European Natura 2000 Award
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The territory of the Causses du Quercy Regional Nature Park includes 13 Natura 2000 sites: 11 are run by the Park and 2 by Marc Esslinger/SOLAGRO. The stakes identified on these sites are similar because they are located on the same karst territory, and concern dry grasslands and scrublands on plateaus of causses, as well as valley meadows and rivers.
These sites have been active for more than 10 years now. From 2015, The Presidents of the steering committees (Copil) wanted to stimulate the life of the Natura 2000 sites, and to create a network of Natura 2000 stakeholders across these sites. In order to meet this demand, the Park proposed to set up technical exchanges between the members of the steering committees of all the sites, on top of the "classical" Copil meeting.
The Park has therefore created the "InterCOPILs Days", a series of thematic, diversified and convivial exchange days. The purpose of these InterCOPILs Days is to bring together the members of all the steering committees of the 13 Natura 2000 sites around a theme chosen in connection with the Natura 2000 issues and proposed by the Presidents of the Copils. These annual meetings aim to raise awareness and increase the skills of local actors, especially elected representatives of the territory, so that they can appropriate these spaces and their stakes.
There is also a desire to create a network with the local actors of the Natura 2000 sites in order to share the same values and local experiences. Three InterCOPILs Days have already been organised. The first Day brought together 22 people. It took place on the theme of the preservation of saproxylophagous insects of Community interest. The second Day focussed on ponds. 20 participants were able to address the issue of fish stocking leading to the loss of native species. In 2017, in partnership with nature sports professionals, 16 participants were able to rediscover the biodiversity of the Célé River on a canoe!
These InterCOPILs Days have become a must-attend event of the year in the life of Natura 2000 sites. These moments allow for a friendly and relaxed exchange of views on Natura 2000 issues. They facilitate the networking of local actors from the 13 sites in the Park's territory.
"One step beyond: limiting parasiticide use in Natura 2000 pastures" - In Wallonia, the Natura 2000 network extends over 221 000 hectares (240 sites) and aims to protect Europe's most threatened species and habitats through targeted management. More than 16 % of this area is located on agricultural land and depends on the continuation of farming activities, such as grazing, to maintain its distinctive biodiversity. Scientific publications have shown that when animals are dewormed, parasiticide residues in the environment have a negative impact on dung organisms and their predators, which may be protected species within Natura 2000 (e.g. Lanius excubitor, Rhinolophus ferrumequinum). For those farmers who maintain their Natura 2000 grasslands through grazing (with cattle, sheep, horses, etc.), parasiticide use should be limited, and animals should be treated "as often as necessary and as rarely as possible".
Since 2013, farmers and veterinarians have been sensitised towards a "reasoned use of parasiticides" through dedicated conferences and publications in targeted journals. In addition, two booklets in French and two booklets in German have been edited and recently updated. One of them covers the reasoned use of parasiticides in cattle and sheep, and the other one covers the same subject in horses.
A yearly parasite-limiting strategy, in consultation with the farm's guidance veterinarian, is also offered for each "Natura 2000 farm", since limiting parasiticide use has at least 3 types of benefits: ecological, economical and sanitary. The ultimate goal of this veterinary advice is to find an appropriate balance between agricultural outcomes and biodiversity conservation. One part of the veterinary follow-up consists in coprology (i.e. faecal egg count) before taking a decision on deworming. In 2016, coprology follow-up in 41 farms showed that this initiative resulted in a significant reduction in parasiticide use. In light of the above, we would like to share this successful approach and apply it to other areas/communities/countries.
Loch Leven, Kinross, is the largest eutrophic freshwater lake in lowland Scotland. It was designated a Special Protection Area (SPA) for its wintering waterfowl and regularly supports over 20,000 waterfowl, including whooper swan, pink-footed goose, shoveler, goldeneye, tufted duck, gadwall, teal and pochard.
Around 80% of the catchment is farmed. Historically, nutrient inputs from agricultural, domestic and industrial discharges degraded the lake’s water quality through nutrient enrichment. In 1992, this nutrient enrichment led to a devastating algal bloom known locally as 'Scum Saturday'. This resulted in an estimated loss of £1 million to the local economy over the three months that followed and was a real catalyst for action.
This prompted local people and various different organisations, led by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), to do something in order to improve the water quality. They have created and implemented a catchment management plan which has resulted in waste water treatment works being upgraded, industrial pollution being controlled and agricultural diffuse pollution addressed. The project, which ran from 2012-2017, was founded on four interlinked management activities: farmer engagement, sustainable tourism, planning and monitoring.
In 2013, a number of Rural Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) were installed in the northeast catchment as a result of SNH’s farmer engagement project. Silt traps were installed in highly erodible arable fields to reduce the loss of valuable soil and fertilizer. This saved the farmers money not only by preserving top soil and fertilisers but also by reducing the high maintenance costs associated with ditch clearing.
Additionally, in order to reduce the phosphorus and foul drainage in the Loch Leven lake by new developments, a new statutory guidance was put in place, helping developers to design and implement mitigation measures. All developers must demonstrate mitigation measures that are capable of compensation for 125% of the phosphorus likely to be generated by their development and to apply for a licence to discharge. The new guidance was vital in reducing the lengthy timescale for securing phosphorus mitigation under the pre-existing planning protocol, and reducing costs for applicants and the council.
Overall, the project has had a major impact on the quality of the water and algal blooms are now much less common in Loch Leven. The improved water quality has also brought about economic benefits for the local farmers and raised the popularity of Loch Leven as a visitor attraction. This has been further boosted by the creation, under the project, of the 21km long circular Heritage Trail. This wildlife-sensitive trail attracts over 200,000 visitors to the SPA every year, providing enormous economic benefits for local businesses. The social benefits are also visible – 85% of the trail users agree that the trail benefited their physical and mental health. With health issues becoming more prevalent as sedentary life styles increase, the Loch Leven Heritage Trail has unlocked the Natura 2000 site as a natural health service. Harnessing nature's benefits for mental and physical health across the Natura 2000 network could significantly reduce financial pressure on health services.
The project aims towards fire protection, grazing, biodiversity and the environment. The project area has a high conservation interest with numerous habitats and species included in the Birds and Habitats Directives. Flora is enormously rich with more than a thousand taxa of which are 14 are endemic and 6 are threatened. Regarding habitats, the shrub communities have a significant presence as the result of the vegetation degradation process. The great extent of the forest area maintains adequate biotopes for the development of the typical Mediterranean fauna. However, part of the forest was burnt down in past wildfires, making it difficult to find mature forest habitats.
The ancient Montserrat monastery is a spiritual centre of Catalonia with 2.6 million visitors. But the agrarian economy collapsed as the area become rapidly depopulated during the 1960s and 70s leading to a new landscape composed mostly of abandoned fields. The rural desertion and abandonment of many traditional rural activities resulted in an expansion of fire-prone vegetation communities with fuel loads that have led to 8 major wildfires since 1973. The lack of open spaces also caused a regression of habitats and species of community importance. A residual and unstructured silvo-pastoral activity needs to be encouraged by incorporating new farmers. The project aimed to reconcile opposing interests and restore a degree of management to the area through numerous workshops with forest owners, ranchers and mayors, technical visits to select livestock, workshops to analyze decisions between Life project technicians and experts from different disciplines etc.. The project meets the interests of diverse institutions such as the European Union, Firemen, Generalitat de Catalunya and Foundations and it has made possible to bring farmers and owners interests closer together.
The Vennbahn is an old railway line which used to connect Aachen in Germany to Troisvierges in Luxembourg via Belgium. It has a 790 m long tunnel which is still to this day the longest railway tunnel in Luxemburg. Like many local railway lines, the Vennbahn has not been in use since the early 1960s. But this lack of activity has turned out to be a blessing for nature, as the abandoned tunnel has since become an important winter roosting site for bats. At least 12 of the 19 bat species present in Luxembourg are now found there, which is why it has been designated a Natura 2000 site.
The Our Nature Park, which is an inter-municipal syndicate with 8 municipalities working together for the development of their rural region, had the idea recently to convert the unused railway into a cycling path linking three different countries to promote local tourism. The initial plan was for the path to go through the tunnel but it soon became clear that this would have a devastating effect on the bats. This put the entire project at stake and many of the stakeholders who were interested in promoting local tourism began to see Natura 2000 as an obstacle, preventing the social and economic development of the region.
The Our Nature Park and its partners were determined to find a solution that was acceptable to all. They started by organising conciliation meetings with the stakeholders with different interests - biking, tourism, nature conservation, bat specialists, roads authorities amongst others. The meetngs continued for 2 years.
After examining all elements and possibilities, a collective decision was taken to build the bike path around the tunnel and to restrict access on both sides of the tunnel via a series of gates placed 75 meters from the entrances on order to prevent disturbance of the bat colonies. An adventure trail was also developed to inform the visitors about the presence of bats in the tunnel and their status as endangered species, and about the railway and its past uses. The adventure trail is identical on both sides of the tunnel and contains a wooden bicycle rack, wooden benches, information panels, a hearing station and finally a multimedia station with a touchscreen in front of the gates. It has videos, images and additional information about the bats and the railway.
Before this Interreg funded project, not many people were aware of the fact that the tunnel was part of a Natura 2000 site, but thanks to the information displayed and the explanations provided during activities, people became informed about the importance of the site and Natura 2000 on the whole. Although some inhabitants still question the need to close the tunnel, the general attitude of the stakeholders is much more positive and benefits are acknowledged and appreciated.
Battery of the Graillon owned by the "Conservatory of the littoral" (2.2 ha), is located on the Cap d'Antibes. It is a site that has been dedicated to the discovery and education of the environment since 2013. Rich in a natural and cultural heritage, this site presents remarkable natural features that are typical of the Mediterranean coastline. For more than 5 years this site, managed by the Espace Mer et Littoral of the City of Antibes, has been offering various environmental awareness activities, such as free exhibitions, discovery of the marine habitats of around our coasts (Posidonia herbarium, coralligenous, sandy bottom and the open sea), backlit photographic exposure in the dark on the Mediterranean nightlife fauna, exhibition on the origin of macro-waste and activities to raise awareness of eco-citizens, continuous video projection on the marine environment, discovery of a Mediterranean botanical trail in the Graillon pine forest, landscape observations from the top of the Tower.
There are also a series of supervised activities involving the discovery of the marine environment with fins, masks and snorkels, naturalist outings in a kayak, discoveries from the land with guided hikes along the coastal path. Various educational activities are also offered from the age of 3 years on littoral marine and coastal flora and fauna. The Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, managed by the Marineland Foundation is specifically designed to treat marine turtles found injured along our coast. Once recovered, the animals are released into their natural environment. Every day, a meeting with the trainers allows the public to be informed and sensitized about the protection of these emblematic marine animals.
The Styrian Enns Valley, in the middle of Austria, is rich in protected areas. However when speaking about Natura 2000, people in our region (e.g. land users) have negative feelings. They think of limitations and restrictions, but did not see the positive aspect of nature protection and the conservation of the traditional cultural landscape. Under the slogan “BE-NATUR” we organize Science Days and Science Weeks to make the aims of Natura 2000 more accessible and attractive to the local population. Our Science Days/Weeks comprise all ages/levels of education. At least 4 events are organized each year (experience days, hands-on workshops, breakfast in nature, field days/demonstration events). The investigation of habitats/species, development of nesting possibilities or removal of invasive species creates an added value for the sites. Our events are evaluated by the participants. On site an information centre including science lab, a viewing tower, boards/flyers was established.
Our communication activities take place in an area within the SAC “Ennsaltarme bei Niederstuttern” and the SPA “Ennstal zwischen Liezen und Niederstuttern”, representing the characteristic cultural landscape as well as typical habitats and rare species of the region. Representative flagship species (e.g. Iris sibirica, Crex crex, Saxicola rubetra) were chosen to create a better understanding of nature protection. The establishment of a direct link between local habitats/species in need of protection and the Enns Valley helps people to identify themselves more strongly with Natura 2000. Our flagship species are not only used for awareness raising actions but also for the promotion of our events, to have a better and wider recognition. We develop special equipment/infrastructure on site which is used for communication activities. Through various target-group-oriented events we create different approaches to the topic, to reach as many people as possible. Our visitors participate in research and management actions and experience nature protection first hand. The activities are realized in tight cooperation with relevant stakeholders and other local actors from our research and education network.
Vultures are magnificent birds that not only fulfil a vital function in our ecosystem, but are part of our culture. The bearded vulture Gypaetus barbatus, is the rarest of the four vulture species that exist in Europe and has a population estimated at 170-180 pairs.
In Andalusia (Spain), the bearded vulture disappeared in 1986 mainly because of direct persecution, accidental poisoning and human disturbance at the nesting sites.
The Fundación Gypaetus operates the bearded vulture breeding centre (CCQ) of Cazorla, which was inaugurated in 1996. It became one of the most important centres for ex situ conservation of the bearded vulture worldwide. More than 50 chicks born in the centre have been used for captive breeding or released in various projects to reintroduce the species in Europe. Ten years after the opening of the centre, young birds were released for the first time in the Natural Park of Cazorla, Segura and Las Villas (Jaén, Andalusia). Since then, 37 young bearded vultures have been released in Andalusia.
Unfortunately, in the early days, 11 birds were poisoned through pesticides used to kill small predators in the wild. A major anti-poison awareness-raising campaign was carried out in the region from 2010 to 2015, which significantly reduced the mortality of released birds.
The hard work, also supported through the EU LIFE fund, is showing results and two territories are occupied by individuals released under the reintroduction project in Andalusia. Tono (a male released in 2006) and Blimunda (a female released in 2010) paired up in the National Park and on 7 April 2015, the first chick was born in the wild in Andalusia since the species stopped breeding in the region over 30 years ago! Hortelano (a male released in 2010) and Marchena (a female released in 2012) have taken up residence in a second territory in the same Park — there are high hopes for results!
Something that felt like a dream 30 years ago is becoming reality: seeing the bearded vulture flying in Andalusian skies again.
València Council and Red Cross-Asamblea Local València are collaborating in an environmental conservation project in the Devesa forest, Valencia (Spain). This volunteering project complements existing council services of forest rangers and environmental informers in fire monitoring and prevention, compliance with regulations and environmental awareness actions. The Council provides technical support and consumables, while the Red Cross implements the project actions in the field. 180 volunteers were trained by both organisations, they have patrolled the Devesa forest in order to supervise incidents, create access and fencing of reserved areas, as well as dissuade by physical presence, information and conducting surveys.
Devesa belongs to l’Albufera Natural Park, which is included in Natura 2000 since its declaration as a Special Protection Area and Site of Community Importance, and contains priority habitats such as dunes wooded with P. pinea and P. pinaster, coastal dunes with Juniperus spp and Mediterranean temporary ponds. Occupying 850 hectares of different eco-systems arranged as strips parallel to the sea (beach, dunes, dune slacks and fixed dunes), it is the best preserved sector of the dune system which settled the sandbar that closed the old Gulf of València, establishing the lagoon of l’Albufera.
Due to its location within a big metropolitan area it is subject to great pressure, especially in summer because of the large influx of visitors and its extension. This is why the fire prevention team needs to be reinforced. During the last 10 years there have been 34 fires, 17.65% of which were caused by negligence and 70.59% were intentional, while July and August were the months with the highest number of hectares burned. Increasing surveillance and environmental awareness would contribute into decrease of these figures. Great achievements have already been made, such as 0 fires in both summers, 1156 incidents detected, 96 ideas for improvement, 4 civic participation projects and obtainment of the visitor profile to develop improvement strategies.
Species recordings are a crucial source of data for nature conservation. The recording needs to be effective, precise and easy to carry out. Recent technologies have the capacityto provide this. The role of a notepad while hiking in nature and observing species in order to record them is fulfilled by a mobile application, called BioLog which operates in the Czech Republic. The Czech Nature Conservation Agency provides BioLog as an off-line notepad for all observations of animals, plants or fungi in nature of Central Europe. The application enables the localisation (via Google maps) and recording of your species observations in a structured form, which can then be imported into Species Occurrence Database of NCA (portal.nature.cz) or exported elsewhere. BioLog could be used as a field species atlas, while filtering Species Occurrence Database through the Around Me function. The selection of the area brings species records on the screen. This distribution atlas can be easily enriched by new records.
As the BioLog app is connected to the Species Occurrence Database, the collected records could be used in wide spectrum of conservation practice based on species presence: for instance, for management of the specific areas or for assessments on local and regional levels.
The waste collection Eco-citizen initiative entitled “Clean the Ventoux!” was born out of the conviction of a few people who wanted to give back to the majestic Mont Ventoux, located in the south of France, its purity. Massive tourist numbers (700 000 people/year) and people’s old habits and practices have led to huge quantity of any type of waste in the Mont Ventoux Natura 2000 site.
For the past 10 years more and more local partners act vigorously through SMAEMV, “Fan de Lune” (free flight association) and the “Office National des Forêts” (national forestry commission), to ensure the waste collection activities run smoothly. It is a truly local and successful event. There are nowadays more than 250 people (limited registration) gathering after the summer season. Within Natura 2000 site, 2 habitats are mainly concerned :  Subalpine and montane Pinus uncinata forests and  Calcareous and calcshist screes of the montane to alpine levels.
This initiative is an original way of raising awareness amongst citizens, socioeconomic stakeholders and local communities’ about respect for the natural environment, and the value of Natura 2000 network. Each year, a whole communication mechanism is deployed: posters, flyers, written newspapers, radio, television, social networks, exhibition and on site documentation. Besides the general audience targeted by the event communication, there have been more than 1600 volunteers that have assisted over the years. 140m3 of waste has been collected! Very innovative for French Natura 2000 network, this fundamental operation reconnects human and nature. In 2017, the event brings together 9 partners: associations, public collectivities, towns, military and private companies.
The district of Kastoria, in Greece, is of strategic importance for the brown bear, since it functions as a communication corridor between the bear sub-populations in Greece (the southernmost in Europe) and the Western Balkans. It also demonstrates a number of typical problems concerning the coexistence of bears and humans.
Firstly, there is the issue of the 72km branch of the E45 Motorway. Just six months after opening the new highway, five major traffic accidents occurred involving bears and cars. Secondly, an increasing number of bears in the area are visiting settlements during winter and early spring, when natural food sources are scarce, which increases the risk of bear-human conflicts and causes fear and anxiety amongst the locals.
CALLISTO, an environmental NGO, has a long presence in the area. Since 2009 it has been working in partnership with local authorities, the association of farming cooperatives and the Development Agency of Kastoria, to address these challenges and to improve conditions for bear - human coexistence.
Thanks to the partnership, the expertise and the dedication of the people involved, as well as the support of the EU LIFE fund, bear fatalities have been drastically reduced to 2-3 a year from the initial number of 8-9 and local tolerance towards the animals has increased considerably.
The actions that brought about to these impressive results include:
Once people became aware of the project actions and their effects, public opinion changed significantly. The drastic reduction in traffic accidents caused by collisions with bears in the road network as well as other conservation and awareness raising actions, have all increased the tolerance of the locals towards bears. The project completion survey demonstrated that 76% of the respondents considered the use of prevention measures effective; 32% stated that they now actively participated in efforts to protect bears.
The Bükki National Park Directorate has implemented bird protection interventions in the three Natura 2000 SPA via two projects. The first involved the adaptation of dangerous 20 KV electric lines in the South Borsod region to render them bird friendly. The second involved the same activity for the territory of Hevesi Füves Puszták TK.
These projects were implemented between 2010 and 2015 (preparatory period 2010-2013). The basic research was carried out by the Bükki Local Group of the Hungarian Ornithological Society and BNPI, the insulation works were carried out by ÉMÁSz Hálózati Kft. on behalf of the Bükk National Park Directorate. As far as we know they were the first and only projects to assure a complete bird protection system for Natura 2000 sites on the field of electrical accidents. A major problem in several SPAs is the large number of medium-voltage lines and the loss of birds caused by uninsulated wires. Based on the experiences of cable insulation in Hungary and the latest developments in appropriate insulation methods, new safe head structures were selected and applied.
Thanks to the projects, the total length of the electric lines benefiting from bird protection interventions is approximately 480 kilometres. The number of columns adjusted for the bird protection is 5218. On the HUBN10004 SPA site, in a 3 km long stretch, the 22 KV overhead lines were replaced by underground cable and we insulated 4,089 columns at 19 overhead line sections that were either not insulated or had insulation that was worn out.
The 350 km long Danube stretch in Austria is almost entirely integrated into a series of Natura 2000 sites despite being used by no less than nine hydroelectric power stations. The river still hosts many valuable freshwater habitats and species of European importance but, because of the hydropower stations, it is no longer possible for fish and other aquatic species to move up and downs stream.
The hydropower station "Ottensheim-Wilhering" has been in operation since 1975. It is located in the Natura 2000 site "Eferdinger Becken" in the southern stretch of the Danube in Upper Austria and until recently presented a major obstacle to fish migration, blocking off important spawning grounds situated along the river’s tributaries as well.
But today after 40 years, fish are once again able to swim past the power station. Thanks to the efforts of the Austrian hydropower company, VERBUND, and with the help of EU LIFE funds, a major semi-natural river of over 14.2 kilometres has been re-constructed around the power station The river stretch is now not only Europe's largest "fish migration aid", but also an important substitute for lost, river-like aquatic habitats of the Danube, and as such contains a variety of aquatic habitats for all life stages of typical Danube fish and other species.
The new river was built in only 14 months and was put into operation in May 2016. Just two months later an independent monitoring scheme found that over 5000 fish from the Danube had migrated through the new river. Altogether, 31 fish species were recorded, of which 7 are listed in the EU Habitats Directive, including the flagship species, "schrätzer" perch Gymnocephalus schraetzer. After the opening in 2016, 100 individuals from this rare species had migrated to the river bypass and, by the autumn, more than a 1000 young schrätzers had swum back down the river to the Danube. This means that the site is not only being used as a migration route but also as reproduction area for this rare species. This is a great success for the bypass river and for the preservation of the schrätzer perch.
The project is one of the networking activities in the LIFE project "Network Danube", whose overall aim is to reconnect Natura 2000 areas all along the Danube for fish. A significant step forward has been made towards achieving this goal thanks to the Ottensheim-Wilhering project.
The Macaronesian sparrowhawk is listed in Annex I of the Birds Directive and is classified as a priority subspecies. It is found in three areas of laurel forest classified as Natura 2000 (PTMAD001) and in the Madeira Natural Park. Despite having a conservation status of Least Concern, the lack of current information about its distribution and population trend in the archipelago of Madeira, does not make it possible to measure the conservation status of either population. The fires occurring in some areas of the SPA Laurel Forest in recent years, coupled with habitat loss caused by the expanding distribution of invasive plants, have increased the problems related to the conservation of this species, therefore urgent measures to assist the Macaronesian sparrowhawk are crucial.
This depends essentially on the recovery of the laurel forest of Madeira. The recovery of the Laurel habitat will benefit the Macaronesian Sparrowhawk population and numerous other species of birds, invertebrates and plants, listed in Annex I of the EC Birds Directive 74/409/EEC and Annex II of the EC Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC. A series of preparatory actions (01/07/2013-31/12/2014), conservation actions (01/02/2013-30/06/2017) and monitoring actions (01/09/2013-30/06/2017) have been undertaken through the LIFE project Fura-bardos (SPEA, IFCN). Specifically they have involved reducing the populations of invasive plant species, encouraging the recovery of burned areas of laurel forest, increasing our knowledge about the ecology and population trends of the Macaronesian sparrowhawk in Madeira and ensuring the continuation and sustainability of the conservation measures.
Since its foundation 30 years ago, the Greek Society for the Study and Protection of the Monk Seal (MOm),has been actively involved in the conservation of this critically endangered flagship species in Greece. It has systematically addressed all the major conservation problems – deliberate killing, accidental entanglement in fishing gears, overfishing, habitat degradation and other, threatening the survival of the monk seal in the Aegean and Ionian Seas.
Some of the main activities undertaken by MOm include:
MOm’s work was instrumental in developing and updating the National Strategy for the Protection of the Monk Seal in Greece. As a direct result of its actions, in 2015, the Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) was down-listed from "Critically Endangered" to "Endangered" on the IUCN Red Data List of endangered species.
Czech Republic, Poland
The Krkonose/Karkonosze Mountains are one of the most valuable sites along the Czech-Polish border, protected as the Krkonose National Park on the Czech side and the Karkonosze National Park on the Polish side. Both Parks are included in EU Natura 2000.
As with many natural areas divided by borders, the effective management of Krkonoše Mountains and its valuable mosaic of tundra, forest and meadow habitats, as well as a unique mixture of arctic/alpine and mountain/lowland species has been obstructed by poor, outdated and incomparable data.
As a response to this problem, and to promote common conservation objectives, the competent administrations of both sides of the border have come together and implemented a suite of joint and well-coordinated actions. Joint teams for monitoring mammals (including bats), birds, and butterflies over an area of 962 square kilometres were established. Each of these teams involved specialists from many Polish and Czech scientific institutes, including the two Academies of Science and universities. Standardized monitoring methodologies (including field mapping, inventory, census, bat detection, telemetry, data modelling) were deployed.
A common database on birds was developed and the data collected was uploaded on a common platform, which enables geo-referenced analysis. The actual distribution, population sizes and long-term trends of breeding bird species are now better known. Regarding butterflies and bats, for the first time ever in Krkonose, the distribution and relative abundance of the different species were mapped; bats were studied in all habitats whereas day butterflies were selectively monitored in meadows and grasslands. Data on spatial distribution and cross-border migration of red deer were also obtained.
Based on the joint monitoring, a set of common management actions were identified and then incorporated in the management planning with the objective of securing the protection of Natura 2000 bird species, for instance by leaving parts of the forest unmanaged for the benefit of the Red-breasted flycatcher (Ficedula parva), and delaying the mowing of montane meadows for the benefit the Corncrake (Crex crex) and key butterfly species. It also aimed to preserve the most valuable habitats for bats in sparse beach forests and effectively regulating red deer populations to reduce damage to the beach forest habitats.
Thanks to this cross border cooperation and the major data gathering exercise, common conservation objectives for the Natura 2000 sites across both sides of the mountain range have been established.
The Natura 2000 site - ‘Gorges de la Tardes et vallée du Cher’- is situated in the Department of Creuse, in Central France. This site is very biodiverse, with many species of EU importance such as the large copper butterfly, the stag beetle, and the yellow bellied toad.
The yellow bellied toad frequents freshwater biotopes such as ponds, ruts, ditches, and lives in shallow, stagnant, sunny water bodies. Although fairly common in the Limousin regions, its populations are relatively scattered and small in number. The causes of the decline are mainly fragmentation, the loss of aquatic habitats and the disappearance of its favourite terrestrial habitats. In view of these increasing threats, the Limousin’s Office National des Forêts has undertaken, since 2006, an operation to benefit this amphibian. The national action plan for the yellow bellied toad, covering the period 2011-2015, has been inspired by our experiences. The aim is to effectively protect the species through a close partnership between institutions and associations.
Different types of actions were trialed on 3 sites in order to find the best balance for the yellow bellied toad’s habitats, and to see which one works the best: 1) In 2006, a dozen ponds were created and cleaned up. In 2007, some pond's sizes were modified; 2) between 2007 and 2009, a natural ditch was cleaned, and reprofiled across 35 meters. The ditch water was then emptied, to avoid others species proliferating. After few months, water was put back. Finally, the ditch was totally filled, the aim was to restore the environment; 3) in 2007, we decided to create a ditch all along a common path. The works done did not bring the expected results, and failed.
In addition to the activities already stated, surveillance actions were undertaken. Benoît Feugere, an agent of the Biodiversity Agency, temporally caught toads, and photographed their bellies. During three years, regular surveillance and data processing enabled him to identify and name the individuals, and so, follow their dynamics. 18 yellow bellied were followed on the first site (Vallée du Cher), and 39 on the second site (Route RD915). However, we have since stopped the surveillance because of the high effectives of the toad.
The concept of 'landscape-scale' habitat delivery has received much attention in the conservation sector in the UK in recent years. The practical realities of translating this aspiration into genuine landscape-scale change 'on the ground' in a populated, privately owned countryside are often naively overlooked. This project demonstrates what can be achieved through prioritising the use of targeted, 'on-farm, adviser-led' agri-environment schemes in the wider 'non designated' farmed countryside where the main focus is building long term relationships with farmers in order to create, from arable land, a contiguous network of species-rich grasslands across 20 farms. To date this project has created over 200ha of wildflower-rich grasslands, linking the scattered fragmented resource of designated sites including the Wye Downs Natura 2000 site noted for its chalk grassland habitat.
This project represents one of 5 examples in the 'Kent Downs' based on the same model where for over 15 years Natural England has invested much 'on-farm' effort in creating these new landscapes. Particular focus is placed on accelerating the species richness of both newly created grasslands and species-poor grasslands through native wildflower seeding and green hay spreading. In a country where fragmented designated/protected sites offer such a small resource of wildlife-rich habitat, this 'farmer-engaged' approach is arguably the only means of achieving the long term vision of landscape scale change that is so desperately needed to arrest biodiversity declines and create the next generation of new species-rich habitats.
La Pletera is a coastal area of high ecological value, with the presence of brackish hyperhaline coastal lagoons, well-conserved halophilic and psamophilic plants communities as well as established colonies of Spanish toothcarp (Aphanius Iberus).The salt marsh of the Pletera suffered in the late 80s during the incomplete construction of a residential area, which was abandoned in the early 90s. However, the saltmarshes are still an area of great natural interest, despite being interrupted by physical barriers such as a promenade, levees, piles of rubble as well as semi-built up areas, all of which hinder the proper ecological functioning of the lagoon system.
The Life Pletera project, proposed in the conservation category, had as its main objective the restoration of the ecological functionality of the coastal lagoons of the Pletera. It also wanted to show how such an area so punished by urban pressures can still recover and finally, how by increasing the carbon fixation capacity of these coastal systems the area is able to contribute to reducing of CO2 emissions. The ecological restoration of the Pletera has been carried out in 12 ha of halophilic communities, of which 30% are habitat 1150 – which is the main habitat of the fartet (Aphanius Iberus) - and 70% habitats 1310, 1410 and 1420. In addition, 1 km of coastal dunes has been restored and protected. The artificial elements affected the normal circulation of water in storm and sea storm episodes, modifying and altering the floods in the most inland area and occupying cultivated fields and isolated traditional homes. By restoring the old topographic level it has been possible to increase the capacity of water lamination, acting as a buffer space in a context of climate change, where more extreme natural events are expected to take place.
The Cliffs Interpretation Centre is found in the middle of the largest SAC in the Maltese Islands, covering 15km2 out of the total 316km2. The Natura 2000 site of Rdumijiet ta’ Malta consists of several landscapes, supporting habitats and rare species.
The idea of The Cliffs Interpretation Centre originates from a local family with several links to the history of Dingli village and Cliffs. The Centre is the first to combine innovative methods of information dissemination and local food products to raise awareness on Natura 2000 and importance of conservation. Target groups for information dissemination include local residents, farmers, stakeholders, general public, students and tourists. The Centre started as part of a holistic project supported by local and national government. Its daily operations are not focused on a project with a definite duration, but are ongoing all-year round activities. For 5.5 years, The Centre runs as a self-sufficient entity.
The previous lack of informative services at Dingli Cliffs and limited awareness on biodiversity acted as an impetus for The Centre to carry out several Communication actions ranging from creation of nature walking trail, audio-visual, brochure dissemination and website. The largest achievement of The Centre is the Discover Dingli Cliffs eco-walks, informative and recreational activities to highlight and respect Dingli Cliffs’ ecology. The latest update from September 2016 are that all walks are offered for free and include guided walks by local professional personnel. These activities have been customised for school visits. Several actions were also targeted to reach the local community and stakeholders, including hosting Natura 2000 stakeholder workshops and hosting free seminars to different local groups.
From a touristic point of view, our region (Castile and León) has a very rich cultural and natural wealth. The region in general, and the province of Valladolid in particular, have a powerful touristic potential, as yet clearly untapped. Within Valladolid we can find five wine designations of Origin: Ribera del Duero, Cigales, Rueda, Toro and Tierras de León. Besides, Valladolid holds a great importance in landscape, natural and biodiversity terms, with 14 designed SCIs and 11 SPAs.
Recognising that local involvement is one of the weaknesses for conservation and sustainable development in the area, BUTEO started to make alliances and work with small-scale, but high-value, local initiatives. We became members of the Rueda Wine Route, in whose territory we live and work. With the rapid and large-scale development of the wine industry (and consequently the fast extension of the vineyards), very deep transformations are occurring, with a dramatic loss of traditional crops, so that there is as well a real risk of losing or dramatically impacting on some of our most valuable natural resources, such as steppe birds, even in protected areas that belong to the Natura 2000 network. Furthermore, the local economy is more and more dependant of just one resource: wine.
Eco-enotourism is our main innovation to promote the enhancement of the touristic offer. We design and develop wildlife-watching (especially birdwatching) activities combined with visits to wineries and other resources of our territory, but we are also committed to the environmental education of the next generations, in order to make them know, respect and value their own natural heritage. We believe that sustainable development is possible, taking into account the social, economic and environmental dimensions.
Belgium, Germany, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom
Our application entitled "Enhancing the role of remote sensing in nature conservation, especially in Natura 2000 protected areas" is based on the recently published Springer book "The roles of remote sensing in nature conservation" (Díaz-Delgado et al. 2017). The book is the basis for a continuous communication exercise to effectively transfer remote sensing technology, including research findings and practical tools, to managers in protected areas, including Natura 2000 sites. The book matured after several European meetings on habitat mapping in Natura 2000 sites (ENCA, Eurosite, national meetings...) where we agreed that one of the major challenges of nature conservation in Europe is related to the need to provide updated spatial information on habitat status and sustaining long-term monitoring activities. With this initiative, we have increased awareness about the relevance of monitoring and surveying Natura 2000 sites by using remote sensing. Although the application, i.e. the book, is targeting the managers of Natura 2000 sites and national Natura 2000 networks, several sites are starring in the chapters of the book as examples of success stories in implementing remote sensing methods to assess and monitor habitat conservation status, such as Doñana in Spain; Kalmthoutse Heide a cross-border Natura 2000 site in Belgium and the Netherlands; Wahner Heide, a heathland in between the cities of Cologne and Bonn in Germany and the Flemish nature reserve De Westhoek, in Belgium. The book is presented as the culminant communication achievement in spreading the use of remote sensing in monitoring for Natura 2000 sites and other protected areas.
In practice, the candidates have actively promoted, hosted and participated in 6 workshops dealing with monitoring in Natura 2000 and LTER sites and nationally protected areas. Three of them were organized by Eurosite, one by ENCA, one by Spanish Administration for National Parks and one by LTER-Europe network. The candidates showed new approaches in remote sensing techniques to monitor conservation status. The candidates also published other 2 books on conservation monitoring.
The nature park Stromberg-Heuchelberg is a protected area of 330 km2 in the southwest of Germany. It contains both the Site of Community Importance "Stromberg" and the Special Protected Area "Stromberg" (classified under the Birds Directive). These areas are the second largest SCI and the tenth largest SPA in Baden-Württemberg. Despite their high ecological value the protected areas are not well-known, neither among the residents nor among the visitors of the nature park. If there has been a debate concerning the protected areas it has been about restrictions of land use. By contrast people are proud to have the local Maulbronn Monastery - UNESCO World Heritage Site - in their neighborhood.
The responsible body of the Nature Park Stromberg-Heuchelberg e.V., which involves a club of 40 members (25 communities, 4 regional councils, associations in the field of tourism, nature conservation, land use) developed an interactive exhibition on the protected areas in the nature park visitor centre in 2014 called an Exhibition Wildlife on Stromberg - Europe's natural heritage in your own backyard . The aim was to increase the awareness of the protected areas as a part of the Natura 2000 network, and to present some particular Habitats Directive protected species like red kite or wildcat, to make people proud of the fact the nature park belongs to Europe's natural heritage and to create enthusiasm for the nature in the people's own backyard.
An accompanying programme with guided tours, a slideshow in two languages, a competition for schoolchildren, a Natura 2000 info-wall in the entrance foyer of the nature park center and a specialist presentation completed the exhibition. The main target groups of the exhibition were families and school classes, nature lovers, inhabitants of the nature park.
The origins of the ancient Gauja River valley go back more than 350 million years, but its current ravine-ridden terrain was moulded by the glacier meltwater at the end of the Ice Age. The Gauja, which is the longest river in Latvia (452 km), winds through the national park. The river once served as a trading route, and the Livonians built their settlements on its banks. Strong stone castles enclosed by steep slopes and valleys, were built in the 13th century.
The Gauja National park Tourism Cluster was created in 2012 by an NGO “Tourism Association of Sigulda City Region”. This NGO was established in year 2000 as an association of local Sigulda city tourism entrepreneurs. Creation of the Cluster was fostered by a project “Development of Gauja National park Tourism Cluster” funded by the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia. Today this cluster combines more than 50 entrepreneurs, 9 municipalities, Latvian Nature Conservation Agency and Vidzeme University of Applied Sciences. It is now the largest tourism Cluster in the Baltic’s! All sorts of tourism entrepreneurs are represented in the Cluster – castles and manors, companies working in nature tourism, all kinds of active tourism, wellness and health tourism, culinary or food tourism, rural tourism and other tourism forms. All kinds of accommodation – camping, hotel, manors etc. - are represented in the Cluster too.
An uniting brand – Enter Gauja – was created with logo and a brand book; a marketing strategy 2013-2019; and a webpage www.enetergauja.com were developed. Many joint marketing activities were carried out – brochures and maps printed, photography and video portfolio for each member created, mass media from Russia, Hungary, Ukraine, and Austria, Italy targeted. An evaluation for all the paths that exist in Gauja National park – in total length more than 1400 km, was carried out.
The Tremedal LIFE project, which covers the conservation and restoration of 25 wetlands in the north of the Iberian Peninsula, aims at the conservation and restoration of habitats and species considered of particular interest for their conservation in the European context (mires, humid grasslands, temporary pools, riverside woodlands, etc.).
Many of these habitats and species are listed in the Annexes of the Habitats Directive (Directive 92/43/EEC), considered to be the most important legal instrument for biodiversity conservation at European level. Most of the Tremedal wetlands are included in Natura 2000 Network, and the actions carried out in the project represent a significant advance in the implementation of the measures included in the management plans of these areas.
Some of the wetlands included in Tremedal have become part of the Natura network throughout the execution of the project. Tremedal has also served to understand the need to consider connectivity or the "overall vision" when considering habitats and species conservation. Given the rarity of habitats and species of peatlands environments, as well as their high isolation degree, it is important to ensure the conservation of sites that, although outside Natura 2000, can act as reservoirs of species in the event of a decrease in populations of those included in the network.
The project involves knowledge improvement and monitoring in all places, as well as concrete restoration actions in 16 of them. The activities include hydrological restoration works (eg. installation of dams), livestock management (closures, infrastructures, establishment of grazing periods), elimination of exotic species, creation of a germplasm bank for the conservation of 20 threatened species from the project's habitats.
Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Spain, Turkey
A major effort is underway to bring the lesser kestrel (Falco naumanni), back to Bulgaria where it is currently considered extinct. A broad partnership of organisations from Spain, Germany, Turkey and Greece, and led by the Green Balkans, an NGO from Bulgaria, are working together with the help of EU LIFE funds, to encourage the return of the lesser kestrel as a breeding bird in the Sakar SPA, Bulgaria and to enhance its conservation status at national and international level.
Using the so-called ‘hacking’ method, juveniles bred in captivity at the specialised breeding facilities of DEMA in Spain and Green Balkans are raised in an aviary with foster parents and later released. This method is based on the long-term experience of DEMA, which has successfully implemented a series of similar initiatives in Spain and France. As a result of these actions, a total of 286 lesser kestrels were released/fledged in the Sakar SPA from 2013 to 2015 and the first breeding pairs were subsequently recorded in the wild.
Habitat restoration and management measures, as well as measures to secure the overhead powerlines and prevent electrocution, were subsequently undertaken at Saker as well in order to improve the species chances of survival there.
With the help of the partners from DAYKO in Turkey, surveys to find the lesser kestrel colonies in the Turkish-Bulgarian border area were organized. Partnering with Greece and Turkey will further improve the habitat in the region and ensure connectivity between the birds from the three countries, Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey.
The partners of EPAMATH in Greece meanwhile, helped with placing nest boxes in known lesser kestrel areas in order to increase the chances for newly formed pairs to nest and rear their offspring. This was done in an effort to strengthen the Greek colonies and to give the birds from Bulgaria the possibility to interact with other colonies from neighbouring countries.
The partnership established through the project is an excellent example of the positive cross-border cooperation, resulting in the recovery of a species that was until then considered extinct as a breeder in Bulgaria.
Four Natura 2000 sites in the Parc naturel régional des Causses du Quercy, France: Basse vallée du Célé, Grotte de Fond d’Erbies, Vallées de l’Ouysse et de l’Alzou, Vallées de la Rauze et du Vers, have the particularity of harbouring a remarkable diversity of bats : 26 species, from which 9 of community interest, of the 34 presents in France. This diversity is linked in particular to a preserved natural environment, the presence of various underground cavities and an old built heritage.
Various awareness and communication campaigns are carried out at the level of the network of sites in the territory of the Park. The target audiences have been so far the inhabitants, the elected officials, the natural areas managers. Since its creation, the Park has also been conducting activities with school audience outside the Natura 2000 animations’ programme. For the school year 2016/2017, the objective was to expand the range of the Park’s educational offers by proposing a theme specially related to the issues of the Natura 2000 sites. The choice of bats was relevant because these species concentrate a certain amount of myths and rumours about their way of life and also because the Quercy has a remarkable diversity of species that use many habitats of community interest within the sites. In coordination with its education department, the Park has proposed an educational programme on this subject to the schools within its territory, for the school year 2016/2017: 5 classes of 4 schools of the territory followed this programme, totalling 75 students. This programme has resulted in each class writing short and funny stories about bats.
Bulgaria, Greece, United Kingdom
The Egyptian vulture, the only regular long distance migratory vulture in Europe, was once the source of myths and local folklore in the Balkans and revered as a sacred bird in parts of Africa. But due to lots of various threats like poisoning, direct persecution and nest robbery, disturbance during breading, electrocution by dangerous powerlines, and others, the Egyptian vulture is now on the edge of extinction. The only effective way to save this charismatic species is through multi-national and multi-institutional collaboration.
In 2011, four partners: Hellenic Ornithological Society (HOS) / BirdLife Greece; WWF Greece, Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB) / BirdLife Bulgaria; and Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) / BirdLife UK joined forces to halt the decline of the Egyptian vulture population in the Balkans. Recognising the specific requirements of this long-distance migrant, the partners also took steps to broaden their cross-border approach to other countries along the species’ flyway.
Partners invested in efforts to stop the illegal trade of Egyptian vultures and eggs in the Balkans. A total of 178 Custom Officers were trained in Greece and Bulgaria, while international cooperation at the level of INTERPOL and international customs authorities was promoted. As a direct result of these efforts, a renowned poacher was convicted and given a prison sentence in Bulgaria.
Intense capacity building and networking in Bulgaria also helped 1400 farmers to apply for agri-environment payments and thus nearly 100,000 ha of pastures within the Natura 2000 network are now being managed for the benefit of the Egyptian vulture and other wildlife. In addition, networking with public and private electricity transmission companies has resulted in the insulation of over 400 dangerous electricity pylons in both Greece and Bulgaria.
At an international level, the project has succeeded in achieving a very fruitful cross- border collaboration. The clearest example is the successful development of the Flyway Action Plan for the Conservation of the Balkan and Central Asian Populations of Egyptian Vulture (EVFAP) which is a key element of the Convention of Migratory Species’ Vulture’s Multi-Species Action Plan. This document is the culmination of over two years of work and collaboration of 26 countries along the flyway of the species and many experts and is expected to be vital for the future of the species.
Another successful example of cross-border cooperation with local institutions (the Sahara Conservation Fund (SCF) and A.P. Leventis Ornithological Research Institute (APLORI)) was the discovery of a yet unidentified threat to the Egyptian vulture. In some parts of Africa (Niger, Nigeria), vultures were being killed to use their body parts in traditional medicine. An even more impressive achievement was the decommissioning and replacement of a power line in Sudan, known to have electrocuted hundreds and perhaps thousands of individuals since its construction in the 1950s.
It is evident that only extensive local and national networking and international collaboration could deliver the successful results listed above.
Estonia has a special responsibility for the conservation of alvar grassland, which is a priority habitat under the Habitat Directive, as one third of the total habitat in Europe occurs in this country. By the mid-1980s, the situation with the traditional management of this habitat was near catastrophic: most of the 9800 hectares of alvar grasslands occurring in Estonia was heavily overgrown with shrubs and trees, while only 2000 hectare was grazed and in a more-or-less satisfactory condition.
The aim of the LIFE project was to restore 2,500 ha of alvar grassland in 19 Natura 2000 sites and to involve local farmers in the long-term management of the restored sites. Approximately 600 landowners in 25 project areas were contacted to prepare the restoration actions and ensure subsequent management through grazing: a very impressive number of individual stakeholders involved in the project. 1,400 ha of alvar grassland have been restored so far by using heavy forestry machinery. Cleared areas were prepared for grazing by installing fences, water troughs, animal shelters and access roads. Contracts with private landowners preparing the restoration of an additional 550 ha have been signed.
All restored sites became eligible for CAP agri-environmental payments which ensure the viability of both farming activities and the habitats over the longer term. In addition, the project has helped farmers to create additional revenue from the grassland management by organising an Added Value Products Working Group for the farmers. The working group has a dual mandate: to find suitable uses for the timber harvested during the restoration actions, and to better capture the value chain of the products derived from the extensive grazing (meat and wool from the livestock).
In order to successfully market the meat, a cooperative was formed, which is in the process of establishing a local slaughterhouse to reduce transportation costs. Also, the cooperative is introducing a new high-end brand for its products: Muhu meat. For the marketing of the wool, the working group is trying to develop sufficient economies of scale by combining production and being able to offer output volumes attractive for wool processors.
The project has produced other benefits as well: the grazing of the sites does not only produce income for the farmers, but also for other businesses along the value chain. As a by-product, the landscape of the restored site has become more attractive to visitors. By reintroducing a profitable land use on the sites, the project was able to change the public notion of Natura 2000 from being an instrument that restricts land use options to one that can create new income opportunities.
The LIFE-FORBIRDS project has three major objectives: (a) To implement conservation / management measures that will substantially improve ecological conditions for selected bird species listed in Annex I of the Birds Directive occurring in 3 Natura 2000 (SPA) sites; (b) Through the implementation of these pilot conservation management measures to demonstrate to the Cypriot foresters and other stakeholders, the benefits of adopting a more holistic forest management approach that will address the needs of birds dwelling in or visiting the forest; and (c) To contribute towards, enhancement of public awareness on the need to conserve wild birds and combat bird crime within the broader project area.
The specific objectives of the project are: 1) to improve food availability in the project sites, in terms of quantity, quality and diversity; 2) To permanently improve water availability during the long dry period; 3) To improve nesting conditions in the sites; 4) To reduce human disturbance through enhanced awareness and limiting access in sensitive areas; 5) To restore bird habitats in the sites; 6) To introduce management practices that favour birds in routine forest management in Cyprus; 7) To contribute toward combating bird crime through strict enforcement of legislation and implementation of an effective communication campaign; and 8) To improve public awareness on the need to conserve bird populations, the value of Natura 2000 network and the importance of the contribution of the LIFE financial instrument for nature conservation.
The Natura 2000 area in Lille Vildmose hosts one of the largest lowland raised bogs in northwestern Europe, comprising half of all raised bog areas in Denmark. However, during the past 250 years the central part has been comprehensively exploited, starting with the drainage of four natural lakes followed by years of peat extraction and agriculture. As a result, less than half of the original bog remains today.
The widespread lowering of the groundwater - one of the major threats to the existence of the bog - has led to a large-scale invasion of trees, which has in turn accelerated the drainage of the remaining active bog area. But, despite all this, Lille Vildmose still harbours over 2000 ha of active raised bog, a habitat type protected by the EU Habitats Directive, (7110*) and hosts an important number of sometimes rare and endangered species of flora and fauna including sundew, cloudberry, sphagnum, white-tailed eagle, golden eagle, wood sandpiper, crane and short-eared owl.
With the support of the LIFE fund, the state authority Naturstyrelsen, in partnership with the local municipality of Aalborg and the private foundation/landowner Aage V. Jensen Nature fund launched a major restoration programme. The aim was to protect the remaining bog from further degradation, and restore optimal hydrology in the central part to ensure bog recovery and re-growth of bog-specific vegetation such as sphagnum.
A wide range of actions have been carried out. The water level was raised by more than 750 ha by physically erecting membranes and dams alongside existing raised bog surfaces, a 130 ha natural lake was re-stored, trees were cleared from 200ha, grazing by elks and red deer was established on 2100ha and the re-growth of sphagnum was kick-started on 12ha. Invasive alien species like the American mink and the raccoon dog and fox, all a threat to breeding bird species as they eat both eggs and chicks, were controlled. Two observation platforms, a boardwalk and 8 new information boards were installed for the public to explore and learn more about the Natura 2000 site and the species and habitats it protects.
Conservation activities are proving very effective. The closure of ditches, and the sheet-piling and laying of membranes have resulted in the immediate raising of groundwater to the desired levels. The monitoring carried out in recent years is showing clear improvement of the conservation status of the raised bog areas with visible regrowth of sphagnum species in several places.
The Valle del Ambroz (Ambroz Valley) is a located in the north of Extremadura region and is mostly included in two Natura 2000 sites. It is a relatively small district with only eight towns, whose economies are based on agriculture and livestock. Two of the towns have a long tradition of tourism but only during the summer months. The area’s landscape is stunning, with mountains over 2000m high covered in dense chestnuts and oak forests, and a deep valley. This is where the Otoño Mágico (Magic Autumn) takes place. The autumn colours are especially attractive with reds, browns and yellows in abundance.
The magic autumn initiative started in 1998 and has continued uninterrupted ever since (20 editions). The initiative set out to address two main challenges. The first is to tackle the decrease in human populations in this rural area by helping them to diversify the local economy through tourism. The second is to give value to the environment, to raise awareness of the fragility and importance of the area, and the reasons why it is protected under Natura 2000.
Every year, a range of activities take place during the month of November. They include music, hiking, sports, photos, mountain biking, mushroom picking and many other activities around the theme of nature, such as the Dia de la Trashumancia (cattle migration day), remembering old shepherds and the wolf. Dozens of local associations (touristic, environmental, women, youth associations, etc), local authorities and local businesses are involved in the initiative which is steered by the Local Action Group (LAG).
Today there are more than 25,000 visitors every November, which has earned it the title of Festivity of Regional Tourist Interest since 2011, and the national award CONAMA for the Sustainability of Little and Medium Municipalities at 2013. The overall budget to organise the annual event is around 100,000 euros while the generated amount is over 2,000,000 euros per year.
Today the Magic Autumn at Ambroz Valley is a recognised brand (and registered as such in the Spanish Office of Patents and Trademarks), whose image is strongly connected to that of the Natura 2000 network. The people, locals and tourists alike have made it theirs, and its future survival is thus guaranteed. The initiative is also contributing to protecting Natura 2000 areas and creating local employment.
Five years ago, Spain had designated around 2100 Natura 2000 sites, but only a few of these were located in the marine environment, representing no more than around 1% of Spanish territorial waters, which was highly insufficient. In order to comply with European and international commitments it was important that Spain, which harbours a particularly impressive marine biodiversity, improves on these figures as soon as possible.
So, through several major EU LIFE funded projects, the Spanish Fundacion Biodiversidad, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and the Environment and eight other leading scientific institutes, stakeholder groups and NGOs set about gathering vital baseline data to inform the designation of further Natura 2000 marine sites.
Over 150 oceanographic surveys were undertaken to compile the necessary information on marine habitats, seabirds, cetaceans, turtles and other protected species as well as on their threats and pressures across Spanish waters. Around 40 work sessions involving more than 650 representatives of key civil society groups were also held all along the coast and in Madrid in order to gain their support and participation.
The oceanographic research campaigns have been vital in increasing the scientific knowledge on marine biodiversity in Spain. It has also enabled coherent management guidelines to be established and an extensive dialogue to be held with stakeholders, including fishermen, on protecting and using resources in marine Natura 2000 sites in a way that protects the species and habitats for which the sites are designated.
Through an experimental laboratory, tools have been developed to mitigate the impacts of certain human activities. Essential information for the adequate conservation and integrated management of the areas has been generated, especially on the spatial distribution and intensity of the different fishing activities, georeferenced hazard matrices and on the costs and benefits of the establishment of the Natura 2000 Network.
In just a short space of time, enough scientific knowledge was gathered to declare a further 39 marine sites for the protection of seabirds and 10 SCI for protection of other animals and marine habitats covering altogether 7.3 million hectares. As a result, the protected marine surface of Spain has increased considerably between 2013 and 2015, from just 1% to 8% of all Spanish territorial waters. The activities carried out have been absolutely decisive for the conservation of habitats and marine species of European interest and have contributed substantially to furthering our knowledge of marine biodiversity in Europe.
The military camp of Chambaran is a training facility of 1 200 ha, mainly composed of forest managed by the National Office of Forest (ONF). It represents half of the Natura 2000 site, known for its mosaic of habitats and wetlands. In 2012, the Regional Conservatory of Natural Areas (CEN) started the LIFE project “LIFE Défense Nature 2mil” with the aim of discovering and preserving biodiversity in four military camps, thanks to a recent partnership with the Ministry of Army. For Chambaran’s camp, one of the main objectives was to preserve the population of bats. After inventories, the Birdlife association LPO recorded 23 bat species, including 8 in the Annex II of the Habitats Directive.
To preserve these populations, ecologists (CEN and LPO) proposed a preservation program, which included suggesting to the foresters to modify the forest management plan. Various activities such as army operations, wood production and preservation of biodiversity made the conciliation very challenging. It took five years of dialogue, several expert field training courses, many meetings and different reports before the stakeholders found a common agreement and published the new forest management plan.The negotiations allowed to maintain near 60% of the surface in forestry management with several restrictions and recommendations for the preservation of bats and global biodiversity.
The rest of the area is assigned to natural evolution towards old-growth forest. One of the key actions of this project is the creation of a corridor of old-growth and dead trees with an average of 10 trees per hectare. Bat roost and hunting ground restoration work completed the program. This project can be identified as an example for other military camps, often unknown and underestimated in terms of their importance for biodiversity.
In 2007, the “Etang de Mauguio” (known locally as “Etang de l’Or” or ‘lake of gold’) was declared a Natura 2000 site, triggering strong opposition from local users. The local authorities made major efforts to encourage dialogue between all stakeholders in order to overcome these initial concerns. This proved to be successful. Over time, a general consensus and positive attitude was built up regarding the management and use of this valuable natural site.
To mark the occasion of the 10th anniversary of Etang de L’or as a Natura 2000 site, the Syndicat Mixte du Bassin de L’Or (Symbo) decided to involve all of its collaborators and local schools in a joint project: to create a travelling exhibition to be designed by, and for, children. Teachers and more than 340 schoolchildren from thirteen primary and secondary schools within the districts surrounding the Natura 2000 site, got involved in the preparation of the exhibition.
Over the 2016-2017 school year, the teachers and pupils developed the contents of the exhibition to showcase the multiple facets and unique features of the “Etang de Mauguio” Natura 2000 site. Each class worked on a specific theme corresponding to one panel of the exhibition. Local site users -farmers, hunters, fishermen, scientists - assisted the schoolchildren in this process by giving them lectures and organising numerous field visits to the site to explore the individual elements in greater detail.
In addition to the primary objectives of raising awareness amongst pupils of the exceptional natural heritage of the “Etang de l’Or” and creating a lasting educational tool, the project also offered an opportunity for pupils to find out about careers related to the environment, by involving external contributors (managers of natural areas, site users, researchers, etc.).
The travelling exhibition, composed of 12 self-supporting panels, was inaugurated in spring 2017. The pupils presented their work to elected representatives, the services of the State and other stakeholders of the Natura 2000 site. The exhibition has since been shown in various public buildings in the region (library, high school, elementary schools, tourism office). It is estimated that around 8300 people including 700 school children have seen or been made aware of the exhibition locally and learnt something about the Natura 2000 site.
Local politicians and mayors from surrounding villages have also ‘appropriated’ the site and become more interested in its conservation. Next year, the Symbo will make the exhibition freely available to other schools within the area.
The Harz region is one of the most geologically diverse highland regions in Germany and a very popular cultural landscape. Dotted with castles and Romanesque churches, the region has been an important centre of power for centuries thanks to its rich iron ore deposits, flowing rivers, deep forests and fertile soils.
Today, the Harz region is not only of great cultural value but also protected as a Nature Park and a series of Natura 2000 sites in view of its exceptionally rich biodiversity. Yet few people are aware of this rich natural heritage. That is why in 2013, the Regionalverband Harz decided to launch a major communication project to raise awareness for the value and importance of the Natura 2000 sites in the Harz Region and to create an atmosphere of collaboration and mutual understanding amongst the different local stakeholder and governmental bodies across three federal states.
In order to reach as many people as possible, a characteristic animal was chosen for each of the 10 selected Natura 2000 sites in Saxony-Anhalt to act as its mascot (e.g. stag beetle (Lucanus cervus), black stork (Ciconia nigra), fire salamandra (Salamandra salamandra), middle spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopus medius), etc.. A series of brochures were developed for the ten sites, highlighting their special fauna and flora interests, geological and historical sights, and proposing circular walking routes. Information panels were also erected in the areas to link in with the brochures.
The brochures proved extremely popular. To date, over 86,000 brochures have been printed, far exceeding initial expectations. A "Species of the Month" was also featured every month in numerous news outlets and a permanent exhibition on Natura 2000 was installed at Castle Stolberg.
This constant communication not only raised awareness about Natura 2000 amongst the general public and tourists, but also helped to greatly reduce reservations amongst landowners, instilling instead a sense of responsibility for conserving and sustainably managing the area.
Apart from brochures, one of the major success factors of the project was its various Natura 2000 networking events and workshops for different stakeholders, businesses, administrations and politicians, which provided everyone involved with new contacts. Stakeholders were able to gain better insight into each other’s motivations and needs, increasing mutual understanding. It has also increased the local community’s identification with the respective Natura 2000 areas. In the future, this should lead to greater awareness of the protected areas’ importance and the need to ensure their continued existence.
The LIFE co-financed project ‘Natura 2000: Connecting People with Biodiversity set out to improve the awareness and understanding of Natura 2000 in Spain. According to surveys at the start of the project, just 10% of Spanish people had heard of Natura 2000. The project’s ethos was therefore simple: no one will care about protecting something that they don’t even know it exists.
From September 2012 to March 2017, SEO/BirdLife, a leading non-governmental organisation, joined forces with the Spanish international news agency, Agencia EFE, to carry out a range of communication activities aimed at raising interest and engaging the public and other stakeholders in conserving Spanish Natura 2000 sites for the benefit of all.
As part of the project, a series of half-hour documentaries were developed to showcase Natura 2000 sites and their local communities across different regions of Spain. Beautifully filmed and narrated, the videos allow viewers to discover some of the most interesting and biodiversity rich areas of the country from the comfort of their armchair. The videos were broadcasted on Spanish TV at regular intervals attracting an audience of almost 5 million viewers and 800,000 radio listeners.
A set of toolkits for various audiences was also developed – for people that live and work in Natura 2000, for local administration, for competent authorities etc. A handbook for journalist with explanations and tips on how best to bring the nature importance to the public at large was also produced and widely distributed.
The project also carried out an extensive information campaign on Natura 2000 in 50 hypermarkets in 14 regions in Spain. A dedicated website for youngsters and teenagers, and teachers was developed. 161 news reports about Natura 2000 Network were disseminated via Agencia EFE and 37 workshops were held to explain to people living and working in Natura 2000 site what Natura 2000 means for them and what opportunities it could bring.
At the end of the project, the number of people who knew about the Natura 2000 network in Spain increased from 10% to 22%. The degree of interest in Natura 2000 had also increased: in 2003, 75.7% of the people who knew the network had visited at least one of the sites, by 2017 this had risen to 90%. Two out of three consumers (67.9%) said they would choose a produce from a Natura 2000 site if it were not more expensive. 43.8% said they would buy them even if they were more expensive.
Ormos Katelios Mounda is a coastal bay on Kefalonia island and an important marine area for the reproduction of marine turtles (Caretta caretta). It is listed as a Natura 2000 site. Various anthropogenic impacts due to tourism, for example outdoor lighting from hotels directed to the sea, camping (vans etc.) umbrellas and sunbeds have been affecting turtle nesting activities.
The Katelios Group has been working very hard to raise awareness for Mounda Beach’s status as a Natura 2000 site considering it is the only solution for conserving turtle nesting activities and upgrading its natural environment. This has taken place through the following actions: From1998-2001, numerous demands and objections were submitted to the official bodies in charge of Mounda Beach, to report illegal activities and support its designation as a Natura 2000 site. Reports were also submitted for five years (1997-2001) to the Bern Convention and complaints were sent against the Ministry of Environment because Mounda was excluded from Natura 2000 candidate areas. This involved collecting 5000 signatures from members, friends, supporters and tourists.
The Group, through long-term and continuous actions, has managed to achieve what it had been hoping for over many years: firstly the inclusion of Mounda beach in Natura 2000 as a habitat of sea turtles and secondly producing an effective "springboard" tool to be used for further demands concerning environmental protection issues in the area. Over 20 years (1997-2017), the Group has provided scientific evidence of the ecological importance of Mounda Beach which includes the positive finding that there are 78.5% more exits of turtles on the beach and 48.5% more turtles more were tagged. Also there has been a 12% increase in total nest numbers. Hotels have also installed special lighting thanks to the project, with fines imposed for non-compliance in the breeding areas of Caretta. This is a first for Greece.
Nature conservation month is carried out all over Estonia, in 15 counties covering several Natura 2000 areas including landscape protected areas, nature conservation areas and national parks. It starts from the 2nd Sunday of May (Mothers Day) and ends on June 5th (World Environment Day). Nature conservation month has been celebrated since 1980. However in the last decades, the month has had a concrete theme and sites are chosen according to the theme. In 2017 the topic was ‘from Estonia to Europe, from Europe to Estonia’ in which the results of 12 years EU policies and financial support to Estonian nature. In 2016 the topic was ‘Estonian Nature - ours or foreign (alien)?’ The main focus was on getting people closer to nature.
The Environmental Board has arranged hiking days during nature conservation month since 2009. The aim is for participants to become more aware of the environment issues and able to make better choices in their lives by motivating also others to do the same. In 2017 there were 20 hiking days all over Estonia and additional hikes in bigger cities (Tallinn, Pärnu, Tartu, Rakvere and one in Russian language region in Eastern-Estonia). This year, the Environmental Board engaged also partners in each county to strengthen the cooperation between different organisations offering nature education and facilitation in order to raise awareness of the nature values in each specific region. These activities help to fulfill the strategy "Sustainable Estonia 21". Facebook promotion included the main post about the event and extra posts about some species. The main achievements include successful Facebook campaigns and posts. In 2016, there were nature education days for students (564 participants + 35 teachers) and nature conservation month hiking days (20 hikings with 651 participants). In 2017, the hikes were offered by partners (394 participants) and during the nature conservation month there were 20 hikings with 546 participants.
The project "NATURSCHUTZ FLEESCH - meat from nature conservation projects of Luxembourg" is a central element and an important milestone in the nature conservation strategy of Luxembourg. NATURSCHUTZ FLEESCH is the economic basis for the nature conservation approach of "protection by use", which is realized in a close partnership between the nature conservation administration, farmers and companies of the grocery trade.
This approach of "protection by use" is mainly realized by an extensive, permanent grazing (in the winter as well) with robust breed of cattle (Angus, Highland cattle and Galloway).The focus of this approach is on humid floodplains and their renaturation - in particular in the valley of the rivers Sauer, Our, Alzette, Woltz and Syr.These humid areas can be renaturated AND used in economically sustainable manner through this concept of permanent grazing with a low stocking rate (max. 0.8 adult cows per hectare) with robust cattle. In summer 2017, there were 67 nature conservation projects (farms) with extensive permanent grazing in Luxembourg on 2436 hectares – of which 41 projects (1.567 hectares) are already established projects and 26 projects (869 hectares) are under development.
In summer 2013, the nature conservation administration established the label NATURSCHUTZ FLEESCH together with the farmers of these extensification projects, which was the starting point for the successful marketing of the meat from the nature conservation projects in Luxembourg. Two years later the producer’s cooperative NATURSCHUTZ FLEESCH was established by farmers, who now take care of the sustainable development of the project. Today Angus cattle are brought to market by DELHAIZE. Highland- and Galloway-cattle are marketed by Shopping-Center MASSEN.
This is the story of geese and men, and how they can learn to coexist in peace. The present project focussed on two Natura 2000 sites in the North East Bulgaria - Durankulashko ezero and Shablenski ezeren kompleks. During the winter months these two lakes shelter up to 90% of the global population of the red-breasted goose (Branta ruficollis) which is the world’s most threatened goose species.
The lakes are located along the Black Sea coast and in the vicinity of large areas of arable land. The cereal fields provide excellent foraging grounds for the geese. But, as the livelihoods of local people depend on crop yields, the farmers were understandably outraged when large flocks of geese invaded their fields. Understandably they made every effort to chase them away. This however caused the geese to loose energy and many were unable to make their long journey back to Taymir, where they breed. The ones that survived often failed to breed the following summer.
A LIFE project, run by the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB), started working with local farmers, like Kirilovi Ltd, to study the grazing patterns of the geese and their effects on crop yields in order to develop a management regime that was acceptable to both the farmers and conservationists. This led to the launch of a new EU-funded agri-environmental payment scheme that compensates farmers financially for farming their land in a goose-friendly manner. Additional activities include the creation of buffer strips along water bodies, spreading corn and feeding winter crops with growth stimulators.
The pilot scheme turned out to be very popular with the farmers and was therefore rolled out over the entire area. Thanks in particular to the efforts and the inclusive approach of the project, the farmers’ initial antagonism was overcome and replaced at the end of the project with gratitude and trust that was hard to win.
Today, the agri-environmental scheme covers almost 85% of the priority foraging areas for the red-breasted goose on more than 19,000ha, thus ensuring its successful wintering and ultimate survival. The extensive consultations with farmers, hunters and anglers not only significantly reduced the disturbance and killing of red-breasted geese in the area but also provided the farmers themselves with financial incentives to continue to farm the land in a wildlife friendly manner.
As a result, this project has clearly made a major contribution to the long-term protection of this emblematic species and to resolving the once deeply engrained conflicts between farmers and geese.
'Parchi da gustare’ project covers the habitats of all Piemonte Natura 2000 sites in protected natural areas. Piemonte Parchi - having published articles and a special issue dedicated to Natura 2000 - understood the need to bring the audience closer to the theme, using a more understandable and catchy approach strategy. The project therefore focused on the experience of ‘biodiversity at the table’. The project was based on a multi-stage communication campaign targeting different subjects. At first it involved the Natural Areas, subsequently tools were provided to encourage the participation of the concerned local economic operators (restauranteurs and producers).
The start up was the most difficult phase due to the absence of a consolidated network between the Natural Areas and the various involved entities. But today the ‘Parchi da gustare’ project has proved successful and has continued into a second phase. The second edition which is still underway, has expanded its outreach involving 10% more Natural Areas and 27% more affiliated restaurants. It has also extended the period in which the initiative takes place (from one week in 2016 to five months in 2017) and consequently has increased the number of producers involved. The communication campaign - in 2017 - has achieved the first goal of raising the awareness of local economic operators about the importance of living and working in natural areas. The second - which will be further developed thanks to the collaboration of local economic operators - will be to increase the same awareness amongst the general public: through ‘biodiversity at the table’, to approach the wider value of habitats and the conservation of nature and species.
Predator poisoning is one of the most significant problems for threatened raptors and carnivores worldwide. This project set out to reduce the illegal poisoning of eastern imperial eagles (Aquila heliaca) in 20 Hungarian Natura 2000 areas and surrounding habitats. Hungary holds two-thirds of the EU's imperial eagle population; nevertheless, the species is seriously threatened by ever-increasing predator poisoning incidents. Poison is illegally laid out by livestock owners, with the main objective to kill wolves. At least 44 imperial eagles were poisoned in Hungary between 2005 and 2011, which put an end to the slow rise in its population.
Between 2012 and 2016, MME, the BirdLife partner in Hungary and eight partner organisations ran an ambitious project to tackle the problem of illegal poisoning and to stimulate the species’ recovery. This LIFE-funded project was the first in Hungary to bring together conservationists, hunters, police and veterinarians for the same purpose. Altogether 34 actions were carried out, including the establishment of a specialised dog-unit, where trained dogs found poisoned carcases (leading to 53 police investigations); tracking of breeding eagles to monitor mortality rates; nest guarding (3158 volunteer days in total) and workshops for key stakeholders (79 event, 6090 participants).
Considerable efforts were also made to raise stakeholder and public awareness via publications, intensive media and online appearances, and with the creation of an information "Eagle Centre" in Jászberény.
Thanks to the joint efforts of the ranger service, the newly established dog-unit, vets and police following standardized protocols, several cases of eagle poisoning were brought to justice, which was unprecedented prior to the project. By the end of 2016, five suspects had been found guilty and given a suspended custodial sentence or a significant financial penalty.
The number of cases of poisoning decreased substantially over the project period thanks to the continuous presence in the field of inspectors and attentive stakeholders, awareness raising and the deterrent effect of successful prosecutions. In 2012, 16 poisoned imperial eagles were recorded, by 2016, there was just one case. The breeding population has also increased by 36% in the last two years of the project. This in turn represents a 25% increase of the EU’s total imperial eagle population.
Recognising the value of the multiple functions of nature, the Island of Crete, has set as a key priority the protection, sustainable management and promotion of protected areas. In this context, it implemented the Act entitled "Development and promotion of Natura 2000 Network areas in Crete", which is financed by the Εuropean Regional Development Fund with national co-funding. The project, which aimed to promote the 53 Natura 2000 sites of Crete (30,6% of the island's territory) is addressed to the public, as well as to target groups that are related to and have an impact on NATURA 2000 areas in various ways, such as through economic activities, decision-making, as well as environmental management actions.
The objectives of the project were: a) to provide information on the ecological importance of NATURA 2000 sites for nature conservation, b) incorporate obligations, arising from EU and national legislation, into all human activities taking place in protected areas, c) change the attitudes of the local communities, who believe that the inclusion of a region in the NATURA 2000 Network is an inhibiting factor for its development, d) stimulate sustainable development of these areas.
The project consisted of the following actions, featured by the motto "Nature sculpted by time. Be part of it. protect it!": 1) creation of a website (Informative Environmental Node): https://natura2000.crete.gov.gr, 2) production of information material (printed and electronic), 3) creation of an assembled and portable exhibition pavilion, 4) designation of an Environmental Awareness Month (15th October - 15th November 2015), during which 23 open awareness-raising sessions took place in the Cretan Municipalities.
Since 2010, Fundación Global Nature (FGN) has been running a scheme to support farmers in Natura 2000 sites in the regions of Castile-La Mancha and Castile-Leon. Almost 40% of the Natura 2000 area is farmland, demonstrating the importance of supporting sustainable farming here.
With financial support from the EU LIFE fund, the FGN started a project to support nature-friendly legume, crop and almond production. The work concentrated, on encouraging farmers to grow their produce in an ecologically sensitive manner. Farmers were given seeds and offered guidance on sustainable production and cultivation methods, such as replacing chemical fertilisers with natural products; promoting crop rotation with different varieties of legumes to create a mosaic of cultures; and creating wildlife refuges around the crop boundaries.
In addition, the project also put a lot of focus on helping farmers to brand and sell their produce. FGM bought up farmers' harvests, packaged and marketed these crops at national and international trade fairs and with major supermarket chains. FGM installed a packaging plant in Toledo and created an almond production cooperative to commercialise the products further. It also designed a special packaging label to brand the produce, which uses the logo of Natura 2000 and an image of the great bustard as a symbol for ecological production.
FGN has intensively communicated the project in the Spanish media reaching average audiences of 10 million listeners in RNE Castilla La Mancha, 153.000 TV viewers in Agrosfera (La2 TV) and 100.000 viewers in the regional news Informativos 16h TVE Castilla La Mancha.
Farmer's interest in this win-win approach to Natura 2000 conservation and farming has been growing over the years. So far over 400 farmers have joined the project, altogether they manage some 20,000 ha of farmland. The production is now completely organic and is carried out under an ecological production certification which is linked to biodiversity protection. The Natura 2000 branding is also helping to increase sales. The project is therefore an excellent example of how farming in Natura 2000 can be not only viable but also competitive.
Rockabill, a small island off the Coast of
Dublin, is the most important breeding site of the Roseate Tern (Sterna
dougallii) in Europe. It is strategically important for the survival of
this species, supporting 82% of Irish, UK and French breeding pairs and
47% of the entire European population, including the Azores. Following
its dramatic decline in the 1970s and 1980s, the species was listed as
globally threatened, signalling the need for urgent conservation action.
The Roseate Tern is a priority species for action under the EU Birds
Directive and LIFE fund.
In 1988, Rockabill Island was designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA) primarily in recognition of its importance for the conservation of the Roseate Tern. The following year, the Rockabill Roseate Tern Conservation Project was initiated. This is led by BirdWatch Ireland, in partnership with the National Parks and Wildlife Service and represents a long-term continuing collaborative commitment for conservation.
From the outset, prevention of disturbance of the tern through continuous wardening has been the priority. Through these efforts, including communication with local communities, the island is accepted as a safe, disturbance-free, refuge for the seabirds. This allowed more time to be allocated to managing the breeding habitat, ensuring the best possible conditions for successful nesting.
Building on earlier success, BirdWatch Ireland has continued over the last five years to protect and monitor breeding seabirds on Rockabill Island, manage their nesting habitat and minimise disturbance, leading to further recovery of the population. The initiative also involves researching the breeding ecology and population demographics of the populations, and strengthening the knowledge to improve future conservation actions for this species.
The key focus has been on ensuring that the habitat is optimal for successful breeding. Overgrown vegetation has been removed on an annual basis to maximise the nesting area available for the Roseate Terns. The birds have taken to using nest boxes that have been deployed at high densities along the terraces of the island. Breeding Common Terns (Sterna hirundo) have also benefitted from habitat management on the island. Breeding terns are very vocal and one can usually hear when 'things are going wrong'. The full-time presence of wardens throughout the summer season has ensured early detection of problems, which are quickly resolved.
These conservation actions have resulted in a remarkable increase in both Roseate and Common Tern populations on Rockabill. At the start of the initiative in 1989 the island was supporting just 152 pairs of roseate terns and 108 pairs of common terns. By 2017, this has increased exponentially to 1597 pairs of Roseate Terns and 2085 pairs of Common Terns.
The success of the recovery on Rockabill is also providing a source population of breeding birds for other colonies in Ireland and elsewhere in Europe. This is all thanks to long-term dedication to conservation action led by BirdWatch Ireland on the island over the past 29 years.
A major part of the Cumbrian Bogs LIFE+ project in the northwest of England aims to develop best practice for the restoration of bare peat as a result of peat extraction. The main site where this technique has been developed is Bolton Fell Moss Special Area of Conservation (SAC). This site was previously a commercial peat extraction site for the horticultural industry. Extraction ceased on Bolton Fell Moss in November 2013 leaving approximately 380ha of bare peat and a highly impacted hydrology from the network of deep drains throughout the site.
Bolton Fell Moss presented a particular challenge for restoration in that it was surrounded by drains up to 3 meters deep and a depressed topography which presented particular issues with regard to rewetting the site. There was also very little intact remnant vegetation remaining on the site, hence some innovation was required to reintroduce bog moss and vegetation to the site.
Conservation works began on Bolton Fell Moss in 2013 with completion anticipated in 2018. During this time, Cumbria BogLIFE has worked closely with local contractors to develop innovative techniques to solve the problem of the lack of remnant vegetation available on BFM to use as donor material. Over the last 4 years, this process has been refined resulting in a very promising methodology to establish a vegetative cover on bare peat on which bog mosses can establish.
Bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) is included in Annex I of the Birds Directive, and listed as “in danger of extinction” in the Spanish Catalogue of Endangered Species. In Picos de Europa/Cantabrian Mountain range, the species went extinct in the 1950s. The Picos de Europa National Park project has since launched a recovery programme for the bearded vulture. It is creating a breeding and self-sustaining population from specimens at risk ceded by Aragon Government and taken from Ordesa National Park. The objective is to create a meta-population that would allow a continuous exchange of specimens with the Pyrenean population through the Iberian corridor, thereby decreasing its risk of extinction in the north Iberian Peninsula.
The conservation objectives are manifold: first to prevent the predictable death of Pyrenean embryos, which is the last wild population of the species in the Iberian peninsula, second to increase the genetic pool of this last population by incorporating individuals that would be very unlikely to survive out of the project. A breeding protocol has been created that allows the full viability of animals in the natural environment at the lowest possible economic cost, the aim is to revive Iberian-Cantabrian corridor, and extend the species's range. In practice the project is rescuing embryos at risk, breeding from them through the methodology of behavioral learning by natural imprint in human isolation, releasing chicks in new areas and monitoring their progress. Supplementary feeding points have also been established and an antipoison canine patrol regularly surveys the area.
The socio-economic objectives are equally important as they aim to highlight the cooperation between two protected areas, public administrations and civil population in biodiversity conservation as well as demonstrate that the conservation of biodiversity in Natura 2000 network is an opportunity and not an obstacle to development. The project is supporting traditional extensive stockfarming for biodiversity and demonstrating how wildlife observation is a powerful conservation tool. A working group has been created with local farmers who execute actions for the improvement of extensive mountain livestock; ecotourism and biodiversity conservation awareness.
The cross-border region of Bratislava – capital city of Slovakia - represents a unique area situated in a strategic location close to the neighbouring capital cities Budapest (HU) and Vienna (AT). Two important biogeographical regions, Pannonian and Carpathian, meet here. The Carpathian Mountains start here their “way” cross the Middle Europe. They rise from the banks of Danube, the most important river in Europe, which plays a crucial role in this region. At the borders of Bratislava, the Danube changes into a lowland river and floods in to the biggest inland Delta in Europe. All these factors are the basis for the high diversity of habitats and species of Community interest that are present in various Natura 2000 sites.
The inland Danube delta was altered by the construction of flood-protection dikes and weirs, the filling in of river side branches, the cutting-off of meanders and oxbows, the building of a network of drainage channels from wetlands, and the cutting-down of vast floodplain forests. In the last century, efforts to tame the river were completed with the construction of a massive water dam and a hydroelectric power plant. As a result of the dam, the Danube water flow was diverted into an artificial canal, contact with side branches was interrupted, and the water regime with natural floods was completely destroyed.
The Regional Association for Nature Conservation and Sustainable Development (BROZ) is an NGO that works for the conservation of the Danube river in Slovakia, along its 172 km. The main project objective has been to establish a functional network of Natura 2000 sites in the region of Bratislava and to secure a favourable conservation status for habitats of Community importance by the restoration and management of 16 project sites, with an emphasis on involving a wide spectrum of stakeholder groups. Our activities are based on the restoration and revitalization of river branches, wetlands, floodplain meadows, pastures, forests, reed beds and their rare and endangered wildlife.
In the past five years, we have been able to restore eight large river branches and oxbows hundreds of meters wide and over 270 hectares of wetlands and marshes. We have planted more than 60,000 trees, restored grasslands and pastures over an area of 248 hectares and reintroduced reed bed management across 138 hectares. The restoration activities contribute to the improvement of feeding and nesting habitats for birds, and spawning areas for fish, as well as creating suitable habitats for amphibians, mammals and plants. Conservation actions in combination with the construction of various tourist infrastructures, educational elements and plenty of public awareness actions contribute to the overall objectives of our project - to present a way of harmonizing active management of high valuable sites with the needs of the capital city and its inhabitants.
The project site is situated in western Lithuania, Šilutė district, Nemunas Delta Regional Park. The raised bog of Aukštumala (3018 ha) occurs in the interstream area of the rivers Nemunas and Minija. Currently, about two-thirds (2,417 ha) of the former Aukštumala raised bog have been turned into the peat harvesting fields, and only in 1995 the remaining least affected part (1,285 ha) was declared as a Telmological Reserve.
The main aim of the action is to restore and maintain the favourable conservation status of 7110 *Active raised bogs and other bog habitats of European importance within the Aukštumala Telmological reserve. Also, project actions support rare and threatened bird species, such as the Golden plover (Pluvialis apricaria), Wood sandpiper (Tringa glareola), Black grouse (Tetrao tetrix) and others. The project objectives are to restore a water regime favourable for peat forming processes; remove uncharacteristic woody vegetation and raise public awareness about raised bog conservation. Nearly 1200 various types of dams have been installed. Moreover, a lot of attention was given for public awareness and education. The nature trail has been reconstructed; new observation platform was installed.
Aukštumala raised bog has special importance worldwide being the first scientifically investigated bog. In 1902 the German botanist C. A.Weber (Weber, 1902) published a monograph about the bog, however, better knowledge about the bog was supposed to serve very pragmatic needs regarding the exploitation of more than 3000 ha area. Drainage systems, which were established throughout the 20th century in the whole territory of the bog, continued to function, causing negative impacts on the bog. Therefore, at the drained sites of Aukštumala, typical open raised bog vegetation is replaced by trees and shrubs, huge amounts of greenhouse gases are released to atmosphere and ecosystem loses resistance to the fire.
The monograph of C. A.Weber has been translated into Lithuanian and published; a publication about Aukštumala raised bog was printed; 20 photo exhibitions were presented; and a movie about the restoration of the bog was produced.
Inland salt marshes (1340) are one of the most endangered habitats of central Europe. Its ecosystem is very fragile and dependent on both traditional grazing management and underground water regime.
Slanisko u Nesytu salt marsh in the southernmost Moravia (southeastern Czech Republic) is the richest site of the habitat in the Czech Republic. Its grazing management was abandoned in 1970s and since then the area of the targeted habitat had been constantly decreasing as the vegetation had been getting denser and its flora had been suffering from extinction of several critically endangered halophilous species, two of which were even lost for the Czech Republic. Halophilous species can grow only in sparse vegetation, therefore they had been surviving only on the footpath and its surroundings or in artificially-made furrows.
Our main aims were to set a suitable conservation management for this habitat to support endangered halophilous flora and enlarge the salt marsh to ensure better condition for these species. In 2008 a mixed herd grazing was introduced. The problem was the herd lacked heavy farm animals which could be able to make land disturbances. To solve this problem, cattle grazing was introduced, but soon, in 2015, it was replaced by rotating intensive horse grazing, because due to a higher mobility of horses the disturbances were done more effectively. To enlarge the salt marsh, several bands in a reed bed were mowed, later to be grazed. The rotating horse grazing turned out to be the most suitable management of the salt marsh. The area of the targeted habitat was at least doubled. Between years 2015-2016 three critically endangered species that had formerly been extinct in the reserve appeared again. A salt marsh was connected with exposed banks of Nesyt pond.
Until recently, little was known about the wetlands of De Hoge Veluwe National Park (the Park), although a large part of the wetlands are Natura 2000 habitat types (H3130, H3160, H4010, H7110, H7150). In 2013 a landscape ecological system analysis was carried out for the wetlands in the Park. The analysis showed that ground- and surface water dependent plant communities are related to sites with a perched groundwater table as a consequence of stagnating soil layers. On sites with a rather thin sand layer above the stagnating soil layers species-poor Molinia grasslands occur, whereas wet heathlands and moorland pools occur at sites with a rather thick sand layer.
The analysis also showed that locally, wet heathlands and bog vegetation have degraded due to afforestation with coniferous trees, digging of ditches and road (bicycle path) construction on dams through gullies. The analysis formed the basis of a restoration programme which was carried out from 2013 to 2016 and involved amongst others the infilling of ditches; restoration of original topography; removal of dams and reconstruction of bridges in order to restore the hydrology of the area and so improve the quality and quantity of the habitat types.
A monitoring plan has been set up and experts are impressed by the first results in the field. Now groundwater seeps up and stagnates once again in the depressions, whereas in gullies can run off superficially once more. Already Narthecium ossifragum and on other sites Eleogiton fluitans, Carex echinates and Sphagnum have increased. In the longer term, we believe that wet heathlands and bog communities will profit.
The Hucina stream in the Sumava National Park in the southwest part of the Czech Republic was straightened and deepened in the past due to wood logging and agriculture. Adjacent mires and wetlands were drained. All these impacts caused a significant degradation of stream and alluvial wetlands, the lowering of the water table and a decrease in biodiversity. Regular flood pulses and water retention were reduced as well.
The main idea of the project which was implemented in 2013 by the Administration of the Sumava NP as investor and with funding from Operational Programme (EU funds-ERDF), was to restore the small mountain stream that was regulated in the past. The restoration of the original and natural stream course, with its biodiversity and functions, and enhancement of water retention in the landscape, were the key objectives.
Another goal was to support the local population of rare pearl mussels by improving the habitat for trout, which is its main host species. The area is part of the SCI Šumava (CZ0314024) and SPA Šumava containing the following habitat types: 3260 Water courses of plain to montane levels, 7140 Transition mires and quaking bogs, 91D0* Bog woodland, Alluvial forests with Alnus (91E0*). The important Natura 2000 species targeted by the project is pearl mussel. In practice a natural stream of 1.7 km was restored. The meandering and shallow stream bed was returned to its natural course. The length of the stream was increased by almost 500m. The regulated channel was blocked, partly filled by soil and in places left open and waterlogged. The resulting small water bodies are an important habitat for amphibians or other water fauna and flora.
This project has an educational character. In cooperation with Institute for Oceanography in Split, it involved the preparation and drafting of info-tables on the protected seegrass Posidonia oceanica, which is found in the Natura 2000 site surrounding the island of Šolta. The info-tables were placed in all bays and positioned in walking and nautical areas where many people can see and read them. A TV show was also made to promote the project.
The project also targets the EU protected mussel Pinna nobilis which is also protected by Croatian law. With this project for the first time on island of Šolta we learned about the threats that this mussel and other protected marine species are facing.
Viana do Castelo is a municipality situated in the North of Portugal, hosting three major Natura 2000 sites. The sites extend across a range of habitats from dune systems and coastal cliffs, to extensive area of estuaries and freshwater habitats culminating in the mountainous peaks of the Serra de Arga.
In order to encourage and engage people’s interest in the knowledge, respect and appreciation of these valuable ecosystems, the Centre of Environmental Monitoring and Interpretation of Viana do Castelo Town Hall developed an educational project called School of Nature. It aims to bring school communities and, thus indirectly, the local community, closer to their unique natural heritage.
Through the project, sixty field activities were carried out with pupils, allowing them to observe and interpret the changes and dynamics of the natural ecosystems. In addition, five training courses were held for teachers on sustainability and nature conservation.
Educational tools directly linked to the Natura 2000 sites were developed based on the Portuguese Natura 2000 Sectoral Plan and adapted to the school curriculum content for different age levels. These include downloadable species identification sheets and observation cards from an online platform, where observation records can then be uploaded. After scientific validation, the information becomes available to all and can be shared with school communities from other municipalities. An exhibition on the Natura 2000 Network and the natural ecosystems was also produced along with an educational catalogue and activity books related to each Natura 2000 sites.
A total of 20,000 people were reached by the communication programme. Evaluation questionnaires were given to students before and after the programme and evaluation seminars were held to assess the effectiveness of the activities implemented. There were significant differences in the percentage of correct answers given by the students, concerning all the Natura 2000 habitats covered, before and after the activities. During the seminars, teachers highlighted other positive impacts amongst the students such as increased motivation and a greater capacity to observe and analyse.
The School of Nature programme continues to be run in the municipality’s schools, and is currently part of a plan for fighting school failure, with guaranteed funding for the next three academic years (i.e., until 2019/2020).
LIFE+ SEGURA RIVERLINK is a project coordinated by the Confederación Hidrográfica del Segura (Segura Hydrographic Federation) and co-funded by the European Union LIFE+ Programme. It aims to resolve the environmental problems that exist in the Segura River basin (one of the most regulated in the world) in the Murcia Region of Spain.
The partnership is made up of CHS (Segura Hydrographic Confederation), ITAGRA-CT (the Agriculture and Agri-food Technology Centre of the University of Valladolid), the University of Murcia (UMU), the Region of Murcia Directorate-General for the Environment (CARM) and ANSE (Southeast Naturalist Association). The demonstration project will be carried out on sections of the Segura and Moratalla rivers, some of which are included in the Natura 2000 network.
The project will aim to improve and strengthen connectivity between natural ecosystems, working on returning the river as close as possible to its natural state. Techniques will be used to clear and bypass these structures and open up the waterway, including demolishing a disused dam and constructing fish ladders. All the activities will be accompanied by the ecological restoration of the riverbanks. A monitoring programme will be established to monitor biological, physico-chemical and hydromorphological indicators that will enable us to test the effectiveness of our actions and assess the results. A Land Stewardship Network will also be set up for adjacent lands to ensure sustainability, and volunteer and environmental education programmes will be created in an area that experiences many problems between the different users of the river (ecology, agriculture, hydroelectrical, etc.) and has an extreme river basin dynamic of droughts and floods.
The tiny Shiant Isles, off the coast of northwest Scotland, are an important breeding habitat for thousands of seabirds protected under the EU Birds Directive, such as Atlantic puffins, razorbills, common guillemots, European shags, kittiwakes and others. It is no surprise therefore that it has been designated as a Natura 2000 site.
The islands, which are uninhabited, seem to be, at first glance, an unspoilt paradise – hosting great diversity of flowering plants and their associated invertebrate communities, beautiful song birds and even a pair of white-tailed eagles. However despite having plenty of suitable habitats, it seems all is not well. Some species like the storm petrels have not bred in the islands for a while. The simple fact is that rats have invaded the islands and, over the years, their predation on seabirds and chicks has had a significant impact.
The Shiant Isles Recovery Project, involving the British NGO RSPB, Scottish Natural Heritage and the owner of the area, has worked hard to eradicate the population of rats and protect the breeding habitat of the many thousands of seabirds that these islands support. With the help of a team of fifteen volunteers, the project staff implemented an ambitious rat eradication programme over the winter of 2015-16. The operation was entirely ground based, with the manual application of rodenticide across a grid of bait stations, covering all vegetated ground, and including near-vertical cliffs that were only accessible via support ropes.
The project was a resounding success. There have been no signs of rats on the island for 18 months after the eradication programme. Petrels are now being actively encouraged to return by playing their calls both out to sea, and from a network of speakers mimicking a colony. If a colony were to become established at a rat-free Shiants, then the future of these species would be more secure.
The project is also spreading the message about "biosecurity" - the process by which sensitive island habitats like those at the Shiants can be kept predator-free through the vigilance and cooperation of human visitors.
This project is an excellent example of meticulously planned conservation intervention, informed by robust preliminary research clarifying all possible threats and supported by detailed monitoring allowing the documentation of an impressive conservation gain: the successful and sustainable recovery of the breeding populations of over 150,000 pairs of seabirds, including some 63,000 pairs of puffins.
Sonairte, just north of Dublin, has extensive and pristine grounds that are used as a unique outdoor classroom, here we deliver courses, classes and environmental education programmes working closely with both primary and post-primary schools to deliver comprehensive environmental courses and tours. With the availability and access to the Natura 2000 site on the boundary of Sonairte this provides a most unique opportunity to include the River Nanny saltmarshes as part of our environmental education programme.
This provides a wonderful opportunities for the public to be able to get close to the estuary, take in views across the protected SAC and SPA areas and enjoy the wildlife along the estuary without impacting on the site directly. This beautiful local amenity is further enhanced with the location of our two purpose built bird hides that are located along the estuary, one hide is accessed from within our organic walled garden and the second is downstream at the bend in the river that also provides a lovely vantage point to view across to the local historic 12th Centuary Ballygarth Castle on the far bank. Community events also highlight special birdlife along our Natura 2000 site, where public information panels and bird identification material have been added to help with identification from within the hides.
In order to cope with the impacts of the growth of sports activities at Natura 2000 sites, the organisation EUROPARC Spain has developed a "Guide to Good Practices for holding Mountain Races in Protected Natural Areas". This was developed in close collaboration with the Spanish Federation of Mountain Sports, Natura 2000 administrations and scientists. The Handbook provides a framework for the development of sports activities aiming to avoid impacts but at the same time allowing enjoyment of nature.
In 2017 Handbook was officially endorsed by the Department of Environment, Agriculture and Fisheries of the Balearic Islands who adopted a legal Circular requiring all sports activities in Natura 2000 to be evaluated using the handbook. The circular was then applied to the 12ª Mountain Bike Tour in Menorca (August 2017). This is a major cycling competition that attracts over 500 participants but as it follows a pre-existing coastal path, it also crosses no less than 9 Natura 2000 sites on the island, and so runs a considerable risk of causing species disturbance and habitat damage within the sites.
However, thanks to the handbook, solutions were found to minimize any conflicts with Natura 2000 whilst maintaining the enjoyment of the circuit. Different measures were tested to run the race outside Natura 2000 where possible and to minimize disturbance once inside Natura 2000. The sports promotor also signed a good environmental practice statement and offered to contribute positively to the conservation of the Natura 2000 sites through other complementary measures, such as signage and fencing.
Overall the attitudes of the sports promotors and the participants have been very positive towards the Handbook. They recognise that the handbook provides them with a highly efficient tool for dialogue and joint planning with the authorities whilst also offering a wealth of practical advice on how to ensure that sporting activities in Natura 2000 cause minimal impact whilst not distracting from the pleasure of the sport or causing any negative fall out from a socio-economic perspective.
In recent years, sports activities have increased significantly in Natura 2000 sites, as well as sports events and events of different types. The design of a common evaluation methodology is considered highly positive, both for conservation and for the concertation of interests.
The Spanish Federation of Mountain Sports and Climbing (FEDME), is now actively promoting the manual, and has committed to apply, to the extent possible, its best practices in all mountain races in other regions, and improve the environmental protection skills of its referees.
Mediterranean salinas are national areas of exceptional cultural, economic and aesthetic value, where biodiversity can be regulated and maintained. Active saltpans are a good example of cohabitation between economic activity, tourism and conservation needs. And it is perhaps this very fact that keeps them alive, given that economic aspirations are more than negligible in these areas.
The Sečovlje Salina Nature Park is a national territory of high natural, cultural, economic and aesthetic value, and its biodiversity is maintained and regulated through sustainable management. The management of the area for biodiversity and cultural heritage protection overrides the purely economic goal of salt production and sale. Our long-term objectives for the Park's management are directed towards protection and sustained conservation of natural beauties and thus biodiversity of Sečovlje Salina, as well as towards protection of cultural heritage and the characteristics of littoral cultural landscape of Slovenian Istria. However climate change is expected to result in an acceleration of current rates of sea level rise, inundating many low-lying coastal and intertidal landscapes. This could have important implications for many coastal habitat types and related organisms that depend on these habitats, including shorebirds that rely on them for feeding, overwintering and breeding.
The results of long-term bird monitoring and management of water regimes for salt-production and biodiversity, were used to set up management prescriptions for the area. In our study the threats and impacts of traditional salt-making processes, predators, visitation and inundating on selected biodiversity indicator species are analysed.
In Romania, there are a number of barriers to establishing effective protected area and sustainable resource management while catalysing benefits for local communities and stakeholders, but the most important was insufficient positive models for local development linked to Natura 2000 sites. There are no relevant and well-known success stories demonstrating that values and benefits from Natura 2000 sites and other protected areas can contribute successfully to local and regional development. On the contrary, these areas are often perceived – especially by locals – as major hindrances for local and regional economic development. Local stakeholders as well as Natura 2000 administrators often have insufficient technical and fundraising know how to develop and support positive examples that could provide counterfactuals to this perception.
Under the Natura 2000 and Rural Development project, implemented by a consortium of 5 partners in the southern Transilvania we aimed, among other things, to promote sustainable rural development in Romania by demonstrating local development opportunities related to protected areas. We envision that local communities’ wellbeing can be sustained through nature-friendly enterprises connected to conservation initiatives. The Transylvanian Highlands eco-destination is an ecosystem of initiatives which started in 2012, aiming to revive the natural and cultural heritage for the wellbeing of local communities in the largest terrestrial N2000 site in Romania-Podisul Hartibaciului ROSPA0099 ( 270.000 ha area).
Creating a unique eco-tourism product based on experiencing and learning old production techniques, traditional art and craft methods and use of natural materials/resources will create a better understanding of the value of sustainable rural development. We highlight thereby the importance of: 1) protecting nature for the wellbeing of local communities 2) Involving locals in ecotourism, promoting low impact traditional activities which enhance services that nature provides 3) Creating a strong network between all local stakeholders and linking existing initiatives. Local communities are the most important service providers (slow food, accommodation, local culture and events which brings people closer to nature), and primarily live off selling local products and services created by sustainable use of natural resources.
Germany, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, United Kingdom
UNESCO estimates that there are over 3 million shipwrecks on the floors of the world’s oceans. Increasing offshore and sub-sea development (wind farms, pipelines, cables etc) within Europe, demands new methods to better assess, manage and preserve this unique heritage. The SASMAP research project developed tools and techniques to better locate, survey, assess, stabilise, monitor and preserve underwater archaeological sites all of which are in line with current European and international management strategies of in situ preservation and use of non-destructive / intrusive methods of investigation. Activities included modelling of sea level change based on marine geophysical survey data to predict where coastal submerged prehistoric sites could be found and the development of a novel method to stabilise underwater archaeological sites in situ.
The partners in the project were an interdisciplinary group of SMEs and institutional European partners with expertise in the development and production of state of the art marine geophysical instruments, equipment for measuring bio-geochemical parameters in the marine environment and hand held diving tools. Institutional partners encompassed a synergistic group of researchers in marine archaeology and conservation, in situ preservation, wood degradation, marine geochemistry and marine geophysics working in museums, universities and governmental institutions. The overall results of the project have included a series of guidelines, methods and proof of concept instruments which were trialled on a range of underwater sites in Denmark, Greece, Italy and the Netherlands, including a submerged prehistoric site, submerged classical period remains and a 17th century shipwreck. The overall results of the project will contribute to the development of European policy in investigation, management and protection of underwater cultural heritage. This application is submitted under the Cross-border cooperation and Networking category due to its multidisciplinary nature
AranLIFE (2014 to 2018) focuses on three Natura 2000 sites: IE001275 Inisheer Island, IE000212 Inishmaan Island and IE000213 Inishmor Island and demonstrates best management techniques to both maintain, and bring sites to, a favourable conservation condition by addressing the threats of land abandonment, undergrazing, intensification, loss of traditional management systems and associated loss of knowledge. The improved conservation status of 1,011ha of priority habitats, Limestone pavement (8240*), Orchid-rich calcareous grasslands (6210*), Limestone pavement (8240*)/Orchid-rich calcareous grasslands (6210*) mosaic and Machair (21AO*), has been achieved by specific management systems that are integral for the sustainable management of the priority habitats, such as targeted optimal grazing, provision of water infrastructure, scrub and bracken control and measures to improve animal health.
We have enhanced the understanding, appreciation and engagement of all the key stakeholders as regards the conservation of these priority habitats on the Aran Islands through awareness raising, education and outreach programmes. We have recommended appropriate support mechanisms for farming on the Aran Islands that will address issues that threaten the status of priority habitats of the islands. This is required to sustain the long-term delivery of the project objectives and the optimal management practices for the target habitats to relevant Government Agencies and Departments, for their use in the formulation of all relevant national and local policies, including those within future Rural Development Programmes and Ireland’s Habitats Directive Priority Action Framework.
The Polders of Kruibeke are a stone’s throw from Antwerp, along the river Scheldt. Before the restoration works began, the Kruibeke Polders were a patchwork of private plots composed of agricultural land and forestry, holiday homes and fish ponds. The activities of anglers were incompatible with the nature values of the area and the local youth, inhabitants and the wider public had little interest in the Polders. People perceived the marshy soil and the tangle of trees and dead wood as a kind of wasteland.
Yet, when the authorities decided to turn the polders into a large 600ha flood control area and nature reserve to protect the Scheldt basin from flooding during storms and spring tides, the resulting compulsory expropriation of the land created a lot of resistance among owners and neighbours.
The Agency for Nature and Forests therefore started an initiative to try to turn the situation around. Together with the other partners and with the support of the LIFE fund numerous actions were undertaken to involve and engage various target groups. At the start, the partners concentrated on engaging local interest with info evenings, monthly site walks and workshops in order to agree together on a joint vision for nature and recreational activities in the area. This was then taken a step further with the development of new recreational facilities: two trails, six fishing pitches, two hides, one viewpoint, five-time capsules and three artworks.
The Kruibeke municipality was involved as official partner of LIFE+Scalluvia. They now consider the area to be a touristic master card that ensures more income and jobs. In the last two years, four new bed & breakfasts and a company that offers tourist packages have started up. Since 1 July 2017, a water bus sails from central Antwerp to Kruibeke and ever more people are coming from outside the area. A new VZW (non-lucrative association) will coordinate the recreational activities in the Polders and Kruibeke is working on a river park with various neighbouring municipalities.
Guides have also professionalised their operations thanks to the project and now attract 30 to 140 visitors in their monthly rambles. In 2012, 15 guided visits were requested; in the first half of 2017 there have already been 90. In this way, over 3000 people are acquainted with the Natura 2000 area every year. The European attention has also given the inhabitants a great sense of pride.
It is clear that the reintroduction of the European bison (Bison bonasus), the largest mammal in Europe, represents a challenging task for anyone involved. The Vanatori Neamt Nature Park (ROSCI0270) is the first place in Romania where the European bison has been reintroduced. In Romania, the European bison disappeared some 200 years ago. Only 3 small reserves were established in the latter part of the 20th century (one of them at Vanatori Neamt). Even though some successful reintroductions have taken place at national level (beaver, marmot), our main challenge was to reintroduce a large-size mammal. The key goal was to establish a viable, long-term population in the wild. The approach was holistic, integrating aspects of genetics, monitoring, infrastructure necessities, public awareness and education, ecotourism and sustainable development, based on bison as a flagship species.
In order to improve the genetic pool, new individuals were brought to Vanatori. The release and post-release phases have been ongoing. The first releases into the wild took place in spring 2012 (5), 2013 (5), 2014 (6), 2015(3), 2016(3) 2017(4). 12 calves were born in the wild. Two deaths due to natural causes were also recorded (1 in 2012 and 1 in 2014 - the first case in Romania of European bison predation by bears and wolves). Since 2012, the wild animals’ movements, habitat preferences and the species’ impact on forest and pastureland habitats have been monitored. Maps and databases have also been made available. The project implemented a successful public awareness campaign aimed at re-establishing this vital species, not only in nature, but also in a spiritual and cultural sense.
The reintroduction site is located in the North Eastern part of Romania, Neamt County, in the Vanatori Neamt Nature Park, ROSCI0270. The animals were released in the forested area of Cracau river. In 2012, the free European bison ranged over 2,000 ha, in 2013, 5,000 ha, nowadays the total range of the free European bison has expanded to around 60,000 ha. This area cover not only within the Park's area (30,631 ha), but also some areas beyond the Park boundaries.
Lake Stymphalia is located in the mountainous region of the Peloponnese in southern Greece. It is one of the most important inland wetlands of its kind in the Mediterranean, harbouring such rare bird species as Aythya nyroca, Ixobrychus minutus, Ardea purpurea, which is why it is included in the Natura 2000 Network. According to Greek mythology, it is here that Hercules completed his 6th Labour, by defeating the Stymphalian birds.
The wetland presents a unique landscape where biodiversity intermingles with the ruins of the ancient city of Stymphalos and with the rich cultural heritage of the area. Ancient Stymphalos was inhabited from the 4th century BC until the 6th century AD. Nowadays, a big part of the city lies almost sunken under the Lake.
The dual identity of the site was used as the theme for the establishment of an interpretation trail “Man and Nature on the Paths of the Time” It was developed and built in collaboration between the Piraeus Bank Group Cultural Foundation, the municipality of Sikyonion, OIKOM Environmental Studies Ltd, the Society for the Protection of Prespa and the Centre for Renewable Energy Sources and Saving and co-financed by the EU LIFE programme. It is an easy, self-guided, linear hiking route of 1.8 km (duration: 2 hours’ roundtrip) that links the Environment Museum of Stymphalia with the wetland and the archaeological site.
Information signs are placed along the trail, highlighting the ecosystem of the Natura 2000 site, its cultural landscape and its archaeological finds. A bird observatory offers an unobstructed view of the Lake while providing information on the protected bird species. So far (April-September 2017), the path has been visited by around 1500 individuals, including school groups, scouts, NGOs, mountaineering clubs, etc.
An exhibition on the lake and Natura 2000 entitled “The Sixth Labour” has also been installed at the local museum in order to raise awareness about the lake’s rich heritage and the need to protect it. Commenting on the Lake’s mythological past, the exhibition gives Hercules’ labour a new meaning: if mutually respected, man and the environment can co-exist in harmony. In recent times, the lake has suffered significantly from incompatible agricultural practices and bird hunting activities, these issues are now also being addressed through other aspects of the LIFE-Stymfalia project.
The ongoing exhibition attracted more than 47,000 visitors in the last 2 years and has inspired several parallel educational and cultural events.
In 1906 Atanasovsko Lake, located near the city of Burgas in Bulgaria, was no more than a malaria-infested muddy pond. But, over time, it transformed into an extensive salt-pan bringing much needed jobs and income to the local community. Salt used to be a very precious commodity and heavily sought after in international trading circles.
Thanks to the extensive production of salt, the lake also developed into a flourishing coastal wetland. It is now one of the most important Natura 2000 sites in the EU Black Sea Region, harbouring over half of all European birds and hosting very rare coastal lagoons, a priority habitat under the Habitats Directive.
The special combination of cultural and natural, material and spiritual values of Atanasovsko Lake make it a perfect educational setting in which one can learn about history, geography, economy and ecology.
With this in mind, the Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation, in partnership with Black Sea Salinas LTD and the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds, carried out a major LIFE project from 2012 to 2017 to communicate the importance and vulnerability of the Atanasovsko Lake Salt-works to the public at large. This symbiosis of Man and Lake is central to the communication message, hence the project motto: the Salt of Life.
The project team carried out a wide range of information initiatives aimed at telling the story of “the Lake, Salt, Birds and People”. An innovative travelling exhibition "symBiotic" was hosted in 13 Bulgarian cities and visited by over 25,000 people. An annual ‘Salt of Life’ Festival was launched along with numerous other events (biodiversity carnival, Atanasovsko Reserve Birthday, school visits, half-marathon, etc.). The Festival, which has since become an important regional event with an amazing atmosphere and many supporters, offers visitors an opportunity to experience the life of salt workers and hitch a ride on the Salt Train.
In addition, a special bike route “On the trail of the Salt” and two walking trails with birdwatching towers were developed. Information boards were placed on 100 bus stops in Burgas, and billboards about the lake were hung in the main square in Burgas. Videos presenting the lake were featured in popular TV cooking shows and over 90,000 small packets of salt were distributed to promote the salt that is sustainably produced from Atanasovsko Lake.
The communication activities have been hailed a great success – more than 335,000 people have explored the ‘Trail of the Salt’ so far and the media campaign has resulted in over 1,750 publications in national and regional media. The "Salt of Life" festival has become an annual event in Bulgaria and the lake is now a major tourist attraction.
The ‚Shepherd Weeks’ in Natura 2000 Areas is a unique concept that combines landscape management and an experience-rich holiday. It has been developed by Metsähallitus Parks & Wildlife Finland in Koli National Park situated in Eastern Finland.
During shepherd weeks, volunteer shepherds take care of a herd of sheep for a week as they perform landscape management in national parks and conservation areas. The week is subject to a charge, in exchange for which the shepherds get to stay in an old house in the midst of breathtaking scenery. The payment is used to cover the costs of landscape management and the maintenance costs of the buildings and yards in the areas. The operations are organised in cooperation between Metsähallitus Parks & Wildlife Finland, the volunteer shepherds and sheep farmers.
Valuable seminatural grasslands are maintained thanks to the initiative. Most of the seminatural grassland Natura 2000 habitat types are evaluated as unfavourable bad / unfavourable inadequate and are habitats for many of the most threatened species in Finland. The concept has also increased the public’s awareness of the importance of landscapes.
The school project ‘Think Nature Act Locally’ wanted to start from the perspective of Nature, to consider its different aspects, and to attract the attention of the local administrations and the residents by means of a detailed study of a Natura 2000 site and a public action of outreach and raising awareness.
The Torbiera di Roncon is an SAC, located in the Fassa Valley, Italian Dolomites. The site is an alkaline fen, of about 2,9 hectares. Surrounded by a boreal wood and a quite extended meadow, it is located at the southern base of an important Dolomites Group.
During the study we collected many data, cartographic data, vegetational data, the ground water level, depth of the peat, characteristics of the water and we extracted some cores. At school we studied in detail the materials and we processed the data. After the study of the mire with the students, we wrote a publication about mires in general and the Roncon fen in particular, also with suggestions of how to manage the site and promote its enhancement. We met institutions that are involved in the management of the fen and discussed how to realise our suggestions for conservation and to carry out practical actions for its protection. We are organising the presentation of our results in a public meeting with the community and the local administrators.
The protected habitats are: the priority *Active raised bog, not very extensive but with some colourful “bulten” of Sphagnum sp., especially in the area between the pools and the surrounding great Mountain hay meadow; the pools are typical of the Hard oligo-mesotrophic waters and are an important and peculiar feature of the site, although they are small, and the most represented Alkaline fens. We planned the visit to another mire, an extended bog, the Palù Longa, (a SAC of the RN 2000) located in another valley. Here the *Active raised bog is the dominant habitat with numerous bultens of Sphagnum sp.
The project "To Know to Preserve | Natura 2000 Network" results from the partnership between the municipalities of Torres Vedras and Lourinhã. This partnership is justified insofar as the intervention area of the project corresponds to the classified area of the Natura 2000 network of the municipalities of Torres Vedras and Lourinhã covering the Sintra/Cascais site (PTCON0008) and the Peniche/Santa Cruz site (PTCON0056), the latter being common to both counties.
In the definition of the intervention strategy, an integrated approach focused on awareness-raising among the population, especially young people and schools, and on the conservation and enhancement of the local natural heritage in the Natura 2000 sites. The initiatives that make up the program of action thus constitute an integrated intervention of information and awareness among the youth and school community of the municipalities.
Between April 2016 and July 2017, about 686 students participated in field excursions in the municipality of Torres Vedras. These outings involved the removal of exotic species (Carpobrotus edulis) from dune systems, planting of native dune species (Ammophila arenaria, Euphorbia paralias, Otanthus maritimus, Artemisia campestres ssp. maritima and Eryngium maritimun), monitoring of birds at the Sizandro estuary and visits to the coast to make known the species of flora and fauna characteristic of Santa Rita Norte beach and the evolution of the geology on the Azul beach. The definiton of these actions meets the management guidelines of the sector plan for the Natura 2000 network for the Sintra/Cascais e Peniche/Santa Cruz.
Four large water bodies were created at the confluence of two important rivers in Moravia – the Morava and Bečva -, near the town of Tovačov in Central Moravia in the Czech Republic as a result of sand gravel extraction over the past 60 years. Their total water surface is 380 ha; three of the lakes are still used for mining.
Apart from mining and as a source of drinking water, the lakes are also recognised for their high biodiversity and are part of the Natura 2000 network. The Site of Community Importance (SCI) “Morava-Chropyňský luh ” (CZ0714085) was declared in 2008. Central Europe has lost nearly all of its natural wetlands and floodplains to infrastructure and flood protection measures. With this many important habitats, biodiversity and ecosystem services have also been lost. Nowadays every natural or semi-natural wetland deserves protection, and habitat restoration projects are very much needed to maintan local and migrating birds and other threatened species. At least 70 bird species rely on the Tovačov lakes mainly as a stop over site, of which at least 8 are protected or especially protected species.
The present initiative aims at reconciling mining activities, nature protection and community needs in the area of Tovačov Lakes. Several biodiversity surveys and inventories were done, also within the Quarry Life Award, which an international scientific and educational contest launched by HeidelbergCement, a long-term cooperation project has been established with ornithologists, which focuses on encouraging the population of Common tern (from 2007) and work is currently under way for the conservation of the biodiversity of the silt lagoons in cooperation with ornithologists. The project also carries out activities for the local community such as excursions, a bird-watching tower, Honey-Pits.
The Witherslack Mosses SAC are the 3 remaining peat domes of a coastal lowland raised mire system that once stretched 7 miles inland. Habitat quality and species interest declined due to 300 years of peripheral peat cutting, agricultural reclamation and drainage. Conifers were planted across Foulshaw since 1949 and dense trees invaded 89% of Meathop. Notified as SAC for 'active raised bog' and 'bog capable of regeneration', with marginal patches of fen, wet woodland and ancient oak woodland.
In 1915 Lord Rothschild described Meathop Moss as “one of the most interesting places in England” and it became a nature reserve in 1919. More than 200 butterflies and moths are recorded, including large heath, green hairstreak, argent and sable. Bog bush cricket and 13 species of dragonfly occur, hen harrier and hobby are regular seasonal visitors, red squirrels and a herd of around 40 red deer are resident. Plants include veilwort (liverwort), lesser twayblade, bog sedge, labrador tea, royal fern and oblong-leaved sundew.
Baseline surveys of vegetation, birds, invertebrates, herpetofauna and protected species by experienced consultants helped inform management plan design. Cumbria Wildlife Trust subsequently removed trees and rhododendron before restoring the hydrology, allowing peat-forming vegetation to recover. £2.1m from Heritage Lottery Fund, Grantscape, Natural England and CWT members funded the works, including 220 hectares of conifer removal, 375ha of blocking forestry and field drains with peat and/or plastic dams, 170ha of bunding to create watertight cells on cracked degraded peat, reprofiling steep peat cuttings and planting marginal fields to recreate fen.
A programme of subsequent monitoring has demonstrated the spread of specialist bog species out from their isolated refuges. White-faced darter dragonfly was successfully re-introduced, from one of the last two viable English populations, and ospreys colonised an artificial nesting platform, successfully rearing three chicks. Lagg fen created from silage fields has already become a haven for waterbirds, including whooper swan, water rail, great white egret, glossy ibis, marsh harrier and avocet.