European Natura 2000 Award
Agroecology conservation system inside the Portofino Natural SIC - Italy
Parco di Portofino - IT1332603
Recovery and enhancement of an important agro-ecosystem consisting mainly of an abandoned olive grove inside Parco di Portofino, a ‘Site of community importance’ (SCI). It is public land connected to the Abbey of San Fruttuoso complex dating back to the 10th century. The recovery work was carried out using techniques to minimise the environmental impact. We found signs of a ‘material culture’ that had disappeared and helped to restore the specific agro-biodiversity of our typical terraced landscape. Aromatic herbs and grasses, including Borago officinalis, Malva sylvestris, Raphanus raphanistrum, Reichardia picroides, Sanguisorba minor, Silene vulgaris, and wild shrubs typical of the Mediterranean region have reclaimed the land back from the weeds.
The main achievements: recovery of 4 ha of olive groves; production of extra virgin olive oil, honey, and thyme and myrtle liqueur (regional product); restoration of an old mill converted into an ‘Agriturismo’ guesthouse, offering food and accommodation to park visitors; forest maintenance and land care around the farm, including furniture-making and signage for the park as part of the Interreg IVC European project RobinWood Plus; and creation of four permanent jobs.
Implementation of sustainable mobility and digital tools for ecotourism and green employment - Spain
Urdaibaiko itsasertzak eta padurak / Zonas litorales y marismas de Urdaibai - ES2130007
Along the Oka estuary, stretching 120 ha, several paths have been created; divided into nine routes that form the sustainable mobility, equipment and resources for sustainability in the project ES 0000144 ‘Special protected area’ (SPA) and ES 2130007 ‘Special areas of conservation’ (SAC). It aims to promote the zone economically through ecotourism and green employment while lowering energy consumption through changes in population mobility habits. Those routes are equipped with interpretative panels and environment observatories (bird fauna, habitats, amphibians, etc.) that display the SPA and SAC. A smartphone application has been created to learn about the services that these habitats and species offer human beings.
Didactic materials about Nature 2000 spaces have also been created for schoolchildren. With this project, a market niche linked with ecotourism and green employment has been created; it allows the creation of new SPA and SAC interpretation businesses and has a direct influence in terms of occupancy rate of hotels and hostels in the six municipalities around the SPA and SAC. At the same time the project encourages changes in mobility habits – leading to less carbon emissions and lower consumption of fossil fuels – that benefit the health and welfare of the population. The area has become a place to enjoy nature and participate in leisure activities.
ULLA: saving endangered traditional rural habitats and employment in Uusimaa 2009-2013 - Finland
Lohjanjärven Alueet - FI0100036
The project (in Finnish ‘Uhanalaisten Lajien ja Luontotyyppien Hoitohanke’ or ULLA) provided work for over 90 unemployed people, over five years. The project managed over 150 sites, including five Natura 2000 areas. ULLA managed endangered traditional rural habitats. Unemployed people managed rural landscapes, culture and biodiversity. The project made a valuable connection between the environment and society, creating networks of cooperation between landowners, farmers, environmentalists and unemployed people.
The main financial contributor to ULLA was Uudenmaan ELY-keskus (Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment). It funded the project to promote employment. There was also financing from municipalities and foundations. On the board of the project there were: Uudenmaan ELYkeskus, Finnish Environmental Centre, Varsinais-Suomen perinnemaisemayhdistys (NGO managing rural biotopes), Metsähallitus, Museovirasto (National Board of Antiquities), WWF, and employment administration officials. The project started on 1 March 2009 and the field activities ended on 30 October 2013. The final report was due at the end of February 2014.
Protection of the largest maternity colony of Geoffroy’s bat in Austria through sustainable tourism - Austria
Bernstein-Lockenhaus-Rechnitz - AT110881
The lot of the privately owned Lockenhaus castle in Burgenland, Austria, harbours the largest maternity colony of Geoffroy’s bat (‘yotis emarginatus’) in Austria, where female bats gather together to have their young. Pregnant and lactating females must not be disturbed, for example by guided tours in the loft, talking or by artificial illumination of the exit window.
To ensure their protection, we proposed to the castle owners to make the site a centre for ‘bat tourism’. Funded by a LEADER project, we established an extensive exhibition on bat biology, ecology and protection. Among partly interactive displays in German and Hungarian, the exhibition includes: a laser- and video-installation where hunting bats can be watched; a live-broadcast of the activities of the bat colony in the loft; a library with books on bats for children and adults; and ‘bat research stations’ for children. We educated professional guides to transfer knowledge and the need for bat protection and provided a richly illustrated booklet. We have organised public ‘bat nights’ where bats can be watched first hand. Other events, such as ‘Betsi’s (the mascot) birthday’, have attracted the general public. We have advertised the castle and its famous bats in the media.
Tarnava Mare: promoting viability of agricultural communities to protect a Natura 2000 landscape - Romania
Sighișoara-Târnava Mare - ROSCI0227
The ‘Site of community importance’ (SCI) at Sighișoara-Târnava Mare SCI is an 85 000 ha lowland (400-800 m) area combining high natural value and extensive, mixed farming. This semi-natural landscape was designated an SCI in 2007, on the basis of aquatic life, wetlands, damp grassland, dry grassland and forest habitats listed in the Habitats Directive, as well as many associated fauna and flora species listed in the Birds and Habitats Directives. Successful management of the area calls for continued support for current farming practices, which are becoming less and less economically viable. Abandonment of the farms or intensification of the farming practices would destroy the habitats.
Socio-economic benefits are not ancillary to the good management of this site: they are the main means of its protection. Between 2009 and 2013, ADEPT carried out an integrated programme using Natura 2000 designation as a catalyst for reviving the area’s economic vitality; a central core for a range of supporting activities. ADEPT developed: habitat and species guides for schools, farmers, local government; nature lessons for 200 students per year; agri-environment payments for grassland management; innovative machinery; model micro-scale processing units; a logo and marketing for products and services; a network of farmers’ markets; a network of mountain bike trails; and training for farmers, producers, nature guides and guesthouse operators. The project has increased income by more than €2.5 million annually for over 2 300 farming families, and also has wider influence as a management model.
Lands of Priolo: building a sustainable tourism destination - Portugal
Pico da Vara / Ribeira do Guilherme - PTZPE0033
The Natura 2000 areas in the Eastern part of São Miguel (Azores) hold important endemic species and habitats which have for some time been the target of conservation actions. In 2009, through a conservation project, an innovative process of evaluating and enhancing the ecosystem services and resources of priority habitats was developed in order to increase local people’s acceptance and support of conservation. Over a period of four years, the LIFE Sustainable Laurel Forest project created on average 22 full-time jobs, nine volunteer and trainee positions per year.
Direct expenses of the project contributed to a 0.009% and 0.015% increase of regional and São Miguel’s GDP respectively, benefiting more than 30 businesses in the two most rural and peripheral municipalities. Many useful infrastructures were built, such as a native plant nursery and walking trails. Conservation actions were carried out to enhance the ecosystem services, such as the restoration of 75 ha of bogs and more than 50 ha of native forest, guaranteeing water regulation and supply for the whole territory. Several actions aimed to promote commercial value; for example, native plants were promoted as ornamental and food resources. Sustainable tourism has been defined as being actively involved; this has resulted in most of the local public institutions and private companies working together. A Priolo brand – a seal of quality of tourism – was also granted to some 22 local companies so far which are aiming to collaborate for the sustainability and conservation of Natura 2000.
Strážovské vrchy: a living and rich region - Slovakia
Strážovské Vrchy - SKUEV0256
The main aim of this project was to restore long-abandoned and degraded meadows and pastures in Strážovské-vrchy region. Their poor state was a consequence of an overall decline in farming over the past 20 years. To support farmers interested in nature-friendly practices, the project conducted an ‘ecological audit’ of the region and prepared and promoted an online map of nature-friendly farms, which includes contact details and their products on offer.
In this way, the project increased the economic viability of the region by restoring 65 ha of biodiversity-rich grassland habitats; most of which belong to the Natura 2000network. The grasslands will be used in the long-term by the local farmers. These positive examples also motivate their colleagues, as they can see that ecological farming can pay off. Thanks to the personal contributions from farmers in restoring and maintaining valuable grassland habitats, the activities were highly cost-effective. Moreover, the restored pastures and meadows create more farm produce, so traditional land use can return to the region.
Forest fire detection, decision-making support in rescue operations, also within Natura 2000 areas - Poland
Ostoja Knyszynska - PLH200006
Fires are a threat to the sustainability of forests; they can damage property and endanger protected Natura 2000 areas. Fires covering vast areas also have wider socio-economic impacts on a local and regional scale. Forest areas covered by the project are classified as either an area of ‘high forest fire hazard’, such as the Białostocko-suwalski sub-region, or a ‘medium forest fire hazard’, such as the Łomża sub-region. Therefore, investment in ensuring efficient forest fire protection in this area is essential.
Thanks to the project, we have improved and standardised the system of early detection of forest fires in the Podlasie province. This goal was achieved thanks to: the purchase of 17 firefighting patrol vehicles, including thorough training given to the vehicles’ crews; some 22 alarm-command centres were equipped with computers, printers and specialist technical maps; and 10 CCTV systems were constructed on masts to observe the forest area. The fire alarm system was modernised to ensure correct decisions could be made by the units involved in fighting forest fires.
Island of Tiengemeten: welcome to unique nature near the city - Netherlands
Haringvliet - NL1000015
Tiengemeten is a small Island in the Haringvliet (a Natura 2000 site), a large water body located in the south-western part of the Netherlands. Between 2006 and 2012 this island has developed from an agricultural region into an internationally renowned area of nature, compromising almost 1 000 ha. To achieve this, landowner Natuurmonumenten worked with many stakeholders, including local and national governments on a development plan entitled ‘Weemoed, Weelde en Wildernis’.
The cultural heritage of the island has also been kept, with duck decoys, farms and dykes preserved. Aesthetic values, outdoor recreation and communication were included in the plans, in order to encourage people to fully experience and enjoy the island’s nature. Extensive hiking and cycling trails are available along with other visitor facilities such as a parking lot, ferry to the island, viewpoints and bird hides. There is also a natural playground and historical farm museums. Natuurmonumenten launched an intensive marketing campaign in 2013 to attract more people to visit the island, and to support Natura 2000 areas. Tiengemeten is now an important recreation area for the 2 million inhabitants of the Rijnmond region, located less than 25 km from Tiengemeten. Tiengemeten welcomed 50 000 visitors in 2013 and over 150 volunteers received these visitors.