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News: August 2016

Austria hosts international northern bald ibis symposium

Hope for the northern bald ibis

22 August 2016 The international symposium, Hope for the northern bald ibis was recently held in Seekirchen am Wallersee, Salzburg, Austria. The symposium addressed measures to prevent the extinction of the northern bald ibis (Geronticus eremita) species and to diminish threats to its conservation. The event was held in the context of successful ongoing research and reintroduction projects in Europe. The meeting also coincided with the publication of an international action plan for the bald ibis.

The aim is to downgrade its current high threat level on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species within ten years.  As a result of the meeting, further feasibility studies and habitat analysis will be carried out in parts of its former distribution areas.

The four-day meeting was organised by the LIFE project Northern Bald Ibis - Reason for Hope (LIFE12 BIO/AT/000143) from 4-7 August 2016 and it gathered around 40 scientists and wildlife conservation experts from 13 countries.

The LIFE project has brought together nine partners in three countries together to establish migratory breeding colonies in Germany and Austria, with a common wintering area in Tuscany, Italy. Monitoring and management is being carried out to reduce losses from illegal hunting. As previously reported, human-led northern bald ibis migration headed by members of the project team is a notable feature of LIFE Northern Bald Ibis project and it has generated media interest.

A ‘Reason for Hope’ campaign, moreover, is carrying out demonstrations across Europe, especially along the migration corridor, in order to further reduce losses and raise awareness of European migratory bird species in general.  

On the last day of the symposium, participants were able to observe 27 young ibises at the Seekirchen am Wallersee site. These birds migrate to Tuscany in the latter part of August to join a population of around a hundred individuals.

For further information, visit the project website.


New Slovenian LIFE project guide to resolving human-bear conflict

LIFE13 NAT/SI/000550

22 August 2016 The LIFE DinAlp Bear (LIFE13 NAT/SI/000550) project has published a guidebook for professionals aimed at promoting the co-existence of humans and brown bears (Ursus arctos), by resolving the problems that can occur when bears encounter human activities. Entitled A Guidebook to Human-Carnivore Conflict, it provides new tools and innovative strategies for the conservation and management of populations of brown bear and other large carnivores inhabiting human-modified landscapes.

The guidebook offers practical tips for effective communication and for building partnerships between the people who live and work in areas with large carnivores. It is available in five languages (Slovenian, English, Croatian, Italian and German), and can be accessed online.

The guidebook was written by Dr. Seth Wilson, a technical advisor to the project, who collated input from all the project partners, bear-damage inspectors, and bear emergency intervention teams. A key message running through the guidebook is that positive working relationships among wildlife managers, local communities and other stakeholders are fundamental for the prevention and reduction of human-carnivore conflict.

LIFE DinAlp Bear aims to establish a strategic territorial approach to the conservation, management, and monitoring of brown bear populations in Slovenia. The project is also working on practical measures to decrease human-bear conflicts, such as reducing livestock predation and damage to beehives, reducing traffic-related mortality and reducing habitat fragmentation (e.g. by building green bridges), and raising awareness of the bears’ socioeconomic and environmental value (e.g. by promoting eco-tourism and ‘bear-friendly’ products). The ultimate goal is to encourage the natural expansion of brown bear from the Dinaric Mountains into the Alps. To this end, the coordinating beneficiary - the Slovenia Forest Service - is working with partners in Slovenia, Austria, Croatia and Italy. Further information about LIFE DinAlp Bear can be found on the project’s website.

The LIFE programme has funded numerous projects across Europe that have demonstrated ways to manage conflict between large carnivores and human populations. To find out more, see the LIFE Focus publication LIFE and human coexistence with large carnivores.

Italy launches online environmental Knowledge Platform

Knowledge Platform

12 August 2016 The Italian Ministry of Environment, Land and Sea (Directorate for Sustainable Development, Environmental Damage, European Union and International Affairs) has produced a Knowledge Platform, which serves as a valuable online resource for sharing best environmental practices and climate-related techniques and approaches.

The European Commission has funded or co-funded many significant projects through a range of programmes, including LIFE, and these have demonstrated a wide variety of innovative environmental methodologies. They have moreover contributed to the knowledge base for implementing EU legislation as well as informing policy-making.

The Knowledge Platform was set up to provide opportunities for those who have developed good practices, and thus added to this knowledge base, to network with potential replicators. The platform is aimed at all public and private entities that plan to invest in the environment, using replicable methods, techniques and models that have already been tested at the local level.

The online resource is linked to the portal of the Italian Ministry of Environment, which contains the technical detail of these good practices and their impact. Information is divided into a range of subject areas: waste; nature; biodiversity; water; urban environment; climate; energy; and soil and efficient use of resources. The website features a section on national and EU environmental legislation, and one on funding programmes that provide grants for environmental and climate-related actions. The platform will also allow visitors to stay informed about the latest environmental technologies in key areas.

The main focus, however, is the transfer of good practices, promoting proven solutions that can be easily implemented by local and regional authorities and research institutes. The goal is to ensure that investments have the maximum environmental impact and that initiatives are well coordinated. The platform also aims to encourage private-public partnerships and raise awareness of key issues across all sections of society.

Bulgarian LIFE project releases ten Lesser Kestrel

Photo:LIFE11 NAT/BG/000360

11 August 2016 On 5 July 2016, Ivelina Vasileva, the Bulgarian Minister of the Environment and Waters, visited the Lesser Kestrel Recovery (LIFE11 NAT/BG/000360) project centre  to see first-hand the final preparations for the release of ten young lesser kestrel (Falco naumanni) into the mountainous Sakar region in south-eastern Bulgaria.

The batch of ten chicks was the last of this year’s hatched Lesser Kestrel taking part in the adaptation and release module in the village of Levka, in the Svilengrad municipality.

“The Lesser Kestrel is included in Bulgaria’s Red Book in the category “Critically endangered species”. This is why the project for reproducing these birds is very useful. It is directly financed by the European Commission, and was entered in the Commission’s classification as one of the best managed,” Minister Vasileva said.

As previously reported, every year, the successful project releases young birds, some of them – notably the ten just released – hatched in the project beneficiary Green Balkans’ Wildlife Rehabilitation and Breeding Centre. There were 61 young birds released in 2016.

The objective of the Lesser Kestrel Recovery project is to support and strengthen the population of this globally-endangered species in Bulgaria, through direct conservation actions and awareness-raising activities. A key action, involving the collaboration of captive breeding centres in Spain and Bulgaria, was the establishment of a colony of Lesser Kestrel in the Sakar Natura 2000 network site in Bulgaria. After just one year, in April 2014, the first introduced bird returned from Africa and mated.

To find out more about Lesser Kestrel Recovery, visit the project website.   

LIFE HUELLAS releases footprint calculator for railway construction

Photo:LIFE12 ENV/ES/000686

09 August 2016 The LIFE HUELLAS (LIFE12 ENV/ES/000686)  project has released a publically-accessible version of its footprint calculator for the construction of railways. The tool is available from the project’s website:

The LIFE HUELLAS project consortium is led by Fundacion CARTIF in partnership with the companies VIAS Y CONSTRUCCIONES and IK-Ingeniería, and the University of Granada. The project aims to reduce the carbon and water footprint of rail infrastructure, by 10% and 5% respectively, by developing decision-making tools and methodologies for use during railway construction.

The construction of railway infrastructure, which accounts for around 28% of the carbon emissions attributed to rail transport, involves a multitude of decisions from planning to execution. The project is therefore reviewing and analysing the environmental and social impacts of every stage in the construction process, using Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) and Social LCA (SLCA) techniques. The footprint calculator is based on a series of environmental impact and social indicators developed by the project, which are also being made available in a best practices manual. The project’s tools will enable railway construction companies to combine environmental, economic and social analysis to enhance the sustainability of their activities.

Further information on the LIFE HUELLAS project is available on its website and through its newsletters Issue no. 5 of the newsletter is dedicated to the new LIFE HUELLAS footprint calculator .

Dogs deployed in Réunion to support petrel conservation efforts

Photo: LIFE13 BIO/FR/000075

05 August 2016 A LIFE project aiming to reverse the decline of two species of critically endangered seabirds on the French outermost region (ORs) in the Indian Ocean island of Réunion has enlisted some four-legged support – a dog called LIFE and his fellow canine Lancelot.

Experts from the LIFE+ Pétrels project (LIFE13 BIO/FR/000075) have acquired the pair of dogs to help monitor and protect the native population of Barau’s petrels (Pterodroma baraui) and Mascarene petrels (Pseudobulweria aterrima), whose preferred nesting sites are in elevated positions difficult for humans to access.

These remote habitats help to explain biologists’ incomplete understanding of the nesting and breeding habits of the petrels. Deploying the two dogs to identify the birds’ burrowing sites will help the project team to identify breeding colonies, monitor the progress of chicks and limit as far as possible the intrusion of feral cats and rats that have been responsible over decades for the precipitous decline in petrel numbers.

The two young dogs are being trained to seek out the location of petrel burrows, using rags impregnated with the birds’ scent. This approach follows previous successful efforts in other parts of the world to deploy dogs to help identify and protect seabirds.

The dogs’ agility and fearlessness is expected to provide the project team with a major breakthrough in understanding the mysterious nesting habits of the Mascarene petrel, and the dogs have already helped to locate several undiscovered Barau’s petrel burrows.

LIFE+ Petrels is a six-year project running until July 2020. The project, whose main beneficiary is Réunion National Park, aims to reverse the catastrophic decline in the petrel population on Réunion through a greater understanding of the birds’ habits and the development of appropriate conservation techniques. Half of the project’s €3.1 million budget is provided by the LIFE programme.

Introduced predators and light pollution – which causes many immature birds to become disoriented in flight – are blamed for the perilous conservation status of the two species.

The project also attaches great importance to the dissemination of lessons learned and the engagement of the community and stakeholders on the island to create a coalition of support for the preservation of these symbols of Réunion’s unique biodiversity.


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