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News: July 2016

FRESh LIFE's remote-sensing drones in action at forest open days

Photo: LIFE14 ENV/IT/000414

27 July 2016FRESh LIFE (LIFE14 ENV/IT/000414) demonstration flights of data-collecting drones is raising awareness of Forest Information Systems  (FIS) in Italy. The project has recently demonstrated the use of drones for monitoring forests at one-day events in three regions: Rincine (Florence) in Tuscany (13 May 2016), Lago di Vico (Viterbo) in Lazio (27 May 2016), and Bosco Pennataro (Isernia) in Molise (29 June 2016).

The main objectives of the FRESh LIFE project are to demonstrate the technical and economic feasibility of integrating data collected from forest inventories with information obtained from remote-sensing, and to use this approach in the development of FIS and indicators to help forest managers evaluate sustainable forest management practices. To this end, drones equipped with LiDAR and very-high spatial resolution multispectral sensors are being used to acquire remote sensing data over the three demonstration areas. The integrated data will be analysed to map forest variables useful for describing both qualitative and quantitative forest characteristics at the operational scale of forest management.

All three demonstration events followed a common programme. In the morning, Prof. Gherardo Chirici, the LIFE project manager, introduced the aims of the project, the project partnership, and the drones. Participants then entered the forests, where the drone pilots described the characteristics of the two drone vehicles used: a fixed-wing eBee with multispectral sensors and an octocopter with LIDAR sensors. The morning session ended with a demonstration flight of the drones to collect some sample data. In the afternoon, the project team showed how the sample data collected by the drones can be processed and integrated with forest inventory data. With up to 90 people attending each event, including students, public officials, researchers and technicians, the project team was satisfied with the high level of interest in adopting new technologies within the forestry sector.

According to Andrea Barzagli of the Laboratory of Forest Geomatics in Florence: “FRESh LIFE contributes to ensuring repeatability and reproducibility of forest mapping procedures at EU level, so that methodologies and products are consistent with the activities of the European Forest Data Centre (EFDAC) and with the Forest Information System for Europe (FISE). The demonstration activities in Tuscany, Lazio and Molise are easily replicated in different biological, social and economic contexts.”

For further information on FRESh LIFE, see the project website.

European bison releases creating a viable wild population in Romania

Photo: LIFE14 NAT/NL/000987

25 July 2016On Saturday, 11 June 2016, the LIFE RE-Bison project (LIFE14 NAT/NL/000987) released ten European bison (Bison bonasus) or wisent in the Țarcu mountains in southwestern Romania. The animals had travelled from zoos and wildlife centres in Belgium and Germany. LIFE project beneficiary Rewilding Europe and project partner WWF Romania have released bison here on two previous occasions - in 2014 and 2015 - in cooperation with the local communities of Armeniș and Fenes. The aim of the LIFE RE-Bison project is to create a genetically- and demographically-viable wild European bison population in Romania.

The introduced animals will be among the first European bison to roam freely in the Carpathian mountain range in 200 years. The European bison, the continent’s largest wild land mammal, was hunted to near-extinction by 1927, but breeding and reintroduction efforts in central and eastern Europe have slowly enabled populations to recover. LIFE RE-Bison will continue its reintroduction programme for at least five more years. The project is also working to create new economic opportunities based around bison, to reduce conflicts between bison and existing rural economic activities, and to increase public awareness and interest in the conservation of European bison.

“These are the first ten out of at least 100 European bison that we will release here during the coming five years,” says Frans Schepers, Managing Director of Rewilding Europe. “We are extremely grateful to the zoos and the wildlife parks for providing animals and for the generous support to make this possible.”

The ten bison were released into a 15 ha acclimatisation area. Later this summer, they will enter the adjacent rewilding zone of 150 ha before joining the other freely-roaming bison. The project aims to establish a viable population of at least 193 European bison by 2020, rising to an estimated 300 by 2024. This represents a substantial contribution to its conservation in Europe, as laid out in the IUCN Species Action Plan for the European bison.

The introduced bison will become a fully-integrated part of the natural ecosystem in the 59 000 ha Țarcu Mountains Natura 2000 network site, where they will play an important ecological role. “The bison have a huge positive impact on the habitat they roam,” says Adrian Hagatis, the team leader of the rewilding initiative in the southern Carpathians. “They help keep a mosaic landscape and maintain ecological corridors. Rewilding is a tool to help nature heal itself.”

The LIFE RE-Bison project is part of a larger rewilding initiative in Romania. Rewilding Europe and WWF Romania are working together to create one of the largest contiguous wild areas in Europe, involving three million hectares across the southwestern Carpathian mountain range. This will help connect various protected areas, including six Natura 2000 sites.

Further information about the LIFE project can be found on the Rewilding Europe website.

Eight Maltese marine Natura 2000 network sites announced

Josè Herrera, the Maltese Minister of the Environment

20 July 2016Malta has announced its first eight marine Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for birds within the Natura 2000 network, giving seabirds full protection on land and at sea. The announcement was made by Josè Herrera, the Maltese Minister of the Environment, at a conference organised by BirdLife Malta to close the LIFE+ Malta Seabird Project (LIFE10 NAT/MT/000090).

The project’s research team created an inventory of the most important sites (marine Important Bird Areas - IBAs) frequented by three seabird species – Yelkouan shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan), Cory’s shearwater (Calonectris diomedea) European storm petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus) – ahead of their legal protection as designated marine SPAs.

In a video message to the conference, Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, praised the project as a cause for celebration and a perfect example of the value of collaboration. The five-year project was carried out by BirdLife Malta together with UK and Portuguese BirdLife Partners (RSPB and SPEA) and the Maltese Ministry for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change.

The conference, which was held on 28 June 2016 in Ċirkewwa, was an opportunity to present the results of the LIFE Malta Seabird project. Nicholas Barbara, the project manager, gave a detailed overview of the research work undertaken, which built on the achievements of the LIFE Yelkouan Shearwater project.
The new SPAs will improve the conservation of all three protected and declining seabird species: Yelkouan shearwaters at Garnija, Cory’s shearwaters at Ċiefa and European storm petrels at Kanġu ta’ Filfla. The protection is internationally important, given that the Maltese Islands are home to 10% of the global population of Yelkouan shearwaters, 3% of Cory’s shearwaters and 50% of the Mediterranean subspecies of European storm petrels (Hydrobates pelagicus melitensis).

The Birds Directive establishes a network of SPAs across Europe to protect the natural habitats of endangered and migratory species. All three of the project’s target seabird species are listed in Annex I of the directive, and as a result, Member States are required to designate SPAs to ensure their survival. EU governments designate the SPAs based on IBAs recognised by BirdLife International, as these are scientifically scrutinised findings of key bird areas. Malta is one of the few countries in the EU to grant legal protection to all of its marine IBAs.

The Maltese government will now implement management plans for the SPAs and carry out monitoring to ensure their continued good condition and suitability as habitats for the birds. BirdLife Malta recently launched a follow-up project, LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija (LIFE14 NAT/MT/991) to complement the outcomes of the first two and secure the Maltese Islands for the Yelkouan shearwater.

Upcycling breakthrough for Spanish LIFE project EXTRUCLEAN

Photo:LIFE13 ENV/ES/000067

18 July 2016The LIFE EXTRUCLEAN project (LIFE13 ENV/ES/000067) has developed an innovative process to remove hazardous substances from plastic waste. This represents a good example of upcycling: creating a higher quality recycled material. This type of upcycling is particularly relevant to the new EU Circular Economy Package (December 2015), which prioritises approaches that address hazardous substances.

AIMPLAS coordinates the Spanish LIFE project, in collaboration with AIDIMA, ARVET, ACTECO and Enplast. They recently announced that their new decontamination technology eliminates 70% more hazardous substances from plastic waste than the main conventional process.

The conventional process for removing hazardous substances from plastic waste utilises a triple washing and drying method that requires large amounts of water, cleaning agents and energy, and produces a large volume of wastewater. In addition, the recycled plastic obtained is generally of low value.

The new technique developed by the LIFE EXTRUCLEAN project is innovative because it uses supercritical carbon dioxide (sc-CO2) in the extrusion phase of the plastic recycling process. This technique was optimised in the laboratory to eliminate hazardous substances from plastic waste packaging that had been contaminated by its contents (such as solvents).

In addition to producing a higher-quality recycled plastic, compared to conventional methods the new process reduces both labour time and the consumption of water and energy, as it eliminates the need for two of the three washing and drying stages. The recycled plastic will be used in containers for hazardous substances, thereby closing the life cycle for this type of recycled plastic.

The task ahead for the final part of this innovative LIFE project will be to upscale the technology to an industrial level, and to validate the material for commercial use.

To find out more about LIFE EXTRUCLEAN, visit the project’s website.

LIFEnews N°6/ 2016

LIFEnews 06/2016

15 July 2016This edition of LIFEnews turns the spotlight on a recent LIFE platform meeting in Manchester on water pressures in urban areas.

The first article sets the context for the meeting and identifies some of its key outcomes.

The second article looks at the potential for a 'step change' in water management through LIFE Integrated Projects.


Download this issue >>

New resources for LIFE project applicants


08 July 2016The LIFE programme has made a host of new resources available for potential applicants for LIFE funding.

One of the most significant is a new partner search page on the LIFE website. This resource collates links to existing partner search facilities, relevant social media groups and the National Contact Points for the LIFE programme.

On 17 June 2016, the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME) organised an international Information Day in Brussels to give advice on how to prepare and submit a successful LIFE proposal. Videos and other useful material from the Information Day are available here.

Potential applicants should also regularly check the 2016 LIFE funding FAQs to ensure they have the most up-to-date information before submitting their application. The LIFE programme advises potential applicants to subscribe to the LIFE website’s RSS feed and to the digital newsletter, LIFEnews.


Seabirds prosper as LIFE project makes islands rat-free

Photo: LIFE11 NAT/UK/000387

05 July 2016In good news for seabirds, St Agnes and Gugh in the Isles of Scilly were officially declared rat-free in February 2016 following a thorough month-long inspection two years after the last signs of rat activity were spotted. The Isles of Scilly are an archipelago off the southwestern tip of the UK. Since the rats were removed target seabird populations have shown an immediate response.  

“This is fantastic news for the seabirds of Scilly,” said Sarah Mason, CEO of Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust, which looks after most of the land on which the seabirds breed. She notes that land management work is now more important than ever, “we must ensure that habitats across the islands are suitable for our iconic seabirds so that they can be enjoyed by future generations.”

Led by the LIFE project Scilly rat removal (LIFE11 NAT/UK/000387), the rat-free declaration is a landmark achievement for this community-led project and it is one that has gained coverage in national and specialist media channels. The Scilly rat removal project  saw local volunteers work with conservationists to successfully rid their islands of the rats that were killing seabirds.

Brown rats (Rattus norvegicus) arrived on the islands in the 18th century following several shipwrecks. The population of rats grew and became harmful to the burrow-nesting seabirds that lived on the islands, including European storm petrels (Hydrobates pelagicus) and Manx shearwaters (Puffinus puffinus). The rats would attack the eggs and helpless young of nesting seabirds on the islands. With numbers of these species declining since the 1980s the removal of the rats was essential to the protection of the seabirds and thus a key goal for the LIFE project.

The overall purpose of the project is to maintain and enhance the conservation value of the Isles of Scilly Natura 2000 network site by removing brown rats from two key islands. Besides the main target species - the storm petrel and the Manx shearwater - the project is likely to benefit many other bird species, including the puffin (Fratercula arctica) and the Annex I, Birds Directive-listed species common tern (Sterna hirundo) and kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla).

Work began in 2013 with an intensive six-month operation to monitor rat activity on the islands. Over 30 local volunteers helped find rat nests and signs of activity. This information was used to create a strategy for eradicating the rat population, with an intensive programme of baiting and poisoning for a month during the winter of 2013. By the end of the month the last evidence of rats was observed. Treatment and community projects continued, but no further rat activity was detected. The specialists returned at the beginning of the year to check for any signs that rats might still be present on the islands. Having completed this follow-up survey St Agnes and Gugh now meet the international criteria to be declared rat-free.

Since the removal of the rat population, the project team has observed both Manx shearwaters European storm petrels successfully breeding on the islands for the first time in living memory, with over 40 chicks being recorded on the islands in the last two years.

“Getting to this stage is a fantastic achievement and everyone involved is delighted that the islands are now officially rat free. This and the recovery of the seabirds so early on, is testament to the hard work of the team and the 100% support from the local community. We look forward to continuing to work with the community for the next two years of the project and beyond,” says Jaclyn Pearson from the RSPB, the organisation coordinating the project.

Project supervisor Paul St Pierre, RSPB concludes that: “St Agnes and Gugh have provided an excellent training ground for a generation of conservationists who can now use their skills on similar projects in the UK  and elsewhere around the world.”

The Scilly rat removal project has benefitted from essential support from EU LIFE and the Heritage Lottery Fund as well as local organisations. For more details visit the project website.

Captured carbon dioxide used to lower pH of seawater in power plant

Photo: LIFE08 NAT/UK/000202

01 July 2016Experts working on a LIFE project in Spain have welcomed initial test results that show injections of carbon dioxide (CO2) gas can lower the pH of seawater used as a cooling agent in combined-cycle power plants.

Using CO2 captured from the flues of a Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) plant in Castellón, eastern Spain, the project team successfully showed that their new gas injection system can effectively reduce the pH of seawater in the cooling circuit.

The ultimate goal of the CO2FORMARE project (LIFE13 ENV/ES/000426) is to capture carbon dioxide and use it to slightly acidify water in the cooling circuit to inhibit the damaging accumulation of organisms in the system. The use of seawater to cool combined cycle power plants typically leads to biofouling – growth of flora and fauna on surfaces – which can be micro- or macro-fouling, depending on the size of the organisms. In the case of CCGT plants, the biofouling can grow in the plant’s pipes, causing blockages. This fouling is normally treated with chemicals such as sodium hypochlorite (NaOCl), with a typical power plant using up to 1 500 tonnes annually.

CO2FORMARE therefore hopes to save as much as 4 500 tonnes of the compound over three years. Additionally, by recycling carbon dioxide from local industrial sources to inject into the seawater circuit, the project aims to save 50 000 tonnes of emissions annually, thereby saving money and contributing to climate change mitigation.
The three-and-a-half year project focuses on the Iberdrola combined-cycle gas turbine plant at Castellón, which relies on seawater as a coolant. The plant is operated by Iberdrola Generación, part of Spain’s largest energy group, which is the beneficiary of this €4 million project – almost half of whose budget comes from the LIFE programme.

Combined-cycle power plants use gas and steam turbines together to produce up to 50% more electricity from the same fuel than a single-cycle plant. The waste heat from the gas turbine is routed to the nearby steam turbine, generating extra power.

Encouraged by the initial test outcome, the CO2FORMARE team now hope to show that deploying CO2 in this way can eliminate the problem of biofouling and also make a major contribution to the circular economy.


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