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News: September 2013

Platform Meeting on 'Alternative Future Urban Mobility'

Photo: LIFE10 NAT/ES/000565

30 September 2013 An international LIFE+ Platform Meeting on Alternative Future Urban Mobility, organised by the Astrale LIFE monitoring team, will take place in UBA (German Federal Environmental Agency), Bismarckplatz 1, D-14193 Berlin, 21-22 November. Download the agenda here.

The meeting is being held in cooperation with the current German LIFE project, Clean Air , (LIFE 11 ENV/DE/000495) and the German Federal Environmental Agency (UBA). There will be a presentation on the latest EU policy developments by Guido de Wilt of the European Commission DG Environment.

The aim of this compact thematic seminar is to bring together practitioners from across Europe to:

  • Share and benefit from the experiences of completed and ongoing LIFE projects (and other initiatives) focusing on ‘Alternative Future Urban Mobility’;
  • Discuss the key issues – e.g. how to foster the change from the current mobility mode to new habits, and how to motivate people to use an e-bike rather than a car; and
  • Conclude recommendations on how the LIFE programme and the European Commission in general could support this topic.

The two-day event starts in the afternoon of Thursday, 21 November, includes a guided tour to several of Berlin’s mobility highlights in the evening followed by an informal exchange during dinner. As well as a series of presentations, active work groups will be held to discuss the pressing challenges that are common to nearly all mobility projects. Suggested work group topics include:

  • How to foster the change from the current mobility mode to new habits (e.g. how to motivate people to use an e-bike rather than a car): success factors, problems, recommendations;
  • Measuring success, encouraging further steps;
  • Ranking the likelihood of and barriers to “Alternative Future Urban Mobility” What is the role of technical solutions vs. organisational, planning, legal, economic? Do we have what we need – or what will bring the breakthrough?; and
  • Local, national, European: Who is the driver, what is the fuel, where is support? 

The External LIFE Monitoring Team, which is organising the meeting, welcomes further suggestions for work group topics. The organiser plan to restrict the event to around 30 participants and aim to ensure that those taking part represent a broad range of experience around urban mobility – from strategic planning and motivating and involving citizens to technical issues and monitoring. The number of participants will be restricted to around 30.

Of the total of around 4 000 LIFE projects, some 90 have focused on urban mobility, of which 35 are ongoing. Mobility experts without experience of LIFE projects are welcome to attend.

Register by 21 October by email:


LIFE project's book surveys plant micro-reserve networks in Europe

Photo: LIFE10 NAT/ES/000565

26 September 2013A timely overview of micro-reserve conservation in Europe is presented in a new book, ‘Plant Micro-Reserves: From Theory to Practice - Experiences gained from EU LIFE and other related projects’, edited by Costas Kadis, Costas A. Thanos and Emilio Laguna Lumbreras. The book was published within the framework of the LIFE project, PLANT-NET CY (LIFE08 NAT/CY/000453).

Plant Micro-Reserves (PMRs) are small areas of land that are of peak value in terms of the in situ conservation of rare, endemic or threatened plant species. Small reserves had existed before, as the book’s introduction explains, but PMRs were first formulated as legally protected sites with their own characteristics in Valencia (Spain) in 1994. The PMR approach better addresses the protection of priority plant species, whose fragmented populations aggregate in microhabitats, than the traditional nature reserve approach. Networks of PMRs are now regarded as one of the most effective ways to conserve plant diversity, and LIFE has played an important role in funding their development, supporting a total of 10 projects on this topic.

Indeed, the first European PMR network was established in Valencia as a result of the LIFE project Creation of a network of flora microreserves in the Valencia region (first phase) (LIFE93 NAT/E/011100). By 2008, the network was protecting most of the region’s endemic plant species in 291 PMRs, covering a combined area of 2 512 ha. In terms of size, 53% of sites were less than 5 ha; with the smallest being on a cliff-face with little horizontal projection (0.061 ha). Emilio Laguna and his colleagues from the Valencia team contribute several chapters to the book, on the PMR concept, the Valencia project itself, the optimal legal framework, and how to put the theory into practice.

Project teams who have established PMRs with LIFE funding in other regions of Spain (e.g., Basque Country and the Murcia Region) and in several European countries, in particular, Slovenia, Greece, Bulgaria, Sicily (Italy) and Madeira (Portugal) contribute chapters to the book. A project is also seeking to establish a PMR network in the Sinai Peninsula (Egypt); while the approach has been extended beyond plants, for example, to bat caves in Castilla-La Mancha (Spain).

LIFE PLANT_NET CY is used in the book as an example of a smaller PMR network that is intensively monitoring and the focus of targeted conservation measures. The project also provided a platform for the sharing of information and best practice among all LIFE-funded PMR projects. One of the project’s outcomes is this book, which brings together a large body of experience and scientific knowledge concerning PMR networks in Europe and makes it accessible to a broader audience.

The editors, in a concluding chapter, discuss the possibility of establishing a European PMR network. This would link all PMR initiatives, facilitate the exchange of knowledge and experience, and help to promote the conservation of plant diversity in Europe.
‘Plant Micro-Reserves: From Theory to Practice’ is published by Utopia, Athens. A pdf version of the book can be downloaded here:

To read more about LIFE’s contribution to the development of PMRs, see the LIFE Focus publication, LIFE and endangered plants – conserving Europe’s threatened flora


Salt of Life project helps celebrate 33rd anniversary of Atanasovsko Lake Reserve

Photo: LIFE10 NAT/ES/000565

24 September 2013The Biodiversity Foundation and the Regional Inspectorate of Environment and Water (RIEW) organised a cycling ‘challenge’ on 12 August 2013 to celebrate 33 years of the Atanasovsko Lake Reserve in Bulgaria. Team members from the LIFE Nature Salt of Life project (LIFE11 NAT/BG/000362) prepared a special game for participants and made commemorative cakes.

The Atanasovsko Lake Reserve is part of the Burgas Lakes complex along Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast. It is a very important site for breeding, migrating and overwintering birds. Of Bulgaria’s 446 bird species, 320 can be seen at the reserve. The lake is also one of Europe’s most important migrating and roosting sites, especially for pelicans, storks and several birds of prey. However, the lagoon habitat in Atanasovsko Lake is under threat as a result of a degraded connection with the sea, pollution and eutrophication.

The LIFE Nature‘Salt of Life project started in July 2012 and runs to August 2018. Its objective is to take urgent measures to restore and secure the long-term preservation of the Atanasovsko Lake coastal lagoon. The main aims are to establish a sustainable infrastructure for water management and to make improvements to habitats, for example, by creating new breeding sites for priority bird species. For further information, see the project’s website:

More than 50 people took part in the 33rd Anniversary cycling adventure; enjoying an evening’s ride from a park on the outskirts of Burgas, along the lake’s southern salt pans, to the start of the Atanasovsko Lake Reserve. They were invited to discover 33 objects hidden in or around the lake by the Salt of Life project team.  Cyclists taking part in the challenge were awarded prizes of reflective tape, for staying visible at night on the road, with the name and logo of the project, an innovative way of disseminating LIFE’s nature conservation message.


EC proposes new legislation to tackle threat of invasive alien species

Photo: LIFE10 NAT/ES/000565

23 September 2013The European Commission has proposed new legislation to prevent and manage the growing threat posed by invasive species that are alien to the natural environment in the EU.

The proposal centres round a list of invasive alien species of Union concern, which will be drawn up with the Member States using risk assessments and scientific evidence. Selected species will be banned from the EU, meaning it will not be possible to import, buy, use, release or sell them. Special measures will be taken to deal with issues arising for traders, breeders or pet owners in the transitional period.
Three types of intervention are proposed: prevention; early warning and rapid response; and management of established invasive alien species of concern.

The Commission intends that the proposal will encourage a shift towards a harmonised and more preventive approach, increasing efficiency and lowering damage costs and the cost of action over time.
The proposed Regulation will now be examined by the Council and the Parliament. Member States will be fully involved in compiling the list and can propose candidates for listing. The regime will be coupled with an information support mechanism: the European Alien Species Information Network.

LIFE and invasive species

The LIFE programme has played and will continue to play an important role in the fight against IAS in Europe. A recent Platform Meeting in Sweden on Invasive Alien Predators highlighted this fact and its outcomes will feed into a LIFE Focus publication on invasive species, to be published in the first half of 2014.
For further information about LIFE and IAS, download the November 2012 issue of LIFEnews, which is dedicated to the subject, or search the LIFE project database.


EU soil experts join LIFE+ projects in Greece


18 September 2013EU soil experts will join LIFE+ project beneficiaries on 24-25 September, for a special two-day platform meeting in Greece addressing environmental problems associated with soil. Some 30 participants, including representatives of 11 LIFE+ co-funded soil-related projects, are expected at this thematic seminar, organised by the Astrale Greece LIFE monitoring team, in cooperation with the SAGE10 project (LIFE09 ENV/GR/000302).

The meeting will take place at the Benaki Phytopathological Institute, Kifissia in Athens, Greece. It will be opened by Thomas Strassburger, Policy Officer of the Agriculture, Forest and Soil Unit of DG Environment, and will include presentations by Dr Stamatis Stamatiades of Goulandris Natural History Museum (Soil quality); Dr Costas Kosmas of the Agricultural University of Athens (Threats, gaps, and technical assessment); and Dr Theodoros Karyotis of the Institute for Soil Mapping and Classification (Strategies and policies for soil protection).

Also attending are: Astrale soil specialist, Riccardo Giandrini; and Jorge Blanco from the DG Agriculture European Innovation Partnership (EIP) "Service Point", the task manager soil.

Representatives of the LIFE projects will talk about the implementation of their projects. According to Astrale organiser, Dr Georgia Valaoras, these presentations will focus on the contributions of projects in terms of specific issues such as "improvement of soil fertility and productivity" or "reducing environmental impact" (e.g. water contamination and atmospheric emissions). "In this way, we hope to limit the general discussions and focus on the key issues," she explains.

There will also be a full-day excursion on the Wednesday, 25 September to see the test field used by the LIFE EcoPest project (LIFE07 ENV/GR/000266). The project took place in an area that, unusually for Greece, is characterised by a high groundwater table. It is also an area of intensive agricultural activities, resulting in contamination of soil and water by nitrates and phosphates. Project actions have addressed the causes of agricultural contamination, in the process turning the target area into a viable emergency source of water for Yilki Lake, which supplies drinking water to the greater Athens area.

Says Dr Valaoras, this field trip is "not to be missed" as the completed project [demonstrating significant reductions in the amount of pesticides used for cotton, maize and plum tomato crops] will be presenting some excellent monitoring results.

For more information, including any last-minute registrations, contact: the Sage10 project manager, Emilia Markellou, ; or Astrale monitor: Georgia Valaoras.

LIFE helps achieve Important breakthrough for Malta's seabirds

LIFE10 NAT/MT/000090

16 September 2013The Malta-Gozo Channel was confirmed on 30 August as Malta's first Marine Important Bird Area (IBA) in recognition of its international importance for two protected bird species: the Yelkouan shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan) and Scopoli's shearwater (Calonectris diomedea).

The 123 hectare channel, including the island of Comino, is also an important migration route for the ferruginous duck (Aythya nyroca), another species listed in Annex I of the EU Birds Directive.

Two LIFE projects have played an important role in securing Marine IBA status for the channel. "Malta's first EU LIFE project, the Yelkouan Shearwater Project (2006-2010 - LIFE06 NAT/MT/000097), made the resources available to pursue the intensive studies required to collect the amount of rigorous scientific data needed for the true importance of the site to be assessed," said project beneficiary BirdLife Malta, in a press release.

"One of the aims of the European IBA designation is to help identify sites for inclusion in the EU's Natura 2000 Network of protected sites," said Ms Dora Querido, LIFE Project Officer at the RSPB, one of the international partners involved in the 2006 LIFE project. "Malta already has 13 terrestrial Special Protection Areas, all of which were first identified as IBAs. We hope that Malta will continue this best practice to nominate the Gozo Channel as its first Marine Special Protection Area," she added.

The Marine IBA designation follows the assessment of a proposal and data submitted by BirdLife Malta in 2011 against standard, internationally recognised criteria established by BirdLife International's IBA Progamme, a network of more than 10 000 sites considered as the minimum necessary to ensure the survival of the species concerned across their ranges.

Tracking triumph

The ongoing LIFE Malta Seabird Project (LIFE10 NAT/MT/000090) hopes to build on this success by identifying important areas for seabirds in Maltese waters and designating SPAs at sea under EU nature conservation legislation. It is also targeting actions at two more seabird species Scopoli's shearwater (C.d. diomedea) and the European storm petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus). The new project has already carried out the first successful radio-tracking of storm petrels in Europe and last month recorded the return of Malta's oldest recorded Scopoli's shearwater (named Ċiefa) to her nesting site. Ċiefa was ringed by an ornithologist on the southern cliffs of Malta in 1985, when she was already a breeding adult, making her at least 30 years old now.

After migrating away for a few months, adult Scopoli's shearwater pairs return to the same nesting site year after year. Researchers from the Malta Seabird Project have been making use of this phenomenon in order to discover more about the habits of these seabirds at various colony sites around the Maltese Islands.
For more information, please visit the project website.

Priolo Brand gets off to flying start


09 September 2013A total of 19 companies recently joined the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism (ECST) of the Lands of Priolo, in the Azores, Portugal. The enterprises, which are connected with tourism, will be the first to use the ‘Priolo Brand’ that was established by two LIFE projects. The brand is a sign of quality for tourism operators in the Special Protected Area (SPA) of Pico da Vara.

The Natura 2000 network site is home to the only population of one of Europe’s rarest birds, the Azores bullfinch (Pyrrhula murina) or ‘priolo’ as it’s known locally. These companies, together with entities that promote the Charter, will develop a set of nature conservation measures and work towards sustainable tourism in the area.

The Priolo Brand was established by the LIFE projects PRIOLO (LIFE03 NAT/P/000013) and Sustainable Laurel Forest (LIFE07 NAT/P/000630), both of which were led by SPEA (BirdLife in Portugal) in partnership with the regional government of the Azores. Companies setting up partnerships with the Natural Park of São Miguel Island will be able to use this brand and enhance the environmental, economic and social benefits of these protected areas.

The Permanent Forum of the ECST of the Lands of Priolo recently held its annual meeting at Vila do Nordeste, São Miguel, during which the first 19 companies formally joined the Priolo Brand. This group includes travel agencies, tourist accommodation companies, restaurants, crafts and tourist entertainment, as well as a charity that focuses on inclusive tourism. The Permanent Forum predicts that more organisations will join the brand, an excellent result considering Lands of Priolo is the most peripheral and rural area of the São Miguel island.

The meeting was also an opportunity to present the new website dedicated to the Lands of Priolo, which will provide information about this territory, including its natural values, cultural activities, accommodation options, restaurants and so on. An English version is expected to be available shortly.

The ECST is a tool designed, evaluated and certified by the EUROPARC Federation aiming to promote the development of sustainable tourism in protected areas. It has been awarded to 107 protected areas in 13 European countries, with a further 24 applications pending.

Tourism to protected areas makes an important contribution to conservation by generating revenue for management, according to a research article published last May in the magazine PLoS ONE. The authors quantified the contribution of tourism revenue for bird species in the IUCN Red List, and one of their conclusions was that many protected areas could also enhance their management budgets by specifically promoting bird-watching tourism.

For more information, contact Joaquim Teodósio, Project Manager at SPEA (BirdLife in Portugal).

New call for proposals - NGO operating grants in 2014


06 September 2013The call for proposals for financial support in 2014 under the current legal base (LIFE+) is now published, with a budget of EUR 9.000.000 and a deadline for applications of 15 October 2013.

For details and application documents, please see "How to apply". General and financial conditions are similar to previous years, except for certain updates to align with the revised EU Financial Regulation. The award criteria have been updated to align with the new EU Environmental Action Programme.


Read the full entry on the Environment website

Joy as released lesser kestrels rejoin wild population


05 September 2013Wild lesser kestrels (Falco naumanni) have been spotted in a special adaptation aviary constructed by the Bulgarian LIFE Nature project, Lesser Kestrel Recovery (LIFE11 NAT/BG/000360). The sighting (via video surveillance) of the wild falcons, together with individuals ringed by the project, provides the first confirmation of the successful reunion of released birds in the wild population of the Balkans.

The project, which is being coordinated by Green Balkans, a federation of nature conservation non-governmental organisations, is aiming to increase and strengthen the breeding populations in Bulgaria. A key measure is the release, in cooperation with Spanish partner DEMA and German partner EURONATUR, of captive-bred birds in Bulgaria, where the bird numbers are extremely low. Some 90 chicks have already been released in the hope that more than a third will return to their original nesting site – the Sakar Natura 2000 SPA (special protection area for wild birds).

“We were worried about the migratory instincts of ‘our’ lesser kestrels,” says the project’s technical assistant, Krasimera Demerdzhieva. “One of our biggest concerns was whether the lesser kestrels we had released would be able to find their way to and from their wintering grounds in southern Africa.”

Following a long wait, she reports the team’s “moment of joy” when the ringed falcons were spotted for the first time together with the wild juvenile birds. “Now we know that there are guides that will lead our lesser kestrels along the difficult way to their wintering grounds,” says Ms Demerdzhieva, who adds that the installed video surveillance system made it possible to record previously unobserved behaviour. Perches for adults in the adaptation aviary were designed to encourage them in a role as ‘foster parents’ and it was hoped that this also would strengthen the attachment of the chicks to their new home.  

For more information, see the latest news on the project website.


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