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2016 Reconciling Interests / Perceptions applications

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The River Kent Estuary: Securing its Future

United Kingdom

Morecambe Bay - UK0013027


Morecambe Bay is one of the largest estuarine systems in the UK and is of European importance for a wide range of bird species. Historically, wildfowlers have legally hunted wildfowl in this intertidal environment, yet the concept of the hunter is so often misconstrued by stakeholders and the general public. Our aim was to overturn these perceptions and bring these diverse groups together to benefit the Natura 2000 site. For a small club with tenancy rights only, the challenge was daunting. Many hours were volunteered to make our plans known to the legislators who are ultimately responsible for the welfare of the site. After many meetings, we successfully gained stakeholder approval to carry out our estuary-wide work. Our network of new wetlands and sanctuaries now attracts a wide array of migrant and resident birds throughout the year and provides ecological niches for other estuary wildlife. Our duck nesting program has improved brood success by protecting clutches from predation. Hatch rates have now risen to 70%. Nest sites have also been installed on the stakeholder wetlands by the club. The concept of duck nests has quickly spread throughout the UK, due to our promotional efforts, thus helping duck reproduction on a national scale. Our anti disturbance signs are educating members of the public to prevent disturbance to ground nesting birds during the spring breeding season. Our biodiversity enhancing projects have benefitted the ‘Natura 2000 site experience’ for locals and visitors. Notably, we have inspired young members to embrace conservation. They are the next generation and are vital to ensure the perpetuation of our work.

Domaszków – Tarchalice Polder. Poland’s first case of dike relocation


Łęgi Odrzańskie - PLH020018


Flood protection does not always mean building higher and stronger flood dikes. Examples from all over the Europe have already shown that restoring the river’s natural floodplains can effectively prevent flooding.

We already have one such example very close by, for the first time in Poland. In Lower Silesia, on the initiative of WWF Poland and WWF Germany, a project has been launched in which the dikes are moved away from the river. It will be beneficial to both people and nature, with flood waters vanishing into the riparian forests of Europe. This type of forest needs floods to function properly.

The project is implemented on the territory of Wolow district. This district is surrounded by the Oder on two sides – from the south and from the west. However, the place most at risk of flooding is the section between Domaszków and Tarchalice. The most important element of the natural environment in this region is the Natura 2000 site “Łęgi Odrzańskie” (Oder Wetlands), protecting bird species and related natural and semi-natural habitats in the Oder valley. This area is 87% covered by forest.

The project, implemented on the initiative of the WWF, aims to move the Oder dikes further from the river bed, and to extend the valleys widthways. People will benefit from it, as they will be much better protected thanks to the restoration of the Oder valley’s natural retention. Nature will also benefit, as relocating the dikes will restore the natural values of the over-dried wetland forest.

This project has helped to enable the restoration of approximately 600 ha of floodplains and the bird-rich forests that require flooding.

Modern flood prevention has to take into consideration the maintenance of the natural resources of river valleys.

Collaboration and partnership to protect Marine Natura 2000 sites

United Kingdom

Pembrokeshire Marine SAC - UK0013116


There are several Natura 2000 sites along the coastline of Pembrokeshire in Wales, UK, which aim to protect species like the grey seal, bottlenose dolphin, harbour porpoise, chough, manx shearwater, puffin, razorbill and others. However, the Pembrokeshire coastline is also very popular with people, attracting a lot of tourists, so it is a source of revenue for the local population. Heavy tourism pressure was causing significant disturbances to the above-mentioned species.

In order to secure an integrated approach to the management and sustainable development of coastal and marine areas, the Pembrokeshire Coastal Forum (PCF), a not-for-profit independent company, embraced an alternative approach. In the last 10 years, the PCF has been working with all relevant stakeholders — commercial companies such as outdoor activity business operators, regional and national statutory bodies including the Welsh government, park authorities, etc., NGOs and charities — to develop voluntary codes of conduct and to provide educational and communication resources aimed at minimising disturbances to wildlife and reconciling local interests.
As a result, codes of conduct specific to each activity have been jointly developed and agreed upon through focused working groups involving conservationists, landowners, managers and businesses such as recreational operators. As a result, voluntary seasonal access restrictions to sensitive areas for marine species are now in place. Over 1 400 instructors, boat skippers and conservationists have attended environmental training sessions. The code of conduct and good practices aimed at minimising disturbances to wildlife have been developed and promoted among visitors and marina users.

The success of this approach lies on the consensus and trusted relationships among all stakeholders, given that users are now aware that their livelihood relies on the healthy conservation status of the species within the Natura 2000 sites.

Co-existing with bears in the 21st century: Difficulties and achievements




The district of Kastoria in north-west Greece is vital for the brown bear population in the broader region, as it functions as a communication corridor between the bear sub-populations in Greece and the Western Balkans.

However, the construction of a 72-km highway branch (KA45) in the first decade of the 21st century, connecting the Egnatia highway corridor with the Greek-Albanian border area, in combination with the existing national road network, had severe consequences on the brown bear habitat and population integrity in the area. Within just 6 months of opening that branch, five traffic fatalities with bear victims were recorded, putting drivers’ lives and thus road safety at high risk. At the same time, there was an increased number of visits by bears to human settlements in search of food sources linked to human activity. This resulted in more interactions with bears and created a negative view of the bears in the local population.

Seeking to reduce fatalities on the roads and negative human perceptions was essential to ensuring long-term bear conservation. This is why CALLISTO, an environmental NGO, in partnership with local authorities and the Development Agency of Kastoria started an initiative, supported by the EU LIFE fund, aiming to address these challenges and improve the co-existence between brown bears and the local human population in northern Greece. 

Among the actions implemented are the installation of road warning signs, technical deterrents (reflectors) and new reinforced fencing along the KA45 highway, in close cooperation with road authorities. Innovative mitigation measures, such as bear-proof refuse containers to deter bears from approaching human settlements, were also adopted. Well-established damage prevention measures, such as electric fences, were also disseminated among farmers. A Bear Emergency Team and a network of Livestock Guarding Dog owners have also been set up, and an extensive communication campaign carried out.

When the results of project actions and interventions became visible, public opinion began to change and the locals’ tolerance towards bears significantly increased; traffic incidents also decreased.

From bricks to newts: where clay extraction meets European nature


Het Blak, Kievitsheide, Ekstergoor en nabijgelegen kamsalamanderhabitats - BE2100019


In Beerse (Belgium) in the Special Area of Conservation BE2100019, Wienerberger, together with ANB, is working on the rehabilitation of old claypits and the ecological development of the still to be excavated extraction zone, in order to achieve SAC goals. Specifically, measures were taken for the European protected habitats 3130 (oligotrophic to mesotrophic standing waters), 4030 (European dry heaths), 4010 (Northern Atlantic wet heath)/7150 (depressions on peat substrates) and the species Great Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus), Moor Frog (Rana arvalis) and Pool Frog (Pelophylax lessonae).

Before 2010, the organisations had conflicting interests. Wienerberger had to expand its industrial area to bring new investments to Belgium and build a new brick plant. A part of the expansion overlapped with an area containing European protected habitats and habitats for endangered species. ANB, following its mission, wanted to safeguard these habitats. After long and exhaustive discussions, the parties agreed to co-operate and join forces, resulting in a compromise in which Wienerberger could conduct the necessary expansion, whereas at the same time optimisation measures were taken in the SAC next to the new plant (16 ha) and agreements were made on developing habitats after excavation in the whole extraction zone (244 ha). The abiotic conditions are designed in the interest of Natura 2000 endangered species and habitats.

The terrain realisations were widely communicated, culminating in a visit to the site by Joke Schauvliege, Flemish Minister for Environment, Nature and Agriculture. This moment symbolised the far reaching and intense collaboration between the Flemish Government and Wienerberger.

Breaking the Stereotype: NGO and Business Preserving Natura 2000 Together


Cortados y Cantiles de los Ríos Jarama y Manzanares - ES0000142


The Soto Pajares quarry located north-east of Madrid is operated by CEMEX Spain and overlaps with an area of high biodiversity value designated as Natura 2000 site Cortados y Cantiles de los Ríos Jarama y Manzanares which is also a nature reserve. However, meeting conservation objectives while maintaining sustainable and profitable extractive operations presents challenges. The initial mutually-sceptical and mistrusting attitudes of the company and the conservationists were hindering any collaboration. 

In order to address these challenges positively, 2011 saw CEMEX Spain formalise a Memorandum of Understanding with SEO/BirdLife and with a local NGO, Grupo Naumwhich. This cooperation agreement has been followed by the joint development of a Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP), specifically designed for the area.  

The BAP helps CEMEX Spain to identify and manage activities which could impact the conservation values of the area and to enhance biodiversity in and around quarries.  Conservation priorities have been developed using the outputs of a scientific survey. CEMEX has a clearer understanding of the operational risks its extractive activities pose to wildlife and has consequently begun adapting, updating and improving operational practices, such as reducing the use of power and water in the extractive operations. This move has benefited both the company and nature.

Actions such as restoring the riparian habitat in the surroundings, setting up floating islands for bird nesting, modifying quarrying works during sensitive bird periods, etc. have led to improvements in the conservation status of birds like the marsh-harrier, purple swamphen, black-winged stilt, red-billed chough and red-crested pochard. CEMEX staff were involved in the conservation process in an effort to increase their awareness.

The fruitful cooperation continues, and the partners are discussing and preparing a new BAP which includes further restoration works, for example planting 630 additional trees.

STOP POISON: actions to save necrophagous birds in Natura 2000 site Sierra de Castril


Sierra de Castril - ES6140002


The “Sierra de Castril Natural Park” has an abrupt orography with a lot of high cliffs. This habitat is perfect for different kind of birds like Milvus milvus, Aquila chrysaetos and especially scavenger birds like Gyps fulvus and Gypaetus barbatus (bearded vulture).

The population of these birds has decreased, mainly because of illegal hunting activities and the use of poison, causing the extinction of the bearded vulture in Sierra de Castril in 1986.

Junta de Andalucía took on the challenge of reintroducing Gypaetus barbatus, but a major threat to the success of this action was discovered: the illegal use of poisoned baits as an irregular method of controlling predators on cattle. This practice also affected other wildlife species.

The deaths of two specimens of bearded vulture due to poisoned baits in 2011 made Junta de Andalucía decide to stop the reintroduction process and undertake a new project: “Reinforcement of actions for the eradication of the use of poison in Sierra de Castril Natural Park”.
The main goals of this project are to:

  • Incorporate and coordinate all the actions implemented by different public institutions;
  • Increase dissuasive measures to prevent new poisoning cases;
  • Improve poison detection systems;
  • Ensure rigorous application of criminal and administrative sanctions;
  • Optimize coordination among public institutions;
  • Promote good farming and hunting practices;
  • Improve communication with hunters and stockmen;
  • Create an “Education for Conservation” program.
Creating green corridors for biodiversity under high-tension lines in Belgium and France


Haute Wamme et Masblette - BE34029


In today’s society, everyone expects a steady source of energy 24/7 to power our computers, lights, household appliances and more widely our industries. For a Transmission System Operator (TSO), this is a big challenge in forest areas, since trees coming near or touching overhead line conductors could trigger a power failure. To ensure a safe electricity supply, the TSO regularly destroys vegetation under high-tension lines, but this is not only costly for the operators, it also affects species and natural habitats, and is unpopular or even unaccepted by the local people. 

Two system operators — ELIA and RTE — in cooperation with authorities, environmental consultancies and NGOs have undertaken an initiative to test alternative methods for maintaining the strips under the powerlines and creating green corridors in wooded areas. It took place in Belgium and France, in areas both inside and outside Natura 2000 sites, and was co-financed by EU LIFE funding. 

The project implemented seven innovative alternative methods, and gave a significant role to local stakeholders. Actions conducted under high-tension overhead lines include planting or restoring forest edges, planting orchards, restoring natural habitats like peatlands, calcareous meadows and moors, using traditional breeds of cattle to maintain pasture, sowing wild flower meadows, removing invasive plants and digging ponds. These actions have been undertaken across 580 ha, 190 ha (33 %) of which are on Natura 2000 sites (31 sites in Belgium and four sites in France).

In addition, the new management methods are 1.4-3.9 times cheaper than traditional methods (using heavy machinery), on a 30-year timescale. Moreover, a return on the investment made is expected between 3 and 12 years after the end of the project. 

The project endeavoured to rely on local partnerships to achieve its objectives. Communication actions are used to reach stakeholders involved in forest management: public and private landowners, administrative authorities, governmental bodies, environmental NGOs, hunters, farmers, tourists and of course the electricity TSO.

Balancing economy and ecology in the Netherlands with the Integrated Approach to Nitrogen


Boetelerveld - NL2003009


Nitrogen emissions from agriculture, industry and traffic in the Netherlands are one of the greatest challenges for achieving the Natura 2000 objectives. This also affects the economy: since 2008, permit issuing for economic activities involving nitrogen emissions has halted. This has created a highly polarised situation between economic sectors and nature, and has negatively affected the social reputation of N2000.

The Netherlands has developed the Integrated Approach to Nitrogen (PAS) to address this problem by inextricably linking economic and ecological interests. The PAS ensures reduction in nitrogen deposition via emission measures at the source and ecological restoration measures in the 117 nitrogen-sensitive N2000 areas. Only on the precondition that deposition reductions and restoration measures suffice to achieve conservation targets can companies claim part of the reduction in N-deposition as ‘room for development’. Since the start of the PAS on 1July 2015, there have been agreements on restoration measures for nearly all of the 117 areas and the Netherlands has issued over 1900 permits and notifications. Polarisation around N2000 has become collaboration.

We present Boetelerveld as a perfect example of an area under PAS regulation. Key players are owner Landschap Overijssel, agricultural organisation LTO Salland, 27 farmers, Raalte municipality, knowledge institute Alterra, water board Groot Salland and the Province of Overijssel. Collaboration is fuelled by the national PAS regulation, as it benefits all parties. They closely collaborate on the elaboration and implementation of restoration measures. Currently, 324 permits and notifications have been issued for new economic activities around Boetelerveld.

Diving for Conservation


Stechlin - DE2844301


The relationship between scuba divers and conservationists can in many places be described as tense and peppered with prejudice. While scuba divers see conservationists as an obstacle to engaging in their sports activities in nature, conservationists have overestimated the impact of divers on biodiversity. 

There are more than 5 000 lakes in the Northeast German regions Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. These formerly oligotrophic lakes mostly turned into mesotrophic and eutrophic waters. This not only affected their fauna, but also seriously changed their characteristic floral composition. The most prominent example is Lake Stechlin, where the project initially started. It is classified as natural habitat type 3140, ‘Hard-water oligo-mesotrophic lakes with benthic vegetation of Chara spp’, protected under the Habitats Directive. Within the last three decades, the lake has lost more than 100 ha of its submerged vegetation. This also occurred with the same habitat in other lakes in the region, leading to a loss of habitat structures and a dramatic increase in turbidity. Nature conservation is often restricted to the littoral zone, as are its measures and instruments, and hardly any data referring to conditions underwater are available.

Conservationists and scuba divers soon formed a new alliance and carried out extensive monitoring.
Via preparatory training and intensive dialogue between divers and conservationists over the last few years, prejudices have been overcome in the Stechlin region and they are now all cooperating with each other on the conservation of the site. This new collaboration gives scuba divers an opportunity to see their diving areas from a new angle. Furthermore, by being trained by conservationists, divers have been able to independently evaluate water conditions on the basis of determining macrophytes and thus actively contribute to lake protection. On the other side, conservationists as well as administrations and private land owners can use these data collected as an early-warning system indicating changing conditions and thus adapt management measures.