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Renaturation of the river Ruhr in Arnsberg: Germany
Ruhr – DE4614303

www.arnsberg.de/umwelt

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Besides the large-scale woodland areas, the river Ruhr represents the ecological backbone of the city of Arnsberg. It is listed as Natura 2000 to within 32 km of the city limits. Arnsberg has been carrying out so-called ‘renaturation’ measures since 2003. This is a remarkable achievement considering the city was at that time under no obligation to do so and was facing severe financial problems. By 2009, six ‘renaturation’ projects spanning 4.4 km had been completed and three ‘fish passes’ built. In the relevant period of the award (2009-2013), an additional six ‘renaturation’ measures covering 4.2 km were performed.

With all of these measures, Arnsberg has fulfilled the requirements of the EU Water Framework Directive and can be seen as a role model for other European communities. Key work included the removal or relocation of littoral zones and widening of the river bed allowing it to better find its own path. The measures have had a very positive effect on the whole aquatic and semi-aquatic ecosystem (documented by associated monitoring). Due to the variety of different structures, the living conditions for indigenous fishes, insects, crustaceans and birds have been fundamentally improved. In addition, flood protection has been enhanced. Visitors appreciate very much the new river landscape and natural habitat.

Economically sustainable conservation of Aquila fasciata at a Natura 2000 site - Spain
Aiguabarreig Segre-Noguera Pallaresa – ES5130014

www.lasabina.cat

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La Sabina has taken a holistic approach to the conservation of Bonelli’s eagles (Aquila fasciata) at the Nature 2000 site Aiguabarreig Segre-Noguera Pallaresa in Catalonia, Spain. Here we took into account economic aspects, as well as social benefits to local stakeholders, in addition to the primary aim of ensuring the continued presence of Bonelli’s eagles in the territory through increased productivity and reduced adult mortality. The main measure was regular supplementary feeding using feral pigeons captured in city areas, treated against the disease Trichomoniasis and then fed to the eagles.

To minimise disturbance to the eagle population, La Sabina also purchased hunting rights in the immediate vicinity of the nest. We also contacted local and regional stakeholders seeking their cooperation. The viability of the project depends on the continued health and presence of the eagles which attracts keen photographers who pay for the opportunity to photograph this species (and others) at close range from our specially-built hide(s). Accommodation and meals are provided at Montsonís, a village on the edge of this Nature 2000 site. In addition to the observed improvement in the eagles’ breeding success, part of the proceeds from this project have funded the development of an educational ‘raptors game’.

Marjal dels Moros, a Spanish wetland preserved for the future - Spain
Marjal dels Moros – ES0000148

www.cma.gva.es/web/

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The Moro Marshland is a wetland located in Sagunto, within a stretch of the Valencian coast. Back in 1970, the wetland was designated to accommodate the expansion (IV Plant) of the neighbouring steel industry (Altos Hornos del Mediterráneo). However, the project did not come to fruition and, in 1995, the area (620 ha) was purchased by the Valencian Government and declared a ‘Special protected area’ (SPA). Since then, the Valencian environmental authority actively manages this natural area in order to conserve the biodiversity and provide and maintain facilities for public use.

In order to strengthen its level of protection, between 1999 and 2006 four Plant Micro-reserves and two Fauna Reserves were established in the area. In addition, the marsh has been included in the Catalogue of Wetlands (2002) and a traditional farmstead (Alquería dels Frares) has been fully restored and currently houses the Environmental Education Centre of the Valencian Community. In 2004, the whole area was designated a ‘Special conservation area’ (SAC) for the strictly endemic Valencian freshwater fish Samaruc (Valencia hispanica). This preservation process culminated, between 2009 and 2011, in the implementation of a public project financed by the EU which aims to restore degraded habitats and install infrastructure for visitors, such as itineraries, observatories and information signage.

The whinchat project in East Belgium 2012-2013 - AVES-Ostkantone VoG - Belgium
Fagnes de la Roer – BE33036A0

www.aves-ostkantone.be/

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In 2011, AVES-Ostkantone introduced a project to save the last populations of the whinchat, a small songbird, in Belgium. The number of breeding couples in Belgium is estimated at around 200. Nearly all of them are situated in the East Belgium High Ardennes. In the military camp of Elsenborn, 133 couples were counted in 2010, while in the adjacent Rur Valley, 40 couples were counted in 2011. The rest of the population of whinchats in the region are decreasing due to intensive agricultural practices and the destruction of their habitats.

The project (2011-2012) focused on establishing contact with farmers in the area and working together with the Walloon Region, conservation groups, Natura 2000 and different partners in order to restore the whinchat’s habitat and work out measures to mitigate the impact of agriculture on the species. In the Rur Valley (Natura 2000 site), 24 ha were dedicated to protecting the whinchat. A total of 54 breeding couples were counted one year later, in 2012. This project showed that cooperation – dialogue, meetings, sharing information and responsibility – between agriculture and nature protection can yield long-term results. This model can be applied in all situations where conservation of nature and agriculture are in conflict.

Hunters restore flooded natural grassland - France
Basses Vallées Angevines – FR5200630

www.chasse49.fr

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This is a case where hunters worked actively for the environment, in particular the restoration of breeding-nesting boxes in the wetlands. The work – supported by State and European funds – involved the reclaiming of natural grassland and groves. Active dialogue between all actors interested in this Natura 2000 site was encouraged.

The originality and techniques employed in the work are an example to other bodies carrying out similar restoration programmes. Follow-up activities are planned. The benefits of the actions on the site are thus long-lasting for farmers and, at the same time, favourable for breeding birds, in particular crex crex (corncrake), which is classified in Appendix I of the EU’s Birds Directive.

©PNDB

The Arctic Fox in Scandinavia - Sweden
Vålådalen – SE0720084

www.fellesfjellrev.se/

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The Arctic fox is a Natura 2000 species and one of the most threatened mammals in the EU. Hunted close to extinction a hundred years ago, there is now only one small breeding population left in the EU. This population is located on the border between Sweden and Norway, and here the situation is starting to look brighter thanks to successful conservation efforts. The project ‘Felles Fjellrev’ has, through strategic support, managed to raise the breeding rate of the Arctic fox up to four times the rate of areas without support. In 2011, a total of 106 pairings were registered in Sweden and Norway, and 48 of these took place in areas supported by ‘Felles Fjellrev’. A great success!

In 2013, Arctic fox pups were born almost exclusively in areas with continuous support. The project has also successfully reached the public with information about the Arctic fox and its threatened situation. This has resulted in the popular short film ‘Storm and Tinde’ and the children’s book ‘Meet the Arctic Fox’ which has been translated into six languages. Together with lecture tours, information centres, brochures and the website, the information effort has been both massive and successful. The Arctic fox has even started to create money for local entrepreneurs who, in consultation with ‘Felles Fjellrev’ and the County Administrative Board of Jämtland, arrange tours to see the rare animal. We hope to see more of this in the future.

©PNDB

Green pearls in the Dolomites: protecting biodiversity by restoring abandoned meadows - Italy
Dolomiti Feltrine e Bellunesi – IT3230083

www.dolomitipark.it

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Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park is famous for its biodiversity and this fact is particularly evident in the meadows scattered along the steep southern slopes. As a Natura 2000 habitat (code 6210 and mosaic 6210-6230), they represent veritable “green pearls” populated by animals and plants protected by European directives. Among the species observed are: birds such as the crex crex, Lanius collurio, Pernis apivorus; butterflies including Euphydryas aurinia, Parnassius apollo, Lopinga achine and Maculinea arion; and flowers such as Gladiolus palustris.

During the 1960s and 70s, the meadows were regularly harvested for hay, but were later abandoned due to access problems. The neighbouring woods have been encroaching on the meadows at a speed of about 1-1.5 m per year, modifying their floral composition. This means rare species included in the Habitats Directive are at risk of disappearing. Through the project, the abandoned meadows are once again being mowed. The revived grasslands are situated in two areas: Col dei Cavai and Mount Grave. Mowing operations and the elimination of shrub vegetation have restored a 22 ha area at an altitude of between 1 150 m and 1 350 m. In order to study the project’s effect on the changing vegetation, some areas have been set aside as controls where no cutting is carried out, and scrupulous monitoring of flora, birds and invertebrates takes place.

©Diputación Foral de Gipuzkoa

Rosalia alpina and pollards: improving habitats through cultural practices - Spain
Aiako Harria – ES2120016

www.gipuzkoa.net

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The actions presented here are part of the LIFE+ ‘Biodiversity and Pollards’ initiative. The objective was to achieve and guarantee ‘favourable conservation status’ for the saproxylic insects of European interest in the province of Gipuzkoa (northern Spain) by improving forest habitats, in particular pollard trees. The project has focused on Rosalia alpina, a beetle typically found in mature beech stands. During the larval phase, R. alpina requires thick dead wood drying in sun-exposed clearings. Studies carried out in Gipuzkoa have demonstrated the close relationship between R. alpina and pollards (veteran trees traditionally pruned to obtain firewood).

Pollarding as a cultural practice is currently in sharp decline. In five forest ‘Sites of community interest’ (SCI) pruning was carried out on existing pollards. The largest branches that could have fallen over and threatened the stability of the trees were removed. The wood obtained was either piled up in sunny areas or propped up against the trunks to generate suitable conditions for R. alpina to lay eggs. In SCIs where this species was known to exist, their abundance and distribution was established, and in Aiako Harria the monitoring that had started in 2007 showed a positive effect on the population. In addition, the potential habitat for R. alpina has been modelled, placing priority on the most important populations as regards connectivity, based on ecological requirements and the LiDAR map of pollard stands.

Reserve of Bosco Nordio: a management model for herpetofauna - Italy
Bosco Nordio – IT3250032

www.venetoagricoltura.org

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This proposal considers the nature management activities of the Bosco Nordio Reserve aimed rejuvenating degraded areas through the creation of wetlands and the conservation of small patches of so-called ‘grey dunes’ (code 2130 Nature 2000 network habitat). These actions have helped to implement measures to protect and study some species of amphibians and reptiles listed in Annex II of Habitat Directive 92/43. While Rana latastei and Triturus carnifex spontaneously repopulated the new habitat, for other species (Pelobates fuscus and Emys orbicularis) breeding and reintroduction programmes were implemented.

In all cases, there is evidence of breeding populations that are colonising the artificial ponds of the reserve, highlighting the healthy condition of these habitats. While monitoring the population of Testudo hermanni offers indications of the effectiveness of conservation effort. Staff members at the reserve have also developed routine management protocols aimed at maintaining biodiversity with minimal operating cost. Initiatives and infrastructure set up to promote external communication means Bosco Nordio can be considered an important site for environmental education."

©Martí Franch Batllori

Restoration of Cap de Creus, Natural Park - Spain
Cap de Creus – ES5120007

www.gencat.cat/parcs/cap_de_creus/

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The action plan has recovered the following habitats: vegetated sea cliffs off the Mediterranean coast with endemic Limonium spp. (code 1240); arborescent matorral with Juniperus spp., and West Mediterranean cliff-top phryganas. This has led to improvements in wildlife fauna species, such as Phalacrocorax aristotelis desmarestii, Puffinus puffinus spp., Hieratus fasciatus, Mauremys leprosa, as well as flora, such as Armeria ruscinonensis, Limonium tremolsii and Seseli farreny.

This area in Spain is a unique geological landscape with recognised geomorphological value. The rocky cliffs have been shaped by sea and wind erosion. The landscape also has cultural value, represented in the works of artists and writers such as Salvador Dalí and Josep Pla. The programme included removal of a large number of buildings, waste management (100% recycling of materials from the demolition), and native wildlife recovery (uprooting invasive plants, especially Caprobrotus sp. and Gazania sp. and 16 more species covering 90 ha). It also involved restoration of the original topography and surface runoff in the littoral zone. One year after the work, native annuals covered nearly all of the ground that was reclaimed.

©Bergslagsbild AB

Life to a(d)mire- restoration of mires and wetlands - Sweden
Store Mosse National park – SE0310020

www.lifetoaddmire.se

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The project will restore 35 Natura 2000 sites from the north to the south of Sweden. The project aims to stop the decrease of habitats and species at these sites through hydrological restoration and vegetation measures. The ditches draining the mires are filled to restore the hydrology; most of these restorations are done by excavators. Peat is used for filling the ditches and logs are used as plugs to stabilise the structure. In other parts of the mires the ditches are given a more natural appearance by meandering morphology. The overgrown wetlands are cleared of shrubs and weed. The vegetation is removed with the help of clear cutters and/or small machines light enough not to leave any marks in the terrain.

These overgrown wetlands were historically used for haymaking. Agricultural species adapted to these traditional land uses are decreasing or facing extinction due to changes in the land caused by modern management approaches and the problem of overgrowth. Before, during and after the restoration measures, monitoring of vegetation, bird populations, groundwater levels and water chemistry takes place.

Eco-fluvial River Henares corridor - Spain
Cuenca de los Ríos Jarama y Henares. – ES3110001

www.ayto-alcaladehenares.es

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The 2 000-year-old city of Alcalá, which has been declared a World Heritage Site, owes its existence to the River Henares. Indeed Alcalá de Henares has a rich and varied historical and artistic heritage closely associated with the river. The Henares is the main source of water in the area and supports a network of roads and trails that follow the watercourse, as well as the development of valuable ‘ecological skills’ within the community.

The river has carved out a fascinating landscape including areas of great environmental interest, the Los Cerros de Alcalá. Thanks to local government efforts to safeguard this unique natural environment, the site is also important to the daily life of townspeople. To protect and maintain this eco-fluvial corridor, the city has put in place a plan for managing the banks of the Henares, including regular cleaning duties and efforts to maintain natural vegetation areas. In addition, the project has provided facilities for visitors, signage and information.

Capercaillie: a project provides a new landscape database for balancing conservation and recreation - Germany
Nationalpark Bayerischer Wald – DE6946301

www.nationalpark-bayerischer-wald.de/

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Capercaillie numbers are declining throughout Europe. A member of the grouse family, one of the major populations in Central Europe outside the Alps is located in the Bohemian Forest at the border between Germany, Czech Republic and Austria. We conducted the first landscape-wide, trans-boundary monitoring of the species using several novel applications in the framework of a citizen science project.

Our approach, combining head count data, genetic analysis, stress hormone measures and habitat evaluations on a landscape scale, revealed for the first time a clear negative impact of recreation activity on the spatial distribution and stress loads of the birds. Our data provided a solid base for adjusting tourist trails and creating refuges for this highly threatened species. It also allowed for the first-ever evaluation of the impact of disturbances on their boreal forest habitat. This approach clearly influenced local authorities in approving new and altered tourist trails.

©LPN

A divine 'Special protection area' for the lesser kestrel – Spain
Colonias de Cernícalo Primilla de Almendralejo – ES0000331

www.demaprimilla.org

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This application covers the conservation efforts carried out by Defensa y Estudio del Medio Ambiente (DEMA), which were dedicated to the recovery of a lesser kestrel (Falco naumanni) breeding colony in the ‘Special protection area’ (SPA) Colonias de Cernícalo Primilla de Almendralejo. This site is located in a church on the urban perimeter of Almendralejo, Spain. For 24 years, DEMA has dedicated its work to raising awareness and involving local people in the conservation of this lesser kestrel colony, which has made the Purification Church its home. Actions carried out have included the installation and maintenance of 179 artificial nests specifically designed for lesser kestrels, an annual census of the colony and the collection and recovery of lesser kestrel chicks that have fallen from nests.

Ornithological tourism has also been promoted through the creation of an observation point, a photography hide and the organisation of guided tours. The results have been very positive: in 1990 the colony had 18 to 20 breeding pairs, but since the installation of the nests, this has increased to 80 to 84 pairs. Some 99% of these birds now occupy artificial nests. This is the biggest Spanish colony located in only one building. Following DEMA's proposal, the site was declared the first urban SPA in Europe in 2004. The birds used to nest under the roof tiles of the church, causing damage to the building. The installation of artificial nests has shown that cultural and natural interests can be compatible.

© Green Balkans NGO

Conservation of water bird species at Pomorie Lake - Bulgaria
Pomoriysko Ezero – BG0000152

www.greenbalkans.org

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Pomorie Lake is a coastal lagoon in Bulgaria near the Black Sea. Its location, along Via Pontica flyway, makes it an important bird area and thus it is a listed Ramsar site for important wetlands as well as a Natura 2000 site. The site holds regional and national importance for the breeding of several bird species listed in the Annex I of the EU Birds Directive. These include: Sandwich tern (Sterna sandvicensis), Little tern (Sterna albifrons), Common tern (Sterna hirundo), Kentish plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) and Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta). Numbers of breeding pairs have varied throughout the years due to limited sites and disturbance by humans and stray dogs. A small habitat area was restored close to the southern bank, which increased nesting success, but plans for further urban development threatened this progress.

Creation of a large-scale bird nesting habitat was found to be the only solution for achieving the site’s conservation objectives. It was decided the most suitable location would be a disused and eroded earthen dyke in the central part of the lagoon. The central part of the dyke was shaped as an islet for nesting birds, taking into consideration the biological needs of certain species. The newly-created habitat has proven highly successful and was inhabited shortly after its completion in spring 2013, leading to an almost two-fold increase of nesting pairs among the target bird species. The achievement gained national and international recognition.

©Jan Vrbický

Conservation activities carried out in order to rescue Angelica palustris - Czech Republic
Hrdibořické Rybníky – CZ0712186

www.ochranaprirody.cz/en/

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A successful conservation project aimed at rescuing Angelica palustris, a priority species under the Natura 2000 network. There were originally seven sites in the Czech Republic with a recorded presence of this marsh plant, but it disappeared from most of them before 1950. The last site where the species could still be found was SCI Hrdibořické rybníky, which became a ‘Site of community importance’ due to the presence of Angelica palustris. The species has been systematically replanted in this area using authentic (seed bank) plant material.

After several years of attempts to restore Angelica palustris in SCI Hrdibořické rybníky three spontaneous populations have established themselves there. Many special measures have been implemented at the site in order to strengthen the Angelica palustris population. Habitat management and maintenance measures included regular mowing of meadow biotopes, plantation of seedlings, widespread seed dispersals, and hydrological and hydrogeological studies. Communication activities were also undertaken to present the project to the public. These “rescue activities” resulted in more than 2 364 flowering plants and between 2 000 and 3 000 non-flowering plants of Angelica palustris in SCI Hrdibořické rybníky during 2013.

©DuPont Asturias S.l

Furta wetland: a point of view of environmental recovery - Spain
Embalses del centro (San Andrés, la Granda, Trasona y la Furta) – ES0000320

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La Furta has been part of the Reservoirs in Central Asturias SPA, along with ‘Special protected areas’ in La Granda, Trasona and San Andrés. La Furta is part of a 340 ha parcel of land managed by DuPont Asturias. The company’s industrial activities occupy 11% of the area and the rest is taken up by woodlands and natural meadows. With the reservoir located on the site, the level of environmental protection is even greater, as visits are restricted. Since its arrival in Asturias in 1990, DuPont has developed five programmes aimed at restoring and preserving the natural habitat and providing environmental education.

This initiative is in line with the company’s commitment to the community of Asturias. Lost local ecosystems are being recovered, with the creation of mixed forests – gallery- and mono-specific – and the restoration of local peat bogs and a marsh called La Furta. The ‘La Furta’ wetland, a 50 000 m2 marshy land surface, provides shelter to many species of birds stopping over the winter or summer, and other migratory flocks. The wetland is one of the most important bird-watching sites in the Autonomous Community of Asturias.

©Urdabai Biosphere Reserve

Environmental restorations in upper Oka estuary – Spain
Urdaibaiko itsasertzak eta padurak / Zonas litorales y marismas de Urdaibai – ES2130007

www.ingurumena.ejgv.euskadi.net/r49-579/es/

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Since the 15th century, the Oka Estuary has undergone many changes, leading to a gradual loss of habitat and native species. When farmers stopped using this supra-tidal zone and due to hydrological changes, alien and invasive plants such as Baccharis halimifolia (saltbush) took over.

The environmental restoration programme included: 1. Removing saltbush from the area (LIFE08NAT/E/000055); 2. Turning two reclaimed zones (30 ha) into wetland by building dykes and flooding them with sea water during high tide; 3. Repopulating the Oka Estuary with young Pandion haliaetus (osprey) transported from Scotland, raised locally and released. These actions considerably increased the quality of habitats and species in the Nature 2000 site, especially for birds.

©FGlobalNature

Wetlands conservation and restoration: past, present and future - Spain
Lagunas del canal de castilla – ES0000205

www.fundacionglobalnature.org

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Fundación Global Nature has developed different strategies to improve wetland conservation and restoration. Conservation policies have changed and efforts to protect the environment are now seen more as an opportunity for sustainable development, especially for rural areas, than a burden or cost. But after two decades Fundación Global Nature’s goal remains the same: to help protect highly threatened ecosystems which are fundamental to biodiversity, and to facilitate conservation of vulnerable and endangered species. The Foundation promotes the restoration of destroyed wetlands and biodiversity as well as ecosystem services.

Wetlands are important habitat for wildlife species but also help to control flooding and trap nitrogen and phosphorus runoff and pesticides. Farming practices are a key subject for Spanish wetland projects. It is important to develop strategies to involve all stakeholders in land stewardship projects, to ensure sustainable and long-term results. Every project thus includes research, performance measures and a feedback cycle to improve the strategies for wetland conservation and restoration.

The daring Dutch: restoring the dynamic dunes - Netherlands
Kennemerland-Zuid – NL1000012

www.pwn.nl

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For centuries, the most important role of the Netherlands’ coastal dunes has been to protect the low-lying areas from the sea. And now, against all tradition, five gigantic 100-150 m wide holes have been dug to once again give the wind free rein and allow the dunes to drift. By also setting five dune complexes further inland free to drift with the wind, a large-scale, dynamic dune landscape has been created with characteristic habitats of white dunes, grey dunes and humid valleys. Through centuries of ‘containment’ and recent damage by nitrogen-rich precipitation, the calcareous dunes became overgrown and acidified. Types of Grey dunes disappeared and White dunes were also lost.

This nature preservation project is unique in the world. It was commenced by PWN and Natuurmonumenten and realised in 2012/2013, together with the Hoogheemraadschap van Rijnland, responsible for protecting the coast. The plan was elaborated with scientists and fine-tuned in consultation with the concerned municipalities, nature groups, cultural historians and other interested parties. The project was financed by the European LIFE+ Regulation and the province of North-Holland. Some 220 000 m3 of sand was excavated and reused for the shoaling of a lake. The developments were monitored in detail, and after the storm season of 2013 it can be seen that the dynamics in the coastal dunes are superlative.

© Lisa Reilly

Increasing awareness of abiotic effects upon hatch success of Caretta caretta along Mounda Bay - Greece
Paraktia Thalassia Zoni Apo Argostoli Eos Vlachata (Kefalonia) Kai Ormos Mounta – GR2220004

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Despite the impact of the financial crisis in Greece on conservation efforts, this project enhanced awareness of loggerhead turtle protection along Mounda Bay. Tracks from each nest were recorded daily along Mounda and inactive nests were examined; sand was collected from the top and base of each nest chamber to enable analysis of pollution levels, grain size and water content. Unhatched eggs were dissected to record development and bacterial content. Results of the analysis were put into a geographic information system (GIS) to allow statistical analysis and clear data representation of variables to assess their importance on hatching success. The GIS proved hugely beneficial throughout; the data could be presented to a number of organisations regardless of language.

During patrols, beach debris was removed and tourists were informed of the importance of keeping the beach safe for nesting females and emerging hatchlings – an experience they could share with others. Importantly, nests along the bay with limited tourist development tended to be more successful. The Natura 2000 Award would enhance my research and help to stimulate environmental protection at the grass-roots level, empowering individuals to make a difference in local ecosystems.

©Communauté de Communes de l’Estuaire

A French initiative aims at environmental, economic and social sustainability - France
Estuaire de la Gironde - Marais du Blayais – FR7212014

www.cc-estuaire.fr/cce_vie/fr/index.php/

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The Communauté de Communes de l’Estuaire, in France, takes care of a ‘bird site’ and a ‘habitat site’. They are protected because of the quality of the wetlands located on the sites. In this particular location, a lot of endangered species depend on meadows, reed thickets and other grasslands for their reproduction, migration or wintering. However, changes in land use and agriculture meant the wetlands were no longer grazed or kept under control, so the area became overgrown. To prevent further loss of biodiversity, efforts have been made to convince different landowners to take part in Natura 2000 initiatives.

Financial support was offered between 2011 and 2013 to towns, organisations, farmers and others who were prepared to take a long-term environmental approach to managing their properties. This approach was partly achieved thanks to an original partnership with an organisation providing opportunities for unemployed people to work in outdoor tasks like mowing, strimming, and installing pastoral equipment. Therefore, thanks to European and French public funds, restoration and conservation plans have been implemented on more than 600 ha of grasslands, meadows and reed thickets which benefits many protected bird, mammal, fish and insect species.

©rspb

Dove Stone RSPB/United Utilities Partnership Blanket Bog Restoration – United Kingdom
South Pennines – UK0030280

www.rspb.org.uk

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The blanket bogs of the South Pennines are among the most degraded peatlands in Europe. Having suffered from a combination of atmospheric pollution from the nearby industrial towns and cities, overgrazing and burning, the bogs have almost completely lost the natural peat-building Sphagnum vegetation, and there was widespread erosion resulting in habitat deterioration and poor water quality. Owned by United Utilities – water catchment – at the 4 000 ha Dove Stone site, a partnership with RSPB started implementing a landscape-scale initiative in April 2010.

The project focused on restoring active blanket bog habitats on degraded peatland, and on creating more diverse moorland edge habitats, including increased natural woodland and scrub. Supported by agri-environment schemes, the tenant farmers have adapted traditional sheep farming enterprises to allow habitat recovery, and there has been a suite of innovative management practices implemented. Across the blanket bog, this included a combination of large-scale water table restoration and trials of Sphagnum introduction. The aim of which was to improve habitats and demonstrate benefits both to wildlife and water quality, as well as contributing to carbon management and developing a richer environment for people to enjoy. Monitoring of moorland birds has shown benefits to ‘Special protected area’ (SPA) species including golden plover and dunlin.

©Francesca Giannini

Montecristo, the largest Mediterranean island, got rid of the rats - Italy
Isola di Montecristo e Formica di Montecristo - Area terrestre e marina – IT5160014

www.islepark.it

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Montecristo Island, the remotest Italian island, is a ‘Special protected area’ (SPA) which hosts a population of breeding yelkouan shearwaters (4-12% of the EU population). Rat predation had been identified as the main threat to this bird species. Black rats were also believed to be having a negative impact on plant communities, in particular the holm oak. Project Life08 NAT/IT/353 Montecristo 2010 included an extensive rat eradication campaign carried out in winter 2011/12. Activities started in 2010 with preliminary tests and protocols for the amount and delivery mode of poisonous baits.

For the latter, helicopters were used, except for a 25 ha area which was treated manually using special dispensers. Already in the following breeding season, 2-6 months after the baits were laid, positive results were observed. Some 95% of shearwater pairs reproduced, and improvements were noted in oak stands. Other benefits expected in the longer term are an increase of shearwater population size and re-colonisation of other endangered seabird species, such as the Mediterranean storm petrel.

©Brendan Dunford

Farming for life in the Burren - Ireland
Moneen Mountain – IE0000054

www.burrenlife.com

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‘Farming for life in the Burren’ is the latest chapter in the story of a long (6 000 year) continuously evolving relationship between the farmers of the Burren and their home place. Part of this farming legacy is the presence of three Natura 2000 sites – Moneen Mountain, the Black-Head Poulsallagh complex and the East Burren Complex. Today, around 1 000 farm families live in the Burren, a fraction of past populations. These farmers continue to ‘out-winter’ their cattle on the Burren, where they enjoy the ‘dry lie’ afforded by the limestone pavements, forage on the orchid rich calcareous grasslands (and the tasty combination of Arctic, Alpine and Mediterranean flora) and drink from the calcium-rich waters of turloughs, cladium fens and petrifying springs.

This functional relationship is fundamental to the health of the livestock, the farming community and the Natura 2000 sites. The Burren Farming for Conservation Programme (BFCP) works closely with farmers to ensure that they can continue to produce exceptional livestock and habitats. Built on over 15 years of applied research, BFCP relies on practical, farmer-led interventions such as the introduction of low-impact feeding systems, the provision of alternative water supplies and the targeted removal of scrub. BFCP has also pioneered a simple ‘pay for performance’ system to promote biodiversity. Now in its 5th year, BFCP can show clear improvements in habitat health and conservation infrastructure and a 95% approval rating from farmers.

@ BED

Old breeds on protected pasture Gajna: guardians of biodiversity - Croatia
Gajna – HR2000427

www.bed.hr

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Free-range grazing on flooded common grasslands is an important ecological process in the Sava River area because it keeps invasive plant species under control. Biodiversity is a key feature of the area. Man-made habitat supports spawning and nesting possibilities in alluvial areas, and combine with a rich and biodiverse natural habitat. But in the last few decades, these wet meadows and grasslands have come under increasing pressure. The reintroduction of cattle in abandoned areas was pivotal in the fight against aggressive invasive species (in particular Amorfa fruticosa). This fast-spreading plant has taken over large areas in the floodplains along the Sava which threatens the meadows’ rich native plant and animal life.

The choice of Croatian indigenous breeds as keepers of biodiversity proved to be ideal because they show exceptional durability in all, even extreme, weather conditions. The BED NGO has acted as guardian of Gajna’s grassland since 1989 and made the area into something of an ‘Ark’ for reintroduced native Croatian cattle breeds. Through the numerous revitalisation and conservation projects on this protected landscape conducted by the BED, its partners and the local community, cattle grazing has proven to be the best way to permanently keep invasive species under control and enable original flora to regenerate, thus protecting and improving biological and landscape diversity.

Peatbog restoration LIFE meta-project in Wallonia - Belgium
Vallée de la Houille en aval de Gedinne – BE35039A0

biodiversite.wallonie.be/fr/meta-projet-life-de-restauration-des-tourbieres-de-haute-ardenne.html?IDC=5778

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The peatbog restoration LIFE meta-project in Wallonia entails six LIFE(+) projects aiming to restore the whole network of peatbogs, going from the West to the East of Ardenne high plateau (400-700 m). Three of the six projects, which ended between 2009 and 2012, are highlighted here: Croix-Scaille, Plateau des Tailles and Hautes-Fagnes. These projects aim to restore peaty and wet habitats, such as active and degraded peatbogs, transition mires, bog woodlands, wet and dry heathlands, old oligotrophic oak wood, alluvial woodland, and wet tall herb grasslands. Some species like Tetrao tetrix, Caprimulgus europaeus, Lanius excubitor, Lycaena helle, Lampetra planeri, etc. are also affected by these restoration activities. Globally, more than 1 700 ha of already protected sites and 1 800 ha of new protected sites have been restored.

Most of the activities consisted of eliminating spruce plantations and drains, rotovating or turning over the invasive purple moor grass and restoring wetness levels and natural the hydrological structure at all sites. In each high-plateau site networks have been fully redesigned to ensure recolonisation processes and regional species population dynamics. Detailed biological monitoring programmes on vegetation, birds, dragonflies and butterflies already demonstrate a real positive effect within each project on the regional conservation status. A website is collecting all field and awareness-raising actions, sharing experience on technical issues as well as on collaboration with stakeholders.

© DPM Krumovgrad

Integrating resource development and conservation of species and habitats within Natura 2000 - Bulgaria
Rodopi - Iztochni – BG0001032

www.dundeeprecious.com

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In line with a 2010 Appropriateness Assessment of the Krumovgrad project in relation to Natura 2000 sites, a 2011 EIA Statement and the willingness of the company Dundee Precious Metals (DPM) Krumovgrad to operate responsibly and comply with Bulgarian and EU laws, in February 2012 an initiative was launched to synchronise mining activities with requirements for protecting biodiversity. Under this initiative, between 2012 and 2013 a project was implemented for relocating tortoises (the Tortoise Project). It was launched in view of the future mine construction work that could have threatened tortoise populations. To date, 403 tortoises in total were relocated from the area, or around 70% of the reproductively mature subpopulation.

In 2013, the initiative further included monitoring of the two tortoise species, as well as other species subject to protection under Natura 2000. The goal is to continuously monitor the state of biodiversity and hence undertake timely and adequate actions should negative impacts be registered. The biological monitoring plan has been drafted in line with the company’s core value of environmental responsibility as a priority. The initiative has been implemented in partnership between DPM Krumovgrad, environmentalists, environmental scientists, volunteers and stakeholder representatives, and has been financed entirely by the company.

©Marios Andreou

Nature conservation in Cyprus via the establishment of a plant micro-reserve network - Cyprus
Koilada Kedron - Kampos – CY2000008

www.frederick.ac.cy

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Nature conservation is one of the research topics that Frederick University in Cyprus focuses in. For this the university has been involved as a partner in several projects, co-funded by national and international programmes. An example was a LIFE co-funded project entitled ‘Establishment of a plant micro-reserve (PMR) network in Cyprus for the conservation of priority species and habitats’ (LIFE+08 NAT/CY/000453). The project ran from January 2010 till June 2013. Its aim was to improve the conservation status of the main populations of four species and two habitat types found within Natura 2000 sites. All targeted species and habitats are Cyprus endemics and are included as a priority in the Annexes of the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC).

The project’s aim was reached through the establishment, monitoring and management of a network of PMRs. The PMR-approach was initiated by Emilio Laguna in Spain and, since then, has been adopted in many EU countries. A PMR is defined as a small area established for the protection of the rarest, endemic and threatened species and is continuously monitored. During the project, in situ (within the PMRs) and ex situ conservation measures were applied for the sound conservation of the targeted species and habitat types.

Revitalisation and protection of dune habitat: 2nd stage of Dune Park construction in Hel - Poland
The Puck Bay and the Hel Peninsula – PLH220032

www.frug.ug.edu.pl

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The project ‘Revitalisation and protection of dune habitat – 2nd stage of Dune Park construction in Hel’ was implemented between 2009-2011 by the Foundation for the Development of Gdansk University in association with Gdansk University. The project covered the white dune area (habitat 2120, Habitat Directive, Annex I) with a minor fragment of the grey dune in the centre of Hel near the Puck Bay beach. The area was revitalised during the 1st stage of the park construction. The purpose was to develop infrastructure for pedestrian access and environmental education to better protect the dune habitat against anthropopression. Three footbridges were built, two parallel and one perpendicular to the sea. They were mounted over the dune and provided with railings on both sides to stop people from walking on dunes and plants.

Shelters were built with a view of the bay, protecting visitors from wind and rain. Benches, bins and lighting were installed as well as a CCTV system. A measurable effect of the project is the Dune Park and infrastructure ensuring active protection of the dune habitat, accessible to visitors for leisure and education. The project strengthened the value of the Nature 2000 protected area PLH 220032 ‘Puck Bay and Hel Peninsula’. It is co-financed by the European Union under the Infrastructure and Environment Programme and by the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management and the Regional Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management in Gdansk.

© Magdalena Syzmańska

Conservation of xerothermic grasslands in Malopolska - Poland
Wały – PLH120017

www.krakow.rdos.gov.pl/

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The regional directorate for environmental protection in Cracow makes an effort to protect several Natura 2000 sites in the Malopolska province through the European projects: ‘Conservation of xerothermic grasslands in Malopolska’ and ‘Preparing Natura 2000 management plans’. For the Award we chose the most valuable Natura 2000 site, Wały PLH120017. Though small (only 9 ha), the site protects very important and rare habitats: priority xerothermic grasslands, Juniperus communis formations on calcareous grasslands and the protected species Carlina onopordifolia.

The project’s aim was to reinstate and maintain the biodiversity of xerothermic habitats and species connected to them. We carried out a detailed investigation of the ‘natural value’ of the site and prepared a Natura 2000 management plan for 10 years (with social participation). The main activities performed concern active protection measures, such as cutting trees and bushes, mowing and allowing sheep to graze, and engaging local communities and land users. The protective measures were monitored throughout the project by botanists (both for their effectiveness and the habitat’s overall condition). The Wały Natura 2000 site is also a nature reserve which is accessible to tourists, so we also put in place visitor infrastructure – a parking space and information boards about the botanical value of the site. Promotion was done by publishing two books about the site.

© Hartwig Brönner

Restoring connections between rare grassland habitats in the Middle Main valley, Bavaria - Germany
Magerstandorte bei Marktheidenfeld und Triefenstein – DE6123371

www.heidelbergcement.com

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The dry and nutrient-poor grasslands on calcareous soil are among the most species-rich plant communities in Europe including a large number of rare and endangered species. In the EU they are considered a priority for conservation (e.g. 6210, ‘Semi-natural dry grasslands and scrubland facies on calcareous substrates Festuco-Brometalia – important orchid sites’). Pressures on these habitats come from the abandonment of land or changes in its use which ultimately reduces their coverage to isolated patches.

Reconnecting these patches into effective networks is essential for their conservation. Recognising their responsibility and strategic position, the company HeidelbergCement and their plant Lengfurt committed to helping to restore and conserve calcareous grassland on their grounds and the immediately adjacent Natura 2000 areas (‘Site of community importance’ DE6123371 Magerstandorte bei Marktheidenfeld und Triefenstein and SCI DE6123302 Maintrockenhänge am Kallmuth und am Hübschenberg). The objectives they want to promote are: (i) to maintain the important calcareous low-nutrient meadows intact and open through appropriate management regimes; and (ii) to restore the connectivity of natural habitats between these two Natura 2000 sites. Restoration work on the quarries by the river Main has helped to recreate a typical calcareous cliff with its patchwork of grassland and shrub habitats. When complete, this will effectively enlarge the Natura 2000 habitats fourfold.

Comprehensive conservation activities for Natura 2000 habitats and species in the Karkonosze Mountains - Poland
Karkonosze – PLH020006

www.kpnmab.pl

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The Karkonosze Mountains bear the marks of centuries of human activities resulting in a significant transformation of Natura 2000 habitats. Karkonosze National Park has carried out comprehensive and holistic conservation activities related to the protection of Natura 2000 species and habitats. A number of linked projects using EU funds were implemented, and had one goal – to protect Karkonosze’s biodiversity at all levels: ecosystems, species and genes.

Activities included rejuvenation work on forests stands, tourism management, efforts to reduce erosion, restore water ways, regeneration of fragile habitats, together with the removal of alien species in the sub-Alpine and Alpine ecosystems. Endangered plant species were protected in situ and ex situ. The quality of life and conditions of selected animal species were improved. Sustained protective measures like this require planning, technical supervision and careful implementation, as well as monitoring the impacts of these actions. Besides the positive effects of nature conservation, ongoing activities also benefit local employment.

The conservative and participative management of ROSCI0190 Penteleu site - Romania
Penteleu – ROSCI0190

www.cjbuzau.ro

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ROSCI0190 Penteleu lies in the northern part of Buzau County, Romania and covers an area of 11 268 ha. The County Council of Buzau has taken care of conservation efforts at this natural site since February 2010. The main conservation activities and achievements at ROSCI0190 Penteleu include: (i) management plan; (ii) stocktake (updated in 2012) and full cartographical profile of natural habitats and wild species of community interest, and ‘conservation state’ monitoring system; (iii) measurement system for buildings and land; (iv) visitor strategy; (v) ‘conservative status’ system for wild species and natural habitats of community interest; and (vi) technical and economic documentation to build infrastructure for site visitors.

Actions to communicate the conservation effort, the opportunities and threats, and best practice examples at ROSCI0190 Penteleu include: (i) project website (www.rezervatie-penteleu.ro); (ii) distribution of 1 000 textbooks for primary and secondary school pupils and teachers from Gura Teghii commune; and (iii) printing of 2 500 brochures.

The new Kolon-lake - Hungary
Izsáki Kolon-tó – HUKN30003

www.knp.hu

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The remains of the once diverse natural attributes of the Danube – Tisza Interfluve are now under protection within the confines of the Kiskunság National Park. Swamps and fens disappeared almost completely from the region during the 20th century due to intensive landscape transformations. Thus, surrounded by wet meadows and sand dune ranges, Lake Kolon is now the most significant freshwater swamp in the area. Lake Kolon was completely drained in the early 20th century, turning it into a dry basin. The valuable habitats along with the majority of the flora and fauna also disappeared. When the national park was established, the hydrological rehabilitation of the area and the restoration of the habitats were started. Open water surfaces could be created only by dredging, which was carried out in several steps and by various technological solutions.

As a result, 60 ha of dense reed were cleared up, resulting in a mosaic network of dystrophic lakes (3 160) with various depths and diverse biota. Efforts were also made to manage the surrounding grasslands (6290, 91N0, 6410) with nature conservation in mind. For example, all invasive plants were removed from more than 400 ha. The directorate of the Kiskunság National Park closely cooperates with an NGO, the Kiskunság Bird Protection Association, whose volunteers regularly contribute to research and education projects as well as to nature conservation activities related to Lake Kolon and its vicinity.

©Administration de la nature et des forêts, Luxembourg

Ecological revalorisation of the Vallée Supérieure de l’Alzette - Luxembourg
Vallée supérieure de l’Alzette – LU0002007

www.emwelt.lu

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The ‘Special protection area’ (SPA) Vallée Supérieure de l’Alzette (LU0002007) has experienced numerous anthropic changes throughout the centuries. In the middle ages, those impacts were not dramatic (logging, cultivation …). Unfortunately, by the middle of the 20th century, intense agricultural practices, including drainage and river canalisation, had fundamentally changed the ecological characteristics of the valley. In this application, we focus on the Dumontshaff site, which is located in this SPA and has recently benefited from an ecological restoration of the Alzettefloodplain (2005/2006).

The restored wet grasslands are being managed thanks to an innovative, year-round grazing scheme (2006-present) using robust cattle breeds that keep the site clear and conducive for bird habitats. Having set up a special label for promoting beef from nature protection projects, such as this one, we now have a self-supporting and durable system that should guarantee the long-term existence of the management actions at this site. The results are astounding. A number of bird species targeted by this SPA have (re)colonised the site or have increased in number (Acrocephalus scirpaceus, Anthus pratensis, etc.). The white stork, which has never been recorded breeding in Luxembourg, had its first-ever (successful) breeding attempt in 2013 and two fledglings were observed inside the project area.

©EKBY

The comeback of burnt black pine forests on Mount Parnon, South Peloponnese - Greece
Oros Parnonas (Kai Periochi Malevis) – GR2520006

www.ekby.gr

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The black pine forests within the ‘Special area of conservation’ (SAC) Oros Parnonas (kai periochi Malevis), South Peloponnese, Greece had been severely damaged in August 2007 by a vast forest fire. Some 540 ha of the burnt area of this priority habitat type ‘Mediterranean pine forests with endemic black pine’ located on the SAC GR2520006 site have been restored. The undisturbed regeneration of a further 341 ha of black pine owes its success to the grazing ban and effective protective measures by the applicants.

Overall the re-establishment of the black pine forest has begun in approximately 46% of the burnt area of the priority habitat type on the site. Restoration of black pine forests was planned and carried out using an innovative structured approach. Restoration results and this structured approach were widely communicated during European and national meetings, as well as included in a special publication regarding the post-fire management and restoration of southern European forests, and the team’s work received several encouraging comments from European and Greek experts. Restoration interventions were successful not only in delivering results, but also in establishing close and smooth working relations among several partners. The continuation of conservation actions will greatly benefit from this achievement.

Natura 2000 management in cooperation with Aage V. Jensen Naturfond, authorities and stakeholders - Denmark
Lille Vildmose, Tofte Skov og Høstemark Skov – DK00FX125

http://www.avjf.dk/avjf

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The Aage V. Jensen Naturfond owns areas in 13 different Nature 2000 sites, of which ‘Lille Vildmose’ is the flagship, as the largest bog in northern Europe, housing a number of endangered bird species. In all of the sites, the Aage V. Jensen Naturfond has established local boards of relevant stakeholders and launched initiatives aiming at re-establishing ‘priority natural habitat types’. All projects are extremely scientifically solid, and described and carried out by experts. Stakeholders are invited to be part of advisory boards, and the Aage V. Jensen Naturfond aims at and succeeds in creating local ownership for all projects.

Several of the largest and most important Danish Natura 2000 sites are owned by Aage V. Jensen Naturfond, aiming to protect and nurse endangered species and nature types. It is fair to say that the ownership of the important Danish Natura 2000 sites by Aage V. Jensen Naturfond is a key pillar in Danish nature protection and the realisation of Natura 2000. A number of Danish NGOs therefore wish to recommend Aage V. Jensen Naturfond for the new award.

© Inland Fisheries Ireland

A novel approach to aquatic weed control and habitat restoration using biodegradable jute Matting - Ireland
Lough Corrib – IE0000297

www.fisheriesireland.ie

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Jute matting has proven to be an effective weed control method to treat invasive aquatic weeds and facilitate the re-establishment of impacted habitats. This innovative method was developed under the EU LIFE+ CAISIE project to treat infestations of the highly invasive aquatic plant Lagarosiphon major in Lough Corrib and complements existing methods used there. In 2005, L. major was discovered in a single bay in the lake. Within three years, it had infested around 92 ha of the lake and posed an increasing threat to its ecological integrity.

The lake is of considerable ecological, conservation and socio-economic importance. It is designated as a ‘Special area of conservation’ and ‘Special protected area’, and includes 14 habitats and six species listed in the EU Habitats Directive. It is also an internationally renowned recreational fishery for native wild brown trout. As jute matting is a natural, biodegradable material it does not have to be removed after application, unlike more traditional benthic barrier weed control methods. By covering an infested area with the fabric, light is excluded and the underlying weed typically dies within two months of treatment. Once it has died, the re-establishment of the native charophyte plant community (an Annex 1 listed habitat) is facilitated. This keystone habitat is vital to maintaining healthy resident wild brown trout stocks. Control operations have treated over 86% of the L. major infestation in the lake, with jute matting control alone responsible for eradication and habitat rehabilitation in 8.1 ha of lake.

Ecological evaluation of restoration and management measures for coastal vegetation in an urban area - France
"Rivière Laïta, pointe du Talud, étangs du Loc’h et de Lannénec" – FR5300059

www.lorient-agglo.fr

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The Lorient Agglomération coast is characterised by the presence of many natural meadows and coastal moors – habitats of patrimonial interest protected under the 1992 Habitats Directive. Most notably, Groix Island and Guidel-Ploemeur coasts with their cliff habitats located in two Natura 2000 sites in which Lorient Agglomération is the local operator. These sites face many challenges for conservation, combined with high tourist activity that can be a source of degradation in the most popular sites.

Restoration and management measures have been taken by the manager of these sites to help preserve them. To monitor the efficiency of these measures, botanical controls by quadrats, transects and inventories were carried out to document the dynamic of the vegetation on several dune sites, cliffs and coastal moors. Analysis of this data set in 2012 confirmed the efficiency of this approach. These results constitute a real opportunity for administrators and researchers to understand how to improve ecological restoration measures in these environments.

© Consejería de Medio Ambiente y Ordenación del Territorio, Junta de Andalucía.

New iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) population reintroduction strategies - Spain
Guadalmellato – ES6130006

www.lifelince.org

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By the early 21st century, the Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) was on the brink of extinction, with only 100 individuals living in two isolated locations: Doñana and Andújar-Cardeña. This situation led the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to categorise the Iberian lynx as ‘critically endangered’. In order to address this urgent situation, new populations needed to be reintroduced. Project LIFE06NAT/E/000209 took up this challenge. The selection and preparation of possible reintroduction areas was performed following IUCN guidelines.

Two areas of potential for holding long-term stable Iberian lynx populations were identified: Guadalmellato (Córdoba) and Guarrizas (Jaén). By 2009, the first releases began in Guadalmellato. One year later, they began in Guarrizas. The first releases were performed as soft releases (after a period of confinement, to help the animals adapt), which were gradually replaced by hard releases (directly into the wild). The reintroduced individuals came from both from the wild and from the captive breeding programme. Currently, the Guadalmellato population is 36, while the Guarrizas Iberian lynx population is 30. These results show that both the foundation and consolidation of two new stable populations in areas of former distribution can be achieved through reintroduction. These have become stable home ranges, with natural reproduction confirmed.

Regional Network for the Protection of Threatened Species - Spain
Monfragüe y las Dehesas del Entorno – ES0000014

www.acciona.com/

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The Regional Network for the Protection of Threatened Species project is being carried out in Monfragüe National Park, a European area for biodiversity conservation that belongs to the Natura 2000 network. The project aims to protect threatened necrophagous birds (birds that feed on decomposing flesh) such as the red kite (Milvus milvus), cinereous vulture (Aegypius monachus), Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnocterus) and black kite (Milvus migrans).

These species are included in Annex I of the Directive on the conservation of wild birds. The project’s objective was to find ways of providing feeding opportunities that would avoid these birds coming into conflict with the griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus). We believe that this is one of the most interesting – and unique – environmental projects underway in this region. Results have been successful, with the cinereous vulture, Egyptian vulture and red kite able to feed without the interference of the griffon vulture. The progressive effectiveness of selective measures was supported during the environmental monitoring of the project, which confirmed the existence of target feed species. From this, we were able to significantly reduce the griffon vulture presence.

©LPN

Saving the world’s most threatened cat: the Iberian lynx - Portugal
Moura / Barrancos – PTCON0053

www.lpn.pt/programalince

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Although considered a symbol of the landscape and recognised as the most threatened feline species in the world, the conservation of the charismatic Iberian lynx has always been a huge challenge in Portugal. Even in Natura 2000 areas, compatibility between nature conservation and the sustainable development of local socio-economic activities still has a long way to go. Therefore, when in 2008 there were only 100 to 150 animals left in the wild and the Iberian lynx was facing extinction in Portugal, LPN decided to establish collaborations and find new sources of funding, which could be channelled to securing the conservation of suitable areas for this species in the Moura/Barrancos region (a former habitat).

Five years later, LPN was able to ensure the conservation and management of more than 7 500 ha through management agreements with local stakeholders. Within this area, some 56 ha of ecological corridors were created, while 4 km of river vegetation and 16 ha of burned area were recovered. In addition, pastures, shelters and breeding fences for the wild rabbit (the Iberian lynx’s main prey) were installed. This work contributed to the fact that in 2010, for the first time in ten years in Portugal, the presence of an Iberian lynx was detected on the Moura/Barrancos site. This Natura 2000 site will help protect the future of this species in Portugal.

©FOP

Brown Bear conservation in the Cantabrian Mountains Natura 2000 network - Spain
Fuentes del Narcea Degaña e Ibias – ES1200056

www.fundacionosopardo.org

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In the Cantabrian Mountains, 200 bears are divided into two sub-populations which are fairly isolated from a genetic point of view. Their numbers have been recovering since the mid-90s, following a drastic decline in the second part of the 20th century. Both sub-populations, but especially the one to the east, have been close to extinction. The Brown Bear Foundation (FOP) was created in 1992. One of the main FOP actions has been the creation of Bear Patrols, with local rangers recruited and trained to patrol hunting grounds and reduce threats such as accidental shooting or disturbances during hunting activities, as well as illegal snares and poisoned baits.

Most of the success of these actions can be attributed to the awareness and acceptance promoted amongst the local population. This has broadly been achieved through formal agreements and informal cooperation with stakeholders, in addition to the introduction of preventative measures such as electric fences for beekeepers and hunters. This has helped to limit damage caused by bears. Bear patrols also collaborate in the annual census of female bears with cubs, a method that has been used for more than 20 years. These show a significant increase in numbers (>10% annual growth). Despite this notable success, threats to bears remain, and FOP is still working against snares and poisoned baits, and on improving relations with local people.

©SPEA

Conservation of priority habitats and species at Pico da Vara/Ribeira do Guilherme SPA - Portugal
Pico da Vara/Ribeira do Guilherme – PTZPE0033

life-laurissilva.spea.pt/

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The Sustainable Laurel LIFE project (2009-2013) aimed to restore important areas of priority habitats in the Serra da Tronqueira/Graminhais ‘Site of community importance’ (SCI) and the Pico da Vara/Rib Guilherme ‘Special protection area’ (SPA). As a result, 81 ha of peatland and 52 ha of laurel forest have been recovered. Together with the 230 ha restored by a previous project, the amount of natural forest recovered within this Natura 2000 site now totals some 280 ha.

An impressive number of invasive alien species were also eradicated from these areas; in the peatland area alone, some 30 tonnes of Chilean rhubarb (Gunnera tinctoria) were removed, and more than 120 000 native species have been replanted in both habitats. Water balance was restored in the peatland by closing drainage ditches. More than 200 dykes were used to retain more than 3 800 m3 of water, allowing the peatland to recover. Restoration of the laurel forests also enabled the native Azores bullfinch (Pyrrhula murina) to be moved from the critically endangered list to the endangered. This change took place in 2010, and the trend has been positive since then. The project has also helped improve the conservation status of several endemic plant species present in the Azores laurel forest, such as Azorean prunus (Prunus azorica), considered to be very close to extinction not so long ago, and the Azorean juniper (Juniperus brevifolia), listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Happy fish - Estonia
Alam-Pedja – EE0080374

www.loodushoid.ee

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Since its establishment in 2000, Wildlife Estonia has focused on preserving and promoting the aquatic habitats and species of value to the country and to Europe as a whole. A significant role in the development of the Natura 2000 network concerned Estonia’s freshwater and coastal water habitats and species prior to the country’s EU accession in 2004. Work was carried out on the sustainable use and restoration of valuable/protected habitats such as rivers, springs and floodplain meadows.

Habitats for protected species such as the gamefish Aspius aspius, or species no longer present in Estonia such as the Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrhinchus), were rehabilitated using innovative methods and management plans for protecting Natura 2000 areas with habitats of aquatic species such as the European otter (Lutra lutra), dragonfly (Ophiogomphus Cecilia) and the thick-shelled river mussel (Unio crassus). National development plans involving nature conservation, rural development, and fisheries were also implemented, as was participation in Cohesion Fund projects for improving the ecological status of rivers. Activities to promote awareness of Natura 2000 values in national TV and radio, printed media and web media were also carried out.

©Biebrza National Park

Alkaline fen protection supports local community in the Biebrza Valley: Szuszalewo story - Poland
Dolina Biebrzy – PLH200008

www.biebrza.org.pl

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Szuszalewo is a small village located at the edge of an alkaline fen, in the upper part of the Biebrza Valley. In the past, wet meadows growing on the fen were traditionally cut by hand. But with changes in agricultral practices, farmers were less interested in traditional wet meadow practices. This led to the fen becoming overgrown with willow bushes, as well birch and alder trees. Different species of orchids e.g. marsh helleborine, early marsh orchid – a unique fen orchid – and marsh daxifrage, became threatened.

To stop this process, quick intervention was needed. Since the park does not have rights to the land, we had to convince farmers of the benefits to be gained from the conservation of their fen, and to participate actively in a joint initiative. As a result, a joint project with the Municipality of Dąbrowa Białostocka and Szuszalewo village began in June 2009. The result of the project was the removal of shrubs on an area of 100 ha of endangered habitat and the purchase of small self-propelled mowers to mow 100 ha of meadow. Farmers benefited from repairs to a local road used to transport the biomass, which also provides access to the farms. The project is an example of the coexistence of man and nature, where mutual benefits can be achieved.

©UC4LIFE & J Hammar

The return of the thick shelled river mussel - Sweden
Fyledalen – SE0420250

www.ucforlife.se

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Europe’s most threatened fresh-water mussel species, the thick-shelled river mussel (Unio crassus), has been extinct in Fyleån Creek for decades due to habitat deprivation and water quality problems. Knowledge gaps about the species lifecycle have made any attempts to improve its conservation status problematic. A river restoration project, entitled (UC4LIFE), has however had a positive impact on water quality and biodiversity. The project focused on reinforcing river dynamics, and was self-maintained and cost-effective. Fyleån Creek has been re-shaped and is now 30% longer (< 1 km), while four wetlands have been established. Hydrological regimes have been restored at a floodplain level across 40 ha.

By innovative mapping methods, three fish species were identified as suitable hosts for Unio crassus during its parasitic larval stage. For the first time ever in Scandinavia, successful farming techniques have been developed so that Unio crassus could be transplanted and reintroduced at spots specifically designed for optimising mussel survival. The multi-disciplinary conservation work at Fyleån Creek has been integrated, in both ecological and socio-economic terms. Although the project has been running for only two years, the project is already well recognised, functioning as a source for inspiration for new projects.

©Agentschap voor Natuur en Bos

Zwindunes Ecological Nature Optimization, Knokke : habitatherstel in de Kleyne Vlakte - Belgium
Duingebieden inclusief IJzermonding en Zwin – BE2500001

www.natuurenbos.be

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The Zwindunes and Polders at Knokke cover an area of some 222 ha and were, until 1872, part of the tidal flood plain of the Zwin. This plain consists of a fossil beach enclosed by dunes and dykes, and presents a set of environmental gradients typical for transition zones between sand dunes and clayish polders. During the 20th century, the natural character of the site became severely degraded by human intervention, including the levelling of micro relief – low dunes – and creeks to create an airfield and a horse jumping arena, the drainage of groundwater and the application of manure for agricultural purposes and poplar afforestation.

The site was purchased by the Flemish Region in 2002 and a management plan was elaborated over the following years. The main actions prescribed by the management plan were to be implemented in the LIFE Nature project ‘Zwindunes Ecological Nature Optimisation’. Restoration of a more natural groundwater regime and micro-relief were the two main elements. Where the drainage system was removed, sods were cut and soil moved, resulting in 8 ha of humid dune slack and 12 ha of grey dune habitats appearing again. Pools and creeks were excavated over the whole site to provide an aquatic habitat for species including the northern crested newt (Triturus cristatus), the little egret (Egretta garzetta) and the common spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia). Grazing by large herbivores will help maintain the grey dunes habitat.

©BSPB / BirdLife Bulgaria

Saving of the imperial eagle: insulating electricity grid to secure hunting and breeding grounds - Bulgaria
Sakar – BG0002021

bspb.org/en/index.html

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This project managed to eliminate one of the most serious conservation problems facing the globally threatened imperial eagle: electrocution. This caused 67% of juvenile mortalities within the breeding territories of 30% of the Bulgarian eagle population, concentrated in Sakar ‘Special protection area’ (SPA), between 2009 and 2013. The project is of the highest importance, not only because Bulgaria harbours some 10% of the EU population, but also because this viable population is the only one within the EU that carry ‘Anatolian’ genes, which make them unique. The project managed to secure 595 hazardous electricity poles along 59 km, and as a result, no electrocuted eagles have been recorded recently.

This has contributed to an observed 25% increase in the number of breeding pairs. Our One notable achievement was to attract as partner the electricity supply company (EVN AG), which operates in south-eastern Bulgaria where 100% of the nests are located. Thus the effort was split between BSPB, which provided insulation caps, and EVN, which mounted them. Convinced of the mutual benefits, the company has developed a project to convert 46 km of overhead power lines into underground cables, to replace another 15 km of bare line with insulated cable and retrofit 2 740 pylons. As a result, the LIFE12 NAT/BG/000572 project will help to secure the future of over 80% of the Bulgarian imperial eagle population.

©Cecili de la Puente Espildora

Nesting boxes for protected species in installations of Acciona - Spain
Tablas de Daimiel – ES0000013

www.acciona.com/

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A total of 500 nesting boxes were recently placed in our installations in Spain, helping to increase the population of protected birds. For the construction of the nesting boxes, we were assisted by the Centro Especial de Empleo of the Prodis Foundation, a not-for-profit institution whose aim is to improve the integration of mentally disabled young people. The nesting boxes help nocturnal birds of prey such as the tawny owl, the barn owl, the little owl and the scops owl, as well as diurnal birds of prey such as the common kestrel and the lesser kestrel … and, possibly, some species of bats.

These species are protected by both Spanish and European legislation as they play a vital role in the ecosystem and food chain. They control pests (rodents, insects, etc.), which not only has agricultural benefits but also helps the ecological balance of the natural surroundings. Even though they are a protected species, bird of prey populations are currently in decline due to a lack of suitable nesting locations and because of fierce competition from predators. The nesting boxes are the perfect refuge, both thanks to their dimensions and the possibility of installing them in high places, out of the reach of predators. With this initiative, ACCIONA is helping to increase local populations of these protected species.

The Irfon ‘Special area of conservation’ project (ISAC) – United Kingdom
River Wye / Afon Gwy – UK0012642

www.wyeuskfoundation.org

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The river Irfon, a tributary of Wye ‘Special area of conservation’ (SAC), was selected as it held examples of protected species and habitats. All were compromised by two principal land uses: forestry and upland farming, which had intensified since the advent of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Poorly designed forests intensified the effects of acid rain, while riverside habitats had been seriously damaged by overgrazing. Surveys led to actions designed to correct these issues. In upland forests, forest drains were blocked following timber extraction to recreate wetlands; sand liming was used to correct acidification; while a monitoring programme was carried out to determine the success of these actions.

In downstream tributaries, tree management was carried out along with the placement of in-stream features. Monitoring of all SAC species determined relative increases of fish species compared to untreated sites. Surveys also revealed that there had been a significant decline of white clawed crayfish (WCCs), and a captive breeding programme was initiated. An unexpected find of freshwater pearl mussels (FWPMs) led to a breeding programme for them as well. Results showed that our sand liming and drain blocking was sufficient to restore water quality for salmon to re-colonise the formerly barren upper Irfon. Downstream, habitat restoration increased salmon populations by up to 480%. Monitoring found captive bred WCCs and showed that other SAC species (otter, bullhead and lamprey) were all present in reasonable quantities. Recovery of FWPMs, however, will take a lot longer.

©MichelP

Conservation of habitats et birds species in the Caroux Espinouse by the hunters’ association - France
Montagne de l’Espinouse et du Caroux – FR9112019

giecduce.free.fr

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The Groupement d’Interêt Environnemental et Cynegetique (GIEC) of Caroux Espinouse wished to include the hunters of the Massif of Caroux Espinouse in the Natura 2000 approach. With the support of hunters, actions were carried out to allow the conservation and preservation of open habitats favourable to bird species. Within ‘Special protection areas’ (SPAs), we established protected habitats either via clear-cutting (51.71 ha) or burning (76.89 ha). The end result was an increase in open nature, creating attractive, protected habitats for wildlife, especially birds.

©Piero Flamini

Restoration and conservation measures for seminatural dry grassland:the example of Monte Ghello - Italy
Monte Ghello – IT3120149

www.areeprotette.provincia.tn.it/

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A reclamation plan for semi-natural dry grassland in Monte Ghello, a ‘Site of community importance’ (SCI) in southern Trentino, Italy was carried out between 2009 and 2013. The meadows, once famous for their biodiversity and particularly for their many orchid species, were colonised in the last decades by bushes and trees, following the abandonment of traditional extensive agriculture. This led to a decline in biodiversity and in the number of orchid species.

The Office for Nature Conservation and Environment Valorization of the Autonomous Province of Trento, the managing authority of the Natura 2000 site, arranged an agreement with the landowners and carried out measures to trim and mow the meadow, in order to recreate habitats and promote European biodiversity. Results have been satisfying. There has been an increase in the number of orchid plants, while the reclamation of a habitat and general improvement of the landscape has benefited locals and the nearby town of Rovereto. The measures are described in the virtual tour at the following link: http://www.areeprotette.provincia.tn.it/VT_MonteGhello/vt.html

Montane meadow dreams – Germany
Bergwiesen um Schönheide und Stützengrün – DE5441303

www.lpvwesterzgebirge.de

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This application includes the ‘renaturation’ of the meadow valley in Stützengrün, west of Erzgebirge, which is part of the Natura 2000 area ‘Montane meadows near Stützengrün and Schönheide’. The valley had not been managed for many years and became overgrown. With a series of land-care conservation measures, including extensive farming (as per Natura 2000 guidelines), ‘renaturation’ began to take place. The valley has now developed into a pleasant spot with colourful montane meadows and a sustainable outlook. A montane meadow tour was established and, since 2002, competitions have taken place with the aim of finding the nicest montane meadow.

The montane meadow events are now a traditional part of the local community’s development. Farming activities generate income and the costs of running the site are controlled, which means the event and the montane meadow competition can be hosted without outside support. These activities are popular and people are very proud of them. The idea of conducting montane meadow events and competitions is now used by other land-care organisations in Saxonia as part of their community development activities.

Hydrological restoration of the Levresse and Sarre à Cordier peat bogs – France
Bassin du Drugeon – FR4301280

http://bassindudrugeon.n2000.fr/

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The Jura Mountains are one of the richest bog areas in Western Europe, both in terms of species of interest and the diversity of habitats listed in Annex I of the EU Habitats Directive, from calcareous fens to raised wooded acid bogs. Inside the Jura Mountains, the Levresse and Sarre à Cordier peat bogs (Frasne, 25) are part of the ‘Bassin du Drugeon’ large peaty complex. Peat exploitation between the 19th and 20th century has damaged the hydrology of this natural heritage and weakened ecosystems requiring water-saturated conditions. To restore the bogs’ hydrological function, the Communauté de communes Frasne-Drugeon (which became the Syndicat mixte des milieu aquatiques du Haut-Doubs in 2013) carried out an important restoration project in 2011.

The aim of which was to raise the groundwater by closing/counteracting around 700 m of drains. Different techniques were used: total or partial filling of drains with wood panels and sawdust in low-sloping areas; and building a substantial wooden feature to protect the peat in steeper areas. These actions had the desired result of raising groundwater levels for both peat bogs, with permanent water saturation of the upper area.