What is the Life programme?

LIFE is a European Union programme that co-finances projects supporting the environment and sustainable development in areas included in the Natura 2000 network.

What is the Natura 2000 Network?

The Natura 2000 network protects the European Union’s most important natural areas which contain habitats of animal and plant species that are of European interest.

Goals

This project’s goal is to implement conservation and restoration actions that serve as a model and are transferable to the rest of the Catalan and Mediterranean basins suffering the same conservation issues as these riverside areas.

In terms of actions, the following goals have been set:

Directly improve the conservation status of alder forests

  • Set up a legally-protected corridor;
  • Improve the habitat’s connectivity and enable river continuity, increasing the area covered by alder forests within the distribution area;
  • Reintroduce the habitat along stretches where it has disappeared, recovering its presence in lowland alluvial basin areas and increasing its area of distribution at a regional level;
  • Restore and maintain some of the last large forests on Iberian floodplains;
  • Improve the conservation status, structure and biocoenosis associated with the most important pre-existing alder forests or those with the most potential.

Generate knowledge and experience

  • Implement the three European directives applicable to river governance in a coordinated manner;
  • Establish the technical bases to manage the forest habitat and improve knowledge of this area;
  • Test different restoration solutions that may serve as a model for the habitat’s conservation issues resulting from climate change and the modification of river dynamics;
  • Exchange technical experiences with other European interest groups;
  • Raise awareness of the need to redirect the habitat’s conservation strategy by focusing on the basin and on river continuity instead of managing stretches individually.

Social and environmental goals

  • Bring back river continuity as an element of green infrastructure taking advantage of its restoration;
  • Raise awareness of the environmental, functional, cultural and experiential values of alluvial forests among the general public;
  • Promote new habitat management criteria among land owners and managers.

The actions are planned based on a criterion of efficiency: achieving the best result at the lowest cost and allowing the habitat to reorganise itself by implementing key actions. Each area’s specific issues will be taken into account, such as the disappearance of large forests, water regulation and the reintroduction of the habitat in overexploited areas, among others.

It’s important that, for the first time, an agreement has been reached with a hydroelectric power plant to achieve river flow regulation with the aim of raising the water table and improving the conservation status of the affected riverside areas.

This project involves a considerable amount of work regarding dissemination and communication, with environmental education in schools close to the implementation areas. A travelling exhibition will also be created to visit several Catalan towns, together with an audiovisual presentation that will help to raise awareness of the importance of riverside areas and how to use them appropriately and sustainably.

Intervention areas

Actions will be carried out on three stretches of three different pilot basins that present the most significant problems affecting alder forests in Mediterranean areas. These areas include 24 Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and 45% of the regional distribution of alder habitats.

SituacioMapaAltSegre

Upper basin stretch

Upper Segre River (Bellver de Cerdanya/Prullans)

SituacioMapaTerMig

Middle basin stretch

Upper Ter River (Ripollès/Osona)

SituacioMapaBesos

Lower basin stretch

Basins of the Besòs River (Vallès occidental)

Actions

The project contains 17 actions to be implemented by the project partners

A

Preparatory work

A1 Identify and understand the habitat’s potential and the causes of local and regional decline.
A2 Design habitat restoration and conservation plans for each basin.
A3 Establish collaboration agreements with the parties involved.

B

Actions related to buying/leasing land

B1 No actions are planned within this section.

C

Conservation actions

C1 Increase legal protection and the reservation and expansion of space for the habitat within and outside of the Natura 2000 network.
C2 Improve the ecological structure and function of the most strategic alder forests in each basin through forestry work and the elimination of invasive species. Reintroduce the habitat along unstructured stretches or where it has disappeared in the past.
C3 Implement four demonstration projects on severely affected stretches that require complex techniques, providing solutions for the major problems of the habitat in Mediterranean areas.
C4 Complement the above actions locally by regulating recreational use and improving the habitat’s long-term governance.

D

Follow-up

D1 Measure the effect of improving conservation work.
D2 Evaluate the project’s environmental and socio-economic impact.
D3 Calculate the impact on local ecosystemic functions.
D4 Establish an expert advisory committee to technically monitor the actions.
D5 Track the project’s progress and that of the LIFE impact indicators.

E

Communication

E1 Disseminate information about the project in general and raise the public’s awareness.
E2 Technically transfer the results from a local to a European level.

F

Project managament

F1 Coordinate and implement the project.
F2 Plan and ensure its long-term continuity according to the results obtained.
F3 After-LIFE Plan.

Expected results

LIFE Alnus has been designed to improve the habitat’s conservation at the following levels and with the following impact:

Improve understanding of conservation issues at a regional level in Catalonia (32,108 km2) and plan the management and improvement of the habitat in 24 SACs and across 950 linear km of river areas (485 km within SACs and 465 km of water courses interconnected with SACs) in the project’s three river basins.
Increase the legal and physical protection of alder forests on a total of 2,235 ha by:
  • Improving and expanding 129 ha of Natura 2000 network sites
  • Creating a new SAC covering 980 ha: Meandres del Ter (Meanders of the River Ter)
  • Obtaining protection for a further 1,126 ha through other additional legal instruments
Implement direct conservation actions on 490 ha, helping to restore the habitat, improve its ecology and enhance its connectivity throughout the planned areas of action.
Ecologically improve the alder forests by implementing forestry measures and regulating riverside uses on 280 ha.
Improve connectivity or reintroduce the habitat across hundreds of linear km by creating over 300 core dispersion points (38 ha).
Implement four demonstration projects on a total of 162 ha, testing possible solutions for the most complex issues faced by the habitat at a regional and Mediterranean level.
Transfer and reproduce experiences and knowledge through:
  • Plans for rolling out and making use of the results, designed specifically to influence key stakeholders and to have a knock-on effect in other Mediterranean areas.
  • Participation of 260 stakeholders in information transfer events organised by the project (five discussion sessions, four technical sessions, one international workshop).
  • Involvement of at least 300 people through participation in European technical-scientific events and networking activities.
  • Publication of results in the form of technical manuals, guidelines and scientific articles, prioritising open access and availability to those interested for at least five years after the project’s completion.
  • Awareness-raising at a regional level, directly influencing a population of 521,000 people (professionals and managers, the general public and schoolchildren) through constant communication using several media, participation in informative events and the organisation of environmental education activities.
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