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News: January 2012

Nature Scholarship for Young European Conservationists now open

(Photo: LIFE09 NAT/ES/000529)

31 January 2012The Alfred Toepfer Natural Heritage Scholarships 2012 are now open for applications!. The award provides three young European conservationists with €3 000 to undertake a study visit to one or more protected area located in a European country other than his/her own. They are awarded by the Alfred Toepfer Foundation and the EUROPARC Federation. The deadline for applications is 11 May, 2012.

The €3 000, donated by the Alfred Toepfer Foundation (DE), gives successful scholars the chance to gather experience and strengthen their networks. Applicants must be under 35 and of European nationality, and themes for applications must be connected to the management of natural areas. Some guidelines to what these should be are provided. Applications can be filled in online at All organisational aspects, such as the selection of candidates, are carried out by the EUROPARC Federation.

The scholarships enhance international cooperation and advance the quality, innovation and European dimension of the management of natural areas, such as national parks. At the end of their study visit the scholars must produce a report on their findings which will be shared with practitioners in charge of managing Europe’s natural heritage. They are awarded at the annual EUROPARC Conference, which will be held in Genk, Belgium, 22 –25 October,2012.

In 2011 the scholarships were awarded to individuals from Hungary, Scotland and Belgium. The scholars are currently researching: management techniques in protected areas, the creation of European partnerships and information sharing in the field of grazing management and improvement of communication between World Heritage marine sites in the Mediterranean Sea.

LIFE project removes thousands of highly invasive turtles from European waters

(Photo: LIFE09 NAT/ES/000529)

23 January 2012Turtles are a common ‘poster child’ of worldwide conservation efforts. However, exotic species of turtle, such as the common slider (Trachemys scripta), are amongst the most damaging invasive species in Europe. LIFE-Trachemys (LIFE09 NAT/ES/000529) successfully captured 4 600 sliders from wetlands in Valencia in 2011. This represents three times more captures than the preceding year.

The aim of this LIFE Biodiversity project is to address the negative environmental impacts on wetland environments from alien exotic turtle species in Valencia and the Algarve (Portugal). It has introduced innovative practice to their capture, including the training of dogs and use of georadar systems to identify breeding females and nests in wetland habitats. It also successfully identified two new major breeding grounds, in the marshlands of La Safor and the Pego-Oliva Natural Park.

The removal of the Trachemys is a key support for the wetland habitats and native species, such as the

European pond turtle (Emys orbicularis) and Spanish terrapin (Mauremys leprosa). Native species suffer from competition for food, breeding territories and basking grounds, and the spread of disease.

Beyond the short-term capture success, the project has enabled the beneficiary – the Environmental Ministry of the Regional Government of Valencia – to develop and expand a system of alerts and data collection on the invasive turtles into seven new sites. The aim is to enable early intervention before populations expand to levels that are even more difficult to control and as part of an eventual integrated preservation strategy for threatened indigenous species. The final goal of this project is to change peoples' attitude towards the release of exotic terrapins into the wild by bringing down on them through awareness raising campaigns the damage that these actions cause on the environment.

For more information, please visit the project website.

10 companies carry out LIFE+ 'Biodiversity Checks'


19 January 2012Ten European companies have pledged to reduce their impact on biodiversity, as part of a LIFE+ project, the European Business and Biodiversity Campaign (LIFE08 INF/D/000022). The companies representative of a broad range of sectors – include a car producer, airport manager, a large travel agency and a producer of outdoor products – have all successfully implemented a ‘Biodiversity Check’ offered by the 2010-2012 project.

Many sectors are linked to biodiversity by a direct or indirect dependence on the services provided by nature and ecosystems. The biodiversity check enables companies to get an overview of the impacts of their different departments and operations on ecosystems and biodiversity. All departments from management, procurement, production and logistics to marketing and human resources are analysed.

With this check, the participating companies are now implementing targeted measures to reduce, or even better avoid, any negative impacts. According to the project beneficiary, the Global Nature Fund (GNF), from a long term perspective, this is not just an advantage for the environment and society, but also for the businesses; as mitigating risks, reducing costs and increasing employee motivation have a positive effect on the company’s balance sheet.

In a statement, the beneficiary says companies that focus early on their environmental impacts, “hold a competitive advantage and are better prepared for stricter legislation”. “Companies that use the environmental management system EMAS are, for example, obliged to report on the topic as biodiversity has become a key performance indicator. In addition, the revision process for ISO 14.001 has begun and it is likely that in the future companies with an ISO environmental management system have to report on their link with biodiversity.”

A participant, Jörg Kämer, responsible for sustainability management and corporate compliance at Fraport AG, which manages the Frankfurt Airport, says: "The Biodiversity Check gave us important directions to further develop our biodiversity strategy ... In addition, we found concrete aspects that can immediately be integrated in our activities.“

The European Business and Biodiversity Campaign, launched through the 2010-2012 LIFE+ project, aims to improve the awareness and understanding among corporate decision-makers about the impacts of business operations and about business opportunities in relation to biodiversity conservation. As well as the Biodiversity Checks, the campaign provides workshops and regional biodiversity forums for companies. For more information, see the project website.

LIFE+ RESTORE: sharing river restoration best practices

(Photo: (LIFE09 INF/UK/000032)

18 January 2012Sharing best practices on European river restoration is one of the main goals of the LIFE+ Information & Communication project; RESTORE (LIFE09 INF/UK/000032). It was also the topic of a successful workshop hosted last November, by the partnership project in Slovenia.

The workshop, held in November 2011 in Ljubljana, Slovenia, looked at “Experiences on reaching consensus on river restoration good practices, as a means to support delivery of European policy goals.”  It was facilitated by the Environment Agency (England and Wales), the Government Service for Land and Water Management (DLG, the Netherlands), The River Restoration Centre (UK), Wetlands International, CIRF (Italy) and SYKE (Finland) as part of the ongoing RESTORE partnership. It was attended by people from 24 countries with a variety of backgrounds such as fisheries, engineering, hydromorphology or education – but all interested in improving their river environment. For more information, please contact; or see the ECCR newsletter (page 6).

The workshop was organised within the framework of an international river restoration event 16-18 November 2011 – jointly hosted by RESTORE and the World Water Forum – to discuss among others, the delivery of the 2nd and 3rd cycles of the European Water framework Directive.

The 2010-2013 LIFE+ project is a mechanism through which information and guidance on ways of achieving this can be communicated. The project aims to develop a network linking policymakers, river basin planners, practitioners and experts across Europe to share information and good practice on river restoration activities. A key tool, currently being developed, is an online searchable database ‘Wikitool’ of river restoration case studies. For more information, see the project website.

Take 15 minutes for the LANDLIFE Project!

(Photo: LIFE07 NAT/EE/000120)

16 January 2012A LIFE project is asking for your help in gaining better understanding about EU land use and ‘land stewardship’.

All that’s required is a few minutes of your time to complete an online questionnaire. Your answers will be used to help build a baseline of information about the concept of EU land stewardship.

Don’t worry if the terminology and concept are new to you because the aim of the survey is to find out what type of information and awareness raising actions are needed to promote land stewardship as an empowerment tool for involving stakeholders in biodiversity conservation.

Click here to complete the short questionnaire (online until February 17th) and here for further information about this interesting LANDLIFE initiative.

HAPPYFISH project wins Estonian Environmental Prize

(Photo: LIFE07 NAT/EE/000120)

12 January 2012The LIFE+ Nature project, ‘HAPPYFISH’, has been awarded the 2011 Estonian Environmental Prize, which is given to outstanding projects, campaigns or events in the fields of environmental protection, information dissemination and awareness-raising. “The project ‘Happyfish’ is an excellent example of how a bright idea can be combined with innovation and care for old traditions and important natural values,” said Keit Pentus, the Estonian environment minister, on announcing the winners.

The project – ‘Saving life in meanders and oxbow lakes of Emajõgi River on Alam-Pedja NATURA 2000 area’ (LIFE07 NAT/EE/000120) – is being implemented by the NGO Estonian Wildlife. “The deepening of the mouths of oxbow lakes secures the preservation of their unique ecosystems for at least 50 years. Our children will not have to worry about this issue, though our grandchildren will likely have to take on a similar project in their lifetimes,” said Jaak Tambets of the project beneficiary. 

Among the project’s main conservation objectives is the aim to guarantee the habitat preservation and population stability (or increase) of such priority fish species as Aspius aspius, Cobitis taenia, Misgurnus fossilis and Cottus gobio in the Alam-Pedja Natura 2000 site.

The winners of the prize received monetary and non-monetary awards as well as the rights to use the Estonian Environmental Prize label.


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