Europe’s beauty spots: 9 spectacular places in the EU where LIFE projects are at work

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Natura 2000 viewer

LIFE projects work in some spectacular landscapes around the EU. On this Natura 2000 Day, take a new look at Europe’s dramatic, diverse and precious habitats.

21 May is Natura 2000 Day, marking the moment in 1992 when the EU Habitats Directive and LIFE programme were approved. Together with the Birds Directive, these formed the basis for the Natura 2000 Network of protected areas.

Natura 2000 is the largest network in the world to preserve threatened species and habitats in Europe. LIFE projects also help to preserve species and habitats, and to achieve a favourable conservation status for threatened flora and fauna.

Here’s a flavour of the rich European natural heritage where LIFE projects are busy.

Tree planting in the Azores

Santa Maria, Azores

The island of Santa Maria, Azores (Wiki commons)

LIFE Volunteer Escapes organises tree planting by volunteers in Natura 2000 areas in Santa Maria Natural Park, on the island of Santa Maria in the Azores, one of the most remote parts of the EU.

See what LIFE volunteers are doing

Forgotten landscapes in the Welsh rainforests

Woodlands in Snowdonia national park

Woodland in Snowdonia national park (© APCE/SNPA)

The Celtic rainforests are known as the ‘temperate rainforests of Europe’. The new Celtic Rainforests LIFE project looks to improve the conservation status of 5 Natura 2000 sites in north- and mid-Wales, countering invasive plant species and working with landowners.

Learn about Wales’ rainforests

Fishing in meteor craters in Sweden

3 Lakes, Sweden

Locknesjön and Näsetjärnen © LIFE13 NAT/SE/000116 - Magdalena Thorsbrink, Geological Survey of Sweden

People escape for fishing, walking and camping around the lakes of Östersund, central Sweden. The Triple Lakes LIFE project is preserving these cold northern lakes, whose high pH level and clear water make for unique, valuable habitats for freshwater fish like the Arctic char.

See LIFE restoration work around the Triple Lakes

Algae beneath the cliffs

Cinque Terre on the cliffs

Cinque Terre on the cliffs (Wiki commons)

The famous Cinque Terre on the Liguria coast in Italy is one of the locations for ROC-POPLife project. There biologists and researchers are conserving 2 marine Natura 2000 sites with a focus on Cystoseira algae. These vulnerable algae are critical in food chains and capture large amounts of CO2.

The Liguria coast where ROC-POPLife is active

Challenging environmental crime in Crete

Lighthouse in the port of Chania (Wiki commons)

Lighthouse in the port of Chania (Wiki commons)

LIFE NATURA THEMIS has developed tools to report environmental crime on Natura 2000 sites in Crete, including the western coast around the 14th century port of Chania. 30% of Crete belongs to the Natura 2000 network. This awareness-raising project is highlighting wildlife crime and supporting authorities to help prosecute offenders.

Map of environmental crime reports in Crete

Fragile grasslands fringing the city

Bluebells in woodland

Bluebells near Brussels (

The Silsombos grasslands and forests in the Belgian regions of Kortenberg and Kampenhout, on the borders of Brussels, are the target for the restoration project LIFE Green Valleys. 9 Natura 2000 habitats are found there, including lime swamp, oak-beech forests and Moorish grasslands. The project team will also explore how to use biomass leftover from field activities.

The Green Valleys project

Long-term conservation management in the Alps

Alpine path

Alpine path (Pixabay)

In the Italian Alps around the region of Lake Garda in Trentino, LIFE+ TEN has set up 10 nature reserve networks, and its database of species gives regional authorities long-term support to protect and maintain its Natura 2000 areas.

See the scope of LIFE+ TEN’s activities

Ancient dunes and a fossil belt

The Dune fossil path

The Dune fossil path (Wiki commons)

LIFE+ FLANDRE is working to restore beach dune-land on the Belgian-French coast. The area includes a 2 000-year-old beach wall and a 5 000-year-old fossil dune belt. The dunes host many species, from the tiger beetle to the European bee-eater.

Learn about the ancient coastal dunes

Wild grazing and rewetting on the Hungarian plains

Black-tailed godwit

Black-tailed godwit © LIFE11 NAT/HU/000924 - Hortobágy. Photo: Attila Szilágyi

Get lost in the wide plains of the Hungarian Steppe, where ‘LIFE Steppe lake grazing’ is active in increasing open water surfaces in the Hortobágy national park. The region is home to a priority habitat ‘Pannonic salt steppes’, as well as priority migrating birds like the Eurasian Curlew.

Flora and fauna on the wild Hungarian steppes

Rich coastlines on Europe’s southern tip

Andalusia coastline

Andalusia coastline © LIFE+13/NAT/ES/000586 - Maro-Cerro Gordo, J. García de Lomas 

LIFE CONHABIT ANDALUSIA is focusing on 15 areas of the Natura 2000 network on the Andalusian coast. The sweeping coastline runs with steep cliffs, sandy beaches and marshy landscapes, and mountain ranges that sink into the sea.

LIFE on the coast – pictures from Andalusia

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