Summaries for all of the applications submitted under the 2018 edition of the Natura 2000 Award can be found below.
Vallées de l'Ouysse et de l'Alzou – FR7300902More
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.
Vallée de la Wimbe – BE35037C0More
"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 – UK9004111More
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.
Montserrat-Roques Blanques - riu Llobregat – ES5110012More
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.
Troisvierges - Cornelysmillen – LU0001038More
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.
Baie et Cap d'Antibes – Iles de Lérins – FR9301573More
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.
Ennsaltarme bei Niederstuttern – AT2240000More
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.
Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas – ES0000035More
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.
l´Albufera – ES0000023More
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.
Hradiště – CZ0414127More
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.