29 November 2016At a recent LIFE workshop, A chance for green business – innovation and job creation preserving the environment, held at the Committee of the Regions, Tom Andries made a presentation on the Belgian Nature Integrated Project (BNIP) (LIFE14 IPE/BE/000002). Prior to the workshop, Mr Andries spoke to the LIFE communication team about the progress being made by the BNIP.
The BNIP, one of the first LIFE Nature Integrated Projects (IP), is aiming to boost the implementation of Natura 2000 network in the country. "We're trying to do this by enhancing and increasing the capacity, knowledge and experience of certain stakeholders but also of our administrations - in this case the Flemish and Walloon agencies for nature and forests, and the federal authority for the North Sea," says Tom Andries the coordinator of BNIP.
The North Sea, Wallonia and Flanders have different Prioritised Action Frameworks (PAFs) for the Natura 2000 network and BNIP plans to "almost completely" implement the goals of these PAFs, including the one for the marine environment. The situation, however, is complicated as Belgium incorporates three different biogeographical regions - the Atlantic, marine Atlantic and the Continental regions - and these do not align with its different federal regions. The challenge is therefore to improve cooperation on Natura 2000 network site management across the different regions by, for example, sharing experience of how best to monitor species and habitats.
"We noticed that we really needed to harmonise between the different levels, between the high policy level and the people who are managing the sites and dealing with local stakeholders," says Mr Andries. "For example, by harmonising reporting we can get a very clear view of where we stand at this moment."
In fact, many of the species and habitats in Belgium are in an unfavourable condition and the IP will enable the different regions to draft action plans to improve the conservation status of these. "The most important thing that they are doing is setting up different consultation processes, preparing different species and habitat action plans and drafting site management plans," he says.
Providing the necessary tools, especially IT solutions, is another key aspect of the project. For example, the project is designing databases and mobile apps that allow officials and volunteers to carrying out monitoring. A total of 62 people are currently working on the project, but not all are full time. In total, nearly half of the foreseen budget will be spent on personnel cost.
According to Mr Andries, complementary funding worth more than €200 million is available for the project. Additional financing, such as Interreg and Horizon 2020 funds, can be obtained by integrating the aims of other policy areas. On a national level, the project is utilising €33 million of the EAFRD (European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development) for the implementation of its action plans, as well as working with the department of road infrastructure on defragmentation measures such as the construction of ecoducts and building amphibian tunnels or other wildlife passages. Habitats in Flanders, in particular, are very fragmented and connecting them is a major conservation challenge.
"One of the strong points of the LIFE IP is there is a lot of flexibility built into the programme. Every two years, you can revise your actions so you can tackle issues based on new insights of the previous phase," says Mr Andries.
For BNIP, through consultation and capacity building, the aim is to achieve "more regular" management of the Natura 2000 network sites in the country. "Much funding at the moment is on an ad hoc basis, especially for restoration projects...the objective is to have more structural and durable funding in place to manage the Natura 2000 sites by the end of the project."
25 November 2016The LIFE project ForBioSensing PL (LIFE13 ENV/PL/000048) recently won the Polish Award of Intelligent Development 2016 in the Scientific Units category. The award was presented at a ceremony on 21 October 2016 in Rzeszow, Poland, during the Intelligent Development Forum, a prestigious nationwide event aimed at promoting and supporting European cooperation.
Using remote sensing techniques, the project is monitoring stand dynamics in Białowieża Forest, the last natural forest in central Europe. It is employing different time series and moving from point-scale monitoring (field measurements on sample plots) to monitoring on a large scale. Better data will allow national park and forest district managers to carry out more efficient protection measures for the forest ecosystems, while also advancing knowledge of the forest’s biodiversity.
Monitoring allows the beneficiary, the Forest Research Institute, to identify changes in the structure of the forest and the composition of tree species that occur in the forest stands in order to better understand the dynamics of these processes.
The LIFE project’s website has all the latest news about ForBioSensing PL.
23 November 2016This issue of LIFEnews looks at invasive alien species (IAS). The first article focuses on a list, recently adopted by the European Commission, of IAS which require EU-wide action.
Invasive alien species (IAS) present a great threat to Europe's native species and habitats, and can have major economic consequences as well as harmful effects on human health.
The second article showcases a number of LIFE projects which have already taken action to address the problem of invasive alien species.
14 November 2016An eye-catching documentary by Marco Tessaro featuring wildlife under threat and about the work of the Trans Insubria Bionet (TIB) (LIFE10 NAT/IT/000241) project has been shortlisted for the Sondrio film festival.
The international film festival is dedicated to documentaries made in nature parks and protected areas worldwide and takes place every November in Sondrio, Italy. The powerful half-hour documentary, entitled Vive solo chi si muove, which translates as only those who move survive, depicts how the TIB LIFE project helped to preserve and restore one of the most interesting habitats in the Italian Alpine foothills. The video, which has also been shortlisted for many other festivals worldwide, was shown in Sandrio on 9 November 2016.
The aim of the Trans Insubria Bionet project was to mitigate the major environmental problem of declining biodiversity by restoring environmental connectivity and increasing the functionality of the natural ecological corridor between Campo dei Fiori and the Ticino River Parks, an area covering some 15 000 ha and including 14 Natura 2000 network sites. This corridor was identified as the most suitable passageway to preserve a functional link between the Alps and the Appennines through the Po river plain, which is fragmented by infrastructure barriers such as roads.
The project built a number of underpasses to be used by wildlife as they look for food and shelter, breeding sites and migratory routes. Dry walls were erected to provide shelter for amphibians, reptiles and small mammals. To recreate a network of wetlands, the project created several strategically-located artificial ponds making it possible for wildlife to disperse. Over 540 nest boxes were installed for bird and bats and a number of other measures were carried out targeting invasive species and exotic trees. By facilitating the mobility of animal and plant species, the project helped biodiversity adapt to climate change.
The documentary film has also been shortlisted for: Finland's Wildlife Vaasa Festival 2016; Kuala Lumpur's Eco Film Festival 2016; Estonia's Matsalu Nature Film Festival; Lithuania's Ramunas Atelier International Independent Film Awards and Wolves Independent International Film Awards; Albania's Environmental Film Festival; Slovakia's IFF Ekotopfilm – Envirofilm; the US’ Back to Nature Film Festival 2016; and Italy's Sandalia Sustainability Film Festival 2016.
For more information about the TIB project, visit the project’s website.
To view the award-winning video click here.
09 November 2016The LIFE ENERGY project (LIFE13 NAT/SK/001272) has created a unique exhibition that gives visitors the opportunity to sit down safely on power lines. Entitled, “I´m sitting on a line and I´m fine”, it is part of a demonstration of how the project is making electricity infrastructure safer for birds.
The exhibition was opened during a ceremony at the Ministry of the Environment of the Slovak Republic in Bratislava on World Animal Day (4 October 2016), at which László Sólymos, Slovak Minister of Environment, seized the opportunity to be one of the first to sit on the power lines. The famous singer and actress Dorota Nvotová, who is the public face of the LIFE project , also talked at the opening of the exhibition, a video of which can be seen on LIFE Energy’s YouTube channel.
Each year, thousands of birds die after colliding with power lines in Slovakia. This has been a factor contributing to declining bird populations. The LIFE ENERGY project is reducing such kinds of bird deaths in Natura 2000 network sites in Slovakia. It is targeting ten endangered species listed in Annex I of the Birds Directive, including Eastern imperial eagle (Aquila heliaca), Saker falcon (Falco cherrug) and lesser white-fronted goose (Anser erythropus). Power lines identified as the most dangerous to these species are fitted with flight diverters to make them more visible, so birds fly over them.
“We have been implementing the LIFE ENERGY project since 2014 and it has been the largest project on this topic implemented in Slovakia so far,” says Lucia Deutschová of project beneficiary Raptor Protection of Slovakia (RPS). “We have surveyed 7 000 km of power lines within 13 Special Protection Areas. When it comes to those most at risk, the distribution companies Západoslovenská distribučná and Východoslovenská distribučná will install more than 8 000 special elements – bird flight diverters. More than 600 birds yearly will be saved thanks to the LIFE ENERGY project.”
“At the same time, each of us can contribute to the protection of birds, for instance, by minimising our energy consumption,” explains Ms Deutschová. “A country with fewer power lines means fewer barriers and a more secure environment for the birds. This is what the exhibition is about too. We aim to make people aware of the problem's extent, learn about the responsibilities of our energy companies, and contribute to the solution.”
Over the next two years, the exhibition will travel to several other cities in Slovakia, including Nitra, Šahy, Košice, Rimavská Sobota and Piešťany.
Visit the LIFE ENERGY website or follow its social network feeds (#sittingonaline, #LifeEnergy) for all the latest information on the project and the exhibition.
08 November 2016LIFE TRiFOCAL London (LIFE15 GIE/UK/000867) is an exciting newinitiative to prevent food waste and promote best practices for recycling unavoidable food waste has been launched in the UK.
The initiative, TRiFOCAL London – Transforming City FOod hAbits for Life – is being run by Resource London, a partnership between WRAP and the London Waste and Recycling Board, which has received €3.2 million from the LIFE programme for the campaign.
London households throw away an estimated 900 000 tonnes of food each year, 540 000 tonnes of which could have been eaten. Such waste has a negative impact on the environment and is costly for consumers, local authorities and businesses. The campaign organisers estimate that TRiFOCAL London could save Londoners £330 million pounds.
The initiative aims to change how consumers plan and shop for food as well as how they store and prepare meals. It will also address unavoidable food waste, which amounts to an estimated 360 000 tonnes annually, and how this waste can be recycled.
Antony Buchan of Resource London said: “TRiFOCAL London represents a fantastic opportunity to look at the bigger picture around food; what we consume in London, and how we deal with the unavoidable food waste that’s generated.”
“We want to help Londoners consume food more sustainably, save money and get a bit healthier by doing it, and then use their food recycling services more effectively. TRiFOCAL will build on the work we’ve done with Recycle for London and the Love Food Hate Waste campaign. It delivers an exciting new chapter in making the capital greener.”
TRiFOCAL London will run for three years, engaging 33 London boroughs and enlisting the assistance of housebuilders along with hospitality and food service companies. The London-wide trial will serve as a pilot initiative for developing similar schemes in other European cities.
London boroughs have been urged to promote a circular economy of food by separating food waste collection from general waste in order to boost anaerobic digestion plants.
FoodCycle, a national charity, has also called on London-based charities, community projects and faith centres to join them in tackling food waste and poverty in the capital by joining surplus food donation schemes.
07 November 2016On 7 October 2016, Martin Creed, the Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, announced the opening of a new round of Burren Programme funding for farmers who undertake conservation work on their land. The Burren Programme is a pioneering approach to farming and conservation, whose foundations were laid during the BurrenLIFE project (LIFE04 NAT/IE/000125).
The Burren is a part of western Ireland known for its unique landscapes, species and archaeological sites, including limestone habitats of Community importance. The health of these is closely linked to the activities of the farmers who manage the land. BurrenLIFE demonstrated tailor-made management plans for 20 farms representative of the agricultural diversity of the Burren. This provided a new model for the sustainable agricultural management of Annex I priority habitats. Actions implemented by farmers included clearing shrub encroaching on grassland, restricting grazing at key times of the year, restoring internal stone walls, and improving water supply by installing pumps and tanks.
“LIFE funding was fundamental to the development and subsequent positive impact of the Burren Programme,” says Dr Brendan Dunford, Burren Programme manager. “It enabled positive working relationships to develop between the main stakeholders, it helped generate a practical and costed blueprint for conservation farming, it helped build capacity among all involved, and it showed at farm level how conservation actions can actually benefit farmers, their holdings and their heritage.”
The Burren Programme is farmer-led, with each farmer preparing their own action plans with the help of trained advisors and the Burren team. Following the success of the BurrenLIFE approach, farmers are paid for work done and rewarded for positive results. Each planned action is costed and farmers are paid accordingly. The second payment is based on the environmental benefits they deliver, using a ‘habitat health checklist’ for fields of species-rich Burren grassland and heath. Therefore, conservation becomes as much a product for the farmer as livestock production.
Under the previous funding round (tranche 1) of the programme, around 160 farmers were accepted into the scheme. The objective is to now to increase the number of farmers involved. Farmers are being invited to apply for tranche 2 funding by 25 October 2016, via the Department of Agriculture’s website, for five-year contracts that commence in January 2017.
The Burren Programme is one of a suite of locally-led schemes designed to maintain the unique characteristics of this rural area. The Burren Tourism (LIFE11 ENV/IE/000922) project helped establish a separate scheme in 2012: the GeoparkLIFE programme. Burren Tourism aims to strengthen the integration between tourism and conservation, with the involvement of around 100 local companies. The project, which is managed by Clare county council, is testing innovative methodologies for sustainable visitor management. This will help protect biodiversity and enrich the area’s cultural heritage, through local community-led ecotourism initiatives.
Thanks to the Burren LIFE projects, modest investments have delivered major socioeconomic benefits, especially for agriculture and tourism. Small EU funding programmes like LIFE can therefore make a big difference, and help mobilise other EU, national and regional funding in order to sustain growth and create jobs.
04 November 2016The Lesser Kestrel Recovery (LIFE11 NAT/BG/000360) LIFE project recently hosted one of the largest lesser kestrel (Falco naumanni) expert meeting ever held. More than 50 experts from across Europe gathered in Plovdiv (Bulgaria) from the 4-8 October 2016. The meeting addressed the threats posed to the endangered lesser kestrel, whose breeding population in Bulgaria has been declining.
Representatives from 28 different organisations – NGOs, administrative organisations and scientific institutions – provide insight into the different conservation measures for the species that have been carried out across Europe. Experts from Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, France Germany, Greece, Spain, Italy Macedonia, Serbia and Ukraine were featured. The current state of the population in parts of Turkey was also outlined.
The LIFE project, which is being implemented by Green Balkans, a Bulgarian environmental NGO, is carrying out captive breeding and the translocation of young non-fledged birds from Spain. It is also identifying national agricultural payments and construction practices that are in line with lesser kestrel conservation and promoting them among local stakeholders and land users. The end result is to be a lesser kestrel national action plan that ensures the sustainability and the enforcement of the identified favourable conservation measures.
Among the measures highlighted at the meeting were those being carried out in the Puglia region of Italy. Some municipalities in the region have introduced laws that oblige roof or building renovation works to provide the appropriate conditions for lesser kestrel nesting. Numerous colonies are found in the area.
The Greek region of Thessaly also provided an interesting case study. A local brewery has started growing barley on fields managed specially for the lesser kestrels. The use of chemicals and intensive land treatment has been minimised in order to create suitable hunting habitats for the species.
The meeting included a visit to the Green Balkans’ wildlife rehabilitation and breeding centre in Stara Zagora, the only place in the country where rare birds are bred ex situ. Attendees also visited the Sakar Natura 2000 network site, where nesting sites are being restored.
03 November 2016The Commission has approved an investment package of €222.7 million from the EU budget to support Europe's transition to a more sustainable and low-carbon future. The EU funding will spur additional investments leading to a total of €398.6 million to be invested into 144 new projects in 23 Member States. The support comes from the LIFE programme for the Environment and Climate Action. The projects illustrate the Commission's ongoing commitment to its flagship circular economy package. Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella said: "LIFE-funded projects use relatively little funding and with simple ideas to create profitable green businesses that deliver on the transition to a low-carbon and circular economy." Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, Miguel Arias Cañete said: "With the Paris Agreement entering into force, we must now focus on delivering on our promises. These projects will create the right conditions to promote innovative solutions and spread best practices in reducing emission and adapting to climate change across the EU." A press release and memo detailing the full list of projects are available online.
(For more information: Daniel Rosario – Tel.: + 32 229 56185; Iris Petsa - Tel.: +32 229 93321)
02 November 2016 At a recent LIFE workshop on green business, innovation and job creation, held at the Committee of the Regions (CoR) in Brussles, Tomasz Pietrusiak gave a presentation about the Małopolska Region (LIFE14 IPE/PL/000021), a Polish integrated project. Prior to the workshop, Mr Pietrusiak, from the Małopolska local government, also briefed the LIFE communications team. Below follows a brief update about the progress being made by this LIFE project.
Together with Silesia and nearby regions in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the Polish province of Małopolska is one of Europe's hotspots for air pollution. The main cause of the low air quality is the combustion of solid fuels in old household boilers. The Małopolska Air Quality Plan, however, aims to eliminate these boilers from 155 000 homes while improving insulation in buildings to lower emissions.
The stakes are high: around 10 million people are living in this poor air hotspot. But as Tomasz Pietrusiak emphasises, launching a long-running integrated project (IP) offers the opportunity for greater cooperation among the different administrative regions to address the problem.
"We want to learn from each other. The Czech Republic has strict regulation which helps to improve and exchange old boilers. In Małopolska we also prepared an instrument; we have €420 million for activities that could help to improve the quality of the air," he says.
Among these activities is the engagement of 60 eco-managers to advise the municipalities in Małopolska on the need to reduce the use of solid fuel, which is especially polluting owing to the poor quality of the coal and wood being burnt. The replacement of old polluting boilers with cleaner ones will moreover help implement the EU's Ecodesign Directive. The IP is also allowing the province to focus on retrofitting insulation and to ensure the ecological design of new buildings. This approach benefits homeowners by avoiding the installation of boilers with higher capacity than needed.
In fulfilling the goals of its air quality plan, the IP is further making an economic argument for the replacement of old solid fuel boilers. "When the Ecodesign rules come in and someone’s boiler breaks down, he will have to finance its replacement with a compliant boiler on his own," says Mr Pietrusiak. The plan foresees the removal of all old boilers by 2023, the conclusion of the project.
Furthermore, the beneficiary estimates that the amount of money required to replace old boilers, around €1 million, is the same as that related to annual health costs due to poor air quality. "We would like to tell our citizens that it is extremely important to their health to change these old boilers to central heating or gas, and that they have to make the decision now because the infringement procedure is in progress," he says.
"First of all to change the situation we need to change people’s approach. We should change their way of thinking about heating. They should not always be thinking about the cost of the boiler, but also about the cost to their health."
The IP has overcome the problem of the withdrawal of national funding by engaging more municipalities in the implementation of the plan. Extending the reach of the project is very important for the project leaders. "What they are doing here could be implemented in another region," explains Mr Pietrusiak.
The province's largest municipality and its main tourist attraction, Cracow, banned the combustion of solid fuel in January 2016. As part of the project, Vlaamse Instelling voor Technologisch Onderzoek (the Flemish institute for technological research) was contacted to prepare high-resolution modelling of air pollution in the city. This modelling will help the city of Cracow to manage communications on air quality more efficiently.
"We have something important and concrete to present during conferences and meetings, but also we have a solid base from which we can advise neighbouring regions," he says.