Ecosystems provide essential services such as food, fresh water and clean air, and shelter. They mitigate natural disasters, pests and diseases, while helping regulate the climate. But our ecosystems are being damaged, and biodiversity lost due to human activities.
To mark the EU 2030 biodiversity strategy launch, here are 10 LIFE projects that are improving and restoring our precious ecosystems.
Vulture gets a new lease of life
Vultures are often looked down on as scavengers, but they are vital for the healthy functioning of ecosystems as they keep them free from contagious diseases. One of the most ambitious vulture conservation projects ever, Egyptian Vulture New LIFE is reinforcing this vulture’s numbers in Europe. The project is eliminating common threats the birds face, such as poisoning and electrocution. It is also introducing a breeding programme and raising public support for the bird’s conservation.
Restoring grasslands in Latvia
Grasslands provide our ecosystems with clean water, crops and they even prevent flooding. The GrassLIFE team realises their important role and is therefore restoring and improving the conservation status of five EU priority grasslands in Latvia. Work is being carried out on 14 Natura 2000 sites covering an area the size of some 2 400 football fields. The project has even launched ‘15 grassland pledges’ to increase public involvement.
Protecting a mountain range ravaged by forest fires
The Montserrat mountain range in Barcelona province has endured numerous forest fires, resulting in lost crops and a decline in traditional forestry practices. LIFE Montserrat has improved the situation by creating a green infrastructure to protect against such fires and boost biodiversity in the province’s 14 municipalities.
Bringing riverbanks back to life
The LIFE INADAR project helped restore two dams in Germany, by using ‘eco-berms’ – a sediment and erosion control measure. These eco-berms meet the needs of dam stability, provide the basis for dam elevation and have greatly improved biodiversity along the riverbanks. The project has resulted in species such as the dragonfly, ring snake, great crested grebe, kingfisher and juvenile fish all appearing.
From grey to green
LIFE GREEN4GREY introduced green and blue infrastructure elements into the outskirts of Brussels and in various locations across Flanders. These elements alleviate problems related to urbanisation, such as biodiversity loss and lack of flood protection. Work included transforming former mining and intensive agricultural areas into multipurpose landscapes high in biodiversity.
The return of the Bison
The threatened European Bison is the continent’s largest wild land mammal and an important species for biodiversity. This is because while searching for food, its movements help create habitats for many other species, while maintaining the balance between forest and grassland. The pioneering LIFE Bison project has, since 2016, been successfully reintroducing Bison into the Țarcu Mountains and Poiana Ruscă Natura 2000 sites in south-western Romania.
Many alpine regions lack specific measures to manage the impact of climate change on their pastures. LIFE PASTORALP aims to fill this gap by assessing and testing adaptation measures, in the Western Alps. And as mountain pastures are deemed ecosystems crucial for maintaining biodiversity, the protection of such isolated areas supports the EU’s Birds and Habitats Directives.
Flying high again
The Siberian flying squirrel stores and distributes truffle spores (fungus fruit) that help trees access vital nutrients and water. But it is under threat from habitat loss due to farming. The LIFE Flying Squirrel project aims to increase the population in Finland by up to 50% and the number of habitats in Estonia by more than 20%.
Increasing insect populations with new habitats
In the Western Carpathians mountain range, intensive agriculture practices during the second half of the 20th century caused the decline of various plant and animal species. These include the endangered stag beetle and the Danube clouded yellow. LIFE for insects is reviving populations by restoring the habitats these insects rely on, such as wet grasslands, pastures, open-canopy forest habitats.
From contamination to regeneration
LIFE+REGROW is reviving an area in Toledo, Spain contaminated with waste from olive oil production. The goal is to cut pollution and convert the space into an artificial wetland and birdwatching area, complete with an education centre on the area’s species for the public.
Learn more about the EU’s 2030 biodiversity strategy in the European Commission’s press release.