LIFE The Green Link - Restore desertified areas with an innovative tree growing method across the Mediterranean border to increase resilience.

LIFE15 CCA/ES/000125

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Contact details:

Contact person: José Antonio Fuentes
Tel: 34932724790
Email: v.carabassa@creaf.uab.cat

Project description:


European countries are increasingly facing floods, water scarcity, heatwaves, prolonged droughts, unpredictable river flows, temperature rises and decreased rainfall with related impacts on vegetation. These phenomena are closely related to human development and climate change. Their impact is expected to intensify existing risks, particularly in regions where water scarcity is already a concern.

In the Mediterranean area, the impacts of climate change are becoming increasingly perceptible and severe. Many semi-arid regions are suffering significant declines in water availability and increases in temperature, which has increased the rate of desertification and the prevalence of forest fires.

Dealing with dry and non-productive soils requires an integrated approach through adaptation measures that reduce the vulnerability and strengthen the resilience of Mediterranean ecosystems.

The idea of replacing irrigation by using ‘water buckets’ to plant trees was tested by an earlier LIFE project, The Green Deserts (LIFE09 ENV/ES/000447). The Green Link project aims to improve the methods trialled by the earlier project in order to lower production and planting costs, thus making the technology viable for intensive reforestation activities.

In this regard, the new project is strongly aligned to EU climate change adaptation policy objectives. It promotes ecosystem-based adaptation strategies and technologies for sustainable management of water and combating desertification of cross-border Mediterranean countries, and it contributes to nature conservation and biodiversity in particular through its great transferability potential.


The main objective of the LIFE The Green Link project is to demonstrate an innovative growing method which replaces irrigation by using ‘water buckets’ in desertified areas where the failure rate of restoration can reach 70%. The so-called Cocoon system is made out of recycled cartoon, it is very water efficient, low-cost and 100% biodegradable and has shown survival rates of 90% in trials without irrigation.

Specific objectives include:

  • Demonstrating that the Mediterranean area can combat climate change with an effective tool through six trials in three countries suffering from desertification;
  • Demonstrating the economic feasibility of an improved and more sustainable technology to plant trees without the use of irrigation;
  • Designing specific ecological interventions to respond to the demands of climate change adaptation through selection of indigenous and resilient species that will survive in the predicted bio-climates for 2050-2100;
  • Integrating novel methodologies to measure biodiversity, soil carbon stock, soil loss and human well-being in the mid-term, while allowing assessment of climate change impact and resilience in the future;
  • Mapping ecosystem services at landscape level to improve adaptation strategies, on the basis that better understanding of positive outputs from the project will improve future scaling and policymaking; and
  • Replicating the project experience during the project cycle by actively engaging stakeholders (research bodies, SMEs, NGOs, public authorities and local communities) in order to share methods and results for uptake across southern Europe.
  • Expected results: The project expects to achieve the following results:

  • Demonstrate that the Cocoon technology can achieve a 90% survival rate after planting for all the species selected, thus enabling the planting of trees in dry climates and on poor soil to combat desertification phenomena;
  • Show that the technology can cut tree planters’ costs by 30% without the use of irrigation;
  • Improve soil quality by 20% by addressing water scarcity, promoting the growth of green cover, microorganisms and mycorrhiza to enhance the association among roots and soil, and planting along height lines to help prevent erosion and improve water retention in the project area;
  • Enhance ecosystem services, notably by increasing biodiversity by at least 15% and promoting the positive growth of soil carbon stock over time;
  • Model and map ecosystem services in the trial areas to demonstrate the potential for regional development and provide valuable information for climate change databases; and
  • Increase awareness and dissemination of adaptation strategies on forest management among stakeholders (particularly on relevant EU legislation and objectives).



Environmental issues addressed:


Climate change Adaptation - Natural resources and ecosystems


water shortage‚  forest management‚  desertification

Target EU Legislation

  • Water
  • Directive 2000/60 - Framework for Community action in the field of water policy (23.10.2000)
  • Nature protection and Biodiversity
  • COM(2011) 244 final “Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020 ...
  • Climate Change & Energy efficicency
  • COM(2013)216 - EU Strategy on adaptation to climate change (16.04.2013)
  • Regulation 525/2013 - Monitoring and reporting greenhouse gas emissions & reporting other informa ...

Natura 2000 sites

Not applicable



Type of organisation Research institution
Description The Ecological and Forestry Applications Research Centre (CREAF) is a public research centre dedicated to terrestrial ecology, territorial analysis and global change, pursuing excellence in the production and dissemination of knowledge, in addition to the innovation, development, and transfer of methodologies.

The centre has worked in the design of water scarcity adaptation measures, the evaluation of climate change impacts on water resources, the study of the water cycle via satellite imagery, and inspection of water quality in watersheds. It also has experience in evaluating the capacity of forests to act as carbon sinks and the measures to reduce the impacts of climate change. CREAF hosts a consolidated research group dedicated to soils.

Partners Gestión y Planeamiento Territorial y Medioambiental, S.A., Spain Cabildo de Gran Canaria, Spain CENTRE FOR RESEARCH & TECHNOLOGY HELLAS, Greece VOLTERRA ECOSYSTEMS SL, Spain Van Leijen S.r.l., Italy Biopoplar S.r.l., Italy Universidad de Almería – Centro Andaluz para la Evaluación y Seguimiento del Cambio Global, Spain Agencia Estatal Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas - Centro de Investigaciones sobre Desertificación, Spain Land Life Company BV, The Netherlands


Project reference LIFE15 CCA/ES/000125
Duration 01-JUL-2016 to 31-MAR -2020
Total budget 2,891,702.00 €
EU contribution 1,725,719.00 €
Project location Cataluña(España) Comunidad Valenciana(España) Andalucía(España) Canarias(España) Kentriki Makedonia(Ellas) Dytiki Makedonia(Ellas) Calabria(Italia) Sicilia(Italia) Noord-Holland(Nederland)


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Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version