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News: October 2012

'Malta Seabird' project radio tracks storm petrel

Photo: LIFE10 NAT/MT/000090

31 October 2012 The LIFE project, ‘Malta Seabird’ (LIFE10 NAT/MT/000090), has tracked the storm petrel for the first time in Europe. The bird species was tracked using radio-tracking technology – a method that is extremely difficult for this species owing to its small size and the vast areas it can cover.

Researchers from the project beneficiary, BirdLife Malta, attached radio tags to 34 storm petrel adults last July. They then carried out 30 flights with a Cessna aircraft equipped with special antennae, covering more than 8 000 nautical miles over the sea. In addition to the aerial surveys, researchers used antennae on a boat and on land to monitor signals from the tagged birds.

The ‘Malta Seabird’ project is aiming to create an inventory of marine Important Bird Areas for three seabird species: Yelkouan shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan), Cory's shearwater (Calonectris diomedea) and the European storm petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus).

It is the largest research project focussing on the populations of these seabirds breeding in the Maltese Islands.  The project is building on knowledge obtained by an earlier LIFE project targeting the Yelkouan shearwater that was completed in 2010. Using state-of-the-art technologies, it will identify sea areas to be designated for protection by the Maltese government.

The European storm petrel, which is known locally as Kanġu ta’ Filfla, is a small seabird, slightly larger than a sparrow, which spends most of its life far out at sea and comes to land only to breed. They lay a single egg per year, which is incubated by both parents. Filfla is their stronghold in the Mediterranean with more than half of the entire Mediterranean population estimated to nest there. Though it is probable that they have bred in other locations in Malta in the past, the island of Filfla remains the ideal site due to its protected status as a nature reserve.

Assessing LIFE's impact on EU noise and air policy

Assessing LIFE's impact on EU noise and air policy

30 October 2012 A new study from the LIFE Monitoring Team - led by the Astrale Consortium - provides a detailed analysis of the contribution made by LIFE Environment & Governance and LIFE Information & Communication projects to the implementation, dissemination and further development of EU noise and air policies and legislation, focusing in particular on resource efficiency. 

As with other thematic LIFE studies, such as for the water sector, the main aim of this 176-page report is to supply useful information on the results of LIFE projects to Thematic Units, and consequently strengthen the link between the LIFE Unit in charge of the management of operational projects and Thematic Units dealing mainly with environmental policy.

The report assesses relevant LIFE projects from the period 2005-2010 in the field of environmental noise (28 projects) and air pollution (94 projects). An in-depth analysis of a selection of projects from each policy area is included in the study.

With regards to noise policy, the report concludes that:

  • The majority of projects have dealt with issues stemming from the general nature of the Environmental Noise Directive (2002/49/EC);
  • Some projects have a great potential to provide an input in the development of EU noise policy, corresponding to the latest breakthroughs in the ‘state of technology’;
  • The majority of projects have not focused on environmental noise in the main, rather it has been addressed as a supplementary 'environmental benefit'; and
  • Overall, projects have tended to go beyond the requirements imposed by EU legislation, and developed policies that are either focused on introduction of measures not covered by the existing legislation, or innovations that can contribute to the development of stricter standards than the existing ones.

In terms of air pollution, the main conclusions of the study include the following:

  • The greatest focus of air-related LIFE projects throughout the LIFE programme has been on the prevention of pollution from industrial activities. Projects dealing with policy and management tools regarding transportation and urban planning, coupled with pollution prevention technology systems in transportation, have increased during the past five years;
  • Most of the LIFE projects assessed address and implement at least one air-related directive. The majority of these projects have performed very well. There is a substantial focus in implementing EU legislation at the local level, keeping in mind also possible transferability of the projects’ results. A significant number of projects work on demonstrating or developing further best practices, particularly regarding technological innovation;
  • Whilst some projects have successfully contributed to environmental policy at the national or EU level, most water sector projects act at the local level;
  • The main strengths of air-related LIFE projects have been their technological innovation, their integrative principles and their demonstration value and transfer potential. The main weaknesses have concerned their ability to overcome technical challenges, organisational and bureaucratic difficulties and problems with management;
  • Whilst many air-related LIFE projects have implemented legislation, LIFE's greatest contribution has been in setting new air management related norms and standards through innovation.

The study concludes by identifying a series of policy recommendations that stem from air-related LIFE projects:

  • The results of LIFE projects should be communicated and utilised more regularly by the Policy Unit. This could be facilitated through the development of a special mechanism;
  • Data acquisition and measurement practices need to be better harmonised at the European level;
  • Industries should be encouraged to monitor emissions and make this information available to the public;
  • Legislation for innovative vehicles should be developed;
  • Synergies with climate-related and other policies should be tapped; and
  • A better monetary evaluation of clean air benefits is pivotal for the viability of many projects,

To download a pdf of the full Noise and Air Study, click here.

 

Tracking Egyptian vultures from the Balkans to central Africa

Map: LIFE10 NAT/BG/000152

25 October 2012 The Bulgarian LIFE+ Nature & Biodiversity project 'The Return of the Neophron' (LIFE10 NAT/BG/000152) has issued a fascinating bulletin about the migration routes of nine Egyptian vultures that it tagged with satellite transmitters in Bulgaria and Greece during the summer of 2012. You can read more about the adventures of Arda, Dobri, Ikaros, Ilyaz, Lazaros, Lefkipos, Odysseus, Svetlina and Volen here.

Monitoring of juvenile and adult vultures using satellite transmitters is expected to increase knowledge of the migration routes and wintering areas of the Balkan breeding population of the Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) as part of the LIFE project's overall goal of improving the conservation status of the species in Greece and Bulgaria. The project aims to secure the protection of all the remaining pairs found in 15 Natura 2000 sites in Greece and in 12 sites in Bulgaria.

Expected results include a significant increase in knowledge of mortality factors affecting the Balkan breeding population, together with a reduction in deaths from illegal poisoning on Natura 2000 sites and a reduced risk of mortality from collision or electrocution.

'LiveWell for LIFE' project to unveil pilot sustainable diets for three EU countries

LiveWell LOGO

23 October 2012 The 'LiveWell for LIFE' project (LIFE10 ENV/UK/000173) is to launch LiveWell Plates for France, Spain and Sweden this autumn, as part of its programme to demonstrate country-specific sustainable diets across the EU.

The LiveWell Plate is a tool that defines what healthy and sustainable diets could look like for different European countries.

The LiveWell for LIFE project contributes towards greater understanding of the linkages between unsustainable food consumption, GHG emissions, and climate change. The main goal of the project is to produce policy guidelines and practical pathways to help transition Europe to a more sustainable diet, whilst reducing the environmental impact caused along the entire EU food supply chain, such as greenhouse gas emissions. The project beneficiary and partner are, respectively, the World Wildlife Fund and Friends of Europe.

The launch will follow stakeholder consultation, which kicked off with a workshop on 18 September in Brussels. Some 60 representatives of various food, health and environmental organisations from across Europe took part. The aim of the event was to discuss the draft results of the first project research, “A balance of healthy and sustainable food choices for France, Spain, and Sweden”.

Opening the event, Ladislav Miko, Deputy Director General, DG Health & Consumer Policy, European Commission, stressed the need for the project to consider the economic consequences of its findings, and addressed the consumer’s right of choice and the balance between informing and regulating what people should eat.

The first session focused on the research and methodology behind the case studies for the three pilot countries, France, Spain and Sweden. During the second and third sessions, participants discussed ways to refine these case studies and make them more relevant in their respective countries. Stakeholders who could not attend the workshop were able to give feedback online for three weeks after the event.

For more information about 'LiveWell for LIFE' visit: www.livewellforlife.eu

Grand finale for groundwater improvement project

Photo: G. Camarsa

22 October 2012 More than 50 people attended a final workshop for the LIFE + water project 'ENSAT - Enhancement of Soil Aquifer Treatment' (LIFE08 ENV/E/000117) on 28 September 2012 in Can Serra, Spain. Here they witnessed the results of two years of work on a pilot project to improve groundwater through a technique known as Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) in the Barcelona area’s main water reservoir. Water professionals, experts and stakeholders met to discuss the results of exploring this alternative method of storing water in order to cope with seasonal fluctuations, overexploitation or saltwater intrusion. The project actions also focused on removing pollutants through the use of reactive organic substrate layers; so-called Soil Aquifer Treatment (SAT) in infiltration ponds at the project’s test site in the Llobregat river delta south-west of the Catalonian capitol.

At the workshop, water technology research centre, CETaqua, the project beneficiary, presented its results alongside its partners in the 'ENSAT' project, ACA, AMB and IDAEA-CSIC. The workshop also gave the 'ENSAT' team the chance to discuss the project's results and exchange knowledge with the regional health authority, the Agència de Salut Pública de Catalunya. In addition, participants at the workshop were able to take advantage of the opportunity for a visit to the experimental aquifer recharge site in Sant Vicenç dels Horts, where the recharge ponds are situated.

For more information about the 'ENSAT' project visit: www.life-ensat.eu

Spreading know-how about Water Change

Map: LIFE07 ENV/E/000845

19 October 2012 Members of the Spanish Life + Environmental Policy and Governance project, 'Water Change' (LIFE07 ENV/E/000845) have led a workshop on planning and adapting to changes in the availability of water resources that was attended by 13 employees of the Agbar group, a global specialist in water management. The eight-hour master class, held on 01 October 2012, centred on the tools developed through the now finished 'Water Change' project to assess the impact on water resources stemming from climate change, more extreme weather, and changes in land use and water demand, collectively described as Global Change.

The employees of the Barcelona-based water specialist were given an introduction to the meaning of Global Change and its consequences for water management. They were also introduced to decision-making options based on cost-benefit analysis and to the modelling tool used in the project, which was tested and applied on the Llobregat river basin; the main water reservoir of the Barcelona area, which is already facing serious ecological problems, overexploitation and seawater intrusion.

The goal of the master class was for the participants to understand the 'Water Change' project and learn more about how they can adapt their work to Global Change. This event is one of a  range of actions being taken by CETaqua, the beneficiary of the 'Water Change' project, to favour the uptake of its results following the completion of the project in March 2012.

For more information about the 'Water Change' project visit: www.life-waterchange.eu

Analysing LIFE's contribution to the water sector

Water Report

18 October 2012 The LIFE Monitoring Team, which is led by the Astrale Consortium, has published a comprehensive 171-page analysis of the LIFE programme's contribution to the implementation, dissemination and further development of EU environmental policies and legislation in the water sector.

For its Water Sector Report, the Astrale team reviewed some 150 water-related projects that have been funded during the last six years, including projects from all strands of the LIFE programme - ENV/NAT/INF. Thirty-three projects were subjected to a detailed assessment (SWOT analysis).

All projects were analysed in terms of the water directives to which they are related in order to gain some understanding of the proportion of projects contributing to each directive; a subsequent gap analysis revealed those legislative areas which are not well served by LIFE projects.

Among the conclusions of the study are that:

  • Generally speaking LIFE projects are successful;
  • LIFE projects can contribute to EU policy at different stages in the policy cycle (including scoping, policy development, policy implementation and policy evaluation/review). Even if a project does not initially set out to influence policy reform, innovative approaches to environmental problems could later be taken to account in policy development;
  • Whilst some projects have successfully contributed to environmental policy at the national or EU level, most water sector projects act at the local level;
  • The strengths of LIFE projects lie in their ability to develop alternative remediation approaches and preventative solutions contributing to water policy issues. Some project outputs have a high potential for transferability or replicability;
  • External evaluators tend to value the practical experimentation which LIFE projects contribute to policymaking, and they acknowledge that projects are relevant to EU policy. While the approach is valid and priorities appropriate, potential project contributions can be limited by the long project cycle, which may not suit the needs of the policymaking and legislative cycles: projects can take four or five years to yield results, by which time policy priorities may well have moved on;
  • The gap analysis highlighted some areas where LIFE could be more active. It is recommended that the LIFE programme encourages more applications in policy areas where there are currently few projects, specifically in assisting Member States to develop programmes of measures; with certain aspects of the Floods Directive; establishing EQSes; and with the Shellfish Directive. In addition, projects which aim to contribute to certain aspects of the Water Framework Directive (WFD), and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) should be more precise in stating to which area of the relevant directive the project is related.

One of the outcomes of this study was the development of a matrix that attempts to link all the LIFE water-related projects to specific areas of policy. The development of this tool was a critical element in determining the effectiveness of the individual projects in relation to their stated policy areas.

The report concludes by saying: "LIFE projects excel at policy implementation but have less influence in other areas of the policy cycle. While LIFE projects do respond to changing legislation (i.e. response to the call for development of integrated river basin management plans (RBMPs) under the Water Framework Directive) the manner of delivery (i.e. local/regional, small scale, innovative and highly technical projects), has not changed a great deal over the years. However, the move to larger, integrated projects being developed under the new LIFE instrument which will become effective in 2014, acknowledges this issue of scale and should lead to more effective reproduction of results across wider geographical units."

To download a pdf of the Water Sector Report, click here.

Freshwater Sciences Symposium calls for LIFE project participants

www.sefs2013.de

15 October 2012The eighth Symposium for European Freshwater Sciences (SEFS) will take place in Münster, Germany from 01-05 July 2013. The event aims to integrate recent insights from ecological and evolutionary perspectives into improved knowledge of the diversity, dynamics, and functioning of freshwater ecosystems. The Symposium will provide a cross-disciplinary platform for discussion of research ranging from the level of genes and cells to ecosystems and landscapes.

Four LIFE+ projects are event partners - 'Life+ Möhneaue' (LIFE08 NAT/D/000009) (the Symposium will include an optional excursion to Möhne and the Arnsberg Forest), 'Ems-Dynamik+Habitate' (LIFE08 NAT/D/000008), 'Lippeaue' (LIFE08 NAT/D/000010) and 'Bachtäler Arnsberger Wald' (LIFE07 NAT/D/000214)  - and the organisers would like as many LIFE projects as possible to participate. Two important dates to note are 31 October 2012 (the deadline call for special sessions) and 01 December 2012 (the start of online registration and the start of the call for abstracts). The conference language will be English.

For more information, visit: www.sefs2013.de

Rhine wetlands trail opened

Photo:LIFE09 NAT/DE/000004

08 October 2012A meadow trail was recently officially opened at Rastatter Rheinauen, a beautiful 850 ha nature reserve in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. The trial was built as part of the LIFE project, "Rheinauen bei Rastatt - Rhine wetlands near Rastatt’ (LIFE09 NAT/DE/000004), which is aiming to improve the wetland ecosystems along a substantial stretch of the river Rhine.

The trail was opened by Nicolette Kressl, regional government president, and Hans Jürgen Pütsch, the mayor of Rastatt. Herr Kressl said: "The meadow trail at Schafköpfel in Rastatt floodplains is primarily intended for the citizens of the area. We want to bring them closer to the natural resources of their home."

Information panels have been erected along the trail to inform the public of the area’s rich flora and fauna. Young visitors are led from panel to panel by a mascot, Hugo Hummel.

Conservation measures are needed in the area to combat degradation caused by changes to the river system and its flooding dynamics.  The LIFE project is restoring valuable meadows and wetlands as well as re-naturalising and improving river dynamics.  It is hoped that the nature trail will help raise public awareness and support for the aims of the project.

MoorLIFE project airlifts Sphagnum moss in pioneering action to restore UK moors

Photo: LIFE08 NAT/UK/000202

05 October 2012The LIFE project MoorLIFE (LIFE08 NAT/UK/000202) has been airlifting 150 million gel beads containing Sphagnum moss onto nearly 1 000 ha of moorlands in northern England. Matt Buckler, conservation works manager for the Moors for the Future Partnership described the action as “probably the most important landscape-scale delivery phase of works ever in UK moorland restoration.”

This pioneering work has involved Sphagnum gel beads being airlifted by helicopter in five-litre tubs and spread by hand by staff, volunteers, rangers and a contractor across 980 ha of Peak District and South Pennine moors. Each bead is the size of a fingernail and contains several small strands of moss grown in a laboratory from a small sample of local source Sphagnum. The beads are designed to provide initial sustenance and protection and help embed the moss on the moor.

Restoring Sphagnum will provide a crucial building block in the formation of new peat on land which had suffered large-scale devastation from 150 years of industrial pollution and wildfires. The restoration of healthy peat moors will in turn provide crucial habitat, absorb and store carbon, support the supply of clean water, and potentially reduce flood risks.

Jim Dixon, chief executive of the Peak District National Park Authority, highlighted that “this pioneering work and its vast scale is an amazing achievement and milestone in the project. Its importance is far reaching - not only will it benefit communities and wildlife in the National Park but also across the South Pennines and Europe.

For more information on the project, visit the www.moorsforthefuture.org.uk website or contact louise.turner@peakdistrict.org.uk.

Bringing LIFE to a European Congress in Portsmouth

SELP LOGO

02 October 2012The value of the LIFE programme was highlighted at a recent event in Southern England, UK, that provided an opportunity to share experience of cross-border working.

On 14 September, Southern England Local Partners,  the EU Affairs network for Southern England (www.selp.org.uk), held its annual European Congress at the Centre for European and International Studies Research at the University of Portsmouth. The event brought together over 50 representatives from local authorities, universities and business intermediaries such as Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), all interested in enhancing understanding of the European dimension of their work.

The conference began with a keynote address by Tim Goodship from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) who outlined his department's role in negotiating on behalf of the UK government for the forthcoming EU 2014-2020 Structural Funds programming period. This was followed by a lively debate and panel discussion, chaired by Cllr Keith Mans (Hampshire County Council Cabinet Member and Chair of SELP) centred around the theme “The future of Structural Funds 2014-20. What does it mean for stakeholders in Southern England?” Contributions were made by Graham Meadows (former Director General of the European Commission's DG Regio) and David Morrall (Department for Communities and Local Government).

In the mid-morning session, Christopher Huggins from the hosts, the University of Portsmouth, showcased the results of recent research into how local authorities can be effective in their European activity in such challenging economic times. This was followed by a presentation by Eveline Durieux from the LIFE+ Communications Team that gave delegates an overview of funding opportunities available to them under the EU’s environment fund. During the afternoon session she provided the delegates with real-life examples, highlighting five relevant LIFE projects: RESPONSE (LIFE03 ENV/UK/000611), NoMEPorts (LIFE05 ENV/NL/000018), ECOTEC-STC (LIFE06 ENV/B/000362), OSIS off shore (LIFE02 ENV/DK/000151) and OSIS for Marine transport (LIFE04 ENV/DK/000076).

The event also showcased a range of local projects taking place in the greater Solent area that had received other forms of European funding (e.g. INTERREG).

"Lands of Priolo" awarded European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas

Photo: LIFE07 NAT/P/000630

01 October 2012The "Lands of Priolo", a territory within the Azores, has been granted the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas by the EUROPARC Federation Council. The application for the Charter was made by the Regional Secretariat for the Environment and Sea, within the context of the Portuguese LIFE+ Nature & Biodiversity project, 'LAURISSILVA SUSTENTAVEL' ('Sustainable Laurel Forest" - LIFE07 NAT/P/000630).

Lands of Priolo is the name given to the territory in which the Azores Bullfinch, or, Priolo (Pyrrhula murina), an endemic and very rare bird, occurs. Located in the eastern part of the island of São Miguel, Azores, this territory includes the municipalities of Nordeste and Povoação, as well as a large protected area. These two municipalities have been relatively isolated from the rest of the island and this fact has allowed them to preserve their natural patrimony, culture and traditions. In addition to the Priolo, the area contains the most important remaining laurel forests and a large expanse of peatlands, as well as waterfalls, high sea cliffs and the volcano crater lagoon, Furnas Lake.

The LIFE "Sustainable Laurel Forest" project aims to achieve the future management of native habitats and control of invasive alien species by providing the basic needs currently lacking, including a nursery dedicated to the production of native plants for conservation purposes and a qualified team that can launch a programme for alien species control for the management of natural sites. Sustainable management will also be ensured by the creation of a network of protected areas. Preserving the Lands of Priolo's laurel forest and peatland habitats are central to the project's actions.

The European Charter for Sustainable Tourism is a tool designed to improve tourism management in protected areas, with the aim of promoting the development of sustainable tourism whilst ensuring the long-term conservation of protected habitats and species.

In order to secure the Charter for Lands of Priolo, the Regional Secretariat for the Environment and Sea has produced a management tool: an action plan containing 55 actions to be carried out by 2017. The plan includes includes coordination measures, promotion of hiking trails and other sustainable activities in the protected area, environmental and cultural interpretation of the territory's heritage, conservation of the protected area, disclosure and promotion of the territory as a tourism destination, improvement of the sustainability of tour companies and monitoring of tourism and sustainability.

“The successful implementation of this plan should certainly be a decisive step to the valorisation and conservation of the enormous natural and cultural value of the Lands of Priolo and we can also expect important economic benefits,” said Regional Director of Environment of the Autonomous Region of Azores, João Bettencourt.

The European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas will be presented to the Lands of Priolo at the EUROPARC Conference 2012 in the Kempen and Maasland Regional Landscape, Genk, Belgium on 22-25 October.

 

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