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News: May 2014

Actions of LIFE projects honoured at first Natura 2000 awards


23 May 2014The actions of three LIFE projects were among the winners at the inaugural ‘European Natura 2000 Award’ at a ceremony held on 21 May 2014 at the Berlaymont building in Brussels.

The awards have been set up to increase recognition of the best achievements related to management of Natura 2000 network sites across the EU. In many cases these actions have taken place within the context of projects co-funded by the LIFE programme.

Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for the Environment presented the awards. Among the five winners were a Bulgarian LIFE project that is targeting the imperial eagle (LIFE07 NAT/BG/000068), winner in the ‘Conservation’ category, the Belgian project, 3Water (LIFE08 NAT/B/000036), which won the award for ‘Reconciling Interests/Perceptions’ and the Romanian project, STIPA (LIFE09 NAT/RO/000618), victor in the ‘Socio-economic benefits’ category.

A total of 163 nature conservation actions in Natura 2000 sites from across Europe, including a high number of LIFE funded ones, made applications from which a panel of distinguished judges drew up a shortlist of 20 Natura 2000 sites, divided into five distinct categories.

Introducing the awards, Mr Potočnik said that 21 May was “an important day in Europe’s green calendar: 22 years ago today the Habitats Directive came into force.” The directive established the goal of a network of protected sites, Natura 2000, which Mr Potočnik called “one of the European Union’s most outstanding achievements.”

Today, the network consists of more than 27 000 protected sites and represents a large step towards reaching the EU’s goal of maintaining 70% of its land area and 20% of its marine sites under protection by 2020.

“We all depend on ecosystems for our survival,” and everyone has a responsibility to ensure they are effectively managed, the Commissioner emphasised.

The aim of the European Natura 2000 Awards is to boost recognition of the efforts taken across the EU - 14 Member States were represented at the ceremony - and raise awareness of best practices and the need for nature conservation.

The high number of applicants “shows how strongly those in the field feel about what they are doing,” Mr Potočnik said.

“The finalists exemplify the great efforts that are being done across Europe to manage the Natura 2000 network… [Natura 2000 is an] excellent example of the added value of the European Union,” he added.

Five categories

The first award was presented to the winner of the ‘Conservation’ category, which recognised achievements that have improved the conservation status of a particular habitat and/or group of species. Target habitats or species must be listed in Annex I or II of the Habitats Directive or Annex I of the Birds Directive, or be a regularly occurring migrating bird.

The winner was the LIFE+ SAVE THE RAPTORS (LIFE07 NAT/BG/000068). Monitoring undertaken by the project showed the extent to which electrocution from power lines was affecting populations of the endangered eagle. Karl Falkenberg, Director General of the Environment, said that the judges were “stunned to see that with a mere €50 per pole, the project was able to reduce mortality to zero.”

LIFE Platform MeetingLIFE for safe grid project
LIFE12 NAT/BG/000572

Three other finalists shortlisted in this category were supported by LIFE – ‘Montecristo, the largest Mediterranean island, got rid of the rats – Italy’ (LIFE08 NAT/IT/000353); ‘New Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) population reintroduction strategies – Spain’ (LIFE06NAT/E/000209); and ‘The comeback of burnt black pine forests on Mount Parnon, South Peloponnese – Greece’ (LIFE07 NAT/GR/000286).

The ‘Communication’ award recognised successful communication activities that increase awareness or promote Natura 2000, and which bring lasting changes in attitudes or behaviour towards the network. The award was won by a Czech initiative to protect the dry grassland habitats in the Louny region of northern Bohemia.

Tony Long, executive director of the World Wide Fund for Nature WWF European Policy Office, said that the judges were impressed by the project’s “outstanding” and “imaginative” approach to raising awareness of the habitat.

The award winners said that the key was to use a wide variety of communication methods. “Communication helps the long-term sustainability of [conservation] efforts,” they said.

LIFE Platform MeetingLIFE+ 3WATER
LIFE08 NAT/B/000036

The ‘Reconciling Interests/Perceptions’ award rewarded successful efforts to bring together opposing socio-economic or political forces, land or resource users in order to support Natura 2000. ‘The LIFE+ 3WATER Project: a model for sustainable cooperation – Belgium’ (LIFE08 NAT/B/000036) won the award for reconciling a large number of different stakeholders, said Karl Falkenberg.

Describing the task of encouraging a cooperative approach as “doing a tango”, the project organisers said that the success of the project was due to getting different groups “talking to each other and having respect.”

Also shortlisted in this category was the Greek Lake Lesser Prespa, which developed a multi-stakeholder participation process that has been supported by various LIFE projects (LIFE02 NAT/GR/008494, LIFE09 INF/GR/000319, LIFE12 NAT/GR/000539).

The penultimate award recognised the socio-economic benefits that have come about as a result of a Natura 2000 site or project. For example, a ‘Natura 2000 label’ can allow sustainable producers using the natural resources of the site to create a niche market or obtain better prices.

It was won by the Romanian project to involve agricultural communities in the protection of the Sighișoara-Târnava Mare Natura 2000 site. This project has enabled small famers to make a total of around €2.5 million. According to Thierry de l’Escaille, secretary general of Friends of the Countryside and of the Habitats Foundation, the project demonstrated that conservation is compatible with economic activities.

The organisers said that the initiative “gave a voice to hundreds of thousands of small farmers”. Natura 2000 was described as a catalyst for all kinds of activities including agri-environment plans and the creation of mountain bike trails. The area had previously been targeted by the LIFE project ‘STIPA - Tarnava Mare SCI: Saving Transylvania's Important Pastoral Ecosystems’ (LIFE09 NAT/RO/000618).

LIFE Platform MeetingSTIPA
LIFE09 NAT/RO/000618

Also shortlisted in this category, was a Dutch LIFE project carried out on the island of Tiengemeten protecting nature ‘near the city’ (LIFE04 NAT/NL/000202).

The final award of the night celebrated efforts to boost networking and cross-border cooperation and their lasting impact for Natura 2000. It was awarded to the Spanish project to create coherent quality standards for Natura 2000 site management.

 Karl Falkenberg said that the award recognised the regionalised structure of Spain and the difficulties that the project had overcome to bring about a network of knowledge sharing and best practices.

One of the other finalists in this category, the Sonian Natura 2000 site in Belgium, encouraged encourage cross-regional cooperation to enhance the natural structure and public awareness of the Sonian Forest. The management plan for which it was nominated is now being implemented with the support of LIFE (LIFE12 NAT/BE/000166).

In his concluding remarks, Karl Falkenberg said that the European Commission was committed to repeating the event and to ensuring that next year’s awards attract even greater participation. The winning projects and runners-up have shown that Natura 2000 can really deliver results, he underlined.

For further information about the winners, nominees and the awards in general, visit:

Read the Press Release here.

Platform Meeting reviews LIFE's contribution to climate change adaptation and mitigation

LIFE Platform Meeting

22 May 2014The LIFE Platform Meeting ‘Climate change- ecosystem services approach for adaptation and mitigation’ was successfully held in Norwich, England, on 14-15 May 2014. The event was co-hosted by Futurescapes (LIFE10 INF/UK/000189), a project led by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) that promotes landscape-scale conservation, and IPENS (LIFE11 NAT/UK/000384), which is developing an improvement programme for England's Natura 2000 Sites.

A total of 43 people attended the meeting, including representatives from 26 LIFE projects in nine EU Member States, along with government and statutory body representatives from the UK. In addition to the 15 LIFE project presentations at the meeting, other projects contributed during three field excursions.

Participants saw how the TaCTICS project (LIFE07 NAT/UK/000938) had reinforced sea walls at the RSPB’s Titchwell Marsh reserve, to protect freshwater habitats of the bittern (Botaurus stellaris) and other species from tidal inundation resulting from rising sea levels; these defences were vital in protecting the reserve during severe tidal surges in December 2013. The visit to this coastal site also provided the opportunity to learn about how the pioneering Living with the Sea project (LIFE99 NAT/UK/006081)wich introduced coastal habitat management plans to ensure the continuity of the Natura 2000 network in the face of a changing coast, and how the LIFE Little Terns project (LIFE12 NAT/UK/000869) is creating suitable habitat to allow the little tern (Sterna albifrons) to move northwards in response to climate change.

The Securing the stone-curlew project (LIFE11 INF/UK/000418) demonstrated how the RSPB is working with farmers to create fallow plots to provide ideal nesting conditions for stone-curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus), via a visit to Muckleton Farm. At How Hill Nature Reserve, managed by the Broads Authority, participants learnt about the legacy of reed bed and wet fen restoration carried out by the Bittern project (LIFE02 NAT/UK/008527). Climate change adaptation is now a key area of work for the Broads Authority.

The European Union is responding to the unavoidable impacts of climate change by tripling its budget allocation to climate adaptation and mitigation actions. This meeting of past and present LIFE projects concerned with climate change facilitated a valuable exchange of information and provided an opportunity to discuss future research strategies. João Silva, Senior Expert in the LIFE Communications Team presented a review of how LIFE projects have addressed climate change to date. Juan Pérez-Lorenzo from the European Commission’s DG CLIMA outlined opportunities in the 2014-2017 LIFE Programme for new project applications.

The platform meeting provided DG CLIMA with several good examples of projects that could be promoted as case studies within the European Climate Adaptation Platform (Climate-ADAPT), and the meeting’s presentations and discussion will inform a forthcoming review of LIFE projects and climate change.

To download presentations from the Platform Meeting, click here (50 MB zip file).


Today is Natura 2000 Day

NATURA 2000 Day

21 May 2014Natura 2000 Day is being celebrated today [21 May] all around Europe. Leading up to Natura 2000 Day people have been making small gestures of support, in the form of photographs of themselves with their hands in the shape of a butterfly. These have been uploaded on the Natura 2000 Day website and via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (tagged #Natura2000Day). Just like the proverbial flapping of a butterfly’s wings, even the smallest gestures can have great power. The aim is to spread awareness of the important role played by the largest network of protected sites in the world. The Natura 2000 network comprises over 26 000 sites, in which Europe’s rich variety of natural habitats and species are protected.

The Spanish LIFE Information and Communication project LIFE Activa Red Natura 2000 (LIFE11 INF/ES/000665) established Natura 2000 Day last year.  Led by SEO/BirdLife and the EFE Agency, the LIFE project addresses the need for a greater appreciation and knowledge of the Natura 2000 network amongst European citizens. Raised awareness will lead to a better understanding of the maintenance requirements of these areas and the important of the ecosystem services they provide, while enhancing people’s enjoyment of Europe’s natural heritage.

The LIFE project chose 21 May for Natura 2000 Day because it was on this day in 1992 that the Habitats Directive was approved. This Directive, together with the Birds Directive, led to the establishment of the Natura 2000 network as the centrepiece of EU nature conservation and biodiversity policy. Natura 2000 Day is to be an annual European-wide event. Eighteen countries are participating this year.

Each year, Natura 2000 Day will focus on the conservation work done in a different site. This year, the symbolic gestures are helping to draw attention to the restoration of the Doñana coastal wetlands in Spain, in particular, the restoration of a marsh area, through the removal of an exotic invasive plant that is displacing native flora, and the removal of old lead bullets that poison birds from an area where up to 50 000 geese feed.

To find out more about Natura 2000 Day, visit the website:

Further information concerning LIFE 'Activa Red Natura 2000’ can be found on the project website:

Sustainable food shopping debate launched

Photo:LIFE10 ENV/UK/000173

19 May 2014Debating Europe and the LIFE project LiveWell for LIFE have launched their third and final of its series of online debates on sustainable consumption, ‘Are YOU prepared to change your shopping list in order to eat more sustainably?’.

The organisers welcome comments from all citizens, who can contribute their ideas here. The ongoing debate addresses the problem of food waste in the EU, where studies have shown that 90 million tonnes of food are being wasted annually.

Moreover, food accounts for 29% of all consumption-derived greenhouse gas emissions. Given the enormous environmental and public health impact of our dinner tables, what can be done to make food consumption and production more efficient and sustainable?

The debate has mainly focused on the role that the food industry has in reducing sustainability of food production in favour of mass production. Other comments concerned the role that the same food industry has in favourably influencing the Common Agricultural Policy.

Edward McMillan-Scott, a British MEP with the Liberal Democrats and a Vice-President of the European Parliament.reinforced this by saying: “We want the Common Agricultural Policy to become a Common Sustainable Food Policy.”

The project, LiveWell for LIFE (LIFE10 ENV/UK/000173), is bringing together key stakeholders in the fields of health, environment and business to create policies and generate demand for climate-friendly healthy food. Its main objective is to reduce GHG emissions from the EU food supply chain. Its debates, which are hosted by Debating Europe, have focused on converging public health and sustainability, the price of sustainable food and the importance of sustainable consumption on the EC policy agenda.

Launched in 2011 by Friends of Europe and Europe’s World in partnership with the European Parliament, Microsoft, Gallup, Skype and the Open Society Foundations, Debating Europe is an online discussion platform designed to engage citizens and policy-makers in an ongoing conversation on a wide range of issues, collecting questions from citizens through a series of online debates and asking high-profile policy-makers and experts to reply.

The initiative currently engages with a social media community of more than 170 000 followers on Twitter and Facebook. Debating Europe has taken thousands of comments and questions from users and referred them to key policy-makers, including prime ministers, Commissioners, ministers, MEPs and MPs.

LIFE project opens exhibition on the thick shelled river mussel

Photo:LIFE10 NAT/SE/000046

14 May 2014An exhibition entitled “The magic world of the unio crassus” was opened on 22 April in Christinehof Castle, Brösarp, Sweden. The exhibit has been put together within the framework of the LIFE Nature project UC4LIFE(LIFE10 NAT/SE/000046). It explores the life of the thick shelled river mussel (Unio crassus) and work done by the LIFE project at Fyleån Creek in the Fyledalen Valley area – one of 12 sites where the project is taking place.

Many thick shelled river mussel populations have become extinct in Sweden. Those populations that still exist have a fragmented distribution in south-eastern Scandinavia (around 140 sites) and are endangered by adverse physical changes to their favoured habitat. UC4LIFE aims to improve the water quality, restore depressed riverine habitats and reintroduce Unio crassus where it has become extinct through site specific restoration measures in 12 different locations in Sweden.

The opening of the river mussel exhibition took place as part of the Easter Open Studios Week (Österlens konstrunda), a well-known art event during which artists from the East Skåne district open their houses to the public. Fish and mussels were on display at the vernissage as well as art work on the theme by local children. A group of children were also knighted “Protectors of the Crassus and of Fyleån Creek”. Over 1 500 people have visited the exhibition so far.

For more information on the project or the exhibition visit the UC4LIFE project website

Vote with your hands for Natura 2000

Natura 2000 Day

13 May 2014Natura 2000 Day will again be celebrated on 21 May, one year after it was first initiated in Spain by the LIFE Information and Communication project Activa Red Natura 2000: Connecting people with biodiversity (LIFE11 INF/ES/000665).

The LIFE project, led by SEO/BirdLife and the EFE Agency, addresses the need for a greater appreciation of the objectives and maintenance needs of the European Natura 2000 network of protected areas. It aims to give citizens a better understanding of the ecosystem services provided by these areas, and knowledge to enhance their enjoyment of Europe’s natural heritage. As part of this aim, the LIFE project plans to make Natura 2000 Day an annual European-wide event.

Eighteen countries will participate in Natura 2000 Day in 2014, through the BirdLife International partnership, to help raise awareness of the ecological, social and economic importance of the Natura 2000 network, the largest network of protected sites in the world (more than 26 000 sites across the EU, covering some one million km2).

Natura 2000 Day invites everyone to make a symbolic gesture of social awareness in favour of preserving natural ecosystems, and the species they support. This takes the form of photographs of people making a butterfly shape with their raised hands and uploading them to the event website, or via social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using the #natura2000day tag. Many celebrities have uploaded photos in support of the project and numerous organisations and institutions have become involved, especially schools. The project stresses that even the smallest gestures can have a great power for change, just like the flapping of a butterfly’s wings.

Each year, the gestures contribute to the conservation of a particular Natura 2000 site. This year´s campaign is focussing on the Doñana site in Spain, a vast area of coastal wetland, dunes, cork oak and pine forest, and Mediterranean heath land that supports numerous birds and other species. In particular, the gesture campaign will contribute to the restoration of a marsh area, through the removal of an exotic invasive plant that is displacing native flora, and the removal of old lead bullets that poison birds from an area where up to 50 000 geese feed.

To find out more about Natura 2000 Day or to upload your photo, visit the website:

Alternatively, contribute via Twitter (@ActivaRedNatura) or Facebook (ActivaNatura2000).

To find out more about the project’s wider objectives, visit:


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