31 July 2013The LIFE ‘Ecoedición’ project (LIFE08 ENV/E/0000124) has developed Product Category Rules (PCR) for printed books and e-books. The rules establish common and harmonised ways of calculating the environmental impacts of publications at a European level.
More specifically, PCR define the requirements for obtaining a type III eco-label or Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) according to ISO 14025. An EPD is a communication tool that provides relevant, verified and quantitative data on the environmental impacts of a publication throughout its lifecycle.
Such data enable clear comparisons of the environmental performance of publications to be made. The effect is to facilitate decision-making within green public procurement processes and to increase responsible consumption by consumers and readers. It also introduces the concept of ecodesign and fosters continuous improvement in publishing and printing houses.
To find out more about PCRs, visit the website of Environdec, the certification body in charge of Environmental Product Declarations.
For more information on green publishing, visit www.ecoedicion.eu
30 July 2013In June 2013, LIFE professionals gathered in Budapest for the annual LIFE monitors meeting. As part of the three-day conference, participants visited a number of projects that have benefited from LIFE funding, including one of the most successful conservation initiatives in Hungary, the Hungarian Meadow Viper Programme.
The Hungarian Meadow Viper Programme was started in 2004 and has been funded by two successful LIFE projects so far (LIFE04 NAT/HU/000116, LIFE07 NAT/H/000322). In recognition of the quality of the work being done, the first project was recognised as a "Best of the Best" LIFE Nature project for 2007-2008. During the monitors meeting, participants also had the opportunity to visit the Hungarian Meadow Viper Conservation Centre. They enjoyed a guided tour of the new educational facilities and learnt all about the behaviour of the Hungarian meadow viper (Vipera ursinii rakosiensis). The field trip also included a visit to Budapest Zoo, where participants were given a warm welcome from Zoo Director, Miklós Persányi.
The LIFE monitors meeting takes place every year. It brings LIFE monitors, members of the LIFE communications team and European Commission executives together. This year’s meeting was organised by Astrale GEIE, a legal entity made up of 10 partner companies spread across Europe that is responsible for monitoring LIFE projects as well as NGOs funded by LIFE grants.
29 July 2013Three Danish LIFE Nature projects have held an event to gather hay for inoculation of restored dry grasslands with characteristic plant species. The aim was to gather hay from high-value dry grasslands and inoculate two former agricultural areas with a view to accelerating their succession towards the protected habitat type 6210.
The three LIFE projects - TOTAL COVER HELNÆS (LIFE08 NAT/DK/000465), DRY GRASSLAND (LIFE08 NAT/DK/000464) and CONNECT HABITATS (LIFE09 NAT/DK/000371) - brought together Danish nature managers for a two-day event during which traditional techniques – involving the use of scythes - were employed to gather the hay. Professional scythe managers introduced this difficult technique, which enables the hay to be collected in a very gentle way. Scythes are increasingly being used in place of heavy machinery to secure the extensive management of vulnerable Danish habitat types.
In Denmark, dry grasslands (6210) are in danger of further deterioration in years to come. The three LIFE projects have therefore paid special attention to the management of existing dry grasslands and to the expansion of a dry grassland area equivalent to 32 hectares. The inoculation experiment has introduced plant seeds to an area of 2 ha from nearby high-value dry grasslands containing a diverse range of flora typical of this habitat type. Surveys of the inoculated area after LIFE will evaluate the effect of this project action on plant diversity.
For more information about the three LIFE projects, visit their respective websites:
18 July 2013The LIFE Gas-off project (LIFE09 ENV/IT/000214) recently completed trials on the use of feed additives to reduce the production of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in dairy cows.
The trials are part of an integrated evaluation of strategies to mitigate GHGs on dairy farms and were carried out on four groups of six Friesian cows. One of these groups acted as a control, while the others were fed with diets containing one of three different additives: Thymol, Guaiacol or Yeast. These additives had already been tested at the University of Milan and were shown to have potential in reducing enteric methanogenesis. The purpose of the trials, therefore, was to determine the effectiveness of the different diets. The project, which is being led by Azienda Sperimentale "Vittorio Tadini", a non-profit research and advisory organisation based in Piacenza, is also assessing the role of biogas production and the cultivation of biomass crops in reducing GHG emissions on farms. In particular, it is looking at techniques for optimizing biomass production and manure and effluent management in order to improve the performances of biogas plants and reduce environmental impacts.
Field tests on the cultivation of sweet sorghum, applying both organic (compost, cattle slurry and digestate from a nearby biogas plant) and chemical fertilisers (ammonium nitrate), and using different tilling techniques, have already been completed. Part of the test area was subjected to minimum tillage and cultivated to a depth of just 15 cm, with subsequent power harrowing, while the remaining part was subjected to conventional tilling, with plowing to 30-35cm and subsequent harrowing. The next phases of treatment will look more specifically at the effects of different irrigation regimes.
Demonstration and training
The knowledge gained from the project tests will be presented during two intensive training courses on the 18th of October and the 14th of November 2013. The courses will cover four main topics: the production of biomass and manure management to reduce greenhouse gases: the economic and life cycle assessment (LCA) of integrated livestock and bio energy management; the effects of housing and the management of livestock manure on GHG emissions and the performance of biogas plants; and emissions of climate-altering gases from livestock.
Also during October and November 2013, the project will organize three demonstration days at the demo-farm in Piacenza, and two workshops, one in Piacenza (October) and one in LODI (November). The final conference of the Gasoff project will take place during the first week of December 2013.
05 July 2013VACCIA (Vulnerability Assessment of Ecosystem Services for Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation) – a ‘Best of’ LIFE Environment project 2012’ – is continuing to have a wide-reaching impact. According to the project beneficiary, the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), less than two years after the awarded project officially closed, its results and objectives are already being used in national policy and an international ecological research network; and they have been incorporated into a national climate change guide, as well as new international research and development projects. Moreover, the main results of the (2009-2011) project have been presented at several international conferences and published in a high-level scientific journal (Forsius et al. 2013).
Biodiversity: VACCIA’s impact on national strategy
The project’s evaluation of the ex situ conservation goals related to biodiversity has contributed to the implementation of national obligations of the Convention on Biological Diversity. In December 2012, the Finnish Government adopted the National Strategy for the Conservation and Sustainable use of Biodiversity (2012-2020). The aim is to halt biodiversity loss in Finland by 2020 and ensure a favourable status of biodiversity and ecosystem services by 2050. The government’s resolution on the strategy stated that: “To safeguard genetic resources it is necessary to set up ex situ conservation projects in artificial environments to support the in situ conservation of growth sites and habitats in natural environments.” On the basis of the VACCIA findings, a strategy and action plan has been prepared for ex situ conservation.
National climate change adaptation policy & VACCIA results
VACCIA has contributed to a report on Finland’s climate change adaptation research: the (2012) report is part of the implementation of the National Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change. The implementation of the strategy is currently under evaluation, and the findings presented in the report will be used in this process. Key results of the project were also presented at a meeting of the national steering group for climate change adaptation.
The VACCIA project has served as a model project in the global ILTERNET ecological research network extending to nearly 40 countries worldwide. An initiative to enhance work on climate change impacts on ecosystem services, including assessment of adaptation options, was formally accepted at the ILTER meeting in September 2011 in Sapporo, Japan. The aim is to enhance global-scale work and support policy development and assessment work in this field, using the ideas developed under the VACCIA project.
Web climate guide for Fins
The VACCIA project has contributed with its key results on ecosystem impacts and adaptation (such as the effects of winter tourism, fisheries and water resources) to the online Finnish guide www.climateguide.fi on climate change. Launched in November 2012, the website brings together practical and reliable information on climate change. Its aim is to support society and citizens in mitigating and adapting to climate change.
Finally, the Academy of Finland and the Chinese Academy of Sciences are funding the project CLIMES (Impacts of Climate Change on Multiple Ecosystem Services: Processes and adaptation Options at Landscape Scales) for 2012-2014. It seeks to increase the process understanding and develop the methodologies in the context of climate change impacts and adaptation options for spatially explicit values of services across landscapes. The Finnish studies are based on the work carried out during the VACCIA project.
For more information on all these results, see the project website.
03 July 2013The European Commission has approved funding for 248 new projects under the LIFE+ programme, the European Union's environment fund. The projects have been submitted by beneficiaries in 26 Member States and cover actions in the fields of nature conservation, climate change, environmental policy and information and communication on environmental issues across all 27 Member States. Overall, they represent a total investment of some €556.4 million, of which the EU will provide €281.4 million.
Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: “The LIFE+ programme continues to provide vital financial support for innovative and replicable environmental and nature conservation projects with significant added value for the EU. These new projects will make a significant contribution to protecting, conserving and enhancing Europe’s natural capital and to improving the environment. And through practical actions and concrete examples, they will also support the goal of turning the EU into a resource efficient, greener and more competitive low-carbon economy.”
The Commission received some 1 159 applications from the 27 EU Member States in response to its latest call for proposals, which closed in September 2012. Of these, 248 were selected for co-funding through the programme’s three components: LIFE+ Nature and Biodiversity (92 projects, including 10 Biodiversity projects), LIFE+ Environment Policy and Governance (146 projects, including 29 directly tackling climate change) and LIFE+ Information and Communication (10 projects).
Read the full press release and a summary of the project by country.
For more information, it is also possible to contact the relevant national authorities.
02 July 2013The latest LIFE Focus publication highlights the role of LIFE Nature funding in helping to conserve Europe's endangered large carnivores (brown bear, wolf, Eurasian lynx), by addressing actual and potential conflicts with people living in areas where these species are present.
The publication demonstrates the link between project outcomes and EU policy relating to large carnivore conservation and is designed to support the EU Action on Large Carnivores. As well as providing an overview of the LIFE programme's impact to date, it also draws conclusions about what has worked well and where there is room for improvement. With more than 75 featured projects, LIFE and human coexistence with large carnivores provides numerous practical examples and lessons that can be drawn from the LIFE programme's work in this area and taken forward into the 2014-2020 funding period; lessons that are relevant to conservation managers and field workers, policy-makers and administrators, as well as local citizens and stakeholder groups (hunters, farmers, beekeepers etc.).
With a foreword from European Commissioner for the Environment, Janez Potočnik, and maps of bear, wolf and lynx presence within the EU, LIFE and human coexistence with large carnivores is essential reading for anyone interested in this topic.
Download: LIFE and human coexistence with large carnivores (10 MB)
01 July 2013The LIFE+ Nature project MIRDINEC (LIFE09 NAT/SE/000344) brought together more than 30 experts from across the EU, as well as Australia, New Zealand and the United States, for a final conference and Platform Meeting (thematic seminar) in Luleå, northern Sweden (June 16-18), on the hot topic of the management of Invasive Alien Predators (IAP). Several LIFE projects were represented at the event (see programme), which, after two days of presentations and fruitful discussions, led to the drafting of a 10-point proposal to the European Commission for the management of invasive alien species (IAS) - see the conference website for details.
In addition, delegates had the opportunity to visit sites where the MIRDINEC project, led by the Swedish Association for Hunting and Wildlife Management ('Svenska Jägareförbundet') is working to prevent the spread of the raccoon-dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides). A native of East Asia, large numbers of this invasive predator were released in western parts of the Soviet Union in the first half of the 20th Century, as a means of developing a fur industry around the species. The raccoon-dog has since spread into Finland and further west and is trying to gain a foothold in Sweden. In line with the Rio Convention on Biological Diversity, as well as the Bern and RAMSAR conventions, the eradication programme is necessary because the raccoon-dog is harmful to native Swedish biodiversity, protected under the EU Birds and Habitats directives, particularly amphibians and ground-nesting birds. To this end, the project has developed an early-warning system and eradication programme in Sweden and Denmark. This short video from the field visit during the IAP conference shows a project worker weighing and then releasing a captured and GPS-tagged raccoon-dog back into the wild. This 'Judas' animal will be used to locate other raccoon-dogs prior to eradication.
Methods developed during the project are likely to be transferable to other IAP management programmes and projects across Europe, as well as elsewhere in the world. One important aspect of IAS management highlighted during the Platform Meeting centred on engagement with stakeholders and local communities. To this end, it was heartening to see a large number of local people attending the open sessions to learn more about LIFE's work in this area.
For further information, visit the project website.
An in-depth report on the conclusions of the Invasive Alien Predators Platform Meeting will be included in a new LIFE Focus brochure on IAS, scheduled for publication in the first half of 2014.
Further reading: The November 2012 issue of LIFEnews focused on Invasive Species. Download it here.