Europe has some world-famous coastlines, and these are protected within the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive. LIFE funds implementation of the directive through projects across the EU. Here’s a flavour of how LIFE works to protect coastlines and coastal species.
The 2008 Marine Strategy Framework Directive aims to achieve good environmental status of the EU's marine waters by 2020 and to protect the resource base which marine-related economic and social activities depend on.
It was the first EU legislative instrument related to protecting marine biodiversity, and it requires coordinated input from all EU countries. Under the directive, marine strategies by each member state must be reviewed every six years.
LIFE Lagoon Refresh is working to restore microtidal lagoon areas north of Venice. It will divert fresh water from the Sile River to help restore the critical area where salt and fresh water overlap, and recreate reed habitats. It will also improve the status of vulnerable bird species like the Pygmy cormorant and Eurasian bittern, and increase numbers of fish including Canestrini's Goby – listed in Annex II of the EU Habitats Directive on threatened species.
Dunes between cities
Piejūra Nature Park, a Natura 2000 network site in Latvia, includes 13 threatened coastal habitats listed in Annex I of the Habitats Directive. Seven of these have priority status because they are in danger of disappearing. LIFE CoHaBit is building an inventory of species found in the sensitive white, grey and wooden dune habitats. They span over 19 km along the Latvian coastline between the capital of Riga and the tourist area of Jūrmala. The project will create a plan for sustainable visitor management to address pressures on this complicated, heavily-visited area.
Connecting nature and the city
LIFE in Spain is recovering natural spaces around the Bay of Santander by creating so-called green and blue infrastructure to connect green spaces and improve ecosystem services (video) – such as forests which store and purify water. The bay boasts diverse habitats, from wetlands to cliffs to riverbank forests. Part of the task is to remove 150 ha of invasive species such as pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana) and sea myrtle (Baccharis halimifolia).
Electric waterways in Tuscany
Sapienza University's department for information engineering is leading a LIFE project to create a transport network made of exclusively electric vehicles to connect hard to reach areas around Orbetello in Tuscany. The network of water boats, cars, scooters and bikes should reduce CO2 emissions by around 1 200 tonnes.
The salt of life
Six years' activity by the Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation has resulted in 1 459 ha of Bulgarian coastal lagoons being secured against floods and nutrient overload. Atanasovsko Lake now has a favourable status, with its systems of dykes and barriers restored. Five artificial nesting islands now provide safe spaces for protected species, resulting for example in the return of the Gull-billed tern (Gelochelidon nilotica) to the Bulgaria after an 18-year absence. The team also discovered a new habitat – Inland Salt Meadows, and rediscovered the Ruppia maritima, which was considered extinct from the lake.
Countering coastal deforestation
LIFE REDCOHA has been working since August 2013 to improve the conservation status of large parts of the Danish coastal dune habitats. This has included fighting the invasive Japanese rose (Rosa rugosa) in an area of 11 000 ha, and supporting many species in need of protection like the threatened Marsh fritillary butterfly (Euphydryas aurinia), the Sand lizard (Lacerta agilis) and the Wood sandpiper (Tringa glareola).
Shifting sands on the coasts of Wales
Dunes are some of the richest places for wildlife in Wales, and account for 11% of the total UK sand dune resource. The SoLIFE project is restoring the natural dynamics in Welsh dunes to enable sand to move freely and improve the conservation status of the habitat. LIFE funding will help restore nearly 25 km2 of beaches and support the UK's restoration strategy.
Salt marsh creation in the bay of Aiguillon
Mudflat and the salt marshes around the Aiguillon Bay in south west France are rich habitats for threatened migratory waterbirds like the Black-tailed godwit (Limosa limosa) and Pied avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta). They are also home to the endemic plant Oenanthe de Foucaud (Oenanthe foucaudii) and a wealth of other species specialised at surviving in salty terrain. The area is under pressure from farming and coastal urbanisation, and is forced to adapt to more regular destructive storms and changing sea levels. LIFE Baie de l'Aiguillon is creating new mudflats and salt meadows to enhance biodiversity, and is also analysing how water quality in the bay affects species distribution and duck behaviour.
LIFE publications on coastal habitats