29 August 2017The LIFE Forests-waterworlds - Ville Forests project is demonstrating an innovative tool – known as a marteloscope – to support sustainable forest management. A key project aim is to conserve oak-hornbeam forests on poorly-drained soils in four Natura 2000 network sites in western Germany. The marteloscope provides forest managers with the information, training and experience they need to incorporate biodiversity conservation objectives into timber production activities.
A marteloscope is a designated area of the forest in which tree measurements are linked to provide a framework for in-forest training in marking and selection. In July 2017, the LIFE project team established, in collaboration with the European Forest Institute (EFI Bonn), a 1 ha demonstration area. In this area, all trees are mapped and evaluated regarding economic and ecological value. This enables forest managers and conservationists to perform virtual tree selection exercises under real conditions, and to discuss the results directly in the field.
The marteloscope approach will form the centrepiece of an integrated demonstration network, comprising over 40 sites in nine European countries. It will be implemented by EFI Bonn and funded by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL).
Old-growth oak forests provide important habitats for birds, bats and amphibians. The LIFE project will manage forests, retain dead wood, plant new oaks, and fill drainage ditches to raise water levels, with the aim of protecting characteristic oak-forest species.
In particular, such actions will benefit species of woodpecker, and populations of warty newt, midwife toad and agile frog.
To find out more about the LIFE project visit its website.
28 August 2017The LIFE project to restore alvar grasslands in Estonia is already bearing fruit: just a few years into the Life to alvars project and large blooms of orchids are a visible sign of recovery of this threatened semi-natural grassland habitat.
Alvar grasslands are semi-natural grasslands with thin lime-rich soil on limestone bedrock. The project is restoring 25 alvar grasslands sites in Estonia totalling 2 500 hectares: two are found on the mainland and the rest spread over the islands of Muhu, Saaremaa and Hiiumaa in the Baltic Sea.
The areas had become overgrown with junipers and pine trees, as a result of lack of grazing and plantations. "I think we have created the landscape that was here about 40 years ago,” said Annely Esko, project leader from the Environmental Board of Estonia.
The orchids, which include the rare golden lady slipper, are attracting more butterflies and bumblebees to the sites. The project team say that progress has been astounding and that 15 species new to Estonia have already been observed, including lichens, spiders and wasps.
Restoration activities mostly focus on cutting down shrubs and trees, which threaten such species. Only a third of the restored areas will be left with junipers and pine trees.
Calcareous alvar grasslands are one of the most species-rich habitats in Europe, but the total area has drastically declined from 43 000 ha in the 1930s to just 8 000 ha today.
Estonia was home to a third of the world's habitat, which is maintained through long-term grazing by sheep, cows and horses. Abandonment of such practices has led to the overgrowth of junipers and the plantation of pine trees.
The LIFE project is also directly involving private land owners and raising awareness among the local community of the value of alvar areas and the importance of managing them effectively. Around 600 landowners are participating in the project.
The mechanically removed trees are shredded and used as woodchips, reducing the country's dependence on shale oil for heating.
The project’s achievements have attracted widespread media coverage, including a feature in the magazine New Scientist.
25 August 2017The LIFE community is saddened to learn of the death of Alberto Baldazzi, earlier this month. Mr Baldazzi oversaw LIFE projects during the early years of the LIFE programme. Most notably, he was the creator of the LIFE logo, which is still used by every LIFE project to this day.
After leaving the European Commission, he continued to be closely involved in environmental matters, working as a consultant in sustainable development and clean technology and pursuing an interest in ethical hunting.
The LIFE community has lost a good friend, a trusted colleague and an ambassador of LIFE. The LIFE logo will remind us of his sense of humour and optimism, his commitment and his humanity.
16 August 2017“Integrated projects are different from traditional LIFE projects in size, duration, mechanism and ambition,” says Angelo Salsi, Head of Unit, LIFE and Eco-Innovation, EASME.
In this short video, Mr Salsi explains why a LIFE Integrated Project is like building a house: “They require a plan, financial resources, commitment and a lot of time.”
“The hope is that every part of Europe will have the possibility to test this new feature of the LIFE programme, so that we can demonstrate at the end of the day that coordinated effort can lead to the implementation of ambitious strategies in environment and climate.”
If you're working on a proposal for a new Integrated Project, the closing date for the 2017 LIFE call is fast approaching. Remember to submit your concept note by 4pm (Brussels time) on Tuesday 26 September.
For more information, visit the LIFE programme funding page.
11 August 2017 The EU LIFE programme is hosting a waste workshop in Sardinia, Italy, highlighting LIFE funding opportunities and latest advances in Europe in waste management solutions.
The workshop takes place at one of the largest gatherings on waste management science and technologies in Europe. It will showcase a selection of the latest and most practical solutions (for others to adopt) supported by the LIFE programme in waste management. It will include presentations on ongoing projects in this sector, as well a slot on LIFE funding opportunities and the future call for projects.
The LIFE workshop, “LIFE programme: funding opportunities and innovative waste management solutions”, will be held on the opening day (2 October 2017) of the 16th International Waste Management and Landfill Symposium. It takes place at 3.30 pm in St Margherita di Pula, Italy.
The draft agenda is available here.
09 August 2017Conservation measures, including those carried out under two LIFE projects, have had a beneficial impact on moorland in the Peak District and South Pennines, according to new monitoring and research undertaken by the LIFE projects, Moors for the Future Partnership and the University of Manchester.
The research, which assessed data going back 12 years, shows that by re-introducing native plants and sphagnum moss, the MoorLIFE project and the follow-up MoorLIFE2020 project among other initiatives, have successfully put the moors on an active recovery path to a healthy state.
The conservation efforts have increased the number of different plant species living on the moors in order to support animal life and moorland birds, while at the same time raising the water table to make the soil less peaty and vulnerable to wildfire. Increased vegetation also has the benefit of slowing down run-off after heavy rainfalls.
The ongoing LIFE project is targeting around 9 500 ha of active blanket bog habitat in the South Pennine Moors’ Natura 2000 network site. The conservation status of the site had become unfavourable after almost two centuries of heavy sulphate and nitrates deposition, leading to the destruction or severe depletion of essential sphagnum moss cover.
The long-term monitoring and research shows, however, that the moorland habitats have positive restoration trajectories. “The trajectories for plant species, water table and slowing of storm flow were all positive and showed that restoration works are helping to return the moors to a healthier condition,” said Martin Evans, Professor of Geomorphology at the University of Manchester.
“We’re continuing to work closely with the Moors for the Future Partnership as part of the MoorLIFE 2020 project, in particular to consider if the reintroduction of sphagnum mosses on the uplands has a positive effect on improving water quality while reducing flood risk.”
Sphagnum mosses can hold up to 20 times their weight in water and thus play a major role in the health of the bog. The plants moreover act as a filter, cleaning water before it gets into reservoirs and saving on water treatment costs.
The latest LIFE project is being carried out by the Peak District National Park Authority along with the Moors for the Future Partnership, which was set up in 2003 to protect some of the most degraded landscapes in Europe.
07 August 2017The PIROSLIFE project has released new images of brown bears (Ursus arctos) in the Pyrenees. At the end of June, a female and two cubs were filmed by the PIROSLIFE monitoring team in the forests of the L’Alt Pirineu Natural Park in Catalonia (Spain). These youngsters are the offspring of brown bears released in the Pyrenees to re-introduce the animals to this region. The video shows the cubs climbing a tree trunk, and even descending it head first, behaviour more typical of squirrels that has not been observed previously in the Pyrenees.
Native brown bears in the Central Pyrenees became extinct by 1990. Since 1996, the LIFE programme has funded a series of projects aimed at re-introducing them; including releases of individuals of the same genetic strain from Slovenia. While the initial effort made regarding the bears coexistence with humans was insufficient, provoking a conflict with the local population that lasts until today, nevertheless, the Pyrenees population of brown bears has reached about 30 specimens, almost 90% of them living totally or partially in Catalonia. Here, they benefit from high quality habitat in Natura 2000 network sites. However, the genetics of the population remains a concern, as more than 75% of new-born bears are descended from a single reintroduced male from Slovenia - named Piros. And as well problems of coexistence with local population.
Therefore, the PIROSLIFE project is addressing the problem of inbreeding in its 10-year Bear Action Plan (2014-2023), with the aim of strengthening the bear population in the Central Pyrenees. The project team are improving ecological connectivity between bear habitats, coordinating monitoring and conservation activities, and supporting measures for the co-existence of bears with human activities. To improve the genetic diversity of the resident population, the project will also introduce a male bear from a different territory.
In addition to observing brown bears in Catalonia, the PIROSLIFE monitoring team have this summer also observed female brown bears with cubs in two areas of the French Pyrenees. The project’s findings look promising for the long-term conservation of this emblematic species in the Central Pyrenees.
You can find out more by visiting the PIROLIFE website.
04 August 2017On 31 May 2017, the LIFE+ small scale CHP project team inaugurated the ORC (Organic Rankine Cycle) unit at the district heating plant of Bräkne-Hoby in south east Sweden. It was the first ORC unit to be installed in a district heating plant in Sweden. The unit will enable the operating company, Ronneby Environment & Technology, to produce renewable heat for surrounding households and to send locally-produced power to the electric grid.
The LIFE project is demonstrating new and yet-to-be-commercialised techniques, including ORC, for small-scale biomass CHP (Combined Heat and Power). The aim is to pave the way for a broader application of small-scale biomass CHP technology on a regional, national and European level.
At the inauguration, Karoline Alvånger, project manager of LIFE+ small scale CHP, said that while large-scale CHP exists in many places, the LIFE project demonstrates several techniques for small-scale electricity production. By documenting the entire process, from bid to full operation, the project will raise awareness about the benefits of small-scale CHP.
Bengt Holm, chairman of the board for Ronneby Environment & Technology, explained that the ORC plant is in line with the strategic plan of the municipally-owned company:
“The goal for Ronneby municipality is not merely to become fossil fuel-free by 2020, but also to be at the forefront of development and this is part of that work. The wet steam turbine at the district heating plant in Sörbyverket and the ORC plant here in Bräkne-Hoby are the first ones to be connected to biofuel boilers at district heating plants in Sweden.”
The ORC technology is based on a closed-circuit turbine driven by an organic fluid with a boiling point that is lower than water. It generates electricity by utilising the hot side of the boiler circuit and the cold side of the district heating network. The ORC plant can generate electricity at a lower temperature than conventional power plants, which makes the technology well suited for producing green electricity from biomass in local heating plants.
“This is the first plant in Sweden where we utilise a boiler system to run an ORC,” said David Frykerås, CEO of Againity the company that delivered the ORC. “This system provides the same efficiency at the same cost per kilowatt as a significantly larger system. There are roughly 500 district heating plants in Sweden which could install an ORC.”
Sweden is currently adapting to a more sustainable energy system and local electricity production is an important part of that process.
LIFE+ small scale CHP is a collaboration between the Energy Agency for South East Sweden, Ronneby Environment & Technology, and the Emå dairy. To find out more, visit the LIFE project’s website.
02 August 2017How do you reconcile the many interests that affect the use and development of a river? A recent LIFE platform meeting in the German city of Koblenz had some answers.
The 'one river, many interests' event was hosted by the LIFE Integrated Project, Living River Lahn and the Federal Institute of Hydrology. Its goal was to bring together relevant LIFE projects and other stakeholders to explore the impact of different uses of rivers, with a particular focus on river restoration.
The first of three workshops at the meeting set out to enable projects to exchange experiences on handling the conflicting interests that can have an impact on river restoration. New challenges for waterways include climate change, ageing infrastructure, new legislation, and new means of engaging stakeholders. Identifying the biggest challenge was not easy, with the group highlighting a range of issues, including the need to communicate better and to include nature restoration in infrastructure planning. Finding the space to restore rivers is another key challenge.
The workshop also identified some of most important ingredients in a good management programme for waterways:
Ecosystem services are the benefits people obtain from ecosystems that promote human well-being. These are not only monetary benefits, but also include cultural values and health benefits, as well as the supporting service of maintaining habitats and species populations. The second workshop in Koblenz addressed key questions around river restoration and ecosystem services, including:
The workshop identified several opportunities and risks around the ecosystem services concept. Risks include the challenge of assessing such services and finding ways to correctly estimate their value, whether that be a monetary value or another value such as health or culture. Benefits include the fact that if you can demonstrate more ecosystem services you will get more money for restoration and more public support. The ecosystem services concept can spark discussions with stakeholders who may then be encouraged to make investments.
The third workshop provided some important lessons from a number of LIFE projects that have involved stakeholders in river restoration.
The keynote presentation by environmental consultant Paul Chapman, former project manager of the LIFE project QUERCUS in Lewisham, south London, showed exactly why it is worth bothering with urban river restoration. “It can set the tone for future regeneration and it shows the value of public engagement. It can change perceptions from 'what river' to “MY RIVER',” he said. In the case of QUERCUS the result was a 250% increase in use, a doubling of species recorded in the river and ongoing local engagement in river clean-ups and nature conservation. It has also led to further investment from other sources.
This workshop noted that it's important to have local support, be realistic about what can and can't be achieved and to strive for a common understanding that will ensure the sustainability of results.
Developing a long-term vision that includes devolved responsibilities and stakeholder agreements can ensure local involvement in the future. The workshop concluded that success stories can be replicable, but it is always necessary to pay attention to local conditions.
Two key lessons are that projects should accept short-term failures if that helps solve a long-term lack of trust, and they should find champions among stakeholder groups at the evidence-gathering stage, rather than once a restoration action has started.
The most widespread pressure on ecological status in the EU originates from changes to water bodies. If done well, river restoration can support the realisation of the Water Framework Directive and other relevant EU legislation. “Hydromorphological pressures are the biggest issue that remains to be solved in terms of restoring water bodies to good status,” said keynote speaker, Claire McCamphill, of DG Environment's Water Unit.
“The 'blue belt' concept that the Germans have come up with is a really great way to approach this difficult issue,” she added. “I think Living River Lahn is a great project: through European funding we are enabling two different authorities with different ideals to come together and resolve these issues. You can see that the European money is being used as a catalyst to come up with something that will offer solutions to a problem that is a big issue in Germany but also something that is a big issue European-wide,” said Ms McCamphill.
“Navigation is the key issue of this project. There are a lot of other pressures and we would like to take them on board as well,” said Stephan Von Keitz, project manager, Living River Lahn. “This project can serve as a pilot project because the landscape is quite typical of the central mountain uplands that you find frequently in Germany. And then we are not talking about 150 km of waterway, we are talking about 2 800 km,” he explained. To learn more about the project and the 'blue belt' concept, take a trip down the Lahn with Dr Von Keitz in this video on the LIFE Facebook page.
“I think the platform meeting was a success. The conference and the discussions support us in coping with our tasks and also support the continued growth of the hydro-ecological network in Europe,” said Birgit Esser, Director of the Federal Institute of Hydrology.
Networking will be further boosted by EASME's new virtual networking platform for traditional and integrated LIFE water projects. At the Koblenz platform meeting, Solon Mias from EASME explained that this free tool will be a virtual meeting place for all LIFE water experts, with forums, a library and an events calendar.
A full report on the meeting can be downloaded here.
Presentations from the platform meeting can be downloaded by clicking this link.
01 August 2017Are you a company that offers sustainable products or services that is looking to expand? An organisation that supports small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)? A regional authority?
If so, why not get involved in a new project from the European Commission that aims to kick start the circular economy among Europe's SMEs?
The project is open to the following:
- SME support organisations that would like to receive training on the circular economy
- Circular solution providers (companies which offer sustainable products and/or services) that would like to expand
- Regional authorities that would like to receive policy advice on how to support SMEs in adopting circular solutions
Expressions of interest must be submitted by Monday 18 September 2017 by filling in the digital application located at: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/funding/circular-economy-smes/
Any questions? Contact: ENV-PILOT-PROJECT@ec.europa.eu