25 October 2011The Second National Vulture Festival, which was held in 14 October, 2011 in Sliven, Bulgaria, was another huge success. Organised by ‘the Vultures Return in Bulgaria’ (LIFE08 NAT/BG/278) project, the event has become an essential part of the campaign to raise awareness about the need to safeguard this endangered bird of prey.
The festival attracted students from six schools and kindergartens from Sliven and neighbouring towns, such as Roza and Drazhevo, as well as many parents, passers-by and vulture lovers from all over the country. The children drew vultures from realistic dummies, and sang and danced to celebrate the return of these magnificent birds to Sliven. (The birds are returning to sites where they haven’t been seen for more than 50 years!)
In attendance, too, were the deputy head of mission of the Dutch Embassy, the deputy head of mission of the German Embassy and the director of Zoo Zlin, Czech Republic. Guests of honour, however, were four griffon vultures (Gyps fulvus), released after the very first Vulture Festival (2010), which soared over the main square during the festival.
Another outcome was the adoption of two vultures, one by a private family and the other by a corporate company. These birds were fitted them with GPS/GSM transmitters and also released during the festival.
Unfortunately, we have since been informed that one of the griffon vultures was found electrocuted by a power line shortly after its release: read more about it on the project's website.
20 October 2011The LIFE+ Environment Capital of Biodiversity project (LIFE07 ENV/D/000224) will announce the names of the second group of cities to be made "European Capitals of Biodiversity" at an event in Brussels next month.
The European Commissioner for the Environment, Janez Potočnik, will present the European Capitals of Biodiversity 2011 awards at ICLEI's 10th "Breakfast at Sustainability's (B@S) event on Thursday 24 November 2011, in the Liaison Office of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano/Bozen, South Tyrol (Italy) in Brussels. More than 500 municipalities from France, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia and Spain participated in the contest, which has been led by the LIFE project beneficiary Deutsche Umwelthilfe e.V.
The first four "Capitals of Biodiversity" were named in 2010 as Grande Sythe in France, Tata in Hungary, El Real Sitio de San Ildefonso in Spain and Želiezovce in Slovakia.
The goal of the LIFE+ Environment project is to build the capacity of local authorities to protect nature and biodiversity in urban areas and to support and motivate new initiatives in this field by promoting “Capital of Nature and Biodiversity” competitions. The aim is for the awards to encourage local authorities to take concrete measures for the protection of nature and biodiversity and to raise awareness on good practices. It is hoped that the awards will continue after LIFE co-funding ends in March 2012.
In addition to the awards ceremony, the B@S event - subtitled "Capitals of Biodiversity – European municipalities lead the way in local biodiversity protection" - will include presentations by Commissioner Potočnik and Vice-President of the European Parliament, Isabelle Durant MEP on the theme 'From biodiversity policy to local implementation'.
14 October 2011An agreement last week by the EU has opened the door for a new integrated management approach to nature conservation in the Prespa basin. Situated on the borders between Greece, Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, this 2500 km2 basin includes wetlands designated as Ramsar Sites. The area is especially important for water birds, notably the largest breeding colony of Dalmatian pelicans in the world and eight unique fish species also depend on the basin’s aquatic habitat. These endemic fish are found only in the Prespa basin and nowhere else in the world. LIFE project support has been involved in helping set up sustainable fishery methods in the Prespa basin to conserve these fish which are protected by EU law.
EU agreement for the introduction of a cross-border Prespa Park will help the countries involved establish a new multinational management plan for the Prespa basin. Results are expected to establish long-term support for both the basin's biodiversity as well as its rural economy. The Prespa Park agreement therefore represents a win-win outcome for the Balkans and also reinforces the nature conservation legacies created by LIFE's sustainable fishery project.
12 October 2011The LIFE+ ENV project SEDI.PORT.SIL (LIFE09 ENV/IT/000158), has staged the first of two interim workshops as part of its aim to demonstrate an integrated approach to the sustainable management of sediment dredged from ports.
The workshop, held in Rome, Italy on 20 September, provided an opportunity to update stakeholders and other interested parties on the progress of activities and experiments designed to demonstrate the effectiveness of physical-chemical and organic techniques to treat sediments and to develop systems to extract silicon from the sediments dredged from the port of Ravenna, with the aim of re-using them.
Beneficiary MED Engineering provided an overview of the project, whilst partners ISPRA, Diemme SpA and the universities UNIBO and UNIFE outlined the state of play in their respective areas of concern. ISPRA explained the legislative framework for the management and recovery of harbour sediments, as well as methods of treating sediments and extracting silicon; Diemme revealed initial results from its prototype plant for physical-chemical and bacterial digestion treatment of sediment; the Diem Department of UNIBO explained how plasma flame technology can be used to extract silicon from sediment; and UNIFE's Earth Sciences Department demonstrated the results of surveys of quarries in the Ravenna area to evaluate the most suitable sites for depositing sediments after treatment.
There was also an initial report from another project partner, GeoEcoMar (the Romanian Institute of Geo-ecology), which is assessing the viability of the SEDI.PORT.SIL process at the Port of Midia, Romania, whilst the Po Delta Park (Emilia-Romagna) gave details of the project's communication plan.
External speakers from SEDNET (the European Sediment Network) and the LIFE COAST-BEST project (LIFE08 ENV/IT/000426) provided context to the issue of management of dredged sediments.
A second interim project workshop will take place in May 2012 in Constanta, Romania. SEDI.PORT.SIL is scheduled to be completed at the end of August next year.
For more information about LIFE SEDI.PORT.SIL, visit: www.lifesediportsil.eu
11 October 2011The LIFE programme celebrates its 20th anniversary in May 2012. To mark this important milestone in the history of the EU's financial instrument for the environment, the LIFE unit invites you to take part in not one but two special competitions.
LIFE has generated 20 years' worth of fantastic photography from projects all over the EU and beyond. Millions of words have also been written about the thousands of excellent projects that LIFE has co-funded over the last two decades. In recognition of this fact and to mark the 20 years of the programme, the LIFE unit is organising a photo competition and a 20 words competition open to all LIFE projects past or present. The closing date for both competitions is 15 DECEMBER 2011.
Last but not least, to mark LIFE's 20th birthday, events will take place across Europe. If you are organising an event we would like to know about it. You can upload details here and later keep track of all events via the LIFE’s 20th anniversary calendar.
Twenty years of LIFE is truly something worth celebrating. With your help we can make May 2012 a month to remember!
10 October 2011The 3rd European Week for Waste Reduction (EWWR) - 19-27 November 2011 - is set to involve citizens from across Europe in actions based around four key issues: reducing paper waste; reducing food waste, reducing excessive packaging; and encouraging the repair and/or reuse of 'waste' products and materials.
Following on from the success of the 'BatucaMob' that took place simultaneously across 10 countries to launch the 2nd EWWR, citizens and organisations are being encouraged to participate in another common action to underline the pan-European aspect of the Week - a 'clean-up day'. The aim of the day will be for participants to collect and measure the amount of waste illegally dumped in their area, particularly in those of natural beauty such as forests, beaches and mountains.
EWWR Registration is now open in participating countries. Interested parties can submit an action to the official EWWR Organiser in their area. (The list of Organisers is available from: http://www.ewwr.eu/list-organisers).
The EWWR LIFE+ project (LIFE07 INF/F/000185) will quantify the waste reduction impact of all the common actions it has inspired and present the results at the concluding project conference in Paris on 19-20 June 2012.
06 October 2011Professor Sir John Lawton, an eminent British ecologist who is currently advising the UK government on its approach to the natural environment, recently visited the UK MoorLIFE project. On a drizzly day, Sir Lawton was shown the restoration works that have been carried out on Black Hill, one of the landmark summits in the Pennines. The ongoing 'MoorLIFE: Active blanket bog restoration in the South Pennine Moors' (LIFE08 NAT/UK/000202) project is one of the biggest moorland conservation initiatives in Europe.
Professor Lawton described the conservation efforts as absolutely extraordinary, a win-win situation four times over. "You win in terms of water quality, you win on carbon, you win on landscape, and you win on wildlife conservation," he said. Many of the big cities in northern England rely on the Pennines for drinking water, and healthy peat bogs ensure that this water is of sufficient quality. Moreover, peat bogs are a superb store of carbon which would otherwise escape, adding to the quantity of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
One research study found that more carbon is trapped in British bogs than in the forests of Britain and France combined. Black Hill itself is within England's first national park, the Peak District, and this area of the Pennine moorlands is recognised internationally as important. It has been designated a Natura 2000 network site: Special Area of Conservation (SAC) as well as – in recognition of its potential value for bird life – a Special Protection Area (SPA). Professor Lawton said that MoorLIFE's partnership approach led by the Peak District National Park Authority is integral to its success: "It takes real skill to bring a group of very different organisations together, and hold them together, and get them all pointing in the same direction, and I think that's been achieved," he said.
By the time the project is over in 2015, over a thousand hectares of degraded peat bog will have been restored to health. Professor Lawton finished his visit with a call for members of the public to be encouraged to appreciate the value of their local peat moorlands. "We have to let people see that this is important," he said.
The MoorLIFE project (LIFE08 NAT/UK/000202)
For further information please visit the website
05 October 2011 The conclusions of the LIFE Platform Meeting on terrestrial invertebrates are now available to download by clicking on the link below. The meeting, hosted by Natural England (and organised by the Astrale monitoring team), attracted more than 30 delegates to Newquay, Cornwall in June. The goal was to bring together invertebrate conservation practitioners from across Europe to discuss some of the most important issues regarding the conservation of these species - from butterflies to bees, saproxylic beetles to dragonflies. As part of the sharing of experience of completed and ongoing LIFE projects, there was also a visit to two sites restored by the Mid-Cornwall Moors project (LIFE03 NAT/UK/000042).
Finally, the delegates considered how, in future, the LIFE programme could best help support projects that enhance the conservation status of terrestrial invertebrates. A summary of the issues raised by the presentations and discussions is included in section 5 (pp.20-27) of the report.
04 October 2011A new publication from the Italian Ministry of the Environment, and the protection of Land and Sea, provides an in-depth look at the impact of the LIFE Environment programme for the period of LIFE II and III (1996-2006). The brochure, Il successo del Programma LIFE Ambiente in Italia: esempi di soulzioni innovative replicabili a livello nazionale ("The success of the LIFE Environment Programme in Italy: examples of innovative solutions replicated at national level"), is divided into four sections: The first section of the publication summarises what the LIFE Environment programme does, outlines the results obtained by LIFE Environment in Italy, explains the role of the National Contact Point, highlights Italian LIFE Environment projects that have been awarded 'Best' project status by the European Commission and introduces LIFE+.
A two page summary of the background, objectives and results of all completed and approved Italian LIFE Environment projects is included in section two, whilst the third section details the background, aims and expected results of the projects that, at the time of publication, were awaiting assessment and approval of their final report. Finally, section four provides a handy list of all the Italian LIFE Environment projects mentioned in the brochure.
The full report is now available to download from the other publications section of the LIFE website.