Forty applications have been received for the 2022 edition of the European Natura 2000 Award, featuring activities in 15 countries across five categories.
These applications showcase the breadth and diversity of Natura 2000. They highlight initiatives in various habitats including protected forests, alluvial wetlands, grasslands and coastal dunes and lagoons – and even underground habitats. They examine conservation actions for many different species, including Europe’s smallest passerine bird, a rare and unusual aquatic salamander, majestic imperial eagles, iconic brown bears and threatened loggerhead sea turtles.
Among these projects, also a few from Central and Eastern Europe. Bulgaria, for example, aims to restore the lower Danube ecosystem for birds and people, a project about belief, hope and resurrection.
“We believe effective conservation is about building alliances and joining efforts with the hope to preserve the last free-running tracts of the Danube and that even recovery of long-extinct species is possible,” read the application.
The conservation interventions will have a tangible effect on restoring the typical Lower Danube epitomised by the project flagship: the Dalmatian pelican, the rarest of the whole pelican family, with just nine healthy colonies in Europe.
Also, the Fisheries Research Institute of Slovenia in collaboration with the Italian partner and local Angling Clubs are trying to prevent the extinction of South European nase [Lasca]. This is attempted by breeding of Lasca in captivity and reintroduction of specimens into tributaries of the Vipava River, the only Nature 2000 site for this species in Slovenia.
Moreover, Greek environmental scientists are trying to spread environmental awareness in Greece. Greece is a beautiful country but its waste management system and environmental education are not advanced. The project aims at the promotion of information for the protection of Kitrous salt marsh, with articles, videos and social media as the main tools to raise awareness.
Numerous management approaches can also be explored. These include best-practice conservation projects, as well as initiatives tackling invasive alien species and removing barriers to migratory fish. A number of applications focus on communicating about Natura 2000 whereas others deal with ecotourism, high-tech solutions and nature conservation. All applications are currently being assessed by a team of independent evaluators. The finalists will be announced on 25 February 2022 and open to a public vote.