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News: March 2017

Frogs ready to sing out loud in upcoming concert series

Photo: LIFE14 NAT/SE/000201

31 March 2017 Already known for its heavy metal festival, the German district of Kreis Steinburg, near the Danish border, is soon to be the venue of a rather different, more natural, but equally loud concert.

The regional nature protection agency – Stiftung Naturschutz, Schleswig-Holstein – is organising a series of night trips to hear a real-life frog chorus in action. Move over Paul McCartney…these amphibians can be heard up to two kilometres away…without amplifiers!

The nature protection agency behind Froschkönig Live! (or the Frog Kings Live!) will lead visits to a range of sites to hear the evening rumblings of many of the amphibious species that have benefited from restoration activities carried out by the SemiAquaticLIFE (LIFE14 NAT/SE/000201) LIFE project. These include the common spadefoot toad (Pelobates fuscus), the European green toad (Bufo viridis), the European tree frog (Hyla arborea) and the European fire-bellied toad (Bombina bombina).
The agency, which is a partner of the transnational SemiAquaticLIFE project, has organised similar events in the past. For those who can’t make it to the event, podcast recordings are available of this unique music.

If you wish to attend one of these naturally free night concerts, which are to take place from 28 April 2017 to 2 June 2017 – see the concert flyer for more details.

The SemiAquaticLIFE project is led by the Swedish County Administrative Board of Skåne and is targeting freshwater Natura 2000 sites in Sweden (11 sites), Denmark (19 sites) and Germany (9 sites). The aim is to improve the conservation status of herptiles (reptiles or amphibians) and semi-aquatic insects by restoring wetlands, creating hibernation areas and removing shrubs and invasive species. The final outcome will be site-specific management plans for future conservation for all the project sites.

The project was featured in the LIFE thematic brochure on reptiles and amphibians.

Apennine brown bear population greater than estimated

Photo: LIFE03 NAT/IT/000151

30 March 2017 The Apennine brown bear (Ursus arctos marsicanus), one of the most endangered bears in Europe, has a greater population than originally thought, according to latest monitoring activities that were initiated by Italian LIFE projects.

The bears, found in the mountains of Central Italy, have been the target of two conservation projects co-funded by LIFE, namely ORSO SIRENTE (LIFE03 NAT/IT/000151) and Sirente-Velino (LIFE98 NAT/IT/005114).

The population is now thought to have been underestimated due to its small size, according to an article recently published by The European Zoological Journal. Part of the monitoring activities were conducted by the two LIFE Nature projects which have now improved the framework of knowledge about the bear in the area and its local conservation. The data shows a continuous presence of bears in the study area during the last 15 years. The evidence of the stable presence of wintering bears and a more or less continuous presence of breeding bears suggests a wider than previously expected stable presence of brown bears in the peripheral Apennine range. The article notes that peripheral areas of bear distribution, both inside and outside protected areas, are crucial for conservation.

The brown bear has become a symbol of the Sirente Velino regional park, which was established in 1989. The regional park was the beneficiary of both LIFE projects. On the periphery of the bear’s Apennine range, the park offers a key connection point for expanding into the northern reaches of its distribution.

At the time of the launch of the first LIFE project in 1998, the park was home to nine proposed sites of Community interest. Monitoring activities are carried out by the park’s scientific service and rangers in partnership with the State Forestry Corps and volunteers. The LIFE projects have improved the park habitats for the bear by planting fruit trees, closing roads and constructing electric fences to prevent conflict with cattle farming, among other measures.

Join Nácar the Iberian lynx on his run to freedom

Photo:LIFE10 NAT/ES/000570

29 March 2017 On a misty morning in February, a male Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) called Nácar sprang from his cage and ran to freedom in Dehesa de las Yeguas, Jaén, in the Spanish region of Andalusia. Nácar’s dramatic run into the wild was caught on film by a drone camera and can now be enjoyed by all.

Nácar reintroduction is the latest milestone of the Life+IBERLINCE (LIFE10 NAT/ES/000570) project, which is continuing a reintroduction programme to reinforce the population of the Iberian lynx. Nácar and Nambroca - a female lynx also released on the same morning – join Nebraska and Snow, two other lynx who were reintroduced earlier. The LIFE project has now achieved its planned total of four lynx to be released in the Guarrizas river valley this year.

Lynx reintroductions carried out by a series of LIFE projects have been particularly successful in rescuing the species from the brink of extinction following the decimation of its main source of prey, rabbit, due to viral diseases, such as myxomatosis, and the fragmentation and loss of its habitat.

The increases in lynx population size – from just 52 mature individuals in 2002 to 475 recorded in 2016 by the project in the Iberian peninsula – have resulted in the IUCN moving its conservation status from Critically Endangered to Endangered.

The recent reintroductions were presided over by Juan Eugenio Ortega, the provincial delegate for the environment and spatial planning of Jaén, along with local inhabitants from Vilches and La Carolina. The male and the female lynx were both a year old and came from the captive breeding centre of Granadilla (Cáceres). The reintroduction area has a high rabbit population, supported by LIFE measures, and there is strong local support for lynx conservation. Private farm owners and hunting societies that manage much of the land have formed a firm collaboration.

The most recent LIFE project to target the lynx is also aiming to reduce mortality rates due to road accidents and from illegal hunting. The overarching objective is to establish four new Iberian lynx populations with five territorial females, each in different Natura 2000 network sites where the species was historically present.
For an overview of LIFE’s successful engagement in safeguarding this emblematic feline, beginning in 1994 with the launch of Lynx Life, visit the project website.

Planting trees to protect birds in Slovakia

Photo:LIFE13 NAT/SK/001272

24 March 2017 In a first for Slovakia, the LIFE Energy project (LIFE13 NAT/SK/001272) is taking the innovative step of planting trees to protect birds across the country.

LIFE Energy has already planted some 550 trees in areas where birds regularly die due to collisions with power lines. The project is thus increasing vegetation around the dangerous power lines to ensure birds register the natural barrier and fly over the electric wires. The trees not only protect birds they also have the added benefit of increasing biodiversity. By planting different species of trees, the project ensures that various animal species are attracted to the area and use the vegetation for nesting, a source of food and shelter.

Three electric companies are also helping to protect birds and have installed more than 8 000 insulators, or flight diverters, along 82 km of the country’s power lines. According to the project, these measures have protected over 600 birds from collision, with a social value saving estimated at €1.5 million. The power companies used field surveys and a methodology developed by LIFE ENERGY to identify the most dangerous sections when deciding where to install the flight diverters.

The thousands of birds that die after colliding with power lines in Slovakia each year are a contributing factor to declining bird populations. The LIFE ENERGY project is working to reduce this kind of bird mortality in Natura 2000 network sites in Slovakia. It is targeting ten endangered species listed in Annex I of the Birds Directive, including the Eastern imperial eagle (Aquila heliaca), Saker falcon (Falco cherrug) and lesser white-fronted goose (Anser erythropus). Preventing collisions with electricity power wires is the most important part of the project’s work. Other bird population supporting activities are also performed, such as increasing food resources.

For more information, visit the project’s weblife_energysite.

LIFEnews N° 02/17

LIFEnews 02/17

23 March 2017 This edition of LIFEnews focuses on the first LIFE platform meeting dedicated to Integrated Projects (LIFE IPs). These are projects designed to implement environmental and climate legislation and goals on a wider scale than traditional LIFE projects, in particular by mobilising complementary funding from EU and national sources and the private sector.

The lead article reveals what has been learned about complementary funding in the first year of LIFE IPs, including contributions from the LIFE Unit, the Finnish National Contact Point and two projects. The second article showcases the nine new Integrated Projects funded in the 2015 LIFE call.


Download this issue >>

Seven European cities and nine London boroughs to join LIFE food value initiative

Photo:LIFE15 GIE/UK/000867

21 March 2017 On 16 March 2017, LIFE TRiFOCAL London (LIFE15 GIE/UK/000867) announced at The London Conference the names of the nine London boroughs and the seven EU cities where it will demonstrate its innovative food valuing programme.

LIFE TRiFOCAL London aims to encourage people to reduce food waste through changes in shopping, storage, and meal planning and preparation behaviours; to promote healthy and sustainable eating by changing purchasing and preparation practices; and to increase the recycling of unavoidable food waste. The nine pioneering London boroughs where it will focus this integrated initiative over the next two years are:  Bexley, Croydon, Hackney, Hounslow, Islington, Lambeth, Merton, Sutton and Tower Hamlets. Successes within these nine London boroughs will be shared across other London boroughs to amplify their impact.

Peter Maddox, Director of WRAP, project coordinating beneficiary WRAP said, “it’s very exciting to announce this phase of TRiFOCAL London with our nine partner boroughs. Having this scale of support will help us test, measure and understand how we can apply learnings from these pilots across our capital city, and beyond. We shall test different approaches combining the three core themes of reducing food waste, healthy and sustainable eating, and increasing food waste recycling. This will help people and businesses save money, and benefit the environment.”

The project is pioneering the first large-scale demonstration of how the three core messages can be tailored and targeted simultaneously to households, schools, community groups, and the hospitality and food service sectors in each borough.
The project team estimates that London households alone throw away around 900 000 tonnes of food each year, of which 540 000 tonnes could have been eaten. This level of food waste is costly for consumers, local authorities and businesses, and it has a negative impact on the environment. The project previously reported that by engaging with 33 London boroughs over three years, the project’s food waste campaign could save Londoners around £330 million.

The London-wide trial serves as a pilot initiative for developing similar schemes in other European cities. At the conference on 16 March 2017, the project also announced the seven ‘replication cities’ where  the initiative will be adapted for cities across Europe: Barcelona, Brussels, Burgas, Dublin, Milan, Oslo and Växjö.
In addition, the project team also announced the launch of its new Transforming City Food Habits for Life website, which will be a one-stop resource for all information about the TRiFOCAL programme.

European Committee of the Regions publishes opinion on the mid-term evaluation of the LIFE programme


20 March 2017 Further to the European Commission's request, the European Committee of the Regions has published its opinion on the Mid-term evaluation of the Programme for the Environment and Climate Action (LIFE) 2014-2020, as foreseen under Article 27 (2) of Regulation (EC) No 1293/2013 ('LIFE Regulation'), the implementing act adopting the second LIFE Multiannual Work Programme (MAWP) 2018-2020 (Article 24 (4) of the LIFE Regulation), and the development of the next LIFE programme under the next Multiannual Financial Framework 2020-2027.

The European Committee of the Regions opinion comprises policy recommendations that cover changes to expenditure eligibility, the complementarity of funding and implementation systems among EU -financed programmes and the building of public consensus and strengthening of regional and cross-regional partnerships.

LIFE platform meeting on ecosystem services


16 March 2017 Ecosystems provide countless and essential benefits to humanity, such as food, clean water and clean air. Assigning financial values to ecosystem services - and incorporating them into land management and conservation decision-making - can complement traditional approaches to preventing biodiversity loss.

The European Commission’s LIFE programme unit and the Baltic Environmental Forum are organising with the support of the Neemo EEIG External Team a LIFE platform meeting on ecosystem services in Tallinn (Estonia) on 10-12 May 2017 that will showcase a variety of restoration techniques,  innovative  approaches to improving our knowledge and  understanding of ecosystem  services, new management initiatives and governance  challenges.

Entitled, Costing the Earth? - translating the ecosystem services concept into practical decision making, the meeting is being organised within the framework 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.

The main goal of the event is to assess the role of the LIFE programme in demonstrating the ecosystem services concept in the EU. It will bring together over fifty LIFE projects and other organisations involved with ecosystem services, to uncover solutions to help overcome the barriers and bottlenecks that limit the extent this approach can play in halting biodiversity loss.

In terms of the policy context, 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. The report 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 halted the trend of degradation of ecosystems and their services.

LIFE projects provide many practical demonstrations of how to maintain and restore ecosystems. At the platform meeting, this experience will be structured around three key themes: defining/mapping ecosystem services; valuing ecosystem services; and the application of the ecosystem services concept in decision making.
The lessons learned at the event will inform guidance documents to be produced after the meeting. A panel discussion will also draw conclusions concerning the contribution of the LIFE programme to policy targets in relation to ecosystem services, and integrating ecosystem services approaches into different policy sectors. Conclusions from the meeting will be submitted to the Natural Capital Directorate in DG Environment, and other policy-making bodies.

The platform meeting will conclude with field trips to see ecosystem services in action in rural environments in Lahemaa National Park in northern Estonia and urban ecosystems in Tallinn.

LIFE platform meeting on ceramic and brick manufacturing

Photo: Ecotiles

15 March 2017 The Italian NCP for the LIFE programme is organising a LIFE platform meeting on ceramic and brick manufacturing, in collaboration with EASME, the Neemo EEIG External Team and the Italian industry associations Confindustria Ceramica and ANDIL.

The platform meeting will be held in the Sassuolo ceramic manufacturing district on 11 April 2017. The event will profile the achievements of LIFE projects focused on reducing emissions and consumption of water and energy in the manufacturing process of ceramics and bricks.  At Italian level, the initiative provides a first opportunity for an exchange of best practices in these sectors.

For more information about this platform meeting see the LIFE events calendar and download the agenda (in Italian).

The platform meeting will also contribute to the online knowledge platform developed by the Italian Ministry of the Environment to share best practices for environment and climate action.

Multinational management approach to Prespa Park agreed

Photo: SPP

14 March 2017 The Greek parliament has passed a transboundary agreement to protect Prespa Park, an important area of biodiversity that has been the target of a number of LIFE projects. The agreement recognises the need for the three countries bordering the national park – Albania, Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia – to work together for the sustainable development and prosperity of the area.

The agreement establishes the Prespa Park Management Committee, which is a “radical new multi-participatory approach,” according to Myrsini Malakou, managing director of the Society for the Protection of Prespa, the beneficiary of the LIFE projects whose work has helped lead to this parliament decision. Transboundary management is, “showing that the protection of nature is the best means of achieving co-operation, peace and sustainability in this struggling part of the world,” she added.

Prespa Park is home to two Natura 2000 sites, 49 different habitat types, 70 vegetation types and more than 2 000 plant species. The LIFE projects have helped bring about greater co-operation to conserve and protect the park’s natural value.
The LIFE project, Mikri Prespa (LIFE02 NAT/GR/008494), was launched in 2002. The restoration activities it carried out helped improve breeding and feeding conditions of the Dalmatian pelican and the pygmy cormorant around the Lake Mikri Prespa. It was followed by PROM.SUS.FIS.PR.PRESPA  (LIFE09 INF/GR/000319), which focused on raising awareness of the park in general. This project conducted a widespread campaign to inform fisherman and local inhabitants about the issues affecting endemic fish, water quality and sustainable fishing practices in the Prespa basin.

A follow-up project, LIFE JunEx  (LIFE12 NAT/GR/000539), is restoring the Grecian juniper woods habitat in the park, while the more recently launched LIFE Prespa Waterbirds (LIFE15 NAT/GR/000936) focuses on the park’s water birds. It addresses the main threats to the target species: limited foraging areas for wading birds; obstruction by reed beds of the potential foraging sites and spawning of fish; and the potentially devastating impact of avian flu on pelican meta-populations.
Prespa Park hosts 272 bird species, of which 164 breed in the area and 88 are listed in Annex I of the Birds Directive. It also hosts the largest breeding colonies in the world of the Dalmatian pelican (Pelecanus crispus), some 1 100 pairs, and the great white pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus), as well as more than 1 000 pairs of the pygmy cormorant (Microcarbo pygmeus).

Celebrate 25 years of LIFE and the Habitats Directive


13 March 2017 This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the LIFE programme and of the EU Habitats Directive, both approved on 21 May 1992. To recognise their major contribution to the preservation of Europe’s natural heritage, the European Commission together with the European Parliament, the Council and the Committee of the Regions will proclaim 21 May 2017 as ‘European Natura 2000 day’ at a special event in Brussels.

LIFE Nature projects are also invited to take part in the celebrations by organising a project open day on or near to Sunday, 21 May 2017. This invitation applies to completed as well as current projects.

In addition to communicating project activities to relevant stakeholders, local authorities, the public and the media, these project open days should also help inform people about the 25th anniversary and the considerable achievements of EU nature legislation and the LIFE programme. The Habitats Directive created the EU Natura 2000 network of protected areas which also includes the sites designated under the Birds Directive. LIFE Nature projects have played a key role in the implementation of the network and nature conservation in the EU.

LIFE has created a dedicated website to mark the 25th anniversary: Projects that organise open days are invited to register details of their events on as soon as possible. Projects that would like a Commission representative to attend should upload their event by 31 March 2017 and email their request to Projects can download the LIFE and Natura 2000 logos from the toolkit page of the 25th anniversary website:

Further support in the form of media messages and marketing material (flags, brochures, gadgets) for an open day is available by emailing LIFE at:

Register for the LIFE 2017 call for proposals information and networking event

EUSEW Poster

10 March 2017 Applicants busy designing projects for potential new LIFE funding should highlight the following date in their agendas: 31 May 2017. This is when the European Commission will host an information and networking event on the 2017 LIFE funding opportunities.

Representatives of businesses, industry, NGOs, and local and regional authorities are particularly invited to join the event on Wednesday, 31 May 2017, between 10:00 - 16:00 in Brussels. Would-be participants should note that registration for the LIFE call 2017 information and networking event is on a first come, first serve basis.

At the information session participants will learn about opportunities for project funding under the 2017 call for proposals on close-to-market environmental solutions, biodiversity, and climate change adaptation and mitigation. The networking session will give participants interested in applying for LIFE funding the chance to meet potential project partners and to seek advice from European Commission experts and National Contact Points in one-to-one meetings.

According to indicative planning, the LIFE 2017 call is due to be published on the 28 April 2017. Similar to previous calls, application packages and supporting information will also be made available once the LIFE 2017 call is published. In 2017, there is more than €390 million available in funding, for green technology, nature conservation and climate-related projects.

The LIFE information and networking event takes place as part of EU Green Week 2017 – The focus of which is on how environmental policies are creating green jobs and contributing to economic, sustainable and socially responsible growth in the EU.
Please register via the Green Week website well in advance to attend.

The draft Agenda is available here.

Innovative energy projects apply to feature in EU Sustainable Energy Week gameshow

EUSEW Poster

09 March 2017 Eight winning projects will pitch their energy innovation ideas in front of a jury of European journalists at the Spark Show, as part of this year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW).

The Spark Show, is a 90-minute session that will be held at the EUSEW’s Networking Village in Brussels, on 21 June 2017. It is designed to generate media coverage of great energy innovation ideas, provide media training and to build relationships with the press.

At the Spark Show - inspired by television shows such as The Voice - the eight energy projects are asked to give punchy, three-minute pitches and the first journalist to ‘buzz’ in will get to report on the project first. The journalists will explain their choices and offer advice.

Pitch slots for the show are open to applications from across the EU. Projects must be innovative, impactful, inspiring and scalable or replicable. Applicants are encouraged to show their projects have already benefited from national and international media coverage. The final selection will be made by the European Commission.

The deadline for applications is 31 March 2017.

The event is an initiative of Sparknews, an international social impact amplifier that sources social and environmental innovations from across the world and shares them with leading media.
For further information, email or visit the EUSEW website.

LIFE helps bring griffon vulture back from extinction in Bulgaria

Photo: Hristo Peshev

03 March 2017 The griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus) has returned as a nesting species to the Balkan mountain range and Pirin Mountains in Bulgaria after a 60-year absence. The achievement, a major conservation success and unique in eastern Europe, came thanks to the joint efforts of three LIFE projects - LIFE FOR KRESNA GORGE (LIFE11 NAT/BG/000363), Vultures back to LIFE (LIFE14 NAT/BG/000649) and VULTURES' RETURN (LIFE08 NAT/BG/000278).

Vultures provide a vital ecosystem service by disposing of carrion. Outside the Iberian Peninsula, there are only 1 000 pairs of griffon vultures breeding in isolated sites; in many European countries the species is extinct. Until the mid-20th century, the griffon vulture was common in Bulgaria, breeding across the country and occupying all available cliffs. However, the population declined in the following years due to poisoning and was declared extinct in 1971. A small colony was later found in the Eastern Rhodope mountains in 1978. Thanks to the efforts of nature conservationists and experts, the griffon vulture recovered to 75 breeding pairs in 2015.

Reintroduction projects have been underway in the Balkan Mountains and Kresna Gorge in Pirin for over 10 years, with efforts intensified in 2010 thanks to LIFE programme support. The first successfully hatched and fledged chick for the past 60 years in southwest Bulgaria was born on Vrachanska Mountain in 2015. Another 11 chicks fledged on the cliffs of the Balkan Mountains and in Kresna Gorge in 2016; they will be named after conservationists from eight European countries. The chicks have increased the national griffon vulture population by 25% and the species range by 200%.

More information is available on the Fund for Wild Flora and Fauna's website.
Other vulture populations are also being reintroduced thanks to LIFE. For example, last year the work of the VULTURES' RETURN project saw the first bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) eggs laid for 60 years in Bulgaria.


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