From the Balkans to Scandinavia, Europeans are setting up projects to preserve what’s left of nature for future generations.
Natura 2000 is a Europe-wide ecological network of nature conservation areas. It is the largest coordinated network of conservation areas anywhere in the world – and they’re doing some amazing work.
Over 27,000 sites have been supported by the network so far and cover almost a fifth of Europe’s land area.
Despite how enormous the EU-supported network is, many people still have never heard about it. The annual Natura 2000 Awards aims to raise awareness of the network and of the initiatives it supports by recognising some of the major achievements in five categories.
Have a look at the The Natura 2000 Award winners for 2016, you’ll be impressed!
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) scooped the Conservation Award for their initiative Blanket bog restoration in Dove Stone in the United Kingdom. The project, with help from local volunteers, successfully restored a very rare habitat – blanket bogs – in Dove Stone whilst also improving local water quality.
Latvia’s Nature Concerthall won the Communication Award for their innovative and creative approach to improving public knowledge about nature and biodiversity.
Nature Concerthall puts on events which include interactive exhibits highlighting knowledge linked to a selected theme, discussion panels between scientists and poets and a one hour concert with songs as well as light and video shows.
Check out this trailer for their events!
3. Socio-Economic Benefits
The Socio-Economic Benefits Award went to the project For the Balkans and the People: Nature Protection and Sustainable Rural Development in Bulgaria.
The initiative helps farmers and small enterprises from the Balkan Mountains market their projects whilst promoting eco-tourism. It has also started a “Payment for Ecosystem Services” scheme which helps ensure local businesses with economic benefits for protecting the grasslands and water ecosystems.
4. Reconciling interests/perception
The Reconciling interests/perception award went to the project Creating green corridors for biodiversity under high-tension lines between Belgium and France.
Two system operators — ELIA and RTE — implemented the project, testing alternative methods for maintaining the strips under the power lines between Belgium and France whilst creating green corridors in wooded areas.
5. Cross-border Cooperation and Networking
The project to preserve the lesser white-fronted goose, Europe’s rarest water bird, won the Cross-border Cooperation and Networking award.
The initiative saw partners from 20 countries including Bulgaria, Hungary, Norway and Finland join forces to combat urgent conservation issues along the endangered bird’s flying route. Alongside this the project also focused on policy work, awareness-raising, vocational training and environmental education.
6. Bonus – European Citizens’ Award
This year, European Citizens’ Award goes to the Spanish conservation initiative to save the Iberian lynx from extinction. This award was decided by public votes with this project amassing nearly 6,000 votes.
The Iberian lynx is the world’s most threatened cat species, with only 100 left in the wild, and this project worked on captive breading, reintroduction into the wild and habitat improvements. The programme led to a major recovery among the Iberian lynx population (from 52 mature individuals in 2002 to 327 in 2014).
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