18 September 2008 More than 80 Lesser Kestrels (Falco naumanni) were released in August 2008 in Extremadura, Spain and Aude, France, thanks to a breeding programme developed by the LIFE Nature project (LIFE05 NAT/F/000134): Reinforcement and conservation of Lesser Kestrel populations in Aude (FR) and Extrémadure (ES).
The project builds on the results of a previous LIFE project (LIFE97 NAT/F/004119), which identified the potential for reinforcing and increasing existing populations. The aim is to conserve and improve the conservation status of the Lesser Kestrel Kestrel in two Natura 2000 sites, in Aude and Extremadura. The project includes the establishment of breeding centres in France and Spain, and the subsequent release of chicks into the wild. Studies and experimentation will also be carried out to improve knowledge of the Lesser Kestrel’s biology and reasons for its mortality.
Unsuitable agricultural practices, human disturbance, power lines and poisoning by pesticides are largely responsible for the decline of the Lesser Kestrel, a bird species of European importance and included in Annex I of Birds Directive. Populations in Europe have decreased by 90% since the middle of the 20th century. In Spain, however, thanks to strict legislation and reintroduction programmes, a population of about 12,000 couples has survived. Nevertheless, to guarantee their conservation, more feeding habitats and restoration of urban nesting sites are needed. In France, where the population was once dispersed over more than 12 sites, only three breeding areas and about 12 nesting couples remain.
For more information see the project website.
12 September 2008LIFE Nature projects were well-represented at SER 2008: The Sixth European Conference on Ecological Restoration, which took place in Ghent, Belgium from 8-12 September. More than 30 LIFE-funded projects were among the 300 practical examples of ecological restoration presented over the course of the five-day event.
The programme highlighted case studies from Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Netherlands, Poland and UK, as well as many Belgian LIFE Nature projects.
In addition to the case studies, posters and site visits, a distinguished set of guest speakers were invited to make presentations at the plenary sessions from 9-12 September, including leading academics in the field and representatives of environmental NGOs such as the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
On behalf of the European Commission, Director, DG Environment, Directorate B, Ladislav Miko, spoke on the topic of “Habitats Restoration in the framework of the European conservation policy”. Mr. Miko pointed to the need to strengthen links between the scientific community and the policy level. ”We need conclusions and recommendations based on your experiences,” he said.
The importance of LIFE
Mr. Miko praised the contribution of LIFE to nature restoration, but added that “LIFE+ is limited compared to what we need. Financing for nature restoration must be much higher and must come from national budgets as well.”
Representing the regional government of Flanders, Flemish Minister of Public Works, Energy, Environment and Nature, Hilde Crevits was on hand to receive a book jointly produced by the four largest nature conservation organisations in Flanders. The book, Ecological Restoration in Flanders (Belgium), features reports on 40 of the most prominent ecological restoration projects in the region, including 14 co-funded by LIFE.
Minister Crevits highlighted the importance of the support of the European Community (through LIFE, LIFE + and Interreg) in enabling restoration projects to take place. This theme was also taken up by the director of the Flemish Agency for Nature and Forests, Marleen Evenepoel, who noted that “Restoration measures are usually very expensive – LIFE support is very important to meet this cost.” Mrs Evenepoel added that “this European support also acts as a catalyst at a local level. Full support of all local stakeholders is essential.”
The results of previous LIFE Nature and Environment projects were successfully disseminated to the more than 400 delegates at SER 2008 through a LIFE stand at the convention centre.
1 September 2008 From the beginning of September 2008, the first commercial fuel cell-powered passenger ship will operate a regular service on the river Alster in Hamburg, Germany. Up to 100 passengers will be able to enjoy each river excursion, without gving rise to any harmful emissions. The Zero Emission Ship LIFE project (LIFE06 ENV/D/000465) aims to demonstrate that a fuel cell ship is already technically feasible and that it can deliver zero emission solutions for ecologically sensitive inland waterway and ports.
On 29 August 2008, the Senator for Environment and City Development of Hamburg, Anja Hajduk, christened the new Alster passenger ship, “FCS Alsterwasser”, the FCS standing for Fuel Cell Ship. The Federal Minister for Transport, Building and Urban Affairs, Wolfgang Tiefensee, also addressed around 150 invited guests, who subsequently took part in the ship's maiden voyage. “I am very impressed. This project is a signal and a milestone for the development of fuel cell technology in liner trade”, said Minister Tiefensee.
The core element of the new ship, the innovative hybrid fuel cell propulsion system, was developed by the Proton Motor Fuel Cell GmbH. Its CTO, Felix Heidelberg stated: “The FCS Alsterwasser is nearly twice as efficient as a conventional diesel powered ship. That is a prime example for innovation that we are proud of.”
A hydrogen fuelling station for the ship was developed and built by Linde AG. Dr. Aldo Belloni, a member of the Linde AG board said: “As a precursor of the hydrogen technology, we want to enable environment friendly, hydrogen-based mobility in every sector. With this globally unique service station we can show that hydrogen is perfectly suited as an emission free fuel for passenger ships.”
For more information, please visit the project website.