The European Commission published a report concerning the achievements of the EU LIFE programme. You can read the full report here. In this article you can find extracts of the executive summary.
The EU LIFE programme, Europe’s key funding instrument for nature conservation, has focused its support to nature and biodiversity since the start in 1992. It is therefore a good moment to take stock of its achievements and assess to what extent it has contributed to implementing the EU Birds and EU Habitats Directives (the ‘Nature Directives’), its associated Natura 2000 network and the EU Biodiversity Strategies.
Thousands of habitat restoration and species conservation projects have been co-funded by the LIFE programme across all EU Member States. To what extent are their results and successes reflected in the EU State of nature assessment? What have been their main merits? What lessons can we learn for future LIFE programme and project development? These are some of the questions that have been addressed by this study.
Made an immens contribution towards the identification and designatoin of both the marina and terrestrial Natura 2000 network. It also plays a crucial role in defining site management regimes.
- By the end of 2019, a total of 5.400 Natura 2000 sites across Europe benefited from LIFE funding
- Natura 2000 is the largest network of protected areas in the world, and this is to a large extent, thanks to LIFE.
- Purchased tens of thousands of hectares of Europe’s most rare and endangered habitat types and restored even more land (peatlands and coastal dunes mostly, but also grasslands and forests), leading in many cases to measurable recoveries of habitats such as seagrass beds and dynamic dune systems, and their associated species pools at either local or regional levels
- Safeguarded numerous species from extinction, either locally or for Europe as a whole. Some examples: the Bearded vulture, as well as other bird species such as the Azores bullfinch, Aquatic warbler and Blue chaffinch. Other species brought back from the brink include the Iberian lynx, the Brown bear, the Pyrenean desman and the Mediterranean monk seal;
- Ensured the recovery of many local and endemic species, particularly plants and invertebrates that are often overlooked by nature conservation.
- Demonstrated the added value and effectiveness of transnational conservation approaches, particularly in relation to restoring fish migration routes and coherent site networks for migratory birds.
- Supported practical measures on the ground to prevent, control and eradicate invasive alien species (IAS). The programme was particularly effective in developing guidance, raising awareness, and producing tools to help stakeholders reduce the pressure by IAS on native species and natural habitats.
- Supported the transition towards more sustainable agriculture, forestry and fisheries, for example through the development of conservation-oriented agri-environment measures under the common agricultural policy (CAP). Thousands of farmers and land managers across Europe joined agri-environmental schemes with the help of LIFE projects. They now receive CAP financial support for example, for supporting species-rich grasslands or hay meadows or implement management prescriptions for farmland species like the Aquatic warbler, Danube clouded yellow, Little bustard and many others.
- Developed the knowledge base and data collection that is indispensable for evidence-based conservation and restoration
- Provided added value by demonstrating the social and economic benefits that nature provides. Facilitated and initiated dynamics in nature conservation like motivating, involving and providing private landowners from various sectors to engage in conservation measures which go beyond what they are obliged to do by law;
- Supported a wider range of EU policies, such as human health and well-being and mitigation of climate change impacts;
- Reached out to tens of millions of Europeans through a wide array of communication channels to become a recognised brand for nature conservation and restoration across Europe. LIFE has been without a doubt the most powerful communication tool for Natura 2000, changed attitudes towards nature conservation and provided a positive image of the EU to many of its citizens;
- Served as a catalyst for long-overdue restoration, getting things done quicker and more effectively, and for attracting other (local) funds and stakeholders and involving them in the conservation efforts;
- Punched harder than its weight in terms of budget through the mobilisation of national and other cofunding – and not just during project periods but afterwards as well, thereby ensuring long-term continuity. LIFE Integrated Projects (IPs), which mobilise complementary funds (from 2014 to 2018, 24 nature IPs have a cumulative mobilisation target of nearly €1,400,000,000), are a great tool for multiplying resources available for conservation work, and thus their approach would be scaled up with the introduction of Strategic Nature Projects (SNaPs) within the new LIFE programme phase (2021-2017), thus likely providing another fundraising boost
Copyright of the images used in this article:
- header image: unknown
- title image: Martin Mollet