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News: July 2012

Conservation hope for the bittern in Bavaria

Photo: LIFE97 NAT/D/004222

27 July 2012Habitat restoration is reducing the severe threat posed to the endangered population of bittern in Bavaria, Germany. A LIFE project, ‘The promotion of bitterns in pond areas of Bavaria’ (LIFE97 NAT/D/004222) , which ended in 2001, is being followed up by a new initiative co-funded by the Allianz Environmental Foundation (Allianz Umweltstiftung) and National League for Bird Protection (Landesbund für Vogelschutz).

Only a few pairs of the great bittern (Botaurus stellaris) are now found in southern Germany, but thanks to the restoration efforts of recent years – the species nests in broad stretches of reeds and rushes, as well as small fish ponds when these are part of complex water surfaces – the bird faces a more favourable future, especially in the Aisch-Regnitz base in the north of Nuremberg, in the district of Schweinfurt and in the pond areas of the county of Schwandorf, where work has been focused.

Conservations actions are based on the results of a 2004 feasibility study and are taking place in three locations: the old and new ponds in the district of Schweinfurt, the pond areas in the district of Erlangen-Hochstadt and Hirtlohweiher in Schwandorf district. In the first two areas, measures include the encouragement of bush growth on the banks, reed mowing to loosen the reed areas and smaller land development activities. More extensive habitat restoration measures were foreseen for Hirtlohweiher as here the large reed areas were heavily silted and compressed.

The restoration work is also set to benefit other reed breeding bird species, such as the little bittern, spotted crake, all warbler species and the marsh harrier. The earlier LIFE project helped pave the way for the new project by identifying the real problems and possible opportunities in working with local fish farmers.

European Commission provides €268.4 million for 202 new environment projects

LIFE+ 2011

20 July 2012The European Commission has approved funding for 202 new projects under the LIFE+ programme, the European Union's environment fund. The projects are from 25 Member States and cover actions in the fields of nature conservation, environmental policy, climate change and information and communication on environmental issues. Overall, they represent a total investment of some €516.5 million, of which the EU will provide €268.4 million.

Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: "In this 20th anniversary year of the founding of LIFE and of the Habitats Directive, I'm delighted to announce the continuing financial support for high quality environmental projects across the EU. These latest LIFE+ projects continue a trend, started more than two decades ago, for innovative and best-practice actions furthering nature conservation, improving the environment and tackling climate change".

The Commission received 1 078 applications from the 27 EU Member States in response to its latest call for proposals, which closed in July 2011. Of these, 202 were selected for co-funding through the programme's three components: LIFE+ Nature and Biodiversity, LIFE+ Environment Policy and Governance and LIFE+ Information and Communication.

Read the full press release and a summary of the project by country.

It is also possible to contact the relevant national authorities.

20 years of LIFE: Italian ministries highlight transferability of results

(Photo: LIFE07 NAT/E/000732

17 July 2012Representatives of the Italian National Focal Point – NFP (Ministry of Environment), the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry and the LIFE Unit met in Rome recently, for a national workshop highlighting the importance of the LIFE programme in Italy over the past 20 years; and discussing the links between LIFE+ and the National Rural Development Network.

Organised as part of the EU-wide ‘LIFE 20th anniversary’ events, the workshop, held in Rome on 28 June, included the presentation of a new study, “LIFE+ e la Rete Rurale Nazionale” (LIFE+ and the national rural development network) highlighting the importance of LIFE co-funded projects in promoting the rural development network and of guaranteeing the transferability of their results.

Opening the workshop, Mariano Grillo, Director General for Sustainable Development, Climate Change and Energy (Ministry of Environment) said the study also showed some interesting synergies with agricultural policies. He congratulated the Italian national focal points saying that over the years, their role had not only been administrative, but had also been influential in bringing projects/ beneficiaries together and putting them in contact with public administrations, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) universities etc – playing an important role in helping to guarantee transferability and opportunities of replication of results.

Giuliana Gasparrini (National Focal Point) highlighted the importance of the LIFE programme in Italy: Since 1992, 602 projects have received EU co-funding of €387 million, generating another €890 million, she said, adding that the projects will do their best to continue to transfer their project results.
The workshop focused in particular on nine ‘representative’ Italian LIFE projects (see list) selected as examples of transferable results and opportunities for continuation through the Rural Development Fund.

(Photo:Stefania Betti

One example is the ongoing ECO-RICE LIFE Nature project (LIFE09 NAT/IT/000093) located in the province of Vercelli (northern Italy) an agricultural (rice cultivation) area that also features valuable lowland forest, wetland and semi-natural habitats. The main objective of the 2010-2013 project is to develop an integrated and sustainable land management strategy for an area that takes into account both environmental and socio-economic concerns. Already, according to the project beneficiary, the province of Vercelli, the project has had a positive impact on the farmers, who while unsure at the start, are beginning to recognize the importance of its aims and agro-environment benefits. Moreover, since they have started collaborating, they also report improvements both in yield and in the condition of their land – which has also facilitated the rice production.

Another example is Seq CURE (LIFE06 ENV/IT/000266), a Best of the Best LIFE Environment project winner 2011, which sought to demonstrate how organic residues, such as manure and digestate, can be used in the agricultural production of plant biomass as a source of renewable energy. Project manager, Marco Ligabue, travelled to Brussels recently (May 2012) to collect the award on behalf of the Seq CURE team. He said the award had helped the team to progress its work since the LIFE project ended: It has provided “more visibility and credibility”, and had enabled them to avoid a common problem, that is, “when the funding stops and the attention fades, so does the work for lack of other funding and visibility”.
Representing the European Commission, DG Environment (LIFE Unit) Alban de Villepin congratulated the Italian project beneficiaries for their “interesting projects, results and for all their hard work”. He also spoke about the 20 years’ achievements of the LIFE programme.

Luigi Servadei (Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry – rural development network) said the workshop had provided an important opportunity to bring the (LIFE+) projects in contact with the national rural development network – helping to draw attention to their results and providing valuable best practice examples. Overall, the message was that the LIFE projects should do their utmost to promote their findings and results. To this end, all the beneficiaries acknowledged the importance of LIFE over the last 20 years and they emphasized the importance of continuing this impetus by moving forwards and creating synergies with the rural development network.

To conclude, Stefania Betti (NFP) underlined how the study produced for the event, and the workshop itself, that had brought many experts together and could also provide the occasion for the creation of another network to see that the project results are taken up and developed further.

The Italian LIFE Environment projects presented at the workshop were as follows:

(Photo:Stefania Betti

CENTOLIMED “Identification and conservation of the high nature value of ancient olive groves in the Mediterranean region” (LIFE07 NAT/IT/000450) - C.I.H.E.A.M. (Istituto Agronomico Mediterraneo di Bari);
MANFOR CBD “Managing forests for multiple purposes: carbon, biodiversity and socio-economic wellbeing” (LIFE09 ENV/IT/000078) - CNR IBAF - CNR [Istituto di Biologia Agro-Ambientale e Forestale (IBAF)];
ECO-RICE “Vercelli rice field: Integrated plan for environmental requalification and sustainable management of rice agro ecosystem” (LIFE09 NAT/IT/000093) - Provincia di Vercelli;
FA.RE.NA.IT “Fare rete per Natura 2000 in Italia” (LIFE10 INF/IT/000272) - Centro Turistisco Studentesco e Giovanile;
SUSTUSE FUMIGANTS “Sustainable use of chemical fumigants for the control of soil-borne pathogens in the horticultural sector” (LIFE08 ENV/IT/000432) - Università di Torino – Agrinnova;
Seq CURE “Sistemi integrati per accrescere il sequestro di carbonio attraverso la produzione di colture energetiche fertilizzate con residui organici” (LIFE06 ENV/IT/000266) - Centro Ricerche Produzioni Animali (CRAP SPA);
GAS-OFF “Integrated Strategies for GHG Mitigation in dairy farms” (LIFE09 ENV/IT/000214) - Azienda Sperimentale Vittorio Tadini;
DINAMO “Increasing endangered biodiversity in agricultural and semi-natural areas: a demonstrative management model” (LIFE08 NAT/IT/000324) - Università del Molise;
TRUST “Tool for regional - scale assessment of groundwater storage improvement in adaptation to climate change” (LIFE07 ENV/IT/000475) - Autorità di Bacino dei fiumi Isonzo, Tagliamento, Livenza, Piave, Brenta-Bacchiglione – Venezia.


LIFE project discovers new deep-sea crab species

(Photo: LIFE07 NAT/E/000732

06 July 2012The LIFE project Indemares (LIFE07 NAT/E/000732) has made the exciting discovery of a previously unknown species of deep-sea squat lobster in the Atlantic Ocean off the Spanish Galician coast. The find of this new species highlights the secrets that Europe’s oceans still hold and the value of improved investigation and understanding of marine ecosystems.
The species was found at more than 1 400 metres depth on the Galicia Bank – an underwater mountain in the Atlantic Ocean facing the Galician coast - during the August 2011 research expedition of the ocean survey vessel ‘Miguel Oliver’. It was undertaken under the Indemares project, which aims to study and characterise marine ecosystems off the Spanish coast with the overall aim of developing the Spanish marine Natura 2000 network.

The species is a 5-7 cm orange crustacean - including the claws – that usually lives around deep corals and gorgonians. Called a squat lobster it is not actually a lobster, but a member of the family Chirostylidae and belongs to the group of hermit crabs. It has been given the official name Uroptychus cartesi after researcher Joan Cartes from Barcelona's Institute of Marine Sciences, who was the first to recognise that this was a new species, amongst other contributions to knowledge of deep-sea fauna.

The new species was confirmed after study by the researchers Keiji Baba (Kumamoto University, Japan) and Enrique Macpherson (Centre for Advanced Studies of Blanes, Spain). Of particular interest to the researchers involved was that the species is only the fifth from the genus Uroptychus to be found in European Atlantic waters and furthermore is actually most closely related to species only previously found in the Caribbean. "All North Atlantic species have common features and are likely to have a shared ancestry, with the ancestral stock invading the Atlantic from the Pacific and Indian Oceans a few million years ago," explains Enrique Macpherson.

Threats to the species have already been identified as the destruction of coral and gorgonian habitats – particularly from trawling activities and the low dispersal area of the young, which only spend a very short time in the planktonic stage and remain close to where they hatch.

The LIFE project Indemares expects to announce the official recognition of further new species discovered in Spanish waters in the near future.
For more information, please read the official published description of the new species Uroptychus cartesi or visit the project website.



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