28 November 2007 A 26-minute film showing the work of a LIFE project, “conservation of the aquatic warbler in Brittany” (LIFE04 NAT/FR/000086), was awarded a prize at the 2007 International Ornithological Film Festival.
The project followed the post-breeding migration patterns of this small endangered bird, before introducing management measures to protect the most important stop-over sites. It aimed to increase the area of favourable habitat for migrating aquatic warblers in the Atlantic coastal marshes of France.
The 23rd International Ornithological Film Festival was held at Ménigoute in France, from 30 October to 4 November 2007. The annual festival brings together leading figures in the art and film worlds who are dedicated to wildlife and the protection of the environment. Some 40 wildlife films from across the globe are shown at the festival and several prizes are handed out by a jury. The festival is also host to a nature forum, wildlife-focused art and photography exhibitions, debates on the protection of the environment and a range of children’s activities.
To watch the video on the aquatic warbler, click here .
Another LIFE project film, this time produced by the “Conservation of three cave-dwelling bats in southern France” project (LIFE04 NAT/FR/000080), also won a prize at the festival – in this case, its nature conservation prize. As soon as we have a link to the video, we’ll pass it on, so watch this space!
Conservation of the Aquatic Warbler in Brittany
27 November 2007 The LIFE-Environment project ‘WINTECC - Demonstration of an innovative wind propulsion technology for cargo vessels’ (LIFE06 ENV/D/000479) will start a new era in shipping in December with the launch of the first full-scale cargo vessel driven by wind energy.
The 140m-long cargo vessel ‘Beluga SkySails’ will be launched with the new SkySails towing kite system on Saturday, 15 December 2007. The project will verify that the innovative kite system can make an essential contribution to reducing fuel consumption and the emission of greenhouse gases.
The WINTECC project has developed the SkySails-System, which is an innovative wind propulsion system for modern shipping. It consists of a fully automated towing kite and a wind-optimised routeing system. It is used in addition to the propulsion of the ship’s engine where wind conditions allow to improve efficiency. It offers high performance, high practicability and high safety.
The towing kites can be aligned according to the wind direction, wind force, ship route and ship speed and are designed to provide optimal aerodynamic efficiency at any wind speed. An automatic system allows the towing kite, control pod and towing rope to be launched and recovered automatically.
A constant, powerful propulsion force is achieved with the aid of the routeing system, which facilitates the utilisation of advantageous winds and thus quicker voyages. The routeing system consists of four modules: weather forecasting; performance calculation; decision-making model; and route recommendation.
As well as demonstrating the success of the towing system in different sea and weather conditions and subsequent environmental benefits, WINTECC will work to collect, measure and obtain data to verify the influence of the kite on the ship’s movements. An innovative wave monitoring system will test the accuracy of the weather forecasts and the local wind situation.
WINTECC - Demonstration of an innovative wind propulsion technology for cargo vessels
27 November 2007 Two Lammergeier or bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) chicks released into the wild in Spain in May 2007 by the LIFE-Nature project ‘Preliminary actions and reintroduction of the bearded vulture’ (LIFE04 NAT/ES/000056) have started to fly.
Bearded vulture is the most endangered vulture species in Europe. It disappeared from Andalusia in the 1980s, mainly due to the illegal use of poison, collisions with power lines, lack of feeding resources and illegal hunting. The chicks were released as part of a sustained project to re-populate the area.
Both chicks were born in captive breeding centres in February and were reared before being released into a cave in the Sierra de Segura in Andalusia. This is the second time that individuals from this species have been successfully released back into the wild at this location. In 2006, three bearded vultures - Tono, Faust and Libertad - were successfully released and have since been spotted over the park and as far afield as the Pyrenees.
The youngest chick, Pontones, carried out its first flight 21 days after the release; it lasted around half a minute. Four days later, Segura carried out its first flight, which lasted nearly a minute. It flew again that evening for around two minutes, finally settling on an elevated rock where it spent the night.
Each passing day is a small triumph for the project, increasing the likelihood that new bearded vultures will be born in the natural environment. The project aims to create a naturalised breeding population by releasing at least 25 young bearded vultures over five years.
Preliminary actions and reintroduction of the bearded vulture
26 November 2007 Waste experts and those generally interested in the environmental theme of waste now are able to access a range of waste-related information on LIFE projects on the LIFE website.
The Waste thematic pages section is now the fifth such section published, following on from thematic pages covering Energy & Climate; Water; Air; and the Urban Environment & Quality of Life. Grouping together project descriptions, publications, videos and articles related to a specific theme, the thematic sections make it easier for researchers, environmental scientists or any other interested parties to find information on the actions carried out under LIFE within their particular field.
Watch this space for further environmental themes to be going online soon!
23 November 2007 The LIFE+ Committee held its first meeting in Brussels on 21 September 2007. Made up of representatives from the Member States, the committee meeting was chaired by Philip Owen, Head of the LIFE unit.
The meeting was an opportunity to inform Member States about the organisation of the 2007 call for proposals and the evaluation and selection of projects. More information on the call can be found on the LIFE website.
The Commission also presented the new common provisions which have been published on the LIFE website in the meantime.
The committee was reminded that the LIFE+ Regulation allows Member States to define national annual priorities selected from the areas listed in the LIFE Regulation as of 2008 and also make comments on proposals.
The LIFE+ Committee held a discussion on how to ensure complementarity between the LIFE+ Programme and other EU funds, notably the Structural Funds, the Rural Development Programme, the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme and the Research Framework Programme.
Finally, the committee approved the commission's proposal on the form and content of beneficiaries reports. The four types of report foreseen from each beneficiary are: inception report; progress report; mid-term report with payment request; and final report with payment request. The reports will have a common structure and include most of the elements from the reporting formats under the previous LIFE programme.
21 November 2007 A Spanish LIFE project has recently plastered the sides of public transit with enormous murals of a critically endangered giant lizard with the aim of raising awareness about the ancient animal amongst the local population.
In 1999, on the island of La Gomera – one of the Canary Islands off the Moroccan coast, Spanish biologists discovered a few specimens of the La Gomera Giant Lizard (Gallotia bravoana). Until this amazing discovery, scientists had long thought the animal had died out 500 years ago. The lizards measure up to half a metre in length and are mostly herbivorous. The specimens, however, made up a very small population of just 100 individuals (making it one of the most endangered reptiles in the world), which were threatened by feral cats – the wild offspring of domestic cats. The lizard’s then-existing habitat was also very close to tourist centres and agricultural areas. The possibility of the animal disappearing forever however was staunched by an extremely successful series of LIFE projects, the most recent of which being LIFE02 NAT/E/008614 – Recovery plan for the giant lizard of La Gomera. The heart of this latter project was a captive breeding programme that has helped the Giant Lizard population on the island to double since 2001 (61 lizards in captivity). The first captive lizards will be able to be re-introduced to the wild in 2009 financed by a LIFE project (LIFE06 NAT/E/000199 - Programme for the recovery of Gallotia bravoana and its distribution area).
Because much of the ongoing threat relates to the problem of feral cats, awareness raising amongst the local population, whose domestic cats are the cause, was more important than ever. Beyond the drafting of a municipal ordinance on domestic animals, a register of domestic animals, a free voluntary sterilisation programme, the trapping and sterilisation of semi-feral town cats, the project developed a very large number of information and awareness-raising actions. The wide number of activities included the publishing and distribution of leaflets, door-to-door interviews, publicity campaigns in newspapers and on radio and TV, a video documentary, a children’s storybook, posters, pamphlets, stickers, caps bags, and tablemats – all of which have been distributed free to schools, libraries and local associations all over the island. A travelling exhibition was also developed in 2004, which has visited every single Gomeran municipality, and made a tour of all seven islands of the Canarian archipelago and the Madrid National Museum of Natural Sciences. Additionally, the project organised a series of conferences on the subject that managed to reach almost 20 per cent of the island population.
The series of bus advertisements, affixed to vehicles servicing a number of routes throughout the island, is the project’s latest effort in its truly comprehensive awareness-raising campaign.
For more information, visit the previous project website (LIFE02 NAT/E/008614).
Conservation of cetaceans and sea turtles in Murcia and Andalucia
19 November 2007 What are the economic costs of biodiversity loss? We are increasingly aware of the environmental costs of biodiversity loss, but very infrequently do we consider what we as a society are losing economically as biodiversity is diminished.
With this in mind, the European Commission this week has launched a six-week-long internet-based call for evidence on the economics of biodiversity loss.
Following commitments made at the G8+5 meeting of Environment Ministers in Potsdam in March 2007, the Commission is supporting Germany with the preparatory work for a Review on the Economics of Biodiversity Loss. The review will be carried out by an independent economist who will be appointed as study leader and will evaluate the costs of the loss of biodiversity and the associated decline in ecosystem services worldwide. It will consider the failure to take protective measures versus the costs of effective conservation and sustainable use. While there are many reasons why preventing biodiversity loss should be addressed as a political priority, it is essential to have an objective assessment of the economic arguments.
This call for evidence seeks to collect information from various sources on the economics of biodiversity loss. The results of the call for evidence will contribute to a preparatory report on the Review to be presented at the Ninth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Bonn, Germany, in May 2008. It is intended that the findings will facilitate the development of cost-effective policy responses.
LIFE beneficiaries with experience in or knowledge of the economic costs of biodiversity loss are encouraged to submit evidence.
The call for evidence provides details on the issues that the submissions should cover, as well as on the way this information should be submitted. For more information please visit the EC website on the call for evidence.
This web-based call for evidence on the economics of Biodiversity Loss is open for six weeks, closing at the end of December, 2007.
16 November 2007 Those particularly interested in the environmental themes of the urban environment or quality of life can now find a range of valuable LIFE-related information grouped together under this theme on the LIFE website.
The thematic section, ‘Urban Environment & Quality of Life’, covers urban and peri-urban related environmental issues such as transport, waste management, recycling, packaging, human health, urban planning, energy efficiency, the construction industry, noise pollution, and green spaces. Visit the thematic section on the Urban Environment & Quality of Life.
The thematic sections group together projects - including best projects, publications, videos and articles related to their specific theme. They make it easier for researchers, environmental scientists or any other interested parties to find information on the actions carried out under LIFE within their particular field.
Further thematic pages will be going online in the coming weeks!
15 November 2007 The Alborán Sea – the Spanish waters off the coast of Andalusia and Murcia – is the ‘gate to the Mediterranean’ – where the Atlantic and Mediterranean ecological regions meet, producing outstanding biological diversity. These waters are home to a range of marine habitats that contain 12 endangered cetaceans species and an important migration corridor for the Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta).
The aim of one LIFE project, ‘Conservation of cetaceans and sea turtles in Murcia and Andalucia’ (LIFE02 NAT/E/008610), initiated in July 2002 by the Spanish Cetacean Society, was to contribute to Spain’s implementation of international marine biodiversity conservation strategies, focusing in particular on the Alborán Sea and its surrounding waters.
However, there are major challenges posed by the conservation and management of resources in the open sea, a vast and highly dynamic world. For this reason, the project experimented widely with different surveying and monitoring tools, including satellite tracking, to obtain baseline data. From July 2002 to March 2006, four research ships sailed over 6,800 hours collecting observation data, taking 40,000 images of fins, and sampling 1,957 dolphins.
From the collected data, the project produced conservation plans for the targeted species and proposed the implementation and management plans for Natura 2000 marine sites in the area in collaboration with local stakeholders.
In April 2005, the project managed to win approval of the relocation of the Cabo de Gata Traffic separation scheme, a sea-traffic plan originally proposed by the Spanish Merchant Navy but which would have introduced major sea-going traffic right through the Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) special area of conservation (SAC). This relocation was an important step for the Bottlenose Dolphin conservation plan, made possible by a handful of meetings where the common interests of researchers, conservationists, maritime authorities and fishers were brought together.
At the same time as this research was being performed - aboard three historic fishing sailboats – the boats carried out coastal tours, stopping in the main ports of Andalucia and Murcia. Operating under the name, ‘Todos por la Mar’ (Everyone for the sea), the tours formed part of an awareness raising campaign amongst the various marine environment stakeholders.
Recently, a video has been produced showing in detail the project’s actions. Watch the video online in Spanish. For those who prefer to watch the video in English, a DVD is available. For more information, please contact the Spanish Cetacean Society via the project’s website.
Conservation of cetaceans and sea turtles in Murcia and Andalucia
06 November 2007A new salmon fish-ladder and tunnel has just opened on the River Moälven in Sweden. The migratory pathway, constructed beside an artificial waterfall, makes it possible for Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) and other fish species to reach the Utterån tributary.
The fish-ladder and tunnel is part of a project to restore the habitat of the River Moälven to pre-industrial conditions in order to protect and conserve threatened species there. The project is managed by the municipality of Örnsköldsvik with financial support from LIFE Nature, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, The Swedish Board of Fisheries, Moälvsfisket, Örnsköldsviks Naturskyddsfond, Holmen Skog, The Swedish Forest Agency and The County Administrative Board of Västernorrland.
The LIFE-Nature project "From source to sea, restoring river Moälven" (LIFE05 NAT/S/000109), which is still ongoing, also aims to restore and improve the habitats of the freshwater pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera) and otter (Lutra lutra) in the Moälven. The populations of these species have been decimated or even pushed to the brink of extinction as a result of log floating and pollution from local power stations. A viable salmonid population will promote reproduction of the freshwater pearl mussel, and hazardous road crossings for the otter will be reduced by connecting stream banks under road bridges. Additionally, rocks and boulders that were removed for log floating have been replaced in the river to restore fish habitats.
From source to sea, restoring river Moälven
05 November 2007 The sound of cranes can currently be heard throughout the night on one of the sites restored by a LIFE project on the Saint-Hubert plateau in the heart of the Belgian Ardennes.
The project " Rehabilitation of peat and wet habitats on the Saint-Hubert Plateau" (LIFE03 NAT/B/000019), which finished in August, saw a group of hunters (Unite de Gestion Cynegetique du Massif forestier de Saint-Hubert asbl [Unit for Hunting Management of the Saint-Hubert Forest Block]) restore a series of peatland and wetland habitats on the plateau. To the project managers’ great joy, the project is already bearing fruit – or, rather – flocks of these Common Cranes (Grus grus), who have returned to the Domaniale de Saint-Michel forest on the plateau. The photograph you see above is a shot of one of the very first proven migratory stops of the crane to occur here, which is a great indication that the wetland restoration activities have worked.
The plateau of Saint-Hubert had formerly consisted of a complex of beech forests, bog woodlands, alder forests, transition mires and raised bogs with interesting fringe vegetations along the watercourses. However, much of the area’s natural wetlands had disappeared due to spruce afforestation.
Because of the difficult soil conditions, this afforestation effort did not prove very successful and is certainly not sustainable. It also caused a number of problems with the soil structure, hydrology and the availability of suitable vegetation for browsing deer. Purple moor-grass had begun to invade the open areas as the wetlands dried up.
However, the local hunters’ association, in collaboration with the Wallonian (regional) authorities, developed a master plan to restore this area. This was achieved by cutting and exporting trees and by restoring a more natural water regime via the filling of drains and construction of miniature dams. Tree and purple moor-grass colonisation was controlled by cutting down young trees and, particularly by introducing a flock of 400 sheep.
Rehabilitation of peat and wet habitats on the Saint-Hubert Plateau