parks Congress is a landmark global forum that is designed to set the agenda for the conservation of protected areas for the coming decade. Based around the theme, "Parks, people, planet: inspiring solutions", the 2014 congress seeks to present, discuss and create original approaches for conservation and development. It also will mark the launch of the Standard for the IUCN Green List of Protected Areas and the criteria for Key Biodiversity Areas, both of which are closely linked to the EU policy agenda in this field.
30 September 2014 The LIFE Monitoring Team has published a thematic report on marine-related LIFE projects. Subtitled ‘The future of Europe’s seas’, the 116-page study analyses the LIFE programme’s contribution to protecting and improving the marine environment.
The principal objectives of the Marine Thematic Report were as follows:
26 September 2014 The Vindel River LIFE project (LIFE08 NAT/S/000266) has concluded by staging an international conference on stream restoration entitled ‘Reviving waters’. The three-day event, which was held in Lycksele, Sweden from 22-24 September 2014, gathered 104 attendees from seven EU Member States for some 30 presentations, a poster session and a field trip to project sites.
Speakers included academic researchers and river restoration practitioners drawn from Sweden, Finland, Latvia, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Ireland and the UK. LIFE projects represented included MulkearLIFE in Ireland (LIFE07 NAT/IRL/000342), LIVEDRAVA in Slovenia (LIFE11 NAT/SI/000882), UC4LIFE (LIFE10 NAT/SE/000046) and ReMiBar (LIFE10 NAT/SE/000045) in Sweden and the UK project, RESTORE (LIFE09 INF/UK/000032). There was also a presentation on the preparation of Finland’s first proposal for an Integrated Project (on freshwaters), a new category of LIFE project introduced this year.
25 September 2014 Greater Manchester-based (UK) recycling project, LIFE+ UP and Forward has added three more films to its awareness raising campaign to persuade hard to reach communities to recycle more of their household rubbish. The project, which runs until June 2015, has also held its first seminar – attracting professionals in the field of recycling from across the UK. The films, produced by students at the University of Bolton with the help of production company Bellyfeel, target inner-city areas of Greater Manchester (North West England) that are traditionally low-performing in terms of recycling.
The first film, “The Recycler” is a comedy drama about a woman who is confused about her household recycling until a local ‘ambassador’ comes to her ‘rescue’ in the style of an action film. The second film, “Beat the Bin Men” is about a fun recycling game for local residents and depicts people floundering around in gunge and enjoying inflatable obstacle courses. The third film, “Golden Ticket” shows the awarding of a prize for community recycling to a local school.
15 September 2014 Dryden Aqua has been announced as one of 12 UK finalists for the 2014 European Business Awards for the Environment (EBAE). Presented by the European Commission every two years, the EBAE recognise and reward European companies that set an example by successfully bringing together innovation, economic viability and environmental concerns.
A Scotland-based SME, Dryden Aqua is one of only four UK finalists for the product & service category, where it is competing with its Activated Filter Media (AFM) technology. AFM is a chemically-altered filtration medium manufactured from recovered green container glass that was developed with the assistance of the LIFE 'AFM' project (LIFE02 ENV/UK/000146), which ran from 2002 to 2005. LIFE co-finance helped establish that AFM could remove at least 30% more unwanted solids and dissolved pollutants from drinking water compared to high quality silica sand and that it could improve the performance of most drinking water treatment systems and reduce the incidence of disease, whilst also delivering substantial operational costs and carbon savings.
11 September 2014 The LIFE Environment project CSP (Celtic Seas Partnership - LIFE11 ENV/UK/000392) has produced a short animation to help explain how the EU is protecting its marine environment.
The three-minute video, which has been posted on the Commission’s DG Environment Facebook page, explains the goals of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) and the Celtic Seas Partnership project. The LIFE project is bringing together sea users, industry, governments and the scientific community across the Celtic Seas - an OSPAR-defined region of the North-East Atlantic that includes the Celtic Sea, Bristol Channel, Irish Sea and parts of the Atlantic Ocean - in order to find ways of achieving healthy and sustainable seas.
In 2008, the EU introduced the MSFD to protect and manage our seas and oceans in a sustainable way. The LIFE project is “supporting the delivery” of the directive, says Dr Lyndsey Dodds, the project manager. “[It is] working to put the people that use the sea at the heart of management and offer them the opportunity to influence how their marine environment will be managed in the years to come,” she says.
05 September 2014 A final conference organised to mark the closure of the European LIFE+ ENV project CLIMATE (LIFE09 ENV/FR/000598) was held earlier this summer in the French department of Essonne. While tackling the serious matter of how to assist French and European regions to better adapt to climate change events (e.g. droughts, floods and hail storms) the event also brought a touch of humour to the proceedings through a series of climate change-themed cartoon drawings.
The overall objective of the 2010-14 project, “CLIMATE - Changing Living Modes: Acting in our Territory for the Environment” was to stimulate a reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the Essonne department – and subsequently in other regions – through a series of measures organised around five main areas of work. These included the development of eco-business activities, encouraging the use of sustainable house design technologies, stimulating the adoption of alternatives to single vehicle usage, combating energy shortages and reducing internal emissions of GHGs by the local council (Conseil general de l’Essonne), the project beneficiary.
04 September 2014 The latest LIFE Focus publication highlights the work of the LIFE programme in tackling threats to Europe's air. Titled LIFE and air quality, the 72-page brochure focuses on LIFE's role in helping to effectively and cost-effectively implement the extensive body of EU policy instruments relating to air.
The publication includes an insightful introduction to the topic, including interviews with an air quality expert from the European Environment Agency and one of the participants in a pioneering pilot exercise designed to help European cities better implement EU air policy.
Thematic chapters look at LIFE's contribution to air quality across a number of key sectors: transport and urban mobility; monitoring and modelling; capacity building; encouraging behavioural change; agriculture; and industry, waste and energy This programme-level analysis is supported by specific project examples from across the EU, including in-depth case studies that can serve as an inspiration to policy-makers and project leaders, farmers and enterprises, organisations and citizens throughout Europe.
03 September 2014The Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME) invites non-governmental organisations (NGOs) active in the field of environment and/or climate action to present proposals for the LIFE operating grants. These grants cover certain administrative and operational costs for the financial year 2015.
The objective of the call is to promote better environmental and/or climate governance by broadening the involvement of stakeholders, including NGOs, in policy consultation and implementation. The expected result is to support the strengthening of civil society participation in the dialogue process of environmental and/or climate policy development and implementation.
02 September 2014The Spanish Government has created 39 new protected areas for birds in the marine environment based on the work of two Spanish LIFE projects: Marine IBAs (Important Bird Areas for Seabirds) (LIFE04 NAT/ES/000049); and INDEMARES (LIFE07 NAT/E/000732). The new designations have multiplied by 20 the protected area for seabirds in Spain, which now covers almost 50 000 km2.
The 39 sites have been designated as Special Protection Areas (SPAs) under the EU’s Birds Directive and brought into the Natura 2000 Network. Their formal approval has been the culmination of 10 years’ work under the two LIFE projects. The Marine IBAs project (2004-2009) created a standard methodology to identify marine IBAs and conducted a detailed inventory, leading to an initial proposal of new marine SPAs for Spain.
05 August 2014The European Commission has published the report from the LIFE Platform Meeting ‘Urban Resilience: LIFE+ projects and European policies’. This meeting, held in Colombes, France, on 4-5 April 2014, provided the platform for discussions on urban resilience challenges, the sharing of experiences from completed and on-going LIFE projects, and the opportunity for experts to make recommendations on how the LIFE programme can best support future projects in this area.
Urban resilience is defined as the ability of an urban territory or community to resist, absorb, accommodate and recover from hazards, such as natural disasters, the impacts of climate change and poverty. A resilient approach addresses, for example, reducing the environmental impacts of pollution and waste, mitigation and adaptation strategies for climate change, and solutions to economic and social issues.
During presentation and workshop sessions, the Platform Meeting focused on three thematic areas: resilient infrastructure and urban planning; waste management, recycling and re-use; and natural resource management and renewable energy production. There was an emphasis on common methods and tools used in these different areas.
30 July 2014The LIFE Scandinavian Platform Meeting was successfully held on 10-12 June in 2014 in Rovaniemi (Finland). The general objective of this annual meeting is to help LIFE Nature projects in Finland, Denmark and Sweden contribute to the implementation, updating and development of EU environmental policy and legislation. Three projects co-organised the meeting: Return of Rural Wetlands (LIFE09 NAT/FI/000563), Boreal Peatland Life (LIFE08 NAT/FIN/000596) and NATNET (LIFE10 NAT/FI/000047).
A total of 73 participants took part, representing the European Commission and a range of LIFE projects. On the first day, at the Hotel Santa Claus in Rovaniemi, Arnoud Heeres (Programme Manager LIFE Nature, European Commission) outlined the new Life Programme 2014-2020; Lucie Trokanova (LIFE Communications Team) explained how LIFE projects can effectively communicate their results; and Bent Jepsen (Astrale) described the role of the External Monitoring Team.
22 July 2014The European Commission has published a report on the LIFE Platform Meeting ‘Climate change - ecosystem services approach for adaptation and mitigation’, which was held in Norwich, UK, on 14-15 May 2014.
Current and past LIFE projects came together at the event to share their experiences on developing responses to the predicted impacts of climate change across EU Member States. Another aim of the meeting was to look at the opportunities to attract funding for mitigation and adaptation projects in the LIFE multi-annual work programme for 2014-2017.
Nature conservation bodies were encouraged to seize the opportunities available to develop new partnerships through the climate action sub-programme and Integrated Projects, as well as continuing with the traditional project approach.
18 July 2014The first large-scale testing of a new floodgate, favouring the flooding and restoration of the river dynamics of valuable Rhine habitats on Rohrschollen Island (Strasbourg) has been successfully carried out by the LIFE Rohrschollen Island project (LIFE08 NAT/F/000471).
The testing of the floodgate was carried out on 17 June 2014, at a special event organised by the city of Strasbourg – the project beneficiary. The ongoing project is working to reproduce, through hydrological works, the island's natural flood dynamics, before this part of the Rhine was modified by dams and dikes.
This first flooding was carried out in the presence of the deputy mayor, responsible for sustainable development, and the regional representative of the EDF (the national electricity provider).
03 July 2014A pair of red-footed falcons (Falco vespertinus) have been discovered near Trnava, Slovakia, the first to be seen in this area for 40 years. The species, which was the focus of a recent LIFE project and is the target of an ongoing one, is close to extinction in Slovakia. Only two pairs were previously known to inhabit the country.
The main EU population of the red-footed falcon is found in the Pannonian lowlands. The raptor favours steppe-type habitats with extensive agriculture and low tree coverage. MME Birdlife Hungary carried out conservation actions in favour of the falcon in Hungary and Romania under the LIFE project, F.VESPERTINUS-HU/RO (LIFE05/NAT/HU/000122). It created thousands of artificial nesting sites and a special agro-environmental scheme for the conservation of feeding habitats. As a result of the project, the Hungarian population increased from 600 to 1 200 breeding pairs.
30 June 2014The Annual Compilations of new LIFE+ projects are now online. From the 2013 call for proposals, the European Commission has selected 125 projects for co-funding under the Environment Policy & Governance strand; 92 projects under LIFE+ Nature & Biodiversity strand of the programme; and eight new environmental awareness projects in six countries under LIFE+ Information & Communication.
The Environment Policy & Governance strand supports pilot projects that contribute to the development of innovative policy ideas, technologies, methods and instruments. Total investment in this strand will come to €318.5 million, of which the EU will provide €130.8 million.
The LIFE+ Nature & Biodiversity projects, which aim to improve the conservation status of endangered species and habitats, are carried out by partnerships of conservation bodies, government authorities and other parties located across 25 Member States. In total, they represent an investment of €233.9 million, of which the EU will contribute €133.9 million.
24 June 2014The Spanish Autonomous Community of Aragon has awarded its 2014 Prize for the Environment to the LIFE+ project CREAMAgua (LIFE09 ENV/ES/000431). The project, run by the local authority (Comarca) of Los Monegros, won the prize in the ‘Local Government’ category at the 16th annual awards ceremony held in Zaragoza on 5 June 2014, World Environment Day.
CREAMAgua created wetlands and riverbank forests to act as natural filters to reduce the run-off of inorganic nutrients - nitrates and phosphates - and salts from agricultural land into rivers. It was led by the local authority, but worked actively with local farmers in the management of the wetland areas.
20 June 2014Populations of brown bear (Ursus arctos), wolf (Canis lupus), wolverine (Gulo gulo) and Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) are stabilising or increasing in EU Member States, after a long period of decline. Improved protection in Natura 2000 network sites and greater public awareness of nature conservation has enabled these large carnivores to return to areas from which they have long been absent. However, this can bring them into increasing conflict with human activities. Over 70 LIFE projects have focused on large carnivores and many of these have involved conflict reduction measures, as described in the LIFE Focus publication ‘LIFE and human coexistence with large carnivores’.
The European Commission launched the EU Platform on Coexistence between People and Large Carnivores on 10 June 2014, to help solve at a European level the social and economic problems that can sometimes result from an increase in large carnivore numbers.
19 June 2014Following an earlier success (reported in May 2014) on the website of the LIFE+ MALTA SEABIRD PROJECT (LIFE10 NAT/MT/000090) - of a first occupant of an artificial nest box by a yelkouan shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan) - the LIFE team has just revealed the arrival of a “fluffy, fast growing chick”. A delighted spokesperson says: “This is Malta’s first chick to hatch and grow inside an artificial nest.” During the day, the LIFE team explains, the parents already leave the chick alone – returning to feed it with “regurgitated squid and fish” during the night.
More successful seabird nest news is expected as the 2011-2016 project progresses, especially as the project team is being supported by a rat eradication programme, which is being run in the species’ main breeding colony, on the isle of Rdum tal-Madonna. Rats are an invasive species to the Maltese isles and as the yelkouan lays just one egg per year, rat predation on their eggs and chicks is a major threat.
18 June 2014The first call for action grants for the LIFE programme for the Environment and Climate Action (2014-2020) is now open. For further information, application forms and guidance documents go directly to the call page.
The Commission invites legal persons (entities) registered in the European Union (EU) to present proposals for the 2014 Call for proposals for LIFE Action Grants. The call covers proposals for both LIFE sub-programmes.
For the sub-programme for Environment, this call will cover action grants "Traditional" projects, Preparatory projects, Integrated projects, Technical Assistance projects and Capacity Building projects. For the sub-programme for Climate Action, this call will cover action grants only for "Traditional" projects and Capacity Building projects (the other types will be covered from 2015 onwards).
Proposals may be submitted by legal persons (entities) registered in the EU. Applicants may fall into three types of beneficiaries: (1) public bodies, (2) private commercial organisations and (3) private non-commercial organisations (including NGOs).
10 June 2014An international conference on nature in military areas was recently held in Veszprém, Hungary under the framework of two LIFE projects, the Hungarian Little Plain project (LIFE08 NAT/H/000289) and the Eastern Bakony project (LIFE07 NAT/H/000321).
The event, which highlighted good examples of habitat protection in areas used by military forces, brought together 99 participants from 13 countries for a three-day conference in the historic town of Veszprém (14-16 May 2014).
The use of protected areas by the military is common practice in many countries in Europe, and conservation experts face similar challenges: illegal waste disposal, the spread of invasive species, rehabilitation of degraded habitats and the demolition of abandoned military buildings. Exchange of information and best practices is thus vital, and the conference underlined the importance of communication.
The conference featured more than 20 case studies. Biologists, ecologists and environmental experts gave presentations on nature conservation and rehabilitation of sand land habitats, whilst representatives of defence ministries and NATO were invited to address the military aspects of land management.
06 June 2014The Best LIFE Environment projects and Best LIFE Information and Communication projects addressing environmental themes completed in 2013 were recognised at an award ceremony in Brussels on 4 June. The ceremony took place alongside the annual EU Green Week, which this year was on the theme, “Circular economy – saving resources, creating jobs”.
Following an introduction from Timo Mäkelä, Director of Global and Regional Challenges and LIFE, DG Environment, European Commission, the awards were presented by Hans Bruyninckx, Executive Director of the European Environment Agency (EEA). In his keynote address, Dr Bruyninckx said that, “Many of the issues that have been tackled in LIFE projects have found their way into [the EEA’s] reporting and our knowledge base, so we have a keen interest in the work that all of you have been doing.”
He added that many LIFE projects, “Also have a close connection to the theme of this Green Week. When we look at sustainability futures in Europe we are framing them increasingly under three broad categories which are embedded in the 7th Environmental Action Programme, the climate and energy package and a number of other policy initiatives – the low carbon society; economic resilience; and the circular economy.”
02 June 2014The UK LIFE project EQual (LIFE10 ENV/UK/000176), has launched its first online resource, the Quality Protocol (QP) Checker web tool for compost and recycled aggregates.
Launched at the Organics Recycling Conference 2014, the tool provides an easy, step-by-step guide for producers to assess whether their product meets the requirements of the relevant QP and has achieved End-of Waste (EoW) status.
The online tool, which was developed in close cooperation with the Organics Recycling Group (ORG), one of the project partners, is designed to help users to understand and apply QP procedures. It creates a user report that documents performance and pinpoints areas where improvement is needed. It can also be used as an internal audit check for established QP-compliant producers and provides a template for regulatory enforcement officers to support more consistent compliance-assessment procedures.
23 May 2014The actions of three LIFE projects were among the winners at the inaugural ‘European Natura 2000 Award’ at a ceremony held on 21 May 2014 at the Berlaymont building in Brussels.
The awards have been set up to increase recognition of the best achievements related to management of Natura 2000 network sites across the EU. In many cases these actions have taken place within the context of projects co-funded by the LIFE programme.
Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for the Environment presented the awards. Among the five winners were a Bulgarian LIFE project that is targeting the imperial eagle (LIFE07 NAT/BG/000068), winner in the ‘Conservation’ category, the Belgian project, 3Water (LIFE08 NAT/B/000036), which won the award for ‘Reconciling Interests/Perceptions’ and the Romanian project, STIPA (LIFE09 NAT/RO/000618), victor in the ‘Socio-economic benefits’ category.
A total of 163 nature conservation actions in Natura 2000 sites from across Europe, including a high number of LIFE funded ones, made applications from which a panel of distinguished judges drew up a shortlist of 20 Natura 2000 sites, divided into five distinct categories.
22 May 2014The LIFE Platform Meeting ‘Climate change- ecosystem services approach for adaptation and mitigation’ was successfully held in Norwich, England, on 14-15 May 2014. The event was co-hosted by Futurescapes (LIFE10 INF/UK/000189), a project led by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) that promotes landscape-scale conservation, and IPENS (LIFE11 NAT/UK/000384), which is developing an improvement programme for England's Natura 2000 Sites.
A total of 43 people attended the meeting, including representatives from 26 LIFE projects in nine EU Member States, along with government and statutory body representatives from the UK. In addition to the 15 LIFE project presentations at the meeting, other projects contributed during three field excursions.
21 May 2014Natura 2000 Day is being celebrated today [21 May] all around Europe. Leading up to Natura 2000 Day people have been making small gestures of support, in the form of photographs of themselves with their hands in the shape of a butterfly. These have been uploaded on the Natura 2000 Day website and via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (tagged #Natura2000Day).
Just like the proverbial flapping of a butterfly's wings, even the smallest gestures can have great power. The aim is to spread awareness of the important role played by the largest network of protected sites in the world. The Natura 2000 network comprises over 26 000 sites, in which Europe's rich variety of natural habitats and species are protected.
19 May 2014Debating Europe and the LIFE project LiveWell for LIFE have launched their third and final of its series of online debates on sustainable consumption, ‘Are YOU prepared to change your shopping list in order to eat more sustainably?’.
The organisers welcome comments from all citizens, who can contribute their ideas here. The ongoing debate addresses the problem of food waste in the EU, where studies have shown that 90 million tonnes of food are being wasted annually.
Moreover, food accounts for 29% of all consumption-derived greenhouse gas emissions. Given the enormous environmental and public health impact of our dinner tables, what can be done to make food consumption and production more efficient and sustainable?
14 May 2014An exhibition entitled “The magic world of the unio crassus” was opened on 22 April in Christinehof Castle, Brösarp, Sweden. The exhibit has been put together within the framework of the LIFE Nature project UC4LIFE(LIFE10 NAT/SE/000046). It explores the life of the thick shelled river mussel (Unio crassus) and work done by the LIFE project at Fyleån Creek in the Fyledalen Valley area – one of 12 sites where the project is taking place.
Many thick shelled river mussel populations have become extinct in Sweden. Those populations that still exist have a fragmented distribution in south-eastern Scandinavia (around 140 sites) and are endangered by adverse physical changes to their favoured habitat. UC4LIFE aims to improve the water quality, restore depressed riverine habitats and reintroduce Unio crassus where it has become extinct through site specific restoration measures in 12 different locations in Sweden.
13 May 2014 Natura 2000 Day will again be celebrated on 21 May, one year after it was first initiated in Spain by the LIFE Information and Communication project Activa Red Natura 2000: Connecting people with biodiversity (LIFE11 INF/ES/000665).
The LIFE project, led by SEO/BirdLife and the EFE Agency, addresses the need for a greater appreciation of the objectives and maintenance needs of the European Natura 2000 network of protected areas. It aims to give citizens a better understanding of the ecosystem services provided by these areas, and knowledge to enhance their enjoyment of Europe's natural heritage. As part of this aim, the LIFE project plans to make Natura 2000 Day an annual European-wide event.
30 April 2014 The European Commission has today approved funding for 225 new projects under the LIFE+ programme, the European Union's environment fund. The projects selected were submitted by beneficiaries in all 28 Member States and cover actions in the fields of nature conservation, climate change, environmental policy and information and communication on environmental issues across the EU. Overall, they represent a total investment of some €589.3 million, of which the EU will provide €282.6 million.
Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: “In the final year of the current programming period, the LIFE+ programme once again demonstrates its ability to deliver essential financial support for environmental and nature conservation projects with significant added value for the EU. These latest projects will make a vital contribution to the preservation, conservation and enhancement of Europe’s natural capital, as well as helping to achieve sustainable growth through investment in a low carbon and resource efficient economy. The widely acknowledged success of LIFE+ and its projects has ensured the recent adoption of a new LIFE Regulation for Environment and Climate Action, with an increased budget, for the period 2014-2020”
29 April 2014On 18 March, the first lesser kestrel (Falco naumanni) introduced to restore this species in Bulgaria returned from its migration to Africa. The LIFE project Lesser Kestrel Recovery (LIFE11 NAT/BG/000360) had imported birds from Spain last year, and introduced them into the mountainous Sakar region in south-eastern Bulgaria. By the end of March, 16 of the introduced birds, plus a male that had accompanied one of the females, had returned from Africa, mated, dug nests and laid eggs.
The LIFE project is coordinated by the NGO Green Balkans. It aims to support and strengthen the population of globally endangered lesser kestrels in Bulgaria, through a series of direct actions and wider public involvement. The project runs until September 2017.
In addition to translocating around 170 chicks from collaborating partner DEMA, a breeding centre in Spain, the project is establishing a captive breeding project in Stara Zagora, Bulgaria.
24 April 2014The LIFE Nature project Rohrschollen Island (LIFE08 NAT/F/000471) celebrated the reconnection of the river Rhine with the island's waterways at an event attended by representatives of the coordinating beneficiary and partner organisations.
The event, which took place on 12 March, may have been the culmination of four years of work, but it is only a first step along a path towards the restoration of the island's alluvial dynamics and the protection of its riparian forests.
The Rohrschollen Island project began in 2010, with the aim of reintroducing the regular dynamic flooding of the Rhine onto the island - located 10 km north of Strasbourg - by the creation of a water intake structure on the island's south side. This will restore the ecological connections between the island and the river and ensure the survival of the island's willow and alder wood habitats.
24 April 2014Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF) held a Policy Dialogue meeting, ‘Time to Act – Protecting Children's Health from EDCs’ on 19 February 2014 in Brussels. Exposure to EDCs or endocrine-disrupting chemicals is particularly harmful to children’s health, and the meeting was organised to improve the understanding of policy-makers and stakeholders of this problem and increase support for urgent EU action.
WECF is currently coordinating a LIFE project, ChildProtect-Life (LIFE12 ENV/NL/000833), which is aiming to speed-up implementation of EU environmental regulations on the substitution of EDCs, in line with the EU 2020 goal of minimising adverse effects of chemicals on public health. The Brussels meeting was organised with the project partners Gezinsbond and PAN-Europe.
The beneficiary, WECF, is an international network of more than 150 women’s, environmental and health organisations. One of the key priorities for the network is EDCs, which, in the past few decades, have emerged as a key challenge for European environment and health policies.
Recent scientific evidence shows that action is urgently needed to reduce EDC exposure, especially for women and children. A baby’s development can be irreversibly harmed by EDCs, and growing evidence shows that such exposure may result in permanent health damage to the child’s hormone system.
22 April 2014The Best LIFE projects completed by the end of 2013 will be honoured at two separate award ceremonies taking place in Brussels this spring.
The first ceremony recognises the achievements of 13 LIFE projects targeting nature conservation and will take place on 29 April 2014. Eleven of the award-winners are LIFE Nature projects; the other two being LIFE Information & Communication projects with a nature conservation focus.
The event, which will feature short presentations by the winning projects, will be held from 17:30 onwards at meeting room 0D of the Centre de Conferences Albert Borschette (CCAB), rue Froissart 36. Brussels. The awards will be made in the presence of the Habitats and Ornis Committees, which are made up of Member State representatives following the implementation of the Birds and Habitats Directives.
The second award ceremony will take place in early June and honours the work of the Best LIFE Environment projects and Best LIFE Information and Communication projects addressing environmental themes completed in 2013.
Six projects have been awarded “Best of the Best” status, five from the LIFE Environment strand and one from LIFE Information & Communication.
16 April 2014Awareness-raising about recycling is a key focus of UP&FORWARD COMS (LIFE11 ENV/UK/000389), a LIFE Environment project in Greater Manchester, UK. The community-based project has just released two films on recycling as part of its wider campaign to persuade more residents to recycle their household rubbish. The films, produced by students at the University of Bolton, with the help of production company, Bellyfeel, target ‘hard-to-reach’ communities, i.e. inner-city areas that are traditionally low-performing in terms of recycling.
The first film, “Cheetham Hill Community Tidy Up (part 1 and 2)” targets the private rental market and landlords. It shows residents of the Cheetham Hill area coming together for a one-day community tidy up event. The second film, “Eco Faith” worked with religious groups and faith leaders of Oldham, Greater Manchester – choosing the month of Ramadan in 2013, to focus residents’ minds on looking after their environment through recycling.
10 April 2014The first call for tender under the new LIFE programme (2014-2020) for Environment and Climate Action is provisionally set to launch 16 June 2014.
The call will cover ‘Traditional’ projects, Preparatory projects, Integrated projects, Technical Assistance projects and Capacity-Building projects.
It is important to remember that ‘traditional’ projects mean best-practice/demonstration/pilot/information projects (i.e. similar to those currently funded under LIFE+ Nature, Biodiversity, Environment and Information & Communication). The priority topics for ‘traditional’ projects in the Environment sub-programme have been set in the multi-annual work programme for 2014-2017, pages 8-24: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/life/about/index.htm#mawp
19 March 2014The LIFE multiannual work programme for 2014-2017 has been adopted by a Commission Decision on 19 March 2014, after having received a positive opinion of the Committee for the LIFE Programme for the Environment and Climate Action on 17 February 2014. The work programme applies from the date of its adoption and enters into force as of its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union. It will be published in all EU languages with the exception of Irish.
The LIFE multiannual work programme for 2014-2017 sets the framework for the next four years for the management of the new LIFE Programme 2014-2020. It contains an indicative budget, explains the selection methodology for projects and for operating grants and establishes outcome indicators for the two LIFE sub-programmes – for Environment and for Climate Action. The total budget for funding projects during the period covered amounts to €1.1 billion under the sub-programme for Environment and €0.36 billion under the sub-programme for Climate Action.
For the first time LIFE project funding also will be provided through innovative financial instruments. The LIFE Environment sub-programme contributes to one such instrument, the pilot Natural Capital Financing (NCFF) financial instrument, which falls under the Nature and Biodiversity project area and will help finance biodiversity projects, amongst other things. The work programme also features an indicative timetable for the calls for proposals for action and operating grants as well as for the two pilot financial instruments covered by it. The first calls are scheduled for May/June 2014.
12 March 2014 GREENLYSIS (LIFE08 ENV/E/000118), a Spanish LIFE project led by the water technology centre, CETaqua, in partnership with SUEZ-CIRSEE and SAFT Baterías, has been recognised by the International Water Association (IWA) in its 2014 Project Innovation Awards. The LIFE project has obtained the Honour Award for Europe and West Asia in the Applied Research category. This regional triumph means it will now be entered in the global awards at the IWA World Water Congress in Lisbon (21-26 September 2014).
The main objective of the GREENLYSIS project, which ran from January 2010 until the end of 2012, was to construct a pilot plant to demonstrate the viability of a new technology for separating outflows from wastewater treatment plants into hydrogen and oxygen using electrolysis.
11 March 2014The inaugural UK and Ireland LIFE Platform Meeting was held in London on 9 December 2013. The event brought together representatives of nearly 30 LIFE projects, government ministries and other LIFE stakeholder organisations from Ireland and the UK, together with the LIFE Unit of the European Commission's DG Environment and the LIFE monitoring team (Astrale GEIE - HTSPE Ltd).
The platform meeting was an opportunity to address issues of common interest around the LIFE programme in general, as well as concerns related to specific projects. The LIFE project beneficiaries and stakeholders were able to learn from each other's experiences and to ask questions directly of people with the relevant programme expertise and oversight.
Themes for workshops were chosen based on the preferences and experiences of the participating LIFE projects.
10 March 2014 The German LIFE project Steppenrasen Thüringens (LIFE07 NAT/D/000213) has produced a hardback book (456 pages) of the papers presented at its final conference in Erfurt, 3-6 June, 2012. The contributions, which are published in English and German, focus on steppe conservation in different regions of Germany and in other European countries.
Copies of Steppenlebensraume Europas – Gefährdung, Erhaltung Maßnahmen und Schutz (Hazard, conservation and protection) are available without charge, although the cost of packaging and postage must be covered.
24 February 2014 Years of work by the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB) the Sudanese Wildlife Society (SWS), as well as joint efforts of the LIFE project "Return of the Neophron” (LIFE10 NAT/BG/000152) and the BirdLife UNDP/GEF project Migratory Soaring Birds (MSB) have paid off. The Sudanese Government and the Sudanese Electricity company have agreed to switch off and replace a dangerous power line in the area of Port Sudan that has killed hundreds or even thousands of Egyptian Vultures and other birds over the years.
The Port Sudan area used to be the most important resting and feeding ground in Sudan for the Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) during its exhausting autumn migration. The construction of the power line in the 1950s had a negative consequence for the species: large numbers of birds have been electrocuted when coming into contact with it. In 2010, BSPB and SWS began a series of actions to try and solve the problem, one of which is The Return of the Neophron.
21 February 2014 The Spanish LIFE Nature project, PROYECTO ESTANY (LIFE08 NAT/E/000078), has successfully reintroduced hundreds of freshwater mussels to Banyoles Lake in Girona, Catalonia. This success was built on the project's efforts in developing the most successful captive breeding programme for freshwater mussels of the Unio genus in Europe.
The project recreated the delicate natural breeding cycle of the mussels in a laboratory near Banyoles Lake. They used water and sediment from the lake as well as 900 fish, on which the mussels depend during their parasitic larval stage. In multiple breeding cycles since 2011, the team have produced 130 000 young mussels - 80% U. mancus and 20% U. ravoisieri.
The team nurtured the mussels in the laboratory, thus avoiding the extremely dangerous early days of a mussel's life in its natural environment.
20 February 2014 A UK-led LIFE project, RESTORE (LIFE09 INF/UK/000032), has published a new report highlighting the importance of river restoration in Europe. Available in five languages (English, French, Dutch, Italian and Finnish), this timely publication emphasises the value of river restoration in terms of increased ecological quality, flood risk reduction and social and economic benefits.
Between 2010 and 2013 the project developed tools - including a website and RiverWiki - to help practitioners across Europe increase their knowledge, skills and opportunities to create networks in the field of river restoration.
The report River Restoration in Europe: The art of the possible brings together knowledge from the LIFE project and the recent European River Restoration Conference to provide policy-makers and river basin managers with a useful document for addressing the key policy and technical challenges ahead.
The new report is designed to raise awareness of the ability of river restoration to mitigate against the effects of climate change on river habitats.
17 February 2014 The UK LIFE+ project IPENS (LIFE11 NAT/UK/000384) has published a report identifying 11 priorities for action to improve the condition of Natura 2000 sites in England. These priorities are part of a scoping exercise which will now be used to develop a strategic programme for management of the Natura 2000 network in England.
The project team conducted extensive analysis of available data sources and discussions with key stakeholders to identify the 11 priority threats and pressures facing Natura 2000 sites in England. These include habitat fragmentation, aerial nitrogen deposition, diffuse water pollution and coastal squeeze. The project will now develop ‘theme plans’, clarifying the nature of each issue and identifying (new) solutions across Natura 2000 sites.
12 February 2014 A new report by the European Environment Agency reveals that bat numbers in selected European countries increased by more than 40% between 1993 and 2011, an important correction to significant historic declines. According to EEA Executive Director, Hans Bruyninckx, the findings of the technical report on bats suggest "that targeted conservation policies over the last years have been successful. But many bat species are still endangered, so preserving their habitats is still an important priority."
The LIFE programme has been one key source of targeted spending in support of EU bat conservation objectives. Since 1992, there have been a total of 55 such projects, utilising some €54.8 million of EU funding, and mobilising almost €114 million in total, a significant part of which has been used to help the recovery of endangered bat species.
07 February 2014 An extensive report on the LIFE+ Environment Platform Meeting on Alternative Future Urban Mobility, which took place in Berlin in November 2013, is now available to download.
The report was written by Thomas Mayer from the LIFE+ External Monitoring Team (Astrale), which was responsible for organising the Platform Meeting in collaboration with host LIFE project, Clean Air (LIFE11 ENV/DE/000495). The aim of this multi-faceted project is to build a network of local and regional authorities and NGOs to support the monitoring and implementation of the Air Quality Directive, including sharing best practice and improving citizen awareness.
27 January 2014 In 2013, LIFEnews, the monthly LIFE newsletter, once again covered a wide range of key themes relating to the LIFE programme and EU environmental and nature conservation policy and practice. Here we count down the five most read articles of the year.
In fifth place is an article from March 2013 previewing the Climate Action sub-programme that has been introduced by the new LIFE Regulation for the period 2014-2020. Mette Quinn and Dominik Mayer from the Directorate-General for Climate Action (DG CLIMA), spoke about the objectives for the sub-programme and the timeline for its implementation. Preparing for LIFE's new Climate Action sub-programme
24 January 2014 The results of the first trials of a hydromethane-fuelled bus for urban public transport were presented at the final conference of the LIFE+ Environment project MHyBus (LIFE07 ENV/IT/000434) in Bologna, Italy on 19 December, 2013. The project, which was led by the Region of Emilia-Romagna, carried out tests to optimize the engine for hydromethane, prepared a prototype vehicle, designed and built a dedicated fuelling station and then carried out road tests.
The prototype vehicle travelled more than 45 000 km on public roads around Ravenna without technical problems. The project found that the optimal fuel blend was a mix of 85% methane and 15% hydrogen by volume.
In the opening speech of the conference, Alfredo Peri, the Regional Councillor for Transport in Emilia-Romagna, stressed the importance of initiatives such as MhyBus in taking concrete steps towards a more sustainable mobility and the creation of a regional value chain.
21 January 2014 With issues such as erosion, soil sealing, carbon capture and contaminated land of growing public concern and policy focus, this brand-new LIFE Focus publication takes a timely look at LIFE and Soil protection.
The 68 page brochure includes an overview of EU soil policy, analysis of LIFE's contribution to its implementation and interviews that link soil science to policy-making to practical action. It also addresses in detail the impact of LIFE actions relating to all the key issues around soil sustainability, including: land take and soil sealing; soil biodiversity; carbon capture; soil monitoring; soil and water protection; sustainable agriculture; and land contamination.
The publication thus provides an opportunity to highlight and assess the LIFE programme's contribution to soil protection to date, including proposals for ways in which project outcomes may be better channelled and have an even greater impact in future.
20 January 2014 Three scientists from the NGO Förderverein Waldrappteam, beneficiary of a new LIFE Biodiversity project that aims to reintroduce the critically-endangered northern bald ibis (Geronticus eremita) into Europe, are among the authors of a new scientific paper published by the journal Nature that reveals the secrets of why flocks of migratory birds fly in a V-formation.
The nine scientists – led by Steven Portugal - who co-authored the paper, 'Upwash exploitation and downwash avoidance by flap phasing in ibis formation flight', have seen their fascinating conclusions picked up by major media outlets around the world, including The New York Times, National Geographic, BBC and Spiegel, among many others.
The paper outlines the results of a data collection study, during which a group of 14 northern bald ibises underwent a human-led migration from Salzburg in Austria to southern Tuscany, Italy. Using new technology the team monitored the ibises as they flew in a V-formation, recording their position, speed, heading and every single wing flap over a 43-minute period.
17 January 2014 The latest LIFE Focus publication takes stock of the achievements to date of the LIFE Nature strand of the LIFE programme. Titled Long-term impact and sustainability of LIFE Nature, the 60-page brochure provides a user-friendly snapshot of the detailed assessments contained in the ex-post (after project's end) evaluations of LIFE projects.
This evaluation process involves visits by experts from the LIFE Monitoring Team to a random sampling of completed LIFE Nature projects a number of years after they have finished. Some 9% of all LIFE Nature projects have been evaluated thus far. As well as outlining the history and methodology of the ex-post evaluation process, this new publication draws on the results of that qualitative research, backed up by new interviews with key stakeholders across several EU Member States, to highlight the lessons that can be learned in terms of LIFE Nature's long-term impact and sustainability at both project and programme level.
14 January 2014 In 2008, LIFE-Projekt Maifisch (LIFE06 NAT/D/000005) first released allis shad (Alosa alosa) larvae into the Rhine system as part of an effort to bring this once abundant fish species back from extinction in this river system. Now, monitoring confirms that the allis shad has successfully spawned in the Rhine for the first time in more than half a century.
Three juvenile allis shad were detected in a cooling water outtake of a nuclear power plant on the upper Rhine late September 2013. Since the nearest location in which the species was reintroduced was some 100 km downstream, experts believe it is very unlikely that the specimens directly come from fish stocking measures undertaken by LIFE-Projekt Maifisch or the subsequent LIFE+ Nature project, Alosa alosa (LIFE09 NAT/DE/000008).
In mid-November 2013, a professional fisherman caught an adult allis shad near Wörth on the Upper Rhine. Biologists of the Universities of Koblenz-Landau and Düsseldorf confirm that this was a fully-spawned female, providing a further indication that the species has spawned successfully in the Rhine.
13 January 2014 The LIFE Nature project WOLFNET (LIFE08 NAT/IT/000325) successfully staged an International Wolf Congress from 6-8 November in Caramanico Terme, in Italy's Majella National Park. The congress was organised as the final event of the LIFE project by the coordinating beneficiary, the Majella National Park, together with project partners Pollino National Park, Foreste Casentinesi National Park, the Zooprophylactic Institute of the Regions of Lazio and Tuscany, the Province of l'Aquila and the Italian environmental NGO, Legambiente.
More than 250 participants from 13 countries attended the high-level congress, which included 35 presentations on wolf conservation.
10 January 2014 A Portuguese LIFE Nature project targeting the recovery of habitats threatened by invasive plant species has received the 2013 António Mota Award (http://premiomam.mota-engil.pt/) in recognition of its commitment to social inclusion.
The BRIGHT project (LIFE10 NAT/PT/000075) has involved a team of seven convicts from Coimbra Regional Prison, who work alongside the beneficiary's staff on control and conservation tasks. Demonstrating the value of this collaboration, the first of the prisoners to complete his jail sentence has since become a full-time member of the project team.
09 January 2014The new LIFE Regulation has been published in the Official Journal of the European Union, the official record of EU legislation. The Regulation - which was published on 20 December 2013 - establishes the Environment and Climate Action sub-programmes of the LIFE Programme for the next funding period, 2014–2020. The budget for the period is set at €3.4 billion in current prices.
The LIFE programme will contribute to sustainable development and to the achievement of the objectives and targets of the Europe 2020 Strategy, the 7th Union Environmental Action Programme and other relevant EU environment and climate strategies and plans.
The ‘Environment’ strand of the new programme covers three priority areas: environment and resource efficiency; nature and biodiversity; and environmental governance and information. The ‘Climate Action’ strand covers climate change mitigation; climate change adaptation; and climate governance and information.
The programme also consists of a new category of projects, jointly funded integrated projects, which will operate on a large territorial scale. These projects will aim to implement environmental and climate policy and to better integrate such policy aims into other policy areas.
20 December 2013 The European Commission has hosted a one-day platform meeting for all the LIFE+ projects working on the development of Prioritised Action Frameworks for Natura 2000 (LIFE PAF projects). The event was held in Brussels on 5 November 2013 and aimed to promote networking and exchange between the projects and Member State representatives.
Prioritised Action Frameworks (PAFs) set out the official nature conservation priorities for a country or region. They seek to act as strategic planning tools encouraging access to as many EU financial instruments as possible in the financing of the Natura 2000 network.
17 December 2013 The Bulgarian project LIFE FOR KRESNA GORGE (LIFE11 NAT/BG/000363) has successfully set-up a compensation scheme for farmers affected by depredation of livestock by bears, wolves, jackals and stray dogs. In an area where the loss of a single head of cattle represents a significant financial loss, the humman/predator conflict has become a considerable problem. The practice of placing poisoned baits to protect livestock has become fairly common, leading to frequent episodes of poisoning that affect not only large carnivores, but also birds of prey, such as vultures and eagles.
The ‘Livestock Prevention and Compensation’ Programme has reached 218 farmers in 2013, helping to reduce conflict between the farmers and these target species.
Managed by the Fund for Wild Flora and Fauna (FWFF), the scheme works by directly replacing the livestock the farmers have lost to predator attacks from FWFF’s own herds.
12 December 2013 The LIFE project MulkearLIFE (LIFE07NAT/IRL/000342) was recently presented with the Environment Award for 2013 by the Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) at a ceremony in Cork, Ireland.
The project, which is being led by the Inland Fisheries Ireland, was honoured for its measures to restore degraded habitats in an area of 650 km2 of the Mulkear River catchment of the Lower Shannon Special Area of Conservation. The project’s key partners are the Office of Public Works and Limerick County Council, while The National Parks and Wildlife act as project co-financiers. A range of other stakeholders support the project including local authorities (North & South Tipperary County Councils) and other state bodies (ESB Fisheries, Teagasc, Coillte, EPA) along with the local community (IFA, ICMSA, Mulkear & District Angling Association, local schools and school children, farmers and volunteers).
11 December 2013 An Italian LIFE+ project's efforts to combat threats to the native red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) from grey squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) are explored in the latest issue of the IUCN's invasive species specialist group (ISSG) newsletter. The main aim of the LIFE+ project, EC-SQUARE (LIFE09 NAT/IT/000095), featured in an article, on page 44 of Aliens – The Invasive Species Bulletin (Issue 33) was to eliminate, or reduce, the risks posed by the spread of grey squirrels via imports from the pet trade in northern Italy.
As well as being linked with the significant decline of red squirrel numbers, grey squirrels can also cause extensive damage to trees through bark-stripping, which affects re-growth and natural tree reproduction in commercial plantations and other forest ecosystems. Moreover, the spread of grey squirrels in Italy represents a problem for the entire European continent, since from Italy the alien species is predicted to colonise surrounding countries, particularly France and Switzerland.
10 December 2013 The European Commission is launching a new Award designed to celebrate and promote best practices for nature conservation in Europe. The European Natura 2000 Award is open to any entity involved in the implementation of activities related to management of a Natura 2000 site. From authorities and businesses, to land owners , NGOs, educational institutions and individuals from all 28 EU Member States – all are eligible to apply.
The Award aims to help bring the success of the network to the public’s attention and to demonstrate its importance for protecting biodiversity across Europe. This is an urgent task: the 2013 Eurobarometer survey found that only 27% of respondents have heard of the Natura 2000 network, while only 44% have heard of the term “biodiversity” and know what it means.
09 December 2013 The European Council has adopted a regulation that establishes the Environment and Climate Action sub-programmes of the LIFE Programme for the next funding period, 2014–2020. The budget for the period is set at €3.4 billion in current prices.
The programme will contribute to sustainable development and to the achievement of the objectives and targets of the Europe 2020 Strategy, the 7th Union Environmental Action Programme and other relevant EU environment and climate strategies and plans.
The ‘Environment’ strand of the new programme covers three priority areas: environment and resource efficiency; nature and biodiversity; and environmental governance and information. The ‘Climate Action’ strand covers climate change mitigation; climate change adaptation; and climate governance and information.
06 December 2013 To celebrate its 40th anniversary, the EUROPARC Federation – the beneficiary of the LIFE project ‘Nature parks in Europe: a charter for sustainable tourism’ (LIFE94 ENV/F/000878) – hosted an awards ceremony to honour the achievements of protected areas. The ceremony was held at the European Parliament on 6 November and was co-hosted by the MEP Gaston Franco.
The ceremony was part of a one-day event that began with the 8th European Charter Network Meeting, which brought together managers of protected areas, tourism professionals and business leaders from across Europe for a series of workshops and plenary sessions at the Marche Representation in Brussels. The 2013 Charter Award Ceremony followed in the afternoon at the European Parliament.
More than 70 participants from 12 countries attended, and 19 protected areas were honoured with awards. Currently, the tourism activities of 119 areas follow the principles of the charter.
05 December 2013 The final conference of the LIFE project IMCM - Control of noxious or vector mosquitoes (LIFE08 ENV/F/000488) was held on 23-24 October 2013 in Montpellier, France. The conference, on integrated pest management (IPM) of mosquitoes, highlighted the scientific and technical findings of the project.
There are several challenges to implementing IPM for mosquitoes in a manner consistent with sustainable development. These include the small number of authorised insecticides available, demanding environmental standards relating to biocides, and the need to prevent the emergence of pesticide-resistance. There is also a new invasive mosquito species (Aedes albopictus) in Europe that is a potential vector of tropical diseases, including those caused by chikungunya and dengue viruses; a problem likely to increase with global warming.
LIFE IMCM has taken actions to provide effective and environmentally-sound mosquito control methodologies and to develop decision-making tools for public bodies combating mosquitoes.
04 December 2013 The LIFE+ project Iberlince (LIFE10 NAT/ES/000570) continues to expand its programme to reintroduce the highly endangered Iberian lynx in southern Spain. Nearly 20 animals bred and raised in captivity by the project have been released in Andalusia in 2013 and further reintroductions are planned for spring 2014.
In 2013, the project has reintroduced:
Further reintroductions are foreseen for early 2014 in the Sierra Norte of Seville and the valley of the Guarrizas river.
Animals are only released after successfully following a pre-release programme of adaptation to their new environment. They have to demonstrate skills and behaviour appropriate to life in the wild, including hunting, fleeing danger and relations with other lynx. Specific animals are chosen for particular locations based on their genetic profile with the aim of increasing local genetic diversity.
03 December 2013 The LIFE+ project Conéctate a la Red Natura (LIFE11 INF/ES/000655) has launched a telephone hotline for Spanish citizens to ask about Natura 2000 management. This tool enables people to improve their understanding of how they can successfully co-exist with the Natura 2000 network to mutual benefit.
SEO/BirdLife launched the new Spanish freephone number 900 66 77 90 as a response to the need to overcome people's lack of awareness and understanding of the Natura 2000 network. Research showed that only 16% of citizens in Spain had heard of these protected spaces, never mind understanding correctly how they operate and what they do.
Natura 2000 covers around 27% of the Spanish territory so it is relevant to a lot of people. Many who have heard of it are concerned that the protection offered to the natural environment will cause direct conflict with their economic or leisure activities. The hotline seeks to provide people with the correct information about how they can work with the network and even benefit from it.
27 November 2013 The Best LIFE Environment projects 2012 publication profiles those environment projects that were completed by the end of 2012 and were acknowledged at the LIFE Environment Awards as having achieved outstanding results. For the ninth consecutive year, the awards highlighted best practices and innovative actions that can be replicated in other areas of Europe.
This year, a total of 13 LIFE projects were honoured with the accolade, 'Best' LIFE Environment project, while a further four projects were selected for special praise as 'Best of the Best' LIFE Environment projects. The four 'Best of the Best' projects achieved great advances in water management and demonstrated a range of transferable measures. All 17 winners are featured in this publication. They collectively highlight the huge potential of the LIFE programme for helping Member States implement environmental policy on a national and European level.
25 November 2013 The European Parliament approved the budget for the next LIFE programme on Thursday 21 November 2013. The new ‘LIFE Programme for the Environment and Climate Action’ has a budget of EUR 3.1 billion for environmental projects carried out by public or private bodies, 2014-2020.
“This is less than Parliament requested, but still a clear increase over the [2007-13] budget of 2.2 billion euros,” pointed out European Parliament rapporteur, Jutta Haug (S&D, DE). “LIFE is a small but extremely successful and popular EU funding instrument.... We therefore voted to continue and strengthen this programme... [to face up to] new tasks and challenges,” she said.
The new LIFE programme will notably prioritise projects around climate action and resource efficiency. Indeed, the budget earmarks EUR 864 million for a dedicated sub-programme for climate action. “Given the success of [current LIFE+ climate change projects] and the urgency for innovative action and best practices on climate change, [this issue] was upgraded to a separate sub-programme to which a quarter of the LIFE budget is dedicated,” explained Ms Haug.
18 November 2013 Science for Environmental Policy (SfEP) provides an information service on the latest policy-relevant environmental findings in Europe. SfEP is a news and information service published by the European Commission’s DG Environment. It’s aim isto help the busy policy-maker keep up-to-date with the latest environmental research findings needed to design, implement and regulate effective policies. SfEP publishes both weekly News Alerts and monthly Thematic Issues. The latest Thematic Issue (October 2013, Issue 43) is dedicated to LIFE projects.
The forward of the LIFE Project issue is a guest editorial by Gabriella Camarsa and João Pedro Silva, Senior Experts on ‘Environment’ and ‘Nature and Biodiversity’, respectively, within the LIFE Communications Team (ASTRALE GEIE – AEIDL). The first part of the 16-page publication concerns LIFE Environment projects, focusing on water resource management, wastewater treatment, and the recycling and reuse of industrial waste materials. The second part of the Thematic Issue looks at LIFE Nature projects that have benefitted species and habitats within the EU Natura 2000 network of nature reserves. Peer-reviewed research publications arising from 10 LIFE co-funded projects are used to illustrate the range of contributions LIFE projects make to environmental policy.
14 November 2013 The LIFE+ project CREAMAgua (LIFE09 ENV/ES/000431) has been awarded a runners-up prize in the 2013 edition of the Conama Prize for sustainability. The Conama Foundation set up the prize in 2008 to recognise the best initiatives by small and medium-sized Spanish municipalities in promoting environmental sustainability.
CREAMAgua has been recognised for its work to create and restore 16 wetland areas and 70 ha of riparian habitat along the River Flumen in Los Monegros, Spain.
13 November 2013 The final conference of the WALPHY project (LIFE07 ENV/B/000038), which was held 15-17 October at the Palais des Congrès in Namur, Belgium, attracted a total of 210 people from eight countries to share experiences and learn more about improving the hydromorphological conditions of waterways.
The conference was an opportunity to present the results of the WALPHY project, as well as enabling river management professionals, scientific experts and representatives of competent authorities to exchange information.
12 November 2013 The EU Member States represented on the LIFE Committee and the European Commission's LIFE Nature Unit have announced the Best LIFE Nature Projects 2012.
The 8 projects selected represent the most successful of the recently completed LIFE Nature projects, in terms of best practices and/or demonstration actions on nature conservation and the implementation of the Habitats and Birds Directives.
08 November 2013 A pilot study on soil-related LIFE projects has been published by the LIFE Monitoring Team. The study analysed the contribution of the LIFE programme to the implementation, dissemination and further development of EU environmental policies and legislation in this area.
This latest study forms part of a series of thematic studies and follows the publication of analyses of LIFE’s impact on the water sector and on noise and air. The aim of the studies is to strengthen the link between the LIFE Units in charge of the management of operational projects and the Thematic Units dealing mainly with environmental policy.
30 October 2013 ‘Better to prevent than restore’ might be the motto of AlterIAS (LIFE08 INF/B/000052), a LIFE Information & Communication project, which held its final conference on 25 September in Gembloux, Belgium.
The event was an opportunity to learn about the significant results achieved by the AlterIAS project in reducing the introduction of invasive alien plant species in Belgium. It attracted around 250 stakeholders, including agronomy students and professionals, horticulture enterprises, managers of urban green areas and researchers.
Around 76% of such invasive plants are introduced voluntarily, usually for aesthetic or even environmental reasons (for example to attract bees), without any awareness of their adverse impact on biodiversity. It was therefore necessary to carry out an extensive awareness-raising and information campaign that targeted schools, gardeners and the entire ornamental horticulture supply chain.
29 October 2013 The 2013 edition of the annual European Parliament Gypsum Forum, which took place at the European Parliament in Brussels on 16 October, was a great opportunity to present the aims and some of the initial findings of the LIFE Environment project GtoG (LIFE11 ENV/BE/001039), which is being led by Eurogypsum, the European federation of national associations of producers of gypsum products.
The Forum aims to foster dialogue between a wide range of stakeholders in order to promote sustainable construction in Europe. The gypsum industry is responsible for 1% of all construction and demolition waste (CDW), and the GtoG project (“From Production to Recycling, a Circular Economy for the European Gypsum Industry with the Demolition and Recycling Industry”) is aiming to transform the gypsum demolition waste market. The goal is to achieve higher recycling rates of gypsum waste as a significant move towards a resource-efficient economy.
The theme of this year’s Gypsum Forum was ‘Megatrends in Construction: the three R's-Renovation-Resource Efficiency-Recycling’. MEP Jean-Paul Gauzès, the President of the European Parliament Gypsum Forum gave a welcome in which he emphasised the need to strengthen the shift towards sustainable construction.
28 October 2013 The skies over the Bulgarian coastline near the Shabla Lighthouse recently teemed with colourful kites of all descriptions in an effort to raise awareness of the need to protect the red- breasted goose in its wintering grounds in the country.
The kites – the handiwork of flying aces from Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria – took the shape of a range of fantastic creatures, from flying fish, octopus, dragons and giant silk teddy bears to, naturally, the red-breasted geese itself.
The event was the third Shabla Kite Festival to be organised annually as part of the LIFE project Safe Ground Redbreasts (LIFE09 NAT/BG/000230).
The red-breasted goose (Branta ruficollis) is a rare and endangered bird that spends the winter in coastal Dobrudzha, north-east Bulgaria. One of the goals of this LIFE project is to promote the region’s natural beauty and biodiversity and establish the red-breasted goose as a flagship species. Its conservation is a positive sign of the region’s move towards sustainable development, as well as being a boost to Bulgaria’s image as a country that protects its nature and wildlife.
24 October 2013 A LIFE+ Nature Platform meeting for Swedish, Danish and Finnish Nature projects was recently held in Östersund, Sweden. The meeting, which attracted 71 participants from 29 open LIFE projects, was a great opportunity to exchange experiences and knowledge among the projects.
The three-day meeting (24-26 September) was organised by two ongoing Swedish LIFE Nature projects in collaboration with the Astrale LIFE monitoring team. It featured presentations from the projects, the National Contact Points and the Astrale Monitoring Team.
The meeting was also attended by two European Commission representatives: Maja Mikosinska, LIFE Technical Desk Officer and Tommy Sejersen, LIFE Financial Desk Officer. They gave presentations on the new LIFE Regulation and on recent changes in the financial aspect of project management.
21 October 2013 An updated checklist for the soldier flies (Stratiomyidae) insect family in Italy has recently been published thanks in part to new data collected in the framework of the ongoing Italian LIFE+ project, 'ManFor C.BD' (LIFE09 ENV/IT/000078).
The ‘Updated Italian checklist of Soldier Flies’ by Franco Mason, combines previous knowledge and information about this Diptera family with new data gathered by sampling with Malaise traps (tent-like structures used by researchers to collect flying insects) in some of the project test areas. Among the findings aretwo species new to the Italian fauna: Neopachygaster meromelas (Dufour, 1841) commonly known as silver-strips black; and Zabrachia minutissima (Zetterstedt, 1838). In Italy, 91 known Stratiomyidae species have already been recorded – making, it is claimed, the Italian fauna of Stratiomyidae the richest in Europe.
A comprehensive key to the European species of Chorisops Rondani, 1856 is also provided with the checklist.
18 October 2013 The LIFE+ project MoorLIFE (LIFE08 NAT/UK/000202) is sending in tractors to cut back heather and create a more desirable moorland patchwork in the Peak District National Park. The intervention will re-establish a mosaic of new growth and more established plants to favour local biodiversity.
For ground-nesting birds such as grouse, a moorland patchwork provides both shelter from predators as well as more open areas for feeding. The cut patches have the added benefit of acting as a natural fire break. Traditionally, mosaics have been created by managed burning; however, cutting will allow the trimmings to be swept up and transported for use on eroded bare peat areas: the cut heather, known as ‘brash’, forms a protective layer over the peat, helping to avoid further erosion. It also provides a source of seeds, which will germinate and help rebuild the original heather cover on these eroded areas.
16 October 2013 The President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, officially launched the LIFE+ project for the defragmentation of the Sonian Forest in Belgium (LIFE OZON - LIFE12 NAT/BE/000166) at a special event in the town of Hoeilaart on Friday 11 October 2013. Mr Van Rompuy said he was very pleased to launch the project, not only in his official capacity, but also as a resident of Sint-Genesius Rode (Rhode-Saint-Genèse), a town located within the forest. He pointed out that the Sonian Forest, known locally as the Forêt des Soignes or Zoniënwoud, had inspired writers and poets for centuries, from the medieval mystic Jan van Ruusbroec, to Herman Teirlinck and Jacques Brel more recently. Mr Van Rompuy was moved to compose a haiku in honour of the location of this LIFE Nature project: "Een plek van stilte over groene grensen heen: het woud van Ruusbroec" (which roughly translates as "A place of silence that crosses green borders: the forest of Ruusbroec).
Noting that the aim of the project is to reconnect fragmented patches of flora and fauna through green infrastructure such as eco-tunnels and eco-ducts, Mr Van Rompuy highlighted the fact that LIFE OZON is above all about connecting things, "And connection is the key word for the European Union. Connection between people, between cultures, between languages. that is what this project will do with forests."
14 October 2013 An online Natura 2000 Platform has been launched to allow the sharing of information, knowledge and experiences on the different habitat types.
This is a key feature of the New Biogeographical Process, launched by the 2011 by the European Commission in order to ensure the continuous and effective management of the Natura 2000 network.
LIFE projects have developed a wealth of information, experience and know-how about the protection of species and the management of different habitat types. As a result, both current and former LIFE project beneficiaries and partners can make a significant contribution to the New Biogeographical Process and are strongly encouraged to become members of this online community.
You can find more information about the New Biogeographical Process here.
For further information about the Communication Platform visit: http://www.natura2000communicationplatform.eu/
11 October 2013 Covering 40% of the European Union territory, forests are a key resource for improving quality of life and creating jobs, in particular in rural areas, while also protecting ecosystems and providing ecological benefits. Protecting this resource is at the heart of the EU's new forest strategy, unveiled by the European Commission on 20 September 2013.
EU Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Dacian Cioloş, said: "Forests are key ecosystems, as well as a source of wealth and jobs in rural areas, if they are managed in a proper way. Sustainable forest management, ensuring the protection of forests, is a key pillar of rural development and it is one of the principles of the new Forest Strategy".
The new approach highlights that forests are not only important for rural development, but also for the environment and biodiversity, for forest-based industries, bioenergy, and in the fight against climate change.
10 October 2013 The Greek LIFE Environment project SOL-BRINE (LIFE09 ENV/GR/000299) has successfully staged an international conference to share experiences and best practices in water management, with particular reference to islands. The 'Water Is Necessary for Life – WIN4Life' conference attracted more than 150 delegates from Europe, the Middle East and Africa to the Cultural Foundation of Tinos on the Greek island of Tinos from 19-21 September, 2013.
The assembled representatives of academic institutions, public and private sector water management bodies and local authorities saw more than 70 presentations that highlighted the importance of water as a natural resource. In line with the United Nations' declaration of 2013 as the International Year of Water Cooperation, the LIFE project's closing conference provided a platform for exchanging recent ideas regarding water management, innovative wastewater techniques, treatment processes for brine and energy autonomous systems in order to address water scarcity with respect to public health and the environment.
01 October 2013 The final conference of the RESTORE project (LIFE09 INF/UK/000032), which was held in Vienna, 11-13 September, and organised in collaboration with the European Centre for River Restoration, resulted in a big success. The event attracted more than 300 delegates from 35 nations across Europe and farther afield. The programme of the conference included more than 100 presentations, three excursions and a number of workshops.
The event showcased examples of successful river restoration and inspired participants’ discussions on future challenges and opportunities for river restoration. Experiences were shared, best practices promoted and stronger networks built for future collaboration.
The significant contribution of the LIFE Programme to river restoration achievements in the EU was underlined by a number of speakers, and various LIFE projects were present during the event.
30 September 2013 An international LIFE+ Platform Meeting on Alternative Future Urban Mobility, organised by the Astrale LIFE monitoring team, will take place in UBA (German Federal Environmental Agency), Bismarckplatz 1, D-14193 Berlin, 21-22 November. Download the agenda here.
The meeting is being held in cooperation with the current German LIFE project, Clean Air , (LIFE 11 ENV/DE/000495) and the German Federal Environmental Agency (UBA). There will be a presentation on the latest EU policy developments by Guido de Wilt of the European Commission DG Environment.
The aim of this compact thematic seminar is to bring together practitioners from across Europe to:
The two-day event starts in the afternoon of Thursday, 21 November.
26 September 2013A timely overview of micro-reserve conservation in Europe is presented in a new book, ‘Plant Micro-Reserves: From Theory to Practice - Experiences gained from EU LIFE and other related projects’, edited by Costas Kadis, Costas A. Thanos and Emilio Laguna Lumbreras. The book was published within the framework of the LIFE project, PLANT-NET CY (LIFE08 NAT/CY/000453).
Plant Micro-Reserves (PMRs) are small areas of land that are of peak value in terms of the in situ conservation of rare, endemic or threatened plant species. Small reserves had existed before, as the book’s introduction explains, but PMRs were first formulated as legally protected sites with their own characteristics in Valencia (Spain) in 1994. The PMR approach better addresses the protection of priority plant species, whose fragmented populations aggregate in microhabitats, than the traditional nature reserve approach. Networks of PMRs are now regarded as one of the most effective ways to conserve plant diversity, and LIFE has played an important role in funding their development, supporting a total of 10 projects on this topic.
24 September 2013The Biodiversity Foundation and the Regional Inspectorate of Environment and Water (RIEW) organised a cycling ‘challenge’ on 12 August 2013 to celebrate 33 years of the Atanasovsko Lake Reserve in Bulgaria. Team members from the LIFE Nature Salt of Life project (LIFE11 NAT/BG/000362) prepared a special game for participants and made commemorative cakes.
The Atanasovsko Lake Reserve is part of the Burgas Lakes complex along Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast. It is a very important site for breeding, migrating and overwintering birds. Of Bulgaria’s 446 bird species, 320 can be seen at the reserve. The lake is also one of Europe’s most important migrating and roosting sites, especially for pelicans, storks and several birds of prey. However, the lagoon habitat in Atanasovsko Lake is under threat as a result of a degraded connection with the sea, pollution and eutrophication.
The proposal centres round a list of invasive alien species of Union concern, which will be drawn up with the Member States using risk assessments and scientific evidence. Selected species will be banned from the EU, meaning it will not be possible to import, buy, use, release or sell them. Special measures will be taken to deal with issues arising for traders, breeders or pet owners in the transitional period.
Three types of intervention are proposed: prevention; early warning and rapid response; and management of established invasive alien species of concern.
The Commission intends that the proposal will encourage a shift towards a harmonised and more preventive approach, increasing efficiency and lowering damage costs and the cost of action over time.
18 September 2013EU soil experts will join LIFE+ project beneficiaries on 24-25 September, for a special two-day platform meeting in Greece addressing environmental problems associated with soil. Some 30 participants, including representatives of 11 LIFE+ co-funded soil-related projects, are expected at this thematic seminar, organised by the Astrale Greece LIFE monitoring team, in cooperation with the SAGE10 project (LIFE09 ENV/GR/000302).
The meeting will take place at the Benaki Phytopathological Institute, Kifissia in Athens, Greece. It will be opened by Thomas Strassburger, Policy Officer of the Agriculture, Forest and Soil Unit of DG Environment, and will include presentations by Dr Stamatis Stamatiades of Goulandris Natural History Museum (Soil quality); Dr Costas Kosmas of the Agricultural University of Athens (Threats, gaps, and technical assessment); and Dr Theodoros Karyotis of the Institute for Soil Mapping and Classification (Strategies and policies for soil protection).
Also attending are: Astrale soil specialist, Riccardo Giandrini; and Jorge Blanco from the DG Agriculture European Innovation Partnership (EIP) “Service Point”, the task manager soil.
16 September 2013The Malta-Gozo Channel was confirmed on 30 August as Malta's first Marine Important Bird Area (IBA) in recognition of its international importance for two protected bird species: the Yelkouan shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan) and Scopoli's shearwater (Calonectris diomedea).
The 123 hectare channel, including the island of Comino, is also an important migration route for the ferruginous duck (Aythya nyroca), another species listed in Annex I of the EU Birds Directive.
Two LIFE projects have played an important role in securing Marine IBA status for the channel. "Malta's first EU LIFE project, the Yelkouan Shearwater Project (2006-2010 - LIFE06 NAT/MT/000097), made the resources available to pursue the intensive studies required to collect the amount of rigorous scientific data needed for the true importance of the site to be assessed," said project beneficiary BirdLife Malta, in a press release.
"One of the aims of the European IBA designation is to help identify sites for inclusion in the EU's Natura 2000 Network of protected sites," said Ms Dora Querido, LIFE Project Officer at the RSPB, one of the international partners involved in the 2006 LIFE project. "Malta already has 13 terrestrial Special Protection Areas, all of which were first identified as IBAs. We hope that Malta will continue this best practice to nominate the Gozo Channel as its first Marine Special Protection Area," she added.
The Marine IBA designation follows the assessment of a proposal and data submitted by BirdLife Malta in 2011 against standard, internationally recognised criteria established by BirdLife International's IBA Progamme, a network of more than 10 000 sites considered as the minimum necessary to ensure the survival of the species concerned across their ranges.
09 September 2013A total of 19 companies recently joined the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism (ECST) of the Lands of Priolo, in the Azores, Portugal. The enterprises, which are connected with tourism, will be the first to use the ‘Priolo Brand’ that was established by two LIFE projects. The brand is a sign of quality for tourism operators in the Special Protected Area (SPA) of Pico da Vara.
The Natura 2000 network site is home to the only population of one of Europe’s rarest birds, the Azores bullfinch (Pyrrhula murina) or ‘priolo’ as it’s known locally. These companies, together with entities that promote the Charter, will develop a set of nature conservation measures and work towards sustainable tourism in the area.
The Priolo Brand was established by the LIFE projects PRIOLO (LIFE03 NAT/P/000013) and Sustainable Laurel Forest (LIFE07 NAT/P/000630), both of which were led by SPEA (BirdLife in Portugal) in partnership with the regional government of the Azores. Companies setting up partnerships with the Natural Park of São Miguel Island will be able to use this brand and enhance the environmental, economic and social benefits of these protected areas.
06 September 2013The call for proposals for financial support in 2014 under the current legal base (LIFE+) is now published, with a budget of EUR 9.000.000 and a deadline for applications of 15 October 2013.
For details and application documents, please see "How to apply". General and financial conditions are similar to previous years, except for certain updates to align with the revised EU Financial Regulation. The award criteria have been updated to align with the new EU Environmental Action Programme.
05 September 2013Wild lesser kestrels (Falco naumanni) have been spotted in a special adaptation aviary constructed by the Bulgarian LIFE Nature project, Lesser Kestrel Recovery (LIFE11 NAT/BG/000360). The sighting (via video surveillance) of the wild falcons, together with individuals ringed by the project, provides the first confirmation of the successful reunion of released birds in the wild population of the Balkans.
The project, which is being coordinated by Green Balkans, a federation of nature conservation non-governmental organisations, is aiming to increase and strengthen the breeding populations in Bulgaria. A key measure is the release, in cooperation with Spanish partner DEMA and German partner EURONATUR, of captive-bred birds in Bulgaria, where the bird numbers are extremely low. Some 90 chicks have already been released in the hope that more than a third will return to their original nesting site – the Sakar Natura 2000 SPA (special protection area for wild birds).
30 August 2013 Following a training workshop held by the LIFE+ project, The Return of the Neophron (LIFE10 NAT/BG/000152) in the Eastern Rhodopes, Bulgaria (July 29-3 August), one of the participants, Ibrahim Hashim, President of the Sudanese Wildlife Society (SWS) has confirmed that the Sudanese government is taking steps to insulate a power line in Port Sudan that is a major cause of vulture mortality. The Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) population traditionally migrates along the western shores of the Red Sea and nests in Eastern Europe and Asia. More than 80 Egyptian vultures are reported to have been killed by the Port Sudan power line over a number of years. A joint expedition in 2010 by the LIFE project beneficiary, the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB) and SWS confirmed that this power line has also led to the deaths of lappet-faced vultures, steppe eagles and a Bonelli's eagle, sadly the first recorded sighting of the species in Sudan. As a result of the expedition, the two conservation organisations produced a risk assessment, which has persuaded the local authorities to begin securing the power line.
21 August 2013 The LIFE+ project SEWeb (LIFE10 ENV/UK/000182), which brings together information on Scotland's environment, is set to launch an important new resource for teachers for the autumn and winter terms of the upcoming school year. The website is preparing a 'Youth Discussion', which will consist of classroom discussions and debates, a Glow meet (Glow is Education Scotland's online community for Scottish schools), as well as a competition. Suggested areas of study, briefing materials and themes for the competition and Glow meet will be available shortly on Scotland's Environment Web.
The Youth Discussion follows several other recent developments on the website, including new core briefings on Public Engagement, Citizen Science and State of Environment Reporting.
12 August 2013 An article in the scientific journal Animal conservation [issue 16 (2013)] has highlighted the important role of a LIFE Nature Platform Meeting (thematic seminar) on Terrestrial Invertebrates that took place in Newquay, Cornwall, UK in June 2011.
The article, “Possible directions in the protection of the neglected invertebrate biodiversity”, by Manuela D’Amen et al, points out that whilst site-based conservation is widely recognised as a fundamental step in halting biodiversity loss at a global scale, terrestrial invertebrates have tended to be neglected in the reserve selection process. The authors therefore consider the 2011 LIFE Nature Terrestrial Invertebrates Platform Meeting as “a very important step… This conference introduced for the first time in the Nature 2000 framework a real opportunity for innovative projecting among beneficiaries and experts in terrestrial invertebrate conservation.”
07 August 2013 The LIFE project ‘IES – Irrigation Expert Simulator’ (LIFE11 ENV/E/000621), which is developing a web platform for training and supporting farmers in the development of their own irrigation schedules, has carried out its first irrigation validation field assessments.
The project installed flow meters at the beginning of the irrigation season, and technicians from the Watering Office of DAAM recently collected data from the 14 commercial plots that are collaborating with the project. These plots are located in seven irrigation communities with different crops and irrigation systems. Data will be analysed in order to validate IES, the watering simulation tool.
06 August 2013 Shoppers in Wiltshire, England unexpectedly came face to face – or nose to beak – with a protected species targeted by a local LIFE project. A disorientated young stone-curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus), one of the UK’s rarest breeding birds and the target of an ongoing LIFE project, ‘Securing the stone-curlew’ (LIFE11 INF/UK/000418), recently was found wandering outside a supermarket in Devizes.
This shy bird is rarely spotted even in its normal downland habitat. Its camouflaged plumage and nocturnal habits make sightings very rare. The stray bird found in Devizes was taken to a veterinary clinic by a member of the public, who thought it was a young bird of prey. It was then passed to Wiltshire Wildlife Hospital at Newton Toney who cared for the bird.
31 July 2013The LIFE ‘Ecoedición’ project (LIFE08 ENV/E/0000124) has developed Product Category Rules (PCR) for printed books and e-books. The rules establish common and harmonised ways of calculating the environmental impacts of publications at a European level.
More specifically, PCR define the requirements for obtaining a type III eco-label or Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) according to ISO 14025. An EPD is a communication tool that provides relevant, verified and quantitative data on the environmental impacts of a publication throughout its lifecycle.
Such data enable clear comparisons of the environmental performance of publications to be made. The effect is to facilitate decision-making within green public procurement processes and to increase responsible consumption by consumers and readers. It also introduces the concept of ecodesign and fosters continuous improvement in publishing and printing houses.
30 July 2013In June 2013, LIFE professionals gathered in Budapest for the annual LIFE monitors meeting. As part of the three-day conference, participants visited a number of projects that have benefited from LIFE funding, including one of the most successful conservation initiatives in Hungary, the Hungarian Meadow Viper Programme.
The Hungarian Meadow Viper Programme was started in 2004 and has been funded by two successful LIFE projects so far (LIFE04 NAT/HU/000116, LIFE07 NAT/H/000322). In recognition of the quality of the work being done, the first project was recognised as a "Best of the Best" LIFE Nature project for 2007-2008. During the monitors meeting, participants also had the opportunity to visit the Hungarian Meadow Viper Conservation Centre. They enjoyed a guided tour of the new educational facilities and learnt all about the behaviour of the Hungarian meadow viper (Vipera ursinii rakosiensis).
29 July 2013Three Danish LIFE Nature projects have held an event to gather hay for inoculation of restored dry grasslands with characteristic plant species. The aim was to gather hay from high-value dry grasslands and inoculate two former agricultural areas with a view to accelerating their succession towards the protected habitat type 6210.
The three LIFE projects - TOTAL COVER HELNÆS (LIFE08 NAT/DK/000465), DRY GRASSLAND (LIFE08 NAT/DK/000464) and CONNECT HABITATS (LIFE09 NAT/DK/000371) - brought together Danish nature managers for a two-day event during which traditional techniques – involving the use of scythes - were employed to gather the hay. Professional scythe managers introduced this difficult technique, which enables the hay to be collected in a very gentle way. Scythes are increasingly being used in place of heavy machinery to secure the extensive management of vulnerable Danish habitat types.
18 July 2013The LIFE Gas-off project (LIFE09 ENV/IT/000214) recently completed trials on the use of feed additives to reduce the production of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in dairy cows.
The trials are part of an integrated evaluation of strategies to mitigate GHGs on dairy farms and were carried out on four groups of six Friesian cows. One of these groups acted as a control, while the others were fed with diets containing one of three different additives: Thymol, Guaiacol or Yeast. These additives had already been tested at the University of Milan and were shown to have potential in reducing enteric methanogenesis. The purpose of the trials, therefore, was to determine the effectiveness of the different diets. The project, which is being led by Azienda Sperimentale "Vittorio Tadini", a non-profit research and advisory organisation based in Piacenza, is also assessing the role of biogas production and the cultivation of biomass crops in reducing GHG emissions on farms. In particular, it is looking at techniques for optimizing biomass production and manure and effluent management in order to improve the performances of biogas plants and reduce environmental impacts.
05 July 2013VACCIA (Vulnerability Assessment of Ecosystem Services for Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation) – a ‘Best of’ LIFE Environment project 2012’ – is continuing to have a wide-reaching impact. According to the project beneficiary, the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), less than two years after the awarded project officially closed, its results and objectives are already being used in national policy and an international ecological research network; and they have been incorporated into a national climate change guide, as well as new international research and development projects.
Moreover, the main results of the (2009-2011) project have been presented at several international conferences and published in a high-level scientific journal (Forsius et al. 2013).
03 July 2013The European Commission has approved funding for 248 new projects under the LIFE+ programme, the European Union's environment fund. The projects have been submitted by beneficiaries in 26 Member States and cover actions in the fields of nature conservation, climate change, environmental policy and information and communication on environmental issues across all 27 Member States. Overall, they represent a total investment of some €556.4 million, of which the EU will provide €281.4 million.
Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: “The LIFE+ programme continues to provide vital financial support for innovative and replicable environmental and nature conservation projects with significant added value for the EU. These new projects will make a significant contribution to protecting, conserving and enhancing Europe’s natural capital and to improving the environment. And through practical actions and concrete examples, they will also support the goal of turning the EU into a resource efficient, greener and more competitive low-carbon economy.”
02 July 2013The latest LIFE Focus publication highlights the role of LIFE Nature funding in helping to conserve Europe's endangered large carnivores (brown bear, wolf, Eurasian lynx), by addressing actual and potential conflicts with people living in areas where these species are present.
The publication demonstrates the link between project outcomes and EU policy relating to large carnivore conservation and is designed to support the EU Action on Large Carnivores. As well as providing an overview of the LIFE programme's impact to date, it also draws conclusions about what has worked well and where there is room for improvement. With more than 75 featured projects, LIFE and human coexistence with large carnivores provides numerous practical examples and lessons that can be drawn from the LIFE programme's work in this area.
01 July 2013The LIFE+ Nature project MIRDINEC (LIFE09 NAT/SE/000344) brought together more than 30 experts from across the EU, as well as Australia, New Zealand and the United States, for a final conference and Platform Meeting (thematic seminar) in Luleå, northern Sweden (June 16-18), on the hot topic of the management of Invasive Alien Predators (IAP). Several LIFE projects were represented at the event (see programme), which, after two days of presentations and fruitful discussions, led to the drafting of a 10-point proposal to the European Commission for the management of invasive alien species (IAS) - see the conference website for details.
In addition, delegates had the opportunity to visit sites where the MIRDINEC project, led by the Swedish Association for Hunting and Wildlife Management ('Svenska Jägareförbundet') is working to prevent the spread of the raccoon-dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides). A native of East Asia, large numbers of this invasive predator were released in western parts of the Soviet Union in the first half of the 20th Century, as a means of developing a fur industry around the species.
26 June 2013The LIFE Biodiversity project SOIL-Montana (LIFE10 NAT/ES/000579) aims to improve soil conditions and the biodiversity of mountain and valley grazing areas through, among other actions, the drawing up of a new assessment tool: the Agro-ecosystem Health Card. This card helps diagnose the health of the grazing ecosystems by providing for the first time reference values in terms of soil diversity.
The Agro-ecosystem Health Card, available for download from the project website, includes basic information about the importance of maintaining the health of ecosystems in grazing areas as well as indicators of their conservation status and instructions for measuring it.
24 June 2013The LIFE+ project LANDLIFE (LIFE10 INF/ES/000540) has successfully held workshops in three EU countries on the value of land stewardship as an effective and successful tool for nature conservation and biodiversity. The workshops specifically helped experts in policy and practice to share information and build practical know-how to apply land stewardship agreements and improve their management. The titles, locations and dates of the workshops were as follows:
17 June 2013The LIFE+ Information and Communication project RESTORE (LIFE09 INF/UK/000032) has published a new guide to river restoration called Rivers by Design. The guide is aimed at planners, developers, architects and landscape architects and seeks to show them how to maximise the benefits of river restoration in development projects.
The guide explains the context and need for river restoration, illustrating how well-planned river restoration can increase ecological quality, reduce flood risk and create social and economic benefits. It explains to the target audience the crucial role they can play in delivering such projects to meet the needs of people and the environment.
14 June 2013The latest LIFE Focus publication highlights the relevance of LIFE Environment project actions in helping to create durable jobs and develop green skills across the EU. As its title suggests, LIFE creating green jobs and skills provides a host of practical examples of project actions that provide a blueprint for the transition to a low carbon, resource efficient economy, as well as illustrating the added social and economic value of the LIFE programme, the EU's financial instrument for the environment.
The publication highlights the policy agenda and challenges involved in greening the EU job market, and analyses the lessons that can be learned from more than 20 years of LIFE. The focus is on the main projects that have had an impact on durable job creation and green skills development, with 23 case studies from 11 Member States, divided into six thematic areas: waste; capacity building; business and industry; packaging; energy production and agriculture.