Strengthening primary and old-growth forest protection in Europe by capitalising on World Heritage sites

This is a LIFE preparatory project in the 2020 call. The call describes the project as follows:

Scientific literature is consistent on the fact that primary and old-growth forests in Europe, although occupying a very limited area, are irreplaceable in harbouring biological diversity, stabilising terrestrial carbon storage, regulating hydrological regimes, enabling ecosystem adaptation to disturbances, and public health benefits.

The project shall build on the UNESCO World Heritage site of ancient and primeval beech forests, with a view to benefit of the solid network that has already been created and of the strong engagement of landowners, local communities, and authorities to conserving these areas and integrating them in local sustainable development strategies. In general, the Natural World Heritage sites in EU-Countries overlap with Natura 2000 sites. The positive attitude towards the Natural World Heritage and the strictly protected forest ecosystems shall be used to strengthen the protection and recognition of old growth forests in Europe.

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The specific needs addressed

  1. The remaining areas of primary and old-growth forests within the EU have not yet been mapped fully and in a consistent way, and available maps do not provide sufficiently robust information to underpin the characterization of individual mapped areas as primary or old-growth forests.
    • A set of scientifically robust criteria for mapping and characterising primary and old-growth forests should be proposed during the first one year of the project, in view of their application for a full EU-wide mapping of remaining primary and old-growth forests. It is recommended that these criteria are based on an existing typology, such as the one used for mapping the European network of Unesco Word Heritage Beech Forests. A unitary benchmark system of the favourable habitat condition for such forests shall also be developed.
    • The proposed method should be applied in-situ in a range of known or suspected primary or old-growth forests, selected on the basis of their representativeness for the diversity of old-growth forests throughout the EU. The outcome will be a high-resolution GIS map indicating the boundaries of remaining primary and old-growth forests inside the EU, accompanied by a detailed documentation of individual mapped areas as primary or old-growth forests, based on the above scientific criteria.
  2. The value of ecosystem services of primary and old-growth forests still requires further clarification.
    • In a selection of the primary or old-growth forests sites identified and mapped through the project, ecosystem services such as carbon storage, biodiversity, the potential for recreation and the potential for creating green jobs (e.g. eco-tourism) will be quantified and compared with managed forests so as to demonstrate the benefits provided by old growth forest to human society.
  3. There is a need to raise awareness of stakeholders at various levels and in different sectors, on the outstanding value of remaining primary and old-growth forests in Europe, and on the necessary actions to be taken for their conservation.
    • A communication and awareness raising strategy and implementation instruments will be developed and implemented, with a view to strengthen the conservation of primary and old-growth forest in Europe. The strategy will mainstream the importance of the ecosystem services provided, the implications for local development strategies, and for the management of the protected sites, including their buffer zones. Implementation actions will take place at European, national and local levels.

The project will contribute to the implementation of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2030 , to the achievement of the objectives and ambition of the European Green Deal on forest protection and to the better implementation of the Habitats and Birds Directives. All activities will need to take into account the existing European policy and legal framework applicable to primary and old-growth forests. For the implementation of task 3, the participation of non-EU countries is encouraged.

Also interesting: Information about the LIFE programme

General conditions

Duration: up to 4 years

Max. EU co-financing: € 800 000; co-financing rate 60% (costs for volunteers can be used as in-kind contribution)

Application deadline: 10th September 2020; Expected start: early 2021

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Other topics available

This is not the right topic for you? Check out the other topics:

  1. Restoration of tree plantations to natural forests
  2. Restoration of desertified land through nature-based solutions
  3. Designing mechanisms to increase the presence of biodiversity in urban and peri-urban areas
  4. Network of training activities for Natura 2000 sites managers

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