LIFE Nature 2005: Commission provides € 69 million to 54 nature conservation projects in 20 countries
The European Commission has approved funding for 54 nature conservation projects, situated in 20 Member States or acceding countries, under the LIFE Nature programme. The projects will restore protected nature areas and their fauna and flora, establish sustainable management structures and strengthen public awareness and cooperation with stakeholders. They will thus further contribute to the creation of the EU-wide Natura 2000 network of protected sites. The projects are situated in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary; Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Romania. They represent a total investment of € 125.7 million, of which the EU will cover 69 million.
Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: “I am delighted to see European funds supporting local, regional and national efforts to conserve natural species and habitats. Having visited LIFE Nature sites myself, I have seen the difference this dynamic collaboration can make”.
This year, the Commission received 183 proposals for funding through the LIFE Nature programme from partnerships of various conservation bodies, government authorities, NGOs, anglers’ and hunters’ associations etc. The Commission selected 54 of those projects, 9 of which involve 2 or more countries.
Most projects aim at conserving or restoring Natura 2000 sites or networks of sites, designing and implementing management or action plans, improving watercourses, restoring sites, laying the foundations for long-term site management and eliminating invasive species. In addition, several projects aim at breeding and releasing endangered species into the wild or at reducing the by-catch of fishing.
2 500 projects co-financed since 1992
Natura 2000 is an EU-wide network of special areas of conservation and protection. It was set up under the EU Habitats Directive1 and also incorporates sites identified under the Birds Directive2. Altogether, it comprises over 18 000 sites and covers approximately 17.5% of the territory of the 15 initial EU Member States (EU-15) – an area almost as large as France – and is now being extended to the new Member States.
LIFE is the EU’s financial instrument supporting environmental and nature conservation projects throughout the EU, as well as in some candidate, acceding and neighbouring countries. Its objective is to contribute to the development and implementation of EU environmental policy by financing specific actions. Since 1992, LIFE has co-financed some 2 500 projects, contributing € 1 500 million to the protection of the environment.
LIFE Nature specifically contributes to the implementation of the Birds and Habitats Directives and, in particular, the Natura 2000 European Network. The two other components of this programme, LIFE Environment and LIFE Third Countries, respectively focus on demonstrating innovative environmental techniques and on environmental capacity building in countries bordering the Mediterranean and the Baltic Sea. For projects approved under LIFE Environment and LIFE Third Countries, see press releases IP/05/1156 and IP/05/1157.
The current LIFE programme (“LIFE III”) finishes at the end of 2006. The Commission has proposed a new programme called “LIFE +”, which would run from 2007-2013 with a budget of € 2 190 million. Its final adoption and budget is currently pending between the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament.
See the annex for a summary of the projects funded under LIFE Nature. More information about each project is available at:
There are great bustards (Otis tarda) in three areas north and east of Vienna. Thanks to years of efforts to protect and manage them, the combined populations stand at about 140 birds. However, much of the annual increase gained through habitat and nest protection work is lost when some fly into electric power lines – 20% of the adult population was killed in such collisions in 2003. The first project addresses this issue by burying 43km of power lines underground and marking another 125 km with highly visible warning devices.
In Styria, in the Gesäuse national park, the second project addresses a number of restoration activities, including removing a weir and concrete embankments along the Enns river and its tributaries, and reintroducing grazing in abandoned mountain pastures.
Belgium - 6 projects
The objective of a joint project between a Dutch and a Belgian conservation NGO, along the Dommel river (provinces of Limburg, Belgium, and Noord-Brabant, Netherlands), is to restore degraded habitats and link up fragmented sites by acquiring and restoring some 60 hectares of land.
The second project covers three military training areas in Wallonia (Marche-en-Famenne, Elsenborn, Camp Lagland) and will integrate military use and nature conservation, clearing 380 ha of dry heaths and raising the water levels in the fens and mires.
Two projects will restore bogs and wet heaths planted with spruce in the Plateau de Tailles in the central Ardennes, and around Gedinne (Croix Scaille) in the western Ardennes.
The lowlands along the Grote Nete river between Geel and Mol (northern Belgium) host a variety of habitats. However, these are fragmented and under pressure from the effects of adjacent intensive forms of land use. This fifth Belgian LIFE-Nature project will acquire and restore 70 hectares of land to create larger, more coherent blocks.
The sixth project is a transboundary one bringing together nature park administrations in the border area between Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany (Rheinland-Pfalz). It will set up a programme to monitor otters and carry out an inventory of physical bottlenecks along watercourses used by migrating otters (e.g. busy road crossings, culverts…). Such barriers are to be modified by the project, and the stream banks restored.
Denmark – 3 projects
The first project seeks to restore raised bogs in over ten sites across Denmark, mainly in Jutland. It will block ditches to stop water running out of the bogs.
The second project targets the rare butterfly Euphydryas aurinia, which has declined in Denmark because its grassland habitat was either no longer being used at all by farmers and thus became overgrown, or was being used too intensively.
Financially speaking, the third project is by far the biggest in this year’s round of LIFE-Nature projects. LIFE will contribute € 8 million out of a total budget of 15 million. This project targets a fish from the salmon family, the houting (Coregonus oxyrhynchus ), which is getting dangerously close to extinction. The only reasonably viable population left in the world is found in the rivers of southwest Jutland, from where it migrates to the Wadden Sea to spawn. Its marine habitat is secure, but changes to the morphology of the rivers and the semi-commercial net fishing carried out in this area have led to its decline.
Finland – 2 projects
The 1200 hectare military training area of Vattaja, on the Gulf of Bothnia (Ostrobothnia), hosts one of Finland’s most important dune areas. The first project will integrate Natura 2000 requirements into the training activity, restoring damaged dunes and reintroducing grazing of overgrown meadows and pastures. Recreational use of the area will be tackled by channelling visitors and preventing access to the most sensitive areas.
The lesser white-fronted goose (Anser erythropus) is highly threatened. The second project is run by WWF Finland with 9 partners in Norway, Estonia, Hungary and Greece. It will identify the most important breeding areas in Lapland and secure them and will also track migrating geese to discover any hitherto unknown foraging/staging points, as well as restoring staging points in Estonia and safe foraging areas in Hungary.
France- 4 projects
Three out of the four projects deal with the conservation of rare birds. All three projects are led by NGOs such as LPO and Bretagne Vivante. The aim is to stabilise or increase current populations and improve the species’ status. Management measures will also be introduced.
In the eastern Corbières (Languedoc-Roussillon region), 13 bird species are concerned
The second project targets the roseate tern (Sterna dougallii) in Brittany.
The third is a transnational project to reinforce and conserve the lesser kestrel populations in Aude (France) and Extremadura (Spain), based on a French-Spanish international collaboration between NGOs.
The fourth project, also led by an NGO, deals with preservation of the heath lands, peat lands and bats of Montselgues, in the Rhône-Alpes region.
Germany - 7 projects
Natural flooding will be restored over a length of 10 km along the river Lippe near Hamm (Nordrhein-Westfalen), affecting 600 hectares.
The second project targets mires and wet grasslands near Rosenheim (Bavaria). Within an area of 1100 hectares, 450 hectares of raised bog will be restored by damming drainage ditches and clearing overgrowth of trees and shrubs.
In the southern Black Forest, a third project targets a variety of habitats (Nardus grasslands, mountain hay meadows, heaths, woods and raised bogs) in the 2000 hectare Hotzenwald.
The fourth project targets a type of habitat which is very rare in Europe: continental salt marshes, which occur around saline springs. The project deals with 5 continental salt marsh sub sites across the region of Brandenburg.
A project in the Eifel hill country east of Koblenz (Rheinland-Pfalz) focuses on Nardus grasslands and heaths. Eco-tourism will be developed and promoted.
The sixth project targets a decommissioned military training area near Cuxhafen, which consists of coastal dunes backed by patches of oak interspersed with grassland habitats. The project will introduce a range of large herbivores (Heck cattle, bisons, Konik poneys) to graze 350 hectares as a wooded pasture.
The last project is transnational and deals with coastal meadows at 34 sites around the Baltic – mainly in Denmark, but also in Sweden, Schleswig-Holstein (Germany) and Estonia – including the island of Saltholm, near Copenhagen, which has been managed for generations by a cooperative of citizens from that city.
Greece – 1 project
The project focuses on conflicts between fisheries and the conservation of the European Union’s largest population of the critically endangered Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) in Greek waters. It is undertaken by an NGO called MOM, in close collaboration with local fishermen.
Hungary – 2 projects
One project concerns 6 sites totalling 720 hectares, scattered along the Danube corridor and in the southwest, all of which have various grasslands. The purpose of the project is to elaborate suitable agri-environment schemes for the different grassland habitat types
The other project is a transboundary project with Romania, for the red-footed falcon (Falco vespertinus). 90% of the European population outside Russia is covered by the project, which extends over Hungary East of the Danube and the Satu Mare district of Romania.
Ireland – 1 project
The Republic of Ireland contains significant examples of a number of priority European woodland habitat types. The Irish Forestry Board proposes to restore the woodland quality at nine sites covering 560 hectares, over a period of four years. Focus will be placed on public awareness and education.
Italy – 4 projects
Two projects are located in the Puglia region, in southern Italy: The first one targets the Fortore river, which runs across three regions, from the Apennine mountains to the Adriatic sea. It will draw up a management plan for the SCI site (Site of Community Importance, in the framework of Natura 2000). This part will be carried out by the river basin authority – the first time in Italy that such an authority has prepared a Natura 2000 management plan. More ecologically-minded farming will also be promoted among local farmers. The second project aims at protecting coastal habitats within a Natura 2000 site, Torre Guaceto. This site contains a marine protected area which is threatened in particular by intensive agricultural practices.
Also in southern Italy, but in the Matera province, a project concerns the conservation of threatened birds of prey. In the cities of Matera and Montescaglioso, the nesting sites located on the roofs of old buildings will be restored and increased. Among other measures, the project will seek the adoption of a revised building code, aimed at avoiding damage to nests and favouring better chances for the kestrels.
Finally, in Tuscany, a project will secure and enhance the conservation status of a coastal ecosystem in the Migliarino- San Rossore- Massaciuccoli Regional Park, which is threatened by invading exotic plants and by erosion caused by excessive visitor impact. Visitors will be channelled into a few trails.
Latvia – 1 project
This project also involves Lithuania and Estonia. It seeks to lay the groundwork for marine protected areas within the Natura 2000 network. Russia is participating too, in order to acquire expertise on marine protection areas. Thirteen sites in the eastern Baltic between Kaliningrad and the Gulf of Finland are concerned. The project brings together 19 partners – government bodies, NGOs and research institutes. The Latvian Ministry of Defence will supply vessels.
Lithuania – 2 projects
A Lithuanian NGO is heading a project with partners in Poland and Brandenburg (Germany). It seeks to protect the European pond terrapin Emys orbicularis as well as the amphibians Bombina bombina (fire-bellied toad) and Triturus cristatus (great crested newt). The project covers southeast Lithuania, Bielowieza National Park, Masuria, the Poznan-Odra region and Uckermark, which represent the terrapin’s extreme northern range.
The Curonian Spit and the lagoon which it encloses are among the most peculiar landscapes of the Baltic. They are very popular with visitors but this is causing problems like the erosion of dune habitats. The second project, a partnership between the Curonia National Park, University of Vilnius and a conservation NGO, will control visitor flow through trails and fences. The impact of fisheries on seabirds will be studied and recommendations made, and 1600 ha of degraded dunes and grassland will be restored.
Luxemburg -1 project
The Our river in northeast Luxemburg still hosts a significant population of the threatened pearl mussel, but reproduction rates are low and the individuals are generally old. A joint project between a conservation NGO and the environment ministry will construct a captive breeding centre, based on Czech techniques.
Netherlands – 1 project
The project concerns dune grasslands, dune slacks and dune heath lands on the Wadden Sea islands of Terschelling, Texel and Vlieland, at 5 sites on the mainland coast (Noord-Holland, Zuid-Holland, Zeeland). These habitats are all declining because of overgrowth, eutrophication and desiccation. The dune coasts are major seaside holiday destinations, so the project will place great emphasis on communication and dissemination, as well as restoring 1100 ha of dunes and reintroducing grazing in a further 1550 ha.
Poland – 1 project
A joint project with Germany focuses on the conservation of a threatened passerine bird, Acrocephalus paludicola, which has disappeared from most of its former range in northern Germany and Poland due to habitat loss and degradation. The beneficiary, a Polish NGO (Polish Society for the Protection of Birds – OTOP), will work in partnership with various other NGOs and national parks, in order to prevent the extinction of the population by raising awareness, restoring and extending degraded habitats and putting in place long-term management mechanisms.
Romania – 5 projects
Four of the five Romanian projects have to do with wildlife species.
One addresses a tiny remnant of the meadow viper (Vipera ursini rakosiensis) population in Transylvania. This reptile is almost extinct – the only other populations in the world, all small and under threat, exist in Hungary.
The second project tackles large carnivores like the wolf (Canis lupus), bear (Ursus arctos) and lynx (Lynx lynx) in the county of Vrancea.
Bird species are addressed in two projects, one of them targeting the populations of aquatic birds of the lower Prut floodplain and the other targeting the populations of the Dalmatian pelican (Pelecanus crispus), a priority species for LIFE funding, in the Danube delta.
The fifth project focuses on habitats across the whole Romanian territory. Its aim is the conservation of forests, alpine and sub-alpine habitats. It will encourage ecotourism ventures in local communities and train local inhabitants into becoming nature guides. It will also formulate proposals to support private landowners who want to manage their forests in conformity with Natura 2000 objectives, and promote these to the competent authorities.
Slovakia – 2 projects
One project targets the small population of great bustards (Otis tarda), found at two sites between Bratislava and the Hungarian border.
The other project concerns the Zahorie wetlands in the west of the country. A significant proportion of the sites lie within a military training area. The project will carry out restoration work like blocking or filling drainage ditches, clearing overgrown meadows and improving the hydrology of mires.
Spain – 4 projects
Northern Spain’s Atlantic acidophilous beach (Fagus sylvatica) forests and Galicio-Portuguese oak woods (Quercus robur and Quercus pyrenaica) in Aiako Harria SCI (Guipuzcoa, the Basque Country) are covered by a project run by a partnership of four local authorities - a water authority, a forestry foundation, a foundation for biodiversity and the regional nature conservation authority. Together, they will implement a plan for sustainable forestry.
Another project concerns four amphibian species protected under the Habitats Directive. It covers their entire range in the region of Valencia.
In northern Spain, a river basin management approach is proposed in the framework of a third project to improve the populations of European mink (Mustela lutreola) in the section of the river Ebro basin lying within the Navarra region.
The fourth project addresses the conservation of Mediterranean temporary ponds in the Balearic island of Minorca. The initial aim is to improve knowledge of the dynamics and evolution of this fragile habitat and to design the technical and legal tools needed for their long-term conservation.
Sweden – 2 projects
The county of Östergötland will be carrying out a project to restore wooded pastures in which large old oak trees, which host the endangered beetle Osmoderma eremite, are situated.
The other project concerns the river Moälven, in the north of Sweden. Its aim is to restore spawning beds for the salmon and install fish ladders to open up the river to migration again. These actions will also benefit the pearl mussel.
United Kingdom – 3 projects
The first project is a restoration programme concerning the River Avon in southern England. Its aim is to restore the watercourse habitat and conditions for associated species at six demonstration sites along the river.
The second project is a vital conservation action for the protection of the European population of the white-headed duck (Oxyura leucocephala) which is threatened by the ruddy duck. A five year programme will eradicate the ruddy duck in the UK and will provide advice on how to eradicate the species from the rest of Europe.
The third project addresses the threats to breeding birds on islands after predators have been accidentally introduced. With the support of local people, the ferry companies and visitors, the island of Canna, off Western Scotland, will be cleared of rats and effective monitoring systems put in place to ensure the island remains rat-free.
1 Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild flora and fauna
2 Council Directive 79/409/EEC on the conservation of wild birds