30 July 2014The LIFE Scandinavian Platform Meeting was successfully held on 10-12 June in 2014 in Rovaniemi (Finland). The general objective of this annual meeting is to help LIFE Nature projects in Finland, Denmark and Sweden contribute to the implementation, updating and development of EU environmental policy and legislation. Three projects co-organised the meeting: Return of Rural Wetlands (LIFE09 NAT/FI/000563), Boreal Peatland Life (LIFE08 NAT/FIN/000596) and NETNET (LIFE10 NAT/FI/000047).
A total of 73 participants took part, representing the European Commission and a range of LIFE projects. On the first day, at the Hotel Santa Claus in Rovaniemi, Arnoud Heeres (Programme Manager LIFE Nature, European Commission) outlined the new Life Programme 2014-2020; Lucie Trokanova (LIFE Communications Team) explained how LIFE projects can effectively communicate their results; and Bent Jepsen (Astrale) described the role of the External Monitoring Team.
The second day began with short presentations from eight LIFE Nature and two LIFE Information & Communication projects. A field trip then took participants to the Prunteli model wetland site of the Return of Rural Wetlands project. This project has promoted local participation and the use of innovative methods for cost effective and large-scale wetland restoration. After lunch, the field trip continued with visits to two Natnet project sites. The NATNET project is working to increase the ecological connectivity and coherence of the Natura 2000 network in south-west Lapland.
On the final day of the meeting, at the Pilke House (Science Centre) and Arktikum in Rovaniemi, seven case studies were discussed, with topics relating to expertise gained in Nordic LIFE projects: land acquisition and socio-economic impacts of LIFE projects; dealing with invasive species; financial questions and challenges; conservation planning software; the future of LIFE and integrated projects; monitoring activities; and the participation of landowners. Two subsequent workshops focused on the Zonation conservation planning software used by the Natnet project, which was developed at Helsinki University.
All the presentations given at the LIFE Scanadinavian Platform Meeting can be viewed on the NETNET website: http://www.natnet.fi/11
22 July 2014The European Commission has published a report on the LIFE Platform Meeting ‘Climate change - ecosystem services approach for adaptation and mitigation’, which was held in Norwich, UK, on 14-15 May 2014.
Current and past LIFE projects came together at the event to share their experiences on developing responses to the predicted impacts of climate change across EU Member States. Another aim of the meeting was to look at the opportunities to attract funding for mitigation and adaptation projects in the LIFE multi-annual work programme for 2014-2017.
Nature conservation bodies were encouraged to seize the opportunities available to develop new partnerships through the climate action sub-programme and Integrated Projects, as well as continuing with the traditional project approach.
The event was co-hosted by Futurescapes (LIFE10 INF/UK/000189), a project led by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds that promotes landscape-scale conservation, and IPENS (LIFE11 NAT/UK/000384), which is developing an improvement programme for England's Natura 2000 Sites.
The report on the meeting can be downloaded below.
18 July 2014The first large-scale testing of a new floodgate, favouring the flooding and restoration of the river dynamics of valuable Rhine habitats on Rohrschollen Island (Strasbourg) has been successfully carried out by the LIFE Rohrschollen Island project (LIFE08 NAT/F/000471).
The testing of the floodgate was carried out on 17 June 2014, at a special event organised by the city of Strasbourg – the project beneficiary. The ongoing project is working to reproduce, through hydrological works, the island's natural flood dynamics, before this part of the Rhine was modified by dams and dikes.
This first flooding was carried out in the presence of the deputy mayor, responsible for sustainable development, and the regional representative of the EDF (the national electricity provider). It also marked the signing of a partnership agreement between the city of Strasbourg and EDF regarding the funding of the installation. The flow rate was set during this event at 35 m³/s. But the floodgate is designed to enable a maximum of 80 m³/s. A partnership with the University of Strasbourg has also been established in order to monitor the impact of the floods on the target alluvial habitats.
For more information on the event (French): click here.
For more information on the project (English): click here. Information is also available in French and German.
03 July 2014A pair of red-footed falcons (Falco vespertinus) have been discovered near Trnava, Slovakia, the first to be seen in this area for 40 years. The species, which was the focus of a recent LIFE project and is the target of an ongoing one, is close to extinction in Slovakia. Only two pairs were previously known to inhabit the country.
The main EU population of the red-footed falcon is found in the Pannonian lowlands. The raptor favours steppe-type habitats with extensive agriculture and low tree coverage. MME Birdlife Hungary carried out conservation actions in favour of the falcon in Hungary and Romania under the LIFE project, F.VESPERTINUS-HU/RO (LIFE05/NAT/HU/000122). It created thousands of artificial nesting sites and a special agro-environmental scheme for the conservation of feeding habitats. As a result of the project, the Hungarian population increased from 600 to 1 200 breeding pairs.
In 2011, the beneficiary and its partners, Raptor Protection of Slovakia and regional National Parks of the region, launched a follow-up project, REDFOOT (LIFE11/NAT/HU/000926), which is creating favourable conditions for the species in those parts of the Pannonian lowlands where the species became extinct during in the last century.
Jozef Chavko, a raptor expert working on the project, found the new pair at an abandoned magpie nest. “I was very happy to observe the male bringing food to the female at the nest,“ he said.
ChavkoI, who has been monitoring the species for more than 30 years, remembers a time 20 years ago when there were more than 60 pairs in the country. But intensive agriculture has significantly altered habitats and lowered biodiversity, and has thus severely reduced the availability of prey for the raptor. “To see these birds at this new region was...unbelievable,“ he said.
Roman Slobodník, the scientific coordinator of a project, said that the Hungarian population is continuing to grow. “We hope that by the implementation of the project, especially by improving the nesting and feeding opportunities, the red-footed falcon will return to Slovakia to form a healthy population,” he added.
Falcons do not build their own nests and two of the three currently known nests are originally magpie nests. As a result, the protection of such birds as magpies, rooks and hooded crows is important for the falcon’s survival. Disappearance of rook colonies from the countryside and the persecution of magpies lead to a decrease in natural nesting opportunities. One of the targets of the project is to increase the number and improve the quality of rook nests in project sites in Hungary and Slovakia.