20 December 2013 The European Commission has hosted a one-day platform meeting for all the LIFE+ projects working on the development of Prioritised Action Frameworks for Natura 2000 (LIFE PAF projects). The event was held in Brussels on 5 November 2013 and aimed to promote networking and exchange between the projects and Member State representatives.
Prioritised Action Frameworks (PAFs) set out the official nature conservation priorities for a country or region. They seek to act as strategic planning tools encouraging access to as many EU financial instruments as possible in the financing of the Natura 2000 network. For more information, please visit:
At the event hosted by the ‘LIFE Nature Unit’ of the European Commission (E3), the eight LIFE PAF projects selected in 2011 presented the results of their first year’s work and participants were introduced to the one new LIFE PAF project selected in 2012. The European Commission’s ‘Nature Unit’ (B3) presented the first round of PAFs submitted by Member States.
Participants presented the links between the LIFE PAF projects and the development of the official PAFs, as well as discussing how the activities and preliminary results of the first LIFE PAF projects could be used to update and improve the PAFs. Important discussions focused on current practice and future ideas for accessing multiple funding sources to develop new Integrated Projects in support of the Natura 2000 network.
Integrated Projects are a new type of project foreseen in the New LIFE programme (2014-2020) intended to coordinate the mobilisation of other EU, national and private funds for environmental and climate objectives. They are designed to be more ambitious in scope, but also require a more strategic approach and the involvement of a greater breadth of stakeholders. Integrated LIFE projects will seek to promote, coordinate and catalyse large territorial scale approaches to planning and management of the EU’s nature, water, waste, air, and climate.
For more information on the future of LIFE funding, visit http://ec.europa.eu/environment/life/about/beyond2013.htm#proposal
17 December 2013 The Bulgarian project LIFE FOR KRESNA GORGE (LIFE11 NAT/BG/000363) has successfully set-up a compensation scheme for farmers affected by depredation of livestock by bears, wolves, jackals and stray dogs. In an area where the loss of a single head of cattle represents a significant financial loss, the humman/predator conflict has become a considerable problem. The practice of placing poisoned baits to protect livestock has become fairly common, leading to frequent episodes of poisoning that affect not only large carnivores, but also birds of prey, such as vultures and eagles.
The ‘Livestock Prevention and Compensation’ Programme has reached 218 farmers in 2013, helping to reduce conflict between the farmers and these target species.
Managed by the Fund for Wild Flora and Fauna (FWFF), the scheme works by directly replacing the livestock the farmers have lost to predator attacks from FWFF’s own herds. A recent month-long campaign by the LIFE FOR KRESNA GORGE project identified seven target villages suffering from frequent depredation and compensated 53 farmers. The programme donated 26 sheep and 35 goats to affected farmers.
By directly compensating farmers for their losses, the project hopes to reduce the desire of farmers to resort to the use of hunting and poisoned baits. A particular target of the project is to protect birds of prey, notably the endangered griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus) and the Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus), which are dying from secondary poisoning after eating animals killed by the poisoned baits.
The project is based on the belief that effective vulture conservation depends on a return to traditional means of managing and protecting livestock, without the need for farmers to resort to illegal practices. The return to traditional practices, such as the use of livestock-guarding dogs, is fundamental. For this reason, the project has also donated 24 such dogs to farmers to help protect their source of income without endangering the wild carnivores and birds of prey.
For more information, please visit the project website
12 December 2013 The LIFE project MulkearLIFE (LIFE07NAT/IRL/000342) was recently presented with the Environment Award for 2013 by the Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) at a ceremony in Cork, Ireland.
The project, which is being led by the Inland Fisheries Ireland, was honoured for its measures to restore degraded habitats in an area of 650 km2 of the Mulkear River catchment of the Lower Shannon Special Area of Conservation. The project’s key partners are the Office of Public Works and Limerick County Council, while The National Parks and Wildlife act as project co-financiers. A range of other stakeholders support the project including local authorities (North & South Tipperary County Councils) and other state bodies (ESB Fisheries, Teagasc, Coillte, EPA) along with the local community (IFA, ICMSA, Mulkear & District Angling Association, local schools and school children, farmers and volunteers).
MulkearLIFE was recognised as one of the most exciting and important river restoration and nature conservation projects ever undertaken on a catchment basis in Ireland. At the ceremony, the Republic of Ireland branch of CIWEM noted that it is providing a “conservation blueprint” for future integrated catchment management.
The aim of the LIFE project is to improve the habitats of the Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus), and European otter (Lutra lutra), thus enhancing their populations in the Mulkear Catchment. The project is also focusing on the control of non-native invasive riparian plant species and on increasing local biodiversity.
Ruairí Ó Conchúir, the project manager, says that the success of MulkearLIFE thus far has been highly dependent on the management partnership process and on extensive awareness-raising efforts targeted at those living within or near the catchment area. A key objective has been to develop strong community links through a comprehensive environmental educational programme within local schools, in addition to field trips conducted by the Mulkear Conservation Volunteers. The involvement of the local farming community has also played a key role on raising the awareness of the local communities on the importance of Mulkear catchment as a resource for all.
Among its main achievements to date is the installation of more than 25 rubble mats on the Mulkear river, utilising almost 4 000 tonnes of rock, and the strategic positioning of more than 600 boulders on the Annagh, Bilboa and Newport rivers to improve biodiversity. The project has also treated around 200 km of river channel (riparian habitat) to control non-native invasive plant species (especially, giant hogweed and knotweed species) and manually removed other invasive species from high-value sites.
11 December 2013 An Italian LIFE+ project’s efforts to combat threats to the native red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) from grey squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) are explored in the latest issue of the IUCN’s invasive species specialist group (ISSG) newsletter. The main aim of the LIFE+ project, EC-SQUARE (LIFE09 NAT/IT/000095), featured in an article, on page 44 of Aliens – The Invasive Species Bulletin (Issue 33) was to eliminate, or reduce, the risks posed by the spread of grey squirrels via imports from the pet trade in northern Italy.
As well as being linked with the significant decline of red squirrel numbers, grey squirrels can also cause extensive damage to trees through bark-stripping, which affects re-growth and natural tree reproduction in commercial plantations and other forest ecosystems. Moreover, the spread of grey squirrels in Italy represents a problem for the entire European continent, since from Italy the alien species is predicted to colonise surrounding countries, particularly France and Switzerland.
In addition to the EC-SQUARE project, the latest issue of the ISSG bulletin features an article on the giant Salvinia (Salvinia molesta), categorised as the world’s 100th worst invasive species – which has also been the subject of a recent ISSG communication campaign. The international publication also includes, amongst other things, an article on the the management of the extremely invasive cactus, Hudson pear (Cylindropuntia rosea) in Spain.
10 December 2013 The European Commission is launching a new Award designed to celebrate and promote best practices for nature conservation in Europe. The European Natura 2000 Award is open to any entity involved in the implementation of activities related to management of a Natura 2000 site. From authorities and businesses, to land owners , NGOs, educational institutions and individuals from all 28 EU Member States – all are eligible to apply.
The Award aims to help bring the success of the network to the public’s attention and to demonstrate its importance for protecting biodiversity across Europe. This is an urgent task: the 2013 Eurobarometer survey found that only 27% of respondents have heard of the Natura 2000 network, while only 44% have heard of the term “biodiversity” and know what it means.
The Award gives site managers the opportunity to raise their profile, network and receive recognition of their efforts. Winners from each of the five Natura 2000 Award categories will be invited to a high-level ceremony in Brussels, where they will receive a trophy, along with a prize of €2 000 to help support future conservation efforts.
The Call for applications will be launched on 16th December, with a deadline for the submission of applications 18th of February 2014. The first winners will be announced at a Ceremony in Brussels in May 2014, followed by local events in the winners’ countries.
More information is available on the Award website: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/natura2000/awards
And on the Nature and Biodiversity website http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/index_en.htm
09 December 2013 The European Council has adopted a regulation that establishes the Environment and Climate Action sub-programmes of the LIFE Programme for the next funding period, 2014–2020. The budget for the period is set at €3.4 billion in current prices.
The programme will contribute to sustainable development and to the achievement of the objectives and targets of the Europe 2020 Strategy, the 7th Union Environmental Action Programme and other relevant EU environment and climate strategies and plans.
The ‘Environment’ strand of the new programme covers three priority areas: environment and resource efficiency; nature and biodiversity; and environmental governance and information. The ‘Climate Action’ strand covers climate change mitigation; climate change adaptation; and climate governance and information.
The programme also consists of a new category of projects, jointly funded integrated projects, which will operate on a large territorial scale. These projects will aim to implement environmental and climate policy and to better integrate such policy aims into other policy areas.
The adopted regulation also establishes eligibility and the criteria for awards as well as a basis for selecting projects. The programme is open to the participation of third countries and provides for activities outside the EU. It also provides a framework for cooperation with international organisations.
In June 2017, the European Commission will carry out an external and independent mid-term evaluation report and by December 2023 an ex-post evaluation report covering the implementation and results of the LIFE Programme.
06 December 2013 To celebrate its 40th anniversary, the EUROPARC Federation – the beneficiary of the LIFE project ‘Nature parks in Europe: a charter for sustainable tourism’ (LIFE94 ENV/F/000878) – hosted an awards ceremony to honour the achievements of protected areas. The ceremony was held at the European Parliament on 6 November and was co-hosted by the MEP Gaston Franco.
The ceremony was part of a one-day event that began with the 8th European Charter Network Meeting, which brought together managers of protected areas, tourism professionals and business leaders from across Europe for a series of workshops and plenary sessions at the Marche Representation in Brussels. The 2013 Charter Award Ceremony followed in the afternoon at the European Parliament.
More than 70 participants from 12 countries attended, and 19 protected areas were honoured with awards. Currently, the tourism activities of 119 areas follow the principles of the charter.
The EUROPARC Federation, known as the ‘Federation of Nature and National Parks of Europe’, was founded in 1973 with the aim of helping “protected areas to fulfil their role as preservers of the natural beauty of Europe”. The Charter meeting was an opportunity to share good practices on tourism management, brainstorm innovative ideas and strategies, and to honour sustainable tourism achievements across protected areas in Europe.
A high-level panel presented examples of good practice and recent policy updates. The panel included: Gaston Franco, MEP and Rapporteur for the 7th Environmental Action Programme of the EU; Stefan Leiner, Head of the Nature Unit at the European Commission; Francesca Tudini, Head of the Tourism Policy Development Unit at the European Commission; Thomas Hansson, President of EUROPARC; Maura Malaspina, minister for the environment and agriculture, of the Marche Region; and Alfredo Fermanelli, Head of protected areas and Natura 2000 Unit, Marche Region.
05 December 2013 The final conference of the LIFE project IMCM - Control of noxious or vector mosquitoes (LIFE08 ENV/F/000488) was held on 23-24 October 2013 in Montpellier, France. The conference, on integrated pest management (IPM) of mosquitoes, highlighted the scientific and technical findings of the project.
There are several challenges to implementing IPM for mosquitoes in a manner consistent with sustainable development. These include the small number of authorised insecticides available, demanding environmental standards relating to biocides, and the need to prevent the emergence of pesticide-resistance. There is also a new invasive mosquito species (Aedes albopictus) in Europe that is a potential vector of tropical diseases, including those caused by chikungunya and dengue viruses; a problem likely to increase with global warming.
LIFE IMCM has taken actions to provide effective and environmentally-sound mosquito control methodologies and to develop decision-making tools for public bodies combating mosquitoes. Methodologies were tested using mosquito monitoring and trapping networks; the impact of biocides on non-target species, including honeybees, was assessed; and control strategies were based on knowledge of social demand, such as the perceived nuisance value of mosquitoes. Guidelines for good practice in mosquito control have been produced. For further information see the project’s website: http://www.lifeplusmoustique.eu
The IMCM final conference was organised by the project’s beneficiaries, who are all members of the French national agency for mosquito control and the environmental management of mosquito-free areas (ADEGE): the three inter-departmental alliances for mosquito control (EID), and the General Councils of French Guiana, Martinique and South Corsica. Around 200 scientists and technicians from around Europe attended.
In the opening session, François Delcueillerie of the European Commission DG Environment, gave a talk on the LIFE programme. This was followed by a presentation on LIFE project dissemination by Eveline Durieux, from the LIFE communications team.
Over the two days, the project partners reported on the project’s key outcomes, covering public health, biocide efficacy, impacts on non-target species and other areas. Field visits were organised.
The conference concluded with a roundtable discussion on mosquito population management and sustainable development.
04 December 2013 The LIFE+ project Iberlince (LIFE10 NAT/ES/000570) continues to expand its programme to reintroduce the highly endangered Iberian lynx in southern Spain. Nearly 20 animals bred and raised in captivity by the project have been released in Andalusia in 2013 and further reintroductions are planned for spring 2014.
In 2013, the project has reintroduced:
Further reintroductions are foreseen for early 2014 in the Sierra Norte of Seville and the valley of the Guarrizas river.
Animals are only released after successfully following a pre-release programme of adaptation to their new environment. They have to demonstrate skills and behaviour appropriate to life in the wild, including hunting, fleeing danger and relations with other lynx. Specific animals are chosen for particular locations based on their genetic profile with the aim of increasing local genetic diversity.
The released animals wear GPS collars. Individuals have been found to have spread to new areas including Moura-Barrancas in the Alentejo region of Portugal; the Sierra Norte of Seville; and two areas in Extremadura (south of Badajoz and the Matachel Valley). The collars also enable the team to identify deaths amongst the released animals and try to monitor the causes.
One of the successes of the project this year has been the high survival rate of lynxes born in captivity. The ex-situ conservation programme conducted in Spain and Portugal has seen the survival of 44 newborn lynx in 2013. This represents a survival rate of 83% - a significant improvement on the previous average of 61% - and gives great hope for the ongoing reintroduction programme.
For more information on the LIFE+ Iberlince project and its aim of restoring the historical distribution of the Iberian lynx across Andalusia, Castilla-La Mancha, Extremadura and Portugal, visit the project website.
03 December 2013 The LIFE+ project Conéctate a la Red Natura (LIFE11 INF/ES/000655) has launched a telephone hotline for Spanish citizens to ask about Natura 2000 management. This tool enables people to improve their understanding of how they can successfully co-exist with the Natura 2000 network to mutual benefit.
SEO/BirdLife launched the new Spanish freephone number 900 66 77 90 as a response to the need to overcome people’s lack of awareness and understanding of the Natura 2000 network. Research showed that only 16% of citizens in Spain had heard of these protected spaces, never mind understanding correctly how they operate and what they do.
Natura 2000 covers around 27% of the Spanish territory so it is relevant to a lot of people. Many who have heard of it are concerned that the protection offered to the natural environment will cause direct conflict with their economic or leisure activities. The hotline seeks to provide people with the correct information about how they can work with the network and even benefit from it.
The telephone hotline is a key tool in the efforts of the LIFE+ Information and Communication project to improve awareness and overcome misconceptions around Natura 2000. It aims to improve understanding that the network can not only coexist with human activities but that it actually seeks to promote sustainable social and economic development in harmony with the natural environment.
For more information on the LIFE+ Conéctate a la Red Natura project, please visit www.activarednatura2000.org or contact the project coordinator, Beatriz Sánchez: Tel.: +34 91 434 09 10
For more information on the Natura 2000 network, visit http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/natura2000/ or watch this short video presentation from European Commissioner Janez Potočnik: http://vimeo.com/67048742