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News: May 2015

LIFE events during Green Week 2015

GreenWeek LOGO

29 May 2015 The 2015 edition of Green Week, the biggest annual conference on European environment policy, takes place from 3-5 June at The Egg, Rue Bara, Brussels. The theme is nature and biodiversity. Green Week offers a unique opportunity for debate, exchanges of experience and sharing of best practice. The conference has become an unmissable event for all involved in protecting the environment. The LIFE programme is again playing a prominent role during Green Week, in Brussels and at satellite events around Europe.

For full details of LIFE events during Green Week and a list of LIFE project beneficiaries taking part in the exhibition, download the programme here)- IMPORTANT: In order to attend LIFE-related events at Green Week, it is necessary to register via the Green Week Website (before 03/06) or directly at the Green Week desk at the Conference Centre after. N.B. It is not possible to register for individual LIFE events; rather, it is essential to complete the general registration form for Green Week to gain access to the venue.

1) Thursday, 4 June 2015, 18:30 - 20:30: LIFE Best Projects Awards (Auditorium)

An award ceremony to celebrate the most inspiring LIFE projects completed during 2014. The objective of the awards is to identify and raise awareness of those projects whose results, if widely applied, could have the most positive impact on nature and the environment.

See pp.4-11 of this leaflet for details of the winning projects.

LIFE & Green Week: Thursday, 4 June 2015
18:30 Welcome to the Awards Ceremony Peter Woodward, Master of Ceremonies, Quest Associates Ltd  
18:35 Introducing the Best LIFE Environment projects Karl Falkenberg, Director-General, DG Environment  
18:45 Presentation of the Best LIFE Environment projects    
19:05 Presentation of the Best of the Best LIFE Environment projects    
19:20 Introducing the Best LIFE Nature projects Patricia Zurita, Chief Executive of the BirdLife International Partnership  
19:30 Presentation of the Best LIFE Nature projects    
19.45 Presentation of the Best of the Best LIFE Nature projects    
19.55 LIFE Community Awards Winners of the public vote for Best LIFE Environment and LIFE Nature projects  
20.00 Official group photographs The award ceremony will be followed by a networking cocktail  

LIFE Community Awards

GreenWeek LOGO

To increase awareness of the excellent work of the LIFE programme, this year's LIFE Best Project Awards for the first time includes the LIFE Community Awards. These will be presented to two LIFE projects - one Nature and one Environment - chosen by public vote from the Best of the Best projects. To vote go to: (voting closes at 11pm on Monday 1 June).

2) Friday, 5 June 2015, 09:30 - 11:00 Session 7.1 Engaging and rewarding private landowners: can we find new ways?

A significant number of Natura 2000 network sites are privately owned. Many private landowners would like to make their management practices more compatible with the needs of the protected habitats and species on their land. However, in practice they are often deterred by usage constraints, potential loss of income or other financial barriers. This session explores new ways to facilitate and incentivise private land conservation through mechanisms tested by LIFE projects, landowners, land trusts and other stakeholders at EU and international level.


  • James N. Levitt, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and Harvard University
  • Vesna Valant, Adviser, Directorate for Natural Capital, Directorate General for Environment, European Commission
  • Thierry de l'Escaille, CEO, European Landowners Organisation

Moderator: Angelo Salsi, Head of Unit LIFE – Nature, Directorate General for Environment, European Commission

3) Satellite events

On 23 May, the LIFE to alvars project (LIFE13 NAT/EE/000082) is organising a guided walk to the Matkapäev alvar grassland restoration sites in Tallinn, Estonia.

On 3 June, Fundación Global Nature (FGN) is holding a seminar about nature conservation foundations and the LIFE programme (“Las fundaciones de conservación de la naturaleza y el programa LIFE”) at the Representation of the European Commission in Spain (Madrid).

On 4-6 June, the LIFE CREAMAgua project (LIFE09 ENV/ES/000431) will organise environmental awareness workshops in Sariñena (Spain). Titled ‘Creation and restoration of aquatic ecosystems for improvement of water quality and biodiversity in agricultural basins’, this Green Week satellite event includes a mix of awareness-raising activities for children and adults about the importance of protecting nature & biodiversity. For more information: 

Throughout May, the LIFE BEAR DEFRAGMENTATION project (LIFE12 NAT/ES/000192) will host volunteer days in Santander (Spain). The aim is to promote the involvement of stakeholders, the local community and wider public. To know more, visit the Fundación Oso Pardo (FOP) website - -

From 1 June to 1 July, the Fundación Biodiversidad of Spain will organise an exhibition on the Cantabrian capercaillie and Iberian desman in the framework of the UROGALLO CANTABRICO (LIFE09 NAT/ES/000513) and DESMANIA (LIFE11 NAT/ES/000691) projects. 10 Information panels will be set up around participating Natura 2000 network sites to tell people about these important species, their habitats and the conservation challenges they face.

Respecting Europe's natural heritage on Natura 2000 Day

Natura 2000 Day

21 May 2015All across Europe today [21 May] events are being held in honour of the third annual Natura 2000 Day. The day was established by Spanish LIFE project, LIFE Activa Red Natura 2000 (LIFE11 INF/ES/000665), to spread awareness of the importance of Natura 2000, the largest network of protected sites in the world.

Recognising the significance of even the smallest acts, the interlocked thumbs ‘butterfly’s wings’ hand sign has once again played a role in promoting the Natura 2000 Day. Public figures including former Spain and Real Madrid footballer, Emilio Butragueño, Olympic medallist Gemma Mengual and German MEPs Martin Schulz and Michael Cramer are among the many people who have been photographed making the hand sign in the run up to the day. These have been uploaded on the Natura 2000 Day website and via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (tagged #Natura2000Day). The sign has also featured on posters with the caption, ‘A small gesture can change everything’.

LIFE projects from across the EU have joined in the awareness-raising actions by organising open doors events on or around Natura 2000 Day. A total of 41 events will be staged in 21 countries. These events include a Natura 2000 Day in the Isles of Scilly in the UK that was the initiative of the project ‘Connecting people with Biodiversity’ and will focus on the islands’ seabirds in particular. Other notable events held around the day include a griffon vulture release from the vulture adaptation aviary in Bulgaria, visits to pearl mussel breeding sites in Brittany, France, and a workshop on the economy and nature in Melk, Austria. 

Natura 2000 Awards

The culmination of the day’s celebrations will be the second Natura 2000 Award Ceremony, which will take place at the European Commission in Brussels later today. The ceremony recognises activities related to Natura 2000 that have been undertaken by local and national authorities, businesses, site managers, landowners, NGOs, educational institutions and individuals from all 28 EU Member States. This year, in addition to the five category prizes, an ‘EU Citizens’ Award’ is being introduced. The winners will be announced on LIFE’s Twitter feed and website.

Made up of more than 26 000 sites, the Natura 2000 network helps protect a rich variety of natural habitats and species. But there is a need to better inform European citizens of its conservation objectives and value. Led by SEO/BirdLife and the EFE Agency, the Spanish LIFE Information and Communication project, LIFE Activa Red Natura, directly address this need and the Natura 2000 Day is one of its flagship initiatives.

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.

For more information on LIFE 'Activa Red Natura 2000’, visit the project website:

Scottish volunteers stop theft of freshwater pearl mussels

 Freshwater Pearl Mussels

19 May 2015Local volunteers in the north western Highlands of Scotland (in the United Kingdom) are helping to safeguard the freshwater pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera) threatened by illegal fishing. The volunteer work – highlighted recently by The Herald, a Scottish newspaper – is part of the LIFE+ Nature Pearls in Peril (LIFE11 NAT/UK/000383) project.

Involving organisations across Scotland, England and Wales, the four-year project runs until 2016. A wide range of conservation measures are being implemented in key river systems to safeguard these Habitats Directive (Annex II-listed) freshwater molluscs, which have an unfavourable conservation status. A key action is the implementation of the Riverwatch scheme to raise awareness of the threat to M. margaritifera from illegal exploitation and to train volunteers in identifying and reporting pearl mussel crime.

The Riverwatch initiative was featured in a newspaper article on 21 April 2015. It reported how volunteers from Wester Ross are working with the police to protect the species along the west coast. This follows a spate of pearl fishing incidents reported in the area in 2014.

"Freshwater pearl mussels are protected by law and are a very important part of a river's habitat therefore it is vital we encourage members of the public to report any suspicious activity," noted Chief Inspector Colin Gough, Police Scotland Area Commander South Highland.

He said the police would continue to work in close partnership with the Pearls in Peril project by supporting their river patrols, and investigating any reports of this type of crime.

For more information on the project activities, please see the project website.

NCFF event indicates type of projects to be financed


18 May 2015An introductory event on the European Commission's (EC) new Natural Capital Financing Facility (NCFF) in Brussels on 8 May 2015 attracted a variety of participants. Launched in February this year, the new financial instrument will fund pro-biodiversity and pro-climate change adaptation projects across the EU.

Pia Bucella, Director of Natural Capital at DG Environment, and Humberto Delgado Rosa, Director of Mainstreaming Adaptation and Low Carbon Technology at DG CLIMA, introduced the event. Ms Bucella highlighted that an aim of the new financial instrument was, "to ensure better development and preservation of our natural capital," alongside traditional avenues such as the Common Agricultural Policy, regional funding and the LIFE programme.

Mr Delgado Rosa noted another key aspect of the NCFF, attracting the private sector to leverage the funding available for natural capital. "It won't be easy," he commented, "it's very innovative, there's a lot of learning to be done. But I'm sure it will be a success."

Laure Ledoux, Deputy Head of DG Environment's Biodiversity Unit, said, "there are emerging market opportunities for investment in natural capital projects." The market size could grow to between €73 million and €288 million by 2020, depending on annual growth rates. But she added that further support is needed for the market to reach its potential whilst also making, "optimal use of scarce public funds."

The NCFF event included presentations on natural capital and its importance, as well as the types of project the NCFF may finance. A large number of participants attended, representing private companies, industry associations, public authorities, NGOs, financial institutions and investment groups.

James Ranaivoson, Managerial Advisor in the European Investment Bank's (EIB) climate change and environment division, spoke about recent developments in the NCFF and the interest expressed so far, as well as giving details of the application process and eligibility criteria. Under the NCFF, the EIB will support projects through loans and investment in funds. The bank's contribution will total €100-€125 million for 2014-2017, whilst the EC will provide €50 million as a guarantee for the investments and €10 million for a support facility.

At the meeting, workshops were also held on four broad categories for potential projects: payments for ecosystem services; green infrastructure; biodiversity offsets; and innovative pro-biodiversity and adaptation investments. Within these workshops participants considered what projects might be eligible for NCFF, the role of different partners in developing and financing a project, and how projects could generate revenues or save costs.

More details about the NCFF instrument are available from the LIFE website, including, how to apply for funding.

Public consultation on birds and habitats directives

Birds and habitats directives

13 May 2015The European Commission is currently performing a ‘Fitness Check’ of the Birds Directive and the Habitats Directive — Directive 2009/147/EC and Council Directive 92/43/EEC respectively. In this context, it has launched a public online consultation.

As part of the Commission’s Smart Regulation policy, the Fitness Check is intended to verify the effectiveness, efficiency, coherence, relevance, and European added value of the directives in question. In particular, it will analyse successes and problems with regard to implementation and integration, related costs, opportunities for improving implementation and reducing administrative burden, and the state of play in the implementation in different EU countries, while taking the views of key stakeholder groups into consideration.

Additional information can be found on the Fitness Check webpage.

To find out how you can contribute, please visit the public consultation webpage or download detailed explanations here. The online questionnaire is available here. The consultation will remain open until 24 July 2015.

According to the indicative planning, the Commission report on the results of the Fitness Check is expected to be published in early 2016.

Innovative online seminar on wetland reconstruction opens

LIFE Albufera

08 May 2015The LIFE Albufera project (LIFE12 ENV/ES/000685) is running an innovative online seminar, entitled Constructed Wetlands: working with water for biodiversity. It  consists of a series of 11 videos featuring renowned international experts. The videos deal with different aspects of constructed wetlands management, including water, biodiversity and overall management issues and can be viewed on the project’s website, in English or Spanish.

Visitors to the online event are requested to provide feedback or ask questions by contacting the project’s communication manager:

The deadline for contributions is 24 May 2015. All of the information and answers will be published on the website and in the next edition of the LIFE project’s international newsletter.

The LIFE Albufera project is working to reconstruct three wetland areas in the Albufera Natural Park, next to the city of Valencia (Spain), with the aim of improving water quality, providing re-naturalised habitats and protecting bird species. It will demonstrate that implementing and managing artificial wetlands in natural sites can both improve water quality in compliance with the Water Framework Directive and contribute to improving the conservation status of habitats and biodiversity in compliance with the Habitats and Birds Directives.

For further information, visit the project website.

LIFE project presents new methodology for retrofitting buildings

LIFE10 ENV/ES/000439

05 May 2015The NEWsolutions4OLDHousing (LIFE10 ENV/ES/000439) project presented details of its methodology for the sustainable retrofitting of social housing at the Fifth Buildings Meeting (V Encuentro-edificación), held in the School of Building Construction at the Polytechnic University of Madrid on 24-26 March 2015. The theme of the meeting was integration and reactivity: key concepts in the efficient rehabilitation of high-density residential housing. The event was broadcast online and was the subject of a virtual congress for several weeks afterwards. 

Roberto Díaz, from the LIFE project’s coordinating beneficiary AITEMIN, talked about technological innovation for the efficient use of resources and energy in housing rehabilitation. In particular, he outlined how the NEWsolutions4OLDHousing project has identified new technologies, products and building systems for the retrofitting of social housing, and has developed an online tool to quantify and classify the sustainability of actions for retrofitting buildings.

Around 70% of Europeans live in buildings that are more than 20 years old. Renovations provide an opportunity to improve the performance of these buildings, in terms of energy efficiency and sustainability. For this to be done optimally all the relevant stakeholders need to understand the issues and what needs to be done.

The LIFE project, which started in September 2011 and runs until November this year, has been developing a standard methodology for the sustainable rehabilitation of social housing. This will serve as a tool to help all stakeholders work together to overcome existing barriers to the achievement of sustainable housing in the EU. The project is demonstrating, under real conditions, the feasibility of its methodology for retrofitting social housing, not only from a technical standpoint but also from economic, social and environmental perspectives. Sustainable construction, for instance, is a priority action in achieving EU objectives concerning climate change.

The project’s main outcomes, as noted at the meeting, are an inventory of innovative and sustainable construction techniques for the rehabilitation of social housing, and an online tool for applying the project’s new standard methodology to promote the best solutions for particular housing types. This will provide architects, builders, decision-makers and authorities with greater awareness and knowledge of the sustainable solutions for retrofitting old housing and reusing old materials.

For further information, visit the project's website:

Proceedings of LIFE woodpeckers conference published in scientific journal

Woodpecker Conference

05 May 2015The foreword to the 7th International Woodpeckers Conference Proceedings was recently published in the scientific journal Acta Ornithologica and is now available to download online.  The conference, which was organised by the Spanish LIFE project PRO-lzki (LIFE10 NAT/ES/000572), was held in Vitoria-Gasteiz in February 2014, attracting 110 experts from Europe, America and Asia.

The international conference, Woodpeckers in a Changing World, featured 22 presentations and 21 posters. The publication of the best papers in an international journal recognises the scientific value of the conference and helps publicise the actions and results of the LIFE project.

The PRO-lzki project was launched to improve the conservation status of the vast Pyrenean oak (Quercus pyrenaica) woodland of the Izki Natural Park, in the Basque Country, northern Spain. The project area is home to middle spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos medius), one of several species benefiting from the conservation measures coordinated by the Provincial Council of Álava and the Hazi Foundation under the project.

Though home to rare species, such as Bechstein's bat (Myotis bechsteinii) and the agile frog (Rana dalmatina), as well as large numbers of free ranging cattle and horses, the oak woods of the Izki Natural Park are threatened by the encroachment of acidophilic beech (Fagus sylvatica). The park also contains the Natura 2000 priority habitat, ‘depressions on peat substrates of the Rhynchosporion’.

The LIFE project tested a range of management practices to protect habitats on pilot sites covering 210 ha. For the oak, the aim was to increase seed regeneration and strengthen tree trunks in order to improve its resistance to the surrounding acidophilic beech. The project also aimed to create favourable nesting and feeding conditions over 50 ha for the middle spotted woodpecker.


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