Natura 2000 is a transnational network of sites for threatened species and habitats which covers almost a fifth of the EU’s landmass and seas. At such scale, it needs to be managed at national level. Large integrated projects from LIFE are powerful tools to deliver the necessary funding and coordination.
LIFE integrated projects enable national and regional authorities to use many types of EU funding to deliver climate, nature and environment policies. This includes helping EU countries to develop their prioritised action frameworks (PAFs) - strategic multiannual planning tools, aimed at providing a comprehensive overview of the measures to implement the EU-wide Natura 2000 network and its associated green infrastructure. These PAFs set out the funding priorities and monitoring structures that EU countries need to fulfil their Natura 2000 obligations.
EU countries are expected to update their PAFs this year, which makes next week’s platform meeting on Natura 2000 management timely. There, policy makers, LIFE projects and environmental governance bodies will put their heads together on new strategies to implement Natura 2000 objectives.
Capacity building in EU countries
The platform meeting will be hosted by LIFE BNIP (Belgian Nature Integrated Project), a €19 million project whose work includes capacity-building for government and technical workers to help them get the data they need to manage habitats and species appropriately.
Angelo Salsi, Head of Unit of the LIFE Programme, commented on the importance of integrated projects to deliver EU nature and biodiversity priorities.
“Nature IPs are the flagship projects of the LIFE programme considering their size, reach and ambition. They are proving to be very powerful tools to implement the prioritised action frameworks in member states, which are the backbone for financing and managing the Natura 2000 Network.
“The role of nature IPs will only increase in the near future, given the obligation by member states to update the PAFs by 2019. We will gather in the platform to hear the success stories, share experiences and further build the network.”
Species and habitat plans
LIFE BNIP encompasses numerous complementary projects working on species and habitat protection plans throughout Belgium, from regional to federal scales. It targets reforestation and forest management, habitats used for farming, and threatened species such as the European tree frog (Hyla arborea) and Marsh harriers. It has been running dozens of pilot projects to test replicable restoration and management practices for Natura 2000 sites.
Conservation programmes are run by regional bodies – the Agentschap voor Natuur en Bos in Flanders and Service Public de Wallonie in Wallonia. Projects which are run along the coastal and marine areas are overseen by the health and environment department of the Federal Public Service.
Protected habitats and species found in Flanders (in Flemish)
As an integrated project, LIFE BNIP is able to make use of other EU funding to carry out Belgium’s nature conservation objectives. It is complementing the activities with some €200 million of complementary funding from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), and national and private funds.
Natura 2000 goals in Flanders (in Flemish)