30 June 2017This issue of LIFEnews focuses on a LIFE platform meeting dedicated to ecosystem services and how to incorporate them into decision-making. These services are defined as the benefits provided to humanity by ecosystems.
The first article gives an overview of the event and the importance of ecosystem services, with contributions from the Estonian environment minister and DG Environment's Policy Officer for Biodiversity. The second article looks at the experiences of LIFE projects with defining/mapping and assessing ecosystem services, and applying the concept in decision-making.
29 June 2017The LIFE programme was a winner in the Andalusian Environment Awards 2017, an initiative organised by the regional government of Andalusia in Spain.
The awards recognise the work of individuals or organisations in dissemination and diffusion of environmental values in the region. LIFE received the award in the ‘natural values’ category, which focuses on those organisations designing and implementing projects on nature conservation and the reduction of human impacts on the environment.
The LIFE programme is currently celebrating its 25th anniversary. Since the outset, LIFE has played a key role in the protection of Andalusia's environment. The programme has invested €157 million euros in 38 projects in the region.
The award was received by Ms. Dorte Pardo López, from DG Environment, on behalf of the European Commission.
More information about the 2017 edition of the Andalusian Environment Award and the winners in the five other categories is available online (information in Spanish).
27 June 2017The MoorLIFE2020 (LIFE14 NAT/UK/000070) project will give people a virtual moor experience later this year, when it tours its ‘Bogstatic Van’ through the towns of the English Peak District and South Pennines, later this year.
The LIFE project is protecting active blanket bog habitat within the South Pennine Moors’ Natura 2000 network site through a series of conservation actions, thereby also maintaining valuable ecosystem services. In tandem, the project is inspiring people from all walks of life to value and help protect the upland moors.
People entering the mobile ‘moor in a van’ exhibition can experience the sights, sounds and even the smells associated with peat bogs, without getting their boots wet! Hands-on exhibits include a chance to squeeze sphagnum moss, a vital bog plant that holds up to 20 times its own weight in water. A local company is constructing the custom-built van, which also contains a novel audio-visual experience. MoorLIFE2020’s bogtastic campaign is co-financed by Severn Trent Water, Yorkshire Water and United Utilities, through the Moors for the Future Partnership.
“We want to increase understanding of the benefits of our iconic moorland for wildlife, as a source of drinking water for millions of people, helping to stop flooding in local towns, and as a major store of carbon to tackle climate change,” says Rebecca Cassidy, senior communications officer at the Moors for the Future Partnership. “We need people to understand the fragility of our uplands, especially their vulnerability to wildfire, so that we can ensure these unique landscapes are protected for the benefit of generations to come.”
The moorlands are home to unique and iconic wildlife. However, sphagnum moss has been killed over large areas due to industrial pollution and wildfires, leaving degraded bare peat areas of low biodiversity and impaired ecosystem services. The LIFE project is enabling bare peat areas to recover, by raising the water table and reintroducing blanket bog vegetation.
For further information about MoorLIFE2020, visit the project website.
22 June 2017Public-private partnerships could be the answer to the lack of funding for the protection and management of Natura 2000 network sites, according to a recent conference organised by the LIFE Stymfalia project (LIFE12 NAT/GR/000275).
The objective of the conference Business and Biodiversity in Natura 2000 sites: the way forward which took place in Athens and Stymfalia on 9-10 June 2017 was to present the linkages between business and biodiversity and promote innovative and good management practices in wetlands.
“The stimulation of the private sector to generate funding opportunities for the protection of Natura 2000 sites is the European Union's policy that we are implementing for the first time in Greece through the LIFE-Stymfalia project. Piraeus Bank, a pioneer in green entrepreneurship, is now creating innovative investment solutions for Natura 2000 sites, which cover 27% of the land area of Greece,” said Vrassidas Zavras, Piraeus Bank’s General Manager for Green Banking and the coordinator of the project. According to Mr Zavras, the LIFE-Stymfalia project, “aspires to prove that nature protection could be an important tool for the sustainable development and the creation of new jobs”.
The objective of the project is to create a sustainable management and financing system for an important degraded wetland ecosystem around Lake Stymfalia, a Natura 2000 site. The lake has been degraded over time as a result of unsustainable use of its natural resources which has led to the reduction of fauna. LIFE Stymfalia will improve the conservation status of wetland habitats and species while also exploiting the biomass available around the lake to create revenues that will support the lake's future management after the project ends.
Linking sustainable management practices of protected areas with the development of alternative business opportunities to fund that management was the main topic of the conference.
A LIFE-Stymfalia concluding statement was issued following the conference encouraging stakeholders to move beyond the perception that Natura 2000 network sites are an obstacle to development and to see them instead as opportunities for promoting sustainable business that favours biodiversity and ecosystems.
For more information about LIFE-Stymfalia, visit the project's website
14 June 2017Kaja has given birth! The four-year-old lynx (Lynx lynx carpathicus), who was one of the first three individuals to be reintroduced to the Palatinate Forest under the German LIFE Luchs Pfälzerwald project (LIFE13 NAT/DE/000755), has produced a litter of two. The births are the first reproductions to have occurred in the biosphere reserve since the 18th century.
The parents, Kaja and Lucky, were reintroduced from Slovakia around a year ago. Having fitted the lynx with GPS collars, the beneficiary, the Rheinland-Pfalz Nature and Environment Foundation (Stiftung Natur und Umwelt Rheinland-Pfalz), was able to follow the pair’s progress. They noted an encounter between the two on 17-20 February during a favourable mating time. The gestation period for a lynx is 72 days.
“With the birth of this first lynx kitten, the project has achieved another important milestone,” said Ulrike Höfken, Environment Minister for the Rhineland-Palatinate region.
The main objective of the Luchs Pfälzerwald project is to re-establish a lynx population in the Palatinate Forest. The target is to release of 20 lynxes in total, with 10 coming from Switzerland and 10 from Slovakia.
While monitoring had previously discovered individual lynxes in the Palatinate Forest, these were thought to have originated from the closest population in the Vosges, France, and they showed no sign of establishing a resident population. A reintroduction programme was therefore considered.
Around 90% of the project area is public land and the relevant authorities all indicated their support for the reintroduction of lynx. Nevertheless, a key aspect of the project is to encourage cooperation among German and French stakeholders, such as hunters and livestock owners, in order to create long-term acceptance of the species.
13 June 2017A workshop on climate action in agriculture and forestry was held by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Climate Action (DG CLIMA) and the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (EASME) in Brussels on 1 June 2017.
The meeting emphasised the need for the agriculture and forestry sectors to take greater action to meet the EU's climate goals, including those under the Paris Agreement and the 2030 climate and energy framework. It also highlighted some innovative approaches to climate action, illustrated by a number of LIFE and Horizon 2020 projects, and how they can help farmers and foresters take up climate-smart production methods.
Miguel Sagredo-Fernandez, a senior member of the cabinet of Miguel Arias Cañete, the EU Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, opened the workshop. He told attendees, "successful LIFE and Horizon 2020 projects are great examples of how climate policies translate into research and action on the ground. Thanks to your creativity, your passion, your dedicated work, many new methods and tools are today available to reach a sustainable agriculture and forestry sector. It is now time to upscale this potential to spread the outcome of your projects as much as we can at European level."
In the opening session, Niels Peter Norring from COPA-COGECA, which represents farmers and agricultural cooperatives, said agriculture is, "on the front line of climate change." He highlighted two major challenges for the sector relating to this issue: how to continue producing high quality agricultural products; and how to contribute to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. "We need to ensure that European agriculture is equipped with the right tools to take on the future challenges," he added. Professor Bart Muys from the University of Leuven noted the importance of the forestry sector, explaining that, "about 10-12% of European greenhouse gases are absorbed by the forest sector," despite Europe representing just 4% of global forest resources.
Parallel sessions showcased a number of projects focused on climate action in agriculture and forestry that are supported by LIFE, Horizon 2020 and the 7th research framework programme. LIFE projects presented in the agriculture session included: AgriClimateChange, LIFE CarbOnFarm, LIFE HelpSoil, LIFE BEEF CARBON, LIFE REGEN FARMING, LIFE CLIMATREE and oLIVE-CLIMA. The forestry session also featured several LIFE projects - ManFor C.BD., OPERATION CO2, LIFE REstore and Life+GP. The presentations were followed by discussions on how good projects can be replicated and scaled up to help meet the EU's 2030 climate and energy targets, as well as the additional support needed to do so.
The closing plenary session looked at the lessons learned and knowledge gaps identified during the day, and provided an opportunity to exchange experiences and expertise. MEP Paul Brannen, a member of the ENVI Committee, emphasised that, “we really need to scale up many of these things that we are doing. Climate change is a big problem and therefore needs big solutions. We need very strong climate action because time is against us." MEP Brannen also said the European Commission's legislative proposal, put forward in July 2016, to integrate greenhouse gas emissions and removals from land use, land use-change and forestry (LULUCF) into the 2030 climate and energy framework was, "very good."
Wrapping up the workshop, Christiane Canenbley from the cabinet of Phil Hogan, the EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, pointed to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) as a useful tool for supporting farmers whilst tackling climate change, saying, "we should all see how we can use this policy for the best when it comes to climate action." The CAP orients farmers towards a smart climate approach, for example by linking payments to sustainable practices. In addition, agro-climatic measures foreseen under the policy's second pillar (implemented through Rural Development Programmes) incentivise farmers to implement climate change mitigation and adaptation practices.
On top of that, Ms Canenbley highlighted the importance of sharing best practices and knowledge transfer, "so that people know what's available, what's possible." She also noted the need to include the whole value chain: "It's not only about farmers, it's not only about foresters; it's what we do afterwards with the products, [...] how we get consumers included in the various approaches."
The topic of climate action in agriculture and forestry will be the focus of an upcoming issue of the LIFEnews newsletter.
09 June 2017The latest LIFE Nature Focus publication highlights the issues threatening Europe's coastal habitats and how the LIFE programme has addressed them. Coastal regions generate 40% of our GDP, but development must be sustainable and must recognise the natural value of our varied coastlines. Only 13% of coastal species are in a 'favourable' conservation status, while 73% of coastal habitats are assessed as being 'bad' or 'inadequate'.
It is in the interests of all business sectors, from tourism to shipping and fisheries, to safeguard and improve the health of our coastal ecosystems. Adopting an ecosystem approach to their management fosters, rather than hinders, growth and jobs.
The 96-page brochure, LIFE and coastal habitats, outlines the scope of innovative and best practices measures carried out by LIFE projects to improve the status of Europe's coastal habitats and management of Natura 2000 network sites – from dune habitat conservation in the Baltic to coastal lagoon protection in the Black Sea. It features sections on all the different types of habitats targeted by the programme and concludes with a focus on the cross-cutting management issues facing coastal regions.
The EU's integrated policy response covers action on climate change, water pollution, habitat loss and all the other factors impacting on European coastal areas, and LIFE has been instrumental in showing how these policy objectives can best be achieved.
Download: LIFE and coastal habitats
(~ 9,4 MB)
06 June 2017This edition of LIFEnews celebrates the 25th anniversary of the LIFE programme.
The first article looks at the new European Natura 2000 Day and some events held across the EU to celebrate LIFE's anniversary.
The second article focuses on the Green Awards in Brussels which honoured some outstanding LIFE projects from the programme's 25-year history.
07 June 2017The LIFE project Dyemond Solar (LIFE09 ENV/SE/000355) won an award in the Climate Action category at the Green Awards in Brussels. The awards were held to celebrate the most outstanding LIFE projects carried out since 1992 and are one of the highlights of the LIFE programme’s 25th anniversary celebrations.
The LIFE project, which was carried out by Exeger Sweden AB, demonstrated the feasibility of scaling-up screen printing for the manufacture of Dye-Sensitised Solar Cells (DSC). It built a pilot line that lay the ground work for the design and construction of the world’s largest DSC factory..
“Exeger is a prime example of what the EU LIFE programme is meant to foster. It allows companies to grow from an early, high-risk stage. Giving that support pays back, in innovation, in new green industry and in jobs created. Congratulations Exeger for this award,” said Karmenu Vella, Commissioner of Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, at the award ceremony in Brussels.
The Green Award winners were selected via a public vote on Facebook in three categories: Environment; Nature & Biodiversity; and Climate Action.
The winners were presented with their awards at a ceremony on the evening of 30 May 2017 as part of EU Green Week – a key event in the European environment policy calendar attracting policymakers, leading environmentalists, stakeholders and other interested parties from across Europe and further afield.
The theme of this year’s Green Week was ‘green jobs for a greener future’. The LIFE team were present with an exhibition stand and a selfie photo booth in the exhibition area.
Visit the Dyemond Solar website to find out more about the LIFE project. A video of the award-winners is also available.
02 June 2017The latest LIFE platform meeting took place on 10-12 May 2017 in Tallinn, Estonia. The theme was ecosystem services and the discussion focused on how to get the concept into practical decision-making. The event was hosted by the Baltic Environmental Forum under the auspices of LIFE Viva Grass (LIFE13 ENV/LT/000189), a project to improve land use and conservation policies for the long-term maintenance of grassland biodiversity and the ecosystem services that grasslands provide.
Over 100 people from 16 Member States attended the meeting, including policymakers, academics and representatives from 50 LIFE projects. The meeting showcased a variety of restoration techniques, innovative approaches to improving knowledge and understanding of ecosystem services, new management initiatives and governance challenges.
Ecosystems provide numerous and essential benefits to humanity (i.e. ecosystem services), such as food, clean water and clean air. Assigning financial values to these services - and incorporating them into land management and conservation decision-making - can complement traditional approaches to preventing biodiversity loss.
Target 2 of the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2020 seeks to maintain and restore ecosystems and their services across Member States, with obvious shared benefits in relation to climate change and the wider environment. In October 2015, the European Commission published a Mid-Term Review of the strategy; it concluded that progress has been made on policy and knowledge improvement actions under this target and some restoration activities have taken place in Member States. However, this has not yet stopped the trend of degradation of ecosystems and their services.
In his opening address to the platform meeting, the Estonian Minister of the Environment Marko Pomerants gave an overview of what the country is doing in terms of ecosystem services, "thus far, the most extensive undertaking has been the development of the methodology for mapping and evaluation of marine ecosystem services [...] completed last spring. In 2015, we launched the most comprehensive project on the national scale for mapping of Estonian ecosystem services."
The minister added that such mapping is only the first stage in a wider process. "We must start actively thinking about practical applications, especially in terms of how to integrate this valuable knowledge into decision-making," he noted.
LIFE projects provide many practical demonstrations of how to maintain and restore ecosystems and their services. The platform meeting explored their experience in defining and mapping ecosystem services, valuing these services, and applying the concept in decision-making, in three working groups. In total, 21 LIFE projects presented their work and experiences at the event, including several which have used existing tools or developed new ones to define, map and assess ecosystem services, such as LIFE Viva Grass, TREMEDAL (LIFE11 NAT/ES/000707), Ordunte Sostenible (LIFE11 NAT/ES/000704) and LIFENaturEtrade (LIFE12 ENV/UK/000473).
The working groups benefited from presentations by a wide range of projects, such as EcoCo LIFE Scotland (LIFE13 BIO/UK/000428), LIFE ADAPTAMED (LIFE14 CCA/ES/000612), LIFE Blue Natura (LIFE14 CCM/ES/000957), and LIFE Natura2000ValueCrete (LIFE13 INF/GR/000188). This was followed by discussions exploring the definition, mapping and valuation of ecosystem services, and how the lessons learned could be used to inform policy. The results will be used to help produce guidance documents for LIFE projects working on or making assessments of ecosystem services.
The platform meeting concluded with field trips to see rural ecosystem services in action in Lahemaa National Park and urban ecosystems in Tallinn.
An in-depth report on the platform meeting will be covered in a forthcoming edition of the LIFE newsletter.
The LIFE project presentations from the platform meeting are available to download.