30 June 2016The release of a male brown bear (Ursus arctos) in the Pyrenees should help to broaden the genetic diversity of the species in the region and ensure its long-term survival, according to experts leading the LIFE project PIROSLIFE (LIFE13 NAT/ES/001394).
The bear, whose age is estimated between nine and ten, was released into the Parc Naturel de l’Alt Pirineu in northwest Catalonia as the latest step in efforts to re-establish the presence of the species in the Pyrenees. The animal, which was given the name Goiat, meaning young man in the local dialect, was relocated from Slovenia and released back into the wild on the evening of 6 June 2016.
The PIROSLIFE team hopes Goiat, weighing just over 200 kg, will challenge the genetic dominance of Pyros, another adult male introduced from Slovenia to the Pyrenees in 1997.
Although Pyros was one of seven adult males in the project area prior to Goiat’s arrival, all but one of them are his direct descendants. This lack of genetic variety has caused some concern among the experts coordinating the project, who are hoping that Goiat will mate with some of the ten females of reproductive age, thereby making the brown bear communities more sustainable and resistant to disease.
A nine-strong team from PIROSLIFE managed Goiat’s release. The bear was tagged on both ears and fitted with a collar fitted with a GPS transmitter so that his movements, behaviour and eventual mating can be monitored remotely.
PIROSLIFE was developed to support the repopulation of the Pyrenees with brown bears and to coordinate stakeholder activity so as to maximise the chances of the bears’ survival.
In the mid 1990s the brown bear was about to become extinct in the Pyrenees, with only a remnant population remaining in the Atlantic area, between France and Spain - in Navarra and Aragon. The extinction would have represented, among other things, the loss of a key species with fundamental importance in the ecosystem. Therefore, during the latter half of the decade a LIFE project (LIFE96 NAT/F/004794) was developed coordinated between France and Spain. The main objective was to make a pilot experience. They released three bears in the central Pyrenees to assess their environmental adaptation and test methods of translocation.
Since the reintroduction began, the bear population has fragmented, so the project focuses in particular on reducing the animals’ isolation by developing ecological connectivity to encourage mixing – and hopefully, in Goiat’s case, mating. PIROSLIFE is also working with authorities on both sides of the French-Spanish border to coordinate efforts to protect the bears and preserve their habitats.
Eliminating bear attacks on livestock and apiaries is also prioritised by the project team, which is working to secure support from landowners and other stakeholders to promote the bear population as an asset and a platform for eco-tourism in the region.
You can stay up-to-date with the latest news on the LIFE project’s website.
29 June 2016The latest LIFE Nature platform meeting took place from 15-17 June 2016. The theme of the meeting was the restoration of sand dune habitats, both coastal and inland. The event was jointly hosted by PWN, Natuurmonumentun and waternet in the Dutch coastal town of Zandvoort. This gave delegates the opportunity to visit one of two nearby LIFE sand dune restoration projects, Amsterdam Dunes (LIFE11 NAT/NL/000776) or the Dutch dune revival (LIFE09 NAT/NL/000418).
More than 80 conservation experts, scientists and policymakers from 15 EU Member States took part in the meeting, which brought together projects focusing on the restoration of coastal and inland dune habitats as part of the Natura 2000 biogeographical process for the Atlantic Biogeographical Region. The biogeographic process is a practical framework for networking and knowledge building at the biogeographical level. It aims to make management, financing of and reporting on the Natura 2000 network more coherent.
There are strong links between the Natura 2000 biogeographical process and LIFE projects in developing and disseminating best practice. In recent years LIFE projects have been at the forefront of developing new approaches to enhance sand dynamics (‘rejuvenating’) and restore dune habitats.
In the opening session of the meeting, João Silva from the LIFE Communications Team (Neemo) noted that there have been 172 sand dune restoration projects funded by LIFE since 1992. These have involved more than 250 Natura 2000 network sites across six biogeographical regions and 21 Member States – a total investment of more than 220 million euros.
Mr Silva explained that it is possible to identify common best practices from the work of these projects. These include actions to prevent erosion and promote accretion (such as fencing and beach nourishment), actions to restore vegetation on eroding dunes, actions to modify trends in succession (such as the removal of invasive plant species), and actions to manage people’s access to dunes (such as signage and walkways).
More than a dozen LIFE projects presented lessons from their work during the platform meeting. In addition to the host projects, these included projects from Denmark (REDCOHA-LIFE – LIFE12 NAT/DK/001073), Poland (LIFE MILITARY HABITATS PL – LIFE12 NAT/PL/000031), Sweden (SandLIFE – LIFE11 NAT/SE/000849), Belgium (Most-Keiheuvel – LIFE11 NAT/001061 – Life Together – LIFE12 NAT/B/001098 – and HELVEX-LIFE – LIFE13 NAT/BE/000074), Finland (Light & Fire – LIFE13 NAT/FI/000099), Spain (LIFE+ ARCOS – LIFE13 NAT/ES/000883) and the Netherlands (Wuthering heaths – LIFE10 NAT/NL/000023). The Life FLANDRE project (LIFE12 NAT/B/000631) demonstrated the benefits of cross-border cooperation for the sand dune habitats of the Belgian coast and neighbouring parts of France. In addition, delegates heard from Sue Rees of Natural England about how the UK is developing a dune restoration programme in line with England’s Priority Action Framework (PAF) for the Natura 2000 network funded by LIFE IPENS (LIFE11 NAT/UK/000384). Juris Jatnieks from the Latvian Nature Conservation Agency explained how Latvia’s LIFE PAF project, NAT-PROGRAMME (LIFE11 NAT/LV/000371) has helped the country restore coastal dunes as part of a national conservation and management programme for Natura 2000 sites in Latvia.
Introducing day 2 of the meeting, Angelo Salsi, Head of the LIFE & CIP Eco-Innovation Unit, EASME, European Commission, highlighted the importance of a scientific underpinning to habitat conservation work. The science of sand dune restoration was outlined in presentations by Annemieke Kooijman of the University of Amsterdam (on the nitrogen problem) and Maike Isermann of the University of Bremen (on invasive alien species in coastal dunes).
Workshops leading to a dune roadmap
The meeting then split into three workshops. Two of these were designed to contribute to the development of national dune management programmes. The first workshop focused on challenges with rejuvenation and dynamics in inland and coastal dunes; the second examined challenges and experiences with grassland habitats in inland and coastal dunes. A third workshop set about ‘drawing up a roadmap for the Atlantic Biogeographical Process’.
The results of the workshops will be used to present a ‘Dune roadmap’ for 2016-2020. Participants are also jointly developing a dune networking calendar for the same time period.
“This meeting was really important for us to be involved with, and we are very pleased to have it as part of the process,” said Neil McIntosh from ECNC, the lead contractor supporting the development and implementation of the Natura 2000 biogeographical process. “It will feed in to the Atlantic biogeographical regional seminar, in Ireland from the 25-27 October. Networking events such as these are important stepping stones in a long-term, continuing process.”
Participants confirm value
Others taking part in the platform meeting confirmed its usefulness. For instance, Katy Owen from Norfolk County Council, a sub-regional authority in England, said: “I came to this meeting because we are very interested in working with other Member States to really improve both the current management and future sustainability of sand dunes in our area. This was really an opportunity to come and meet representatives from other successful LIFE projects, particularly from Belgium and the Netherlands and France and work out how we can forge some partnerships in future to get the most out of our shared interest.”
‘Nacho’ Alonso Felpete a researcher from the University of Oviedo in Spain who is working on the LIFE+ ARCOS project said the meeting was “an opportunity to share knowledge with other projects which are now going on. I found it very interesting.”
More information about the meeting is available from the LIFE events page.
28 June 2016The LIFE FutureForCoppiceS (LIFE14 ENV/IT/000514) project organised a successful workshop in Arezzo, Italy on 25 May 2016 at the institute of the coordinating beneficiary CREA – Forestry Research Centre. The main topics covered were methods for the sustainable management of coppice forests in southern Europe and the definition of Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) indicators.
Coppicing is a traditional management practice that provides a wide range of forest ecosystem goods and services. The practice is currently undergoing a renaissance in part due to its role in protecting biodiversity and producing feedstock for renewable bioenergy.
The event, which was sponsored by the Italian Society of Silviculture and Forest Ecology (SISEF) and the Regional Federation of Agronomy and Forestry in Abruzzo (ODAF), was attended by over 100 people, including researchers, forest managers and technicians from various regions, and representatives of trade associations.
At the workshop, project manager Andrea Cutini demonstrated the use of 39 SFM indicators for producing forest ecosystem goods and services, including new indicators developed by the LIFE FutureForCoppiceS project. Marco Marchetti, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Molise and President of SISEF, presented an analysis of the state of coppice forests in southern Europe and the opportunities and challenges involved in defining standards for forest ecosystem goods and services; while Angelo Mariano, from the Italian State Forestry Corps (CFS), outlined critical issues relating to the international reporting for coppice. All the workshop presentations are available to download.
One of the workshop sessions gathered a range of past and ongoing LIFE projects involved in different aspects of forest ecosystem goods and services and involved the ManFor C.BD., FRESh LIFE, RESILFORMED and LIFE SMART4Action projects.
The workshop consolidated knowledge of coppice forests and their manifold intrinsic values, and provided an opportunity for participants to study, discuss and propose solutions on an important topic for forestry policy in the Mediterranean basin. Considerable progress has been made in recent decades to harmonise definitions and indicators relating to forestry. However, the workshop found that the definition and the application of appropriate indicators for the sustainable management of coppice could be improved through a more thorough analysis of the available data. The participants proposed to systematise the most relevant results and good practice from the various LIFE projects working in this area, to offer policymakers a broader decision-support tool.
The LIFE FutureForCoppiceS project is demonstrating the value of different SFM approaches and indicators for coppice forests, which cover around 23 million ha in the Mediterranean area (including about 3.7 million ha in Italy). The project partners are the Universities of Florence and Sassari, Fondazione Edmund Mach, Sardinian Forest Agency, and Tuscany Regional Land Authority.
For more about FuturesForCoppiceS, visit the project’s website: http://www.futureforcoppices.eu/
27 June 2016The mid-term evaluation of the LIFE Programme is now open. Everyone, citizens, organisations and public authorities alike, are welcome to contribute to this consultation, which runs until 9 August 2016.
In line with the requirements of Article 27 § 2 of the LIFE Regulation the European Commission has decided to carry out an external and independent mid-term evaluation to assess the LIFE programme, its types of interventions, its implementation and its results so far in order to facilitate evidence-based decision-making.
The mid-term evaluation is also in line with the Better Regulation Guidelines. The results will form the basis for a Staff Working Document and a second Multi-Annual Working Programme (MAWP) for the implementation of the LIFE Programme in 2018-2020.
To participate, simply complete the short online questionnaire. Received contributions will be published online and can be submitted in any official EU language.
23 June 2016Members of the LIFE Energy (LIFE13/NAT/SK/001272) project team acted promptly to save a group of 17 young European ground squirrel or suslik (Spermophilus citellus) that were close to death following heavy rains at the Muránska planina Natura 2000 network site (SPA) in Slovakia. The suslik is listed in Annex II of the Habitats Directive due to declining numbers, and this area is home to the largest population in Slovakia.
“Wet and dying animals were found flooded out of the burrows. Seeing this, we almost broke into tears,” says Ervín Hapl from coordinating beneficiary Raptor Protection of Slovakia. “We gathered the poor animals, dried them, fed them, and kept them in a safe place for some time before releasing them back to the wild.”
The LIFE Energy project is working to increase the number of suslik in Natura 2000 network sites in Slovakia. This will also further its wider objective of supporting the populations of ten bird species listed in Annex I of the Birds Directive, including Saker falcon (Falco cherrug), eastern imperial eagle (Aquila heliaca) and lesser-spotted eagle (Aquila pomarina). The suslik is an important prey species of these target raptor species. The ground squirrel used to be common in Slovakia, but has become rare because of the loss of favourable grassland habitat.
“This case confirmed the importance of conservation measures implemented to improve the population of suslik in Slovakia,” explains Lucia Deutschová, LIFE Energy’s project manager. “Two sites are being restored by proper management practices in order to save the local suslik population from extinction and improve conditions to make both populations stable. In one of these sites, the suslik population was almost extinct and the measures started just in time.”
LIFE Energy is also working with electricity companies to reduce bird mortality on power lines. For further information and all the latest news , visit the project’s website.
22 June 2016The LIFE MedGreenRoof project (LIFE12ENV/MT/000732) celebrated a real milestone with the opening of its demonstration green roof in Malta. While the benefits of green roofs in making buildings more energy efficient are known, most of the technology on green roofs is influenced by north European experiences, especially in terms of plant selection. The MedGreenRoof’s demonstration roof is unique in that it was designed specifically for the Mediterranean climate.
Green roofs are gaining in popularity in many countries but awareness-raising work is still needed, especially in areas where the technology tends to be frowned upon because of popular misconceptions regarding possible leaks or the ability for plants to survive in arid environmental conditions. The launch event, which took place on 25 May 2016 at the University of Malta, was therefore aimed at changing people’s attitude by showing Maltese architects, designers, students and the general public what a green roof adapted to the local climate would look like and what benefits it can bring.
As the project team pointed out, due to the increasing building activity in many areas of Malta, the availability of green space is reducing. Green roofs can provide peaceful and pleasant places for people to relax in and spaces for children to play and observe nature. Furthermore, the insulation properties of green roofs can help save on energy costs by cooling the living space beneath in summer and keeping it warmer in winter. Green roofs also have the potential to mitigate problems that often affect urban areas such as air pollution, flooding and high ambient temperatures.
The MedGreenRoof project, which was launched in November 2013 and will run until 2017, initially involved research into how green roofs would perform in the Mediterranean climate, as little information was available on the subject. There were no models or technical information to encourage and guide those interested in the technology to go through the expense of installing a green roof. Researchers at the University of Malta therefore focused on two fundamental aims. Firstly, they looked into identifying what type of planting media should be used in Mediterranean green roofs. Secondly, they investigated suitable plants that could survive the sometimes harsh conditions. Green roofs in Malta are very exposed environments and plants have to be adapted to resist high wind exposure and high solar radiation.
The research findings aided the construction and planting of the demonstration garden. In Malta roofs are generally flat which means that roof slabs of reinforced or prefabricated concrete need little or no structural modification to sustain a green roof, unless intensive green roofs are being considered.
The project also worked on establishing a baseline study on different aspects of green roofs to make the technology easily replicable. The project is currently focusing on understanding how green roofs perform in different climatic conditions within the Mediterranean context. A similar demonstration roof has been constructed in Northern Italy as part of the project.
The demonstration green roof is now open to the public during the week to illustrate the benefits of green roof technology. It will also be used to test the insulation and flood mitigation properties of green roofs in the local context.
20 June 2016Three LIFE projects were featured at a Brussels conference held as a follow-up to World Fish Migration Day (WFMD), a one-day global initiative consisting of local events organised all over the world to create awareness of the importance of open rivers and migratory fish and led by the World Fish Migration Platform.
The conference was hosted at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Environment by the World Fish Migration Platform, a partnership of seven organisations that promotes knowledge exchange and activities on fish migration.
The lunchtime event on 7 June 2016 featured presentations by the LIFE projects SEGURA RIVERLINK (LIFE12 ENV/ES/001140) ReMiBar (LIFE10 NAT/SE/000045) and CON.FLU.PO(LIFE11 NAT/IT/000188). The projects exemplify the benefits of sharing the results of activities to improve river connectivity and fish migration routes, as well as making local populations aware of the value in doing so.
Rosa Olivo del Amo from Confederación Hidrográfica del Segura - the beneficiary of the SEGURA RIVERLINK project - shared her experience of promoting a green infrastructure approach to river basin management in Spain, while Sofia Perä of the Bothnian Bay Water District Authority spoke of the habitat connectivity challenges in Spain addressed by the ReMiBar project and how awareness-raising can play a role.
The final project CON.FLU.PO, which is aiming to improve conditions for the Adriatic sturgeon (Acipenser naccarii) by building infrastructure to allow fish upstream passage in the Po river, was presented by Cesare Puzzi and Adriano Bellani from the Parco Lombardo del Ticino.
The presentations were followed by an audience discussion on future awareness-raising activity in Europe.
16 June 2016This year’s LIFE Horizontal Meeting in Thessaloniki, which brought together LIFE project monitors from across Europe along with members of the European Commission’s LIFE unit, featured in a Greek television report on the meeting and the impact of the LIFE programme in the country. The report was included in the ECO news section of SKAI news on 24 April 2016.
Yiannis Boutaris, the mayor of Thessaloniki and a keynote speaker at the meeting, emphasised how environmental concerns have affected him personally as a wine producer. He also spoke about how during his office he has taken steps, such as the introduction of cycle paths, to create a truly ‘green city’. Other interviewees included in the Greek television news item were Angelo Salsi, Head of Unit, LIFE and CIP Eco-innovation Unit, EASME, European Commission, Georgia Valaoras, southeast Europe regional co-ordinator, NEEMO and Christian Strasser, Deputy Head of Unit, LIFE Environment Unit, European Commission.
More information about the Horizontal Meeting is also now available to watch in a new LIFE video.
The meeting included a day of field trips to see recently completed or ongoing LIFE projects. Delegates could chose to visit three LIFE Environment projects or a LIFE Nature project – a trip to Lake Kerkini to see the sustainable management practices that were promoted by the Safeguard LWfG (LIFE10 NAT/GR/000638) and to learn more about the ongoing conservation needs of the area.
The environment projects visited were: LIFE CONOPS (LIFE12 ENV/GR/000466), which is developing management plans to address the problem of invasive mosquitoes; BIOFUELS-2G (LIFE08 ENV/GR/000569), which defined a method of producing second generation biofuels from waste cooking oils; and SMART-CHP (LIFE08 ENV/GR/000576), which demonstrated a small-scale mobile agricultural residue gasification unit.
15 June 2016On the 24 May 2016 the LIFE GYPCONNECT project (LIFE14 FR/NAT/000050), together with a welcoming committee of local schoolchildren, elected representatives and other stakeholders, gathered together to introduce two young bearded vultures (Gypaetus barbatus) to the project area in the Massif Central.
The successful introduction of the two birds at Meyrueis, in the Cévennes national park, is an important milestone for the project. The idea of reintroducing a core population of bearded vultures in the Massif Central is to connect the two existing populations in the eastern Pyrenees and the western Alps in a bid to strengthen genetic diversity and boost the species’ chances of survival in France.
Following their public presentation, the young vultures – who the schoolchildren have named Cayla and Aigoual – were settled in a nearby cliff. To ensure the tranquillity of the birds and guarantee the success of the operation, it is not possible to visit the release site. Cayla and Aigoual, who were just 97 and 90 days old at the time, came from the Guadalentin breeding centre in Andalusia, Spain. The two females are the tenth and eleventh bearded vultures to be reintroduced by the project since 2012.
LIFE GYPCONNECT recently had more good news to celebrate as it successfully tagged a wild bearded vulture nestling for the first time. Ornithologists leading the project activities are hoping that the tagging will enable them to assess the extent to which bearded vultures in the Pyrenees are dispersing into the main project site in the Massif Central and onward to the Alps, where the species has been successfully reintroduced.
More information about Cayla and Aigoual is available from the project website (in French).
13 June 2016 EASME has published the LIFE NGO Specific Grant Agreements 2016, covering the next financial year (2017) . The submission deadline is 28 July 2016.
The application forms are similar to the previous call, including the table with the overview on your work programme during the financial year (the table requested during revisions) plus more information on other on-going grants.
The financial forms are slightly simplified (mainly on the level of detail required for travel costs). The invitation to submit the work plan for the next financial year was sent by email to the selected NGOs on 13 June 2016.
Application forms are available here.
10 June 2016The annual Best LIFE Awards ceremonies took place in Brussels on 31 May 2016. Held during EU Green Week – the biggest annual occasion to debate European environment policy – the awards celebrated outstanding LIFE projects completed in 2015. Eleven projects from the Nature, Environment and Information & Communication strands of the LIFE programme were awarded the coveted ‘Best of the Best’ accolade.
At the ceremony for Best LIFE Environment and Information & Communication projects, a total of 25 projects received Best awards at the ceremony. Of these, five were selected as Best of the Best projects by a committee of EU Member State representatives. These comprised:
The LIFE Citizens’ Award - chosen by public vote - went to the project POLYMIX - Polymer Wastes in Asphalt Mixes: a Way to Increase Sustainability of Roads Infrastructures (LIFE10 ENV/ES/000516).
The full list of Best Environment project award winners is available from the LIFE programme website.
The European Commission's Director-General for Environment, Daniel Calleja Crespo, introduced the ceremony. Highlighting the ‘investing for a greener future’ theme of this year's EU Green Week, he said green investments would play a key role in the transition to a circular, resource-efficient economy and stressed the importance of the LIFE programme in achieving this goal.
"Since 1992, LIFE-funded projects have created profitable green businesses, sustainable jobs and new approaches to meet our environmental challenges," Mr Calleja noted. The programme has helped finance over 2 400 environmental and information projects since its inception, with €1.7 billion in co-funding mobilising investments totalling almost €5 billion for the environment.
Over its lifetime LIFE, "has evolved in order to meet the new challenges of our economy," the Director-General added, highlighting new tools such as the Natural Capital Financing Facility, Private Finance for Energy Efficiency, the European Fund for Strategic Investments and Integrated Projects. "All these are examples that show we can develop new, innovative financial solutions," that do, "more and more every year for the environment". Mr Calleja concluded by congratulating the winning projects, adding that their results, "show that preserving the environment is not incompatible with economic development."
Six of the eleven Best of the Best winners were from the LIFE Nature and Information & Communications strands. The projects selected for their exceptional achievements, were:
In addition, a total of 27 winning projects representing 13 Member States received Best LIFE award plaques. Speaking at the ceremony, Joanna Drake, Deputy Director General, Directorate-General for Environment, European Commission emphasised that the awards were a vital part of the communication process, “we need to show to the world what Europe has been doing…it’s not enough just to do it, but to let others know that it has been done.”
The awards highlight the important investment in natural capital being made by the LIFE programme and towards implementing the Birds and Habitats Directives, establishing and maintaining the Natura 2000 network, and achieving the EU’s Biodiversity 2020 strategy.
The Commission has provided €1.8 billion co-funding to 1 600 LIFE nature, biodiversity and information projects since the beginning of the programme in 1992. The ‘Best of’ projects are selected on the basis of their impact on the conservation status of target species and habitats, their long-term sustainability and their short and long-term leverage potential.
The ceremony also included a special mention for Simon Goss, who coordinates communications as part of the European Commission’s LIFE unit. Mr Goss is retiring at the end of the year and a short film celebrating his time at the Commission (including 15 years as part of the LIFE unit) was shown. He was presented with a special LIFEtime service Best Award.
Mr Goss paid tribute to his colleagues at the European Commission and the LIFE project teams that he has worked with over the years. He expressed admiration for the dedication shown by those project members who work day in day out to achieve results. Mr Goss has overseen more than 220 LIFE projects.
Videos of the 2015 Best LIFE Awards ceremonies are available:
Images from the events are available from the LIFE Flickr stream:
Related LIFE news story:
09 June 2016An international Info Day will be organised by EASME on 17 June 2016 in Brussels. This event will enable you to meet all Brussels based stakeholders and interested parties and enlighten you on all you need to know to prepare and submit a successful LIFE proposal.
Registration will be closed on 13 June at 22h00 Brussels time, however, If you cannot attend personnaly the Info day, please note that this event is going to be streamed live on the 17 from 09:00 to 13:30 by the EU webscast services.
Please bookmark the following link to webstreaming page: https://webcast.ec.europa.eu/life-information-day-2016#
08 June 2016Several LIFE Nature projects received prestigious innovation awards from the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development at the Third Polish Entrepreneurship Congress. The Congress examined synergies between science and business and aimed to popularise innovative solutions and good practice developed by projects that have received EU funding.
Two LIFE projects, Niebieski korytarz Iny (LIFE10 NAT/PL/000654) and Niebieski korytarz Regi (LIFE11 NAT/PL/000424), were jointly awarded a Polish Innovation Award 2015 for their work in creating blue wildlife corridors (Blue Infrastructure) in the Ina and Rega river basins, respectively. The coordinating beneficiary of these projects, the West Pomeranian Board of Land Reclamation and Water Facilities (ZZMiUW) in Szczecin, pioneered a comprehensive approach to improving the functioning of entire river basin ecosystems. The projects have re-established links between fish migration routes and spawning grounds, particularly for Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), by constructing fish ladders and riffles; created artificial spawning beds and enlarged existing ones; and planted trees to create shaded areas along rivers. Further information can be found on the websites for the Ina basin and the Rega basin.
The LIFE Kampinos Wetlands PL (LIFE12 NAT/PL/000084) project, which is protecting and restoring wetlands in the Puszcza Kampinoska Natura 2000 network site, received its Polish Innovation Award 2015 in recognition of its cutting-edge programme. The project team, comprising the Kampinoski National Park, the Institute of Technology and Life Sciences, REC Poland and Warsaw University of Life Sciences, has been increasing moisture levels in fragmented wetland areas, halting secondary succession, reducing conflict between local community interests and nature conservation, and producing benchmark solutions for water management in vulnerable wetland areas. Further information can be found on the Kampinos Wetlands website.
The three winning LIFE Nature projects contribute to the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy and more specifically Target 2, which requires that, “by 2020, ecosystems and their services are maintained and enhanced by establishing green infrastructure and restoring at least 15% of degraded ecosystems.”
The Innovation Awards will help these LIFE projects disseminate their findings and transfer knowledge to other projects. The event was broadcast on Polish television and radio, and sponsored by two national magazines.
07 June 2016 The EcoCo LIFE Scotland project (LIFE13 BIO/UK/000428) has joined forces with a chemical company, CalaChem, to install a 140m2 biodiverse green roof in a bid to both boost wildlife. The green roof, which has been designed for pollinating insects like bees (Apis) and hoverflies (Syrphidae), has been put in place at CalaChem's Grangemouth site, some 40km north of the Scottish capital, Edinburgh.
CalaChem is one of the first Scottish companies to host a green roof dedicated to biodiversity on its site. Almost 60 species of wildflower and grasses, native to the UK, have been planted on the roof. Species of wildflowers were chosen specifically to feed caterpillars and butterflies (Lepidoptera) while red clover (Trifolium pratense)was selected because it provides essential amino acids for foraging bumblebees.
While the roof is to act as a stepping stone for wildlife, allowing the movement and mixing of species across Grangemouth, it will also provide a number of benefits for the building such as better insulation in winter and cooling in summer. It is also expected to reduce noise pollution and increase the lifespan of the roof.
The four-year EcoCo LIFE Scotland project aims to improve ecological coherence by restoring, creating and improving natural habitats and wildlife corridors in Scotland, boosting green infrastructure. In particular, the project aims to improve the quality of the water environment, secure flood management and reduce pollution through, among others, tree planting and the retrofitting of green roofs in agricultural and industrial areas.
The project team is working with local industry to create a network of green roofs and to raise awareness of the importance of these types of roofs for invertebrates and other local and rare wildlife and of how green roofs can benefit the building, and how businesses can support local and rare species including Local Biodiversity Action Plan priority species by stabling local green infrastructure.
More information about the project can be found on the project’s website.
06 June 2016Two lesser kestrels (Falco naumanni), fitted with transmitters in 2015 by the Lesser Kestrel Recovery (LIFE11 NAT/BG/000360) project, returned in April this year to their nesting grounds in Bulgaria, after wintering in Africa.
This is the first time the entire migratory route of this species has been tracked from the Balkans. The return trip is over 7 000 km.
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 one year, in April 2014, the first introduced bird returned from Africa and mated, as previously reported.
Using light-weight (5g) satellite trackers, the LIFE project beneficiary Green Balkans is now able to map migratory flight paths. The project uncovered interesting facts about how the lesser kestrel reaches its wintering grounds in Africa, and also about the different behaviour of juveniles and adults.
Of the two birds that returned to Bulgaria this year, one (BSB) travelled south through Turkey, Egypt and Sudan, to winter in Chad; returning by a similar route. The other (BDS) flew over Greece, Libya, Chad and Niger, wintering just across the border in Nigeria. Both birds returned to the colony in Levka village, in the Sakar Natura 2000 site, and have started breeding.
The project team were interested to learn, during July 2015, that the bird BSB, on leaving the colony area in Levka, roamed through different parts of the Balkan Peninsula before migrating south. Newly uncovered knowledge, such as the pre-migratory roosting places or the interaction between birds from colonies in Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece, is helping to formulate plans for the long-term conservation of lesser kestrel.
For further information about the Lesser Kestrel Recovery project, visit the Green Balkans website.
02June 2016 Italy is set to become the second European country to pass legislation that encourages supermarkets and restaurants to stop throwing away unsold food. Food wastage is expensive, costing the Italian economy around €12 billion a year; and it is bad for the environment, as landfilled food waste uses land, water and fuel resources unnecessarily and it contributes to the production of greenhouse gasses.
The Italian bill on food waste passed its final reading in the lower house on 16 May 2016, and is currently being discussed by the Senate. It contains 17 articles, including changes to food safety regulations that will enable products that are past their 'best before' dates to be given to charities.
A network of LIFE projects have been influential in making this change to Italian food legislation. The network was formed by the LOWaste project (LIFE10 ENV/IT/000373), which had found some legislative obstacles standing in the way of its objective to close waste cycles. To allow the reuse and recycling necessary to build circular economies within the food industry and other sectors, the project found that legislation needed to be modified. Therefore, it established a network that targeted food legislation by producing an appeal and lobbying for change.
“We created the LIFE projects a working group and thanks to the experience of all the beneficiaries in this field, we produced proposals that were put to parliament and the Ministry of Environment,” says Alessandra Vaccari of the LOWaste project. This appeal was presented to the ministry in February 2014. “It identified the critical limits of the regulations on waste, and concrete proposals to overcome them,” he adds.
Anna Brescianini, project manager of NOW (LIFE10 ENV/IT/000404) , says they encountered similar problems whereby existing legislation was making it difficult to create new uses and markets for waste. “After February 2014, and for a whole year, the projects consulted with PINPAS (the Italian National Plan for the Prevention of Food Waste),” she says. “We contributed by working with members of parliament and by answering their questionnaire. We also invited some members of parliament to visit our project so that we could explain our experience and the most optimal solutions to adopt. After this visit, in October 2015, we reviewed the first legislative proposal before it was sent to Senate and also sent our comments in the second reading.”
The Italian initiative is timely as the European Commission’s recently adopted package on the circular economy Closing the loop - An EU action plan for the Circular Economy (COM(2015) 614 final) classifies food waste as a priority waste streams and one that faces specific challenges due to the specificities of its value-chain. It notes that, “food waste is an increasing concern in Europe. The production, distribution and storage of food use natural resources and generate environmental impacts. Discarding food that is still edible increases these impacts, and causes financial loss for consumers and the economy.”
The initial group of LIFE projects assembled by the LOWaste team to lobby the Ministry for Environment also included ECO Courts (LIFE10 ENV/IT/000404), IDENTIS WEEE (LIFE10 ENV/IT/000404), No Waste (LIFE10 ENV/IT/000307), Prisca (LIFE11 ENV/IT/000277), Promise (LIFE08 INF/IT/000312) and WASTE-LESS IN CHIANTI (LIFE09 ENV/IT/000068). Other LIFE projects subsequently signed the appeal.
The LIFE project network is also influencing regional policy in Italy. For example, organic waste prevention was inserted in Lombardy’s regional plan 2014-2017 to incentivise and support organisations that recover food waste.
France was the first EU country to pass legislation aimed at stopping supermarkets from throwing away unsold though still edible food, with the introduction of fines. In contrast, the Italian bill adopts a reward-based approach, with companies that give food to charities able to claim tax cuts on waste disposal. The bill also reduces the administrative burden on supermarkets, enabling food donation forms to be filled in less frequently and retrospectively. It will therefore reduce costs associated with waste disposal, combat environmentally-damaging waste production, and recover greater amounts of otherwise landfilled food to give to those in need (e.g. through food banks).
The LIFE projects’ food waste reduction goals are also being furthered by a government-run campaign to promote the use of ‘doggy bags’ in restaurants in Italy, so that left-over food can be consumed at home rather than become yet more food waste.
01June 2016Yesterday during EU Green Week – the biggest annual occasion to debate European environment policy – the European Commission announced the winners of the LIFE Best Awards for 2015. The awards recognise the most effective and inspiring LIFE projects in the field of nature protection and environment, which, if applied widely, would have a highly positive impact on the environment, boosting economic growth and providing significant benefits for European citizens.
From more than 50 finalists (“Best LIFE projects”), the most outstanding projects have been awarded the accolade “Best of the Best” LIFE project. The 11 winnersinclude projects from Cyprus, Finland, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Spain and the UK.
Karmenu Vella, EU Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries said: “Sincere congratulations to the winners and the finalists in this year's edition of LIFE Best Awards! These innovative projects show how effective small scale actions, with the help of LIFE funding, can lead to big results, replicable across national borders, with benefits for all. That's the real EU added value of the LIFE programme – being a catalyst for private and public investments helping to build a greener future."
Selection criteria for the Best Projects focus on their contribution to both immediate and long-term environmental, economic and social improvements; their degree of innovation and transferability; their relevance to policy and their cost-effectiveness.
The winning projects represent the three strands of the LIFE programme: Nature; Environment; Information & Communication.
Download press release: Commission announces winners of the 2015 LIFE Best Awards
#EUGreenWeek 2016 focuses on the many facets of green investment, highlighting financing that is good for the economy and good for the environment. The EU has a number of funding programmes in place to support the transition to a low-carbon, resource-efficient and sustainable future. LIFE, the EU's funding instrument for the environment and climate action, is one of them, targeting successful green projects that can be scaled up and replicated across the EU.
The LIFE funding programme has been running since 1992 and has co-financed more than 4 000 projects across the EU and beyond, mobilising € 7.8 billion and contributing € 3.4 billion to the protection of the environment and climate. Around 1100 projects are ongoing. The budget for the LIFE Programme for 2014–2020 is set at € 3.4 billion in current prices, and has a sub-programme for environment and a sub-programme for climate action.
LIFE has already co-funded more than 650 projects related to the circular economy, with a total budget of over € 1.6 billion. The majority of these projects have tackled waste, with water efficiency as another important priority.
JUNIPERCY – Improving the conservation status of endemic juniper forests in Cyprus
The project's main objective was to promote and enable the long-term conservation of the native juniper forests in Cyprus. As a first step it mapped the target habitat in three Natura 2000 network sites. This enabled an assessment of threats and the development of monitoring and management plans. Concrete conservation actions were implemented to provide sustainable management and effective habitat restoration, including replanting, fencing, removal of competitive vegetation and measures to reduce forest fire risks, including through enhanced visitor infrastructure at two of the three sites, which are popular tourist destinations. In particular, the project established the first seed bank for forest species in Cyprus and created a stock of several thousand juniper saplings covering all four species found on the island.
Boreal Peatland Life – Restoring the Natura 2000 network of boreal peatland ecosystems
This project enhanced the quality of more than 4 800 ha of Finland's unique boreal peatland habitats. Based on 35 restoration plans drafted by the project, this involved removing trees from more than 3 300 ha and blocking drainage ditches on some 4 790 ha of peatland to restore the natural hydrology. Other restoration actions focused on rewilding forest roads and leaving dead wood as habitats to increase biodiversity. Under the project, three management plans were drafted to ensure effective conservation after the end of the LIFE funding. The project team's experience of carrying out restoration measures in a cost-efficient way was crucial to the success of Boreal Peatland Life project.
HUSEEDBANK – Establishment of the Pannon seed bank for the long-term conservation of Hungarian vascular wild plants
This project set up a seed bank for the long-term preservation of seeds of the wild vascular flora of the Pannonian biogeographical region. It collected and stored seeds from 912 species, more than 50 % of Hungary's native flora, including 204 protected species and 45 that are strictly protected. Many of these species are of economic as well as ecological importance. The project also developed collection, storage and germination protocols for many of the species. In trials, selected seed bank samples were reintroduced to a typical sand steppe community with priority habitats in the Kiskunság National Park, a Natura 2000 site. Lessons from the project can be applied elsewhere in the Pannonian biogeographical region.
Biomass use to safeguard the Aquatic Warbler habitat – Facilitating aquatic warbler (Acrocephalus paludicola) habitat management through sustainable systems of biomass use
This project linked the production of biomass as a renewable energy source with the large-scale mechanised management of aquatic warbler habitat. A programme of tree and bush removal and mowing enlarged the area of fen mire habitat favourable to the species from
1 551 to 6 344 ha. Monitoring indicates that there has been a 7.71 % increase in the area covered by aquatic warblers, accompanied by a 26 % rise in population (some 575 extra individuals). A pelleting facility was established at Biebrza Valley to convert the biomass generated by the project into fuel pellets. The long-term management of the sites will be assured by agri-environment scheme subsidies for mowing and other conservation measures.
VENENO NO – Fighting illegal poison use in the natural environment in Spain
VENENO NO developed effective and innovative methods and strategies for tackling wildlife poisoning in Spain, especially where endangered raptor species are at risk. Recognising the significance of the project, six Spanish regional governments approved protocols against the use of poison. During the project, the beneficiary took part in 24 criminal court proceedings tackling illegal use of poison, resulting in ten convictions. It also established a poisoning investigation unit (UNIVE) in Castilla-La Mancha and ran 19 training courses showing officials how to detect and bring to court wildlife poisoning cases. The project also analysed all the instances of such poisoning occurring between 2005 and 2010 in Spain. The study showed that many of the cases involved the use of banned substances, highlighting the need to strengthen controls on the marketing and use of various products including biocides.
BEST FOR BIODIVERSITY – Promotion of best practices for biodiversity protection in forest areas, including Natura 2000 areas
BEST FOR BIODIVERSITY promoted best practices related to information and communication about biodiversity protection in state-owned forests in Poland between January 2012 and December 2014. It published 11 guidelines for protecting selected species (ranging in size from insects right up to the European bison) and two habitats – wetlands and xerothermic – i.e. dry and hot – grasslands. More than 1 300 people took part in training sessions designed to implement the best practices identified in the guidelines. The project also developed a successful media campaign to increase awareness of biodiversity in Poland's forests, including 11 films made for national television, which attracted more than 8 million viewers; over 12 million people watched the trailers for the films. In making this award, the Commission encouraged Poland, in their ongoing management of their forests, to put into practice the best-practice guidance developed by this project.
Odourless casting – Odour and hazardous emission abatement of foundries
The project aimed to define odorous and hazardous emissions in typical aluminium, steel and iron foundries and to demonstrate emission abatement techniques suitable for wide-scale implementation. The beneficiary calculated odour and hazardous emission balance measurements for each of the eight participating foundries and demonstrated the feasibility of different abatement options. Results showed that hazardous and odorous emissions from different foundry processes could be reduced by 80-90 % using best available techniques. If the systems tested during the project were fully implemented by the eight foundries it would prevent the emission of some 11 000 tonnes of noxious compounds. Project results can also be used in further developing the Best Available Techniques Reference (BREF) documents for the foundry industry.
HEO – High-efficiency ovens through eco-friendly, energy efficient sol-gel enamelling process
The HEO project demonstrated the feasibility of an innovative enamelling technology for electric ovens that requires 60 % less energy to manufacture and facilitates 30 % less energy use than conventional, modern electric ovens, offering significant potential reductions in electricity bills. A life-cycle assessment of the technology indicates a reduction in global warming potential of 9-61 % for HEO ovens compared with existing technologies. The project's HEO oven prototype, which completely avoids the use of nickel and cobalt, was given an A++ classification in the EC energy-efficiency labelling scheme introduced in January 2015. The new ovens meet existing EU consumer legislation and can be produced with few modifications to existing manufacturing plants, thus simplifying the wider dissemination of this innovative technique and facilitating market entry for the new type of oven.
EDEA-RENOV – Development of energy efficiency in architecture: energy renovation, innovation and ICTs
EDEA-RENOV demonstrated that energy efficiency in the housing sector can pave the way towards the adoption of a sustainable model of architectural development. It introduced active and passive energy-saving measures to reduce the carbon footprint of social housing. This resulted in energy savings of up to 30% in the participating neighbourhoods in Extremadura. Lower energy bills are of great benefit in such low-income areas. The project initially created an online energy simulator called EDEAsim, which can be used to assess the energy efficiency of any building. A second open source project tool – EFICIEX – monitored energy consumption and room temperature, alerting residents through a mobile app. Overall, the project highlighted the need to improve the technical knowledge of technicians working in the public administration on energy-efficiency strategies. It also showed that energy rehabilitation has a significant potential for job creation.
ACUMEN – Assessing, capturing & utilising methane from expired and non-operational landfill sites
The ACUMEN project demonstrated the technical and economic viability of a range of techniques for monitoring, using and mitigating methane emissions from closed landfills. In so doing, it showed that these sites, which are currently a financial burden on their owners – often local authorities – could be transformed into an income-generating asset through the sale of gas rights. For instance, sites with small-scale spark-ignition engines (150 kW) use captured gas to generate electricity, yielding around (€65 000) per year. The project brought together a wide-ranging stakeholder partnership (regulators, owners, operators, equipment suppliers and monitoring specialists) to create a nascent market for the use of landfill gas from closed sites. As a result of its activities at five UK demonstration sites, the project found that previously operational sites are best-placed to generate energy because of their connections to the electricity grid and landfill gas collection infrastructure.
SEWeb – Scotland's environmental web
SEWeb developed a Shared Environmental Information System (SEIS) for Scotland. This website brings together data and information as well as expertise from a number of organisations to provide a comprehensive view of Scotland's environment. One of the key project achievements was to develop a partnership programme that linked key data providers with data users, and facilitated cross-discipline discussion. SEWeb worked with 32 authors from 12 environmental organisations to update the State of the Environment report for Scotland, a crucial tool for identifying the priorities to be tackled in the work programme of the regional environmental protection agency. The project team also developed mapping and data visualisation applications for more than 300 datasets from 15 partner organisations. These high-quality online interactive resources increase public understanding of environmental issues.