Two projects from Central and Eastern Europe won the Natura 2000 Awards, which recognise conservation success stories across the EU and raise awareness about one of Europe’s outstanding achievements: the Natura 2000 network of protected areas.
“Protecting and restoring the EU’s natural heritage and biodiversity is crucial to mitigate and adapt to climate change while preserving life on Earth for generations to come,” said the EU Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius, announcing the winners. “For the last 30 years, thousands of conservation professionals, volunteers and stakeholders have worked to protect and restore nature, preserving the benefits it brings. These people have made the network the success it is today. In competitions, the trophy always goes to one, but we should all feel winners today because, when nature is protected, the benefits are there for all of us.”
The Bulgarian communication campaign Natura 2000 in Bulgaria: new horizons, implemented by the national environmental NGO, Green Balkans together with three media partners won the Communication Award.
This high-profile campaign used easily recognisable species such as the Imperial Eagle and the Bearded Vulture, to raise awareness about the Natura 2000 network in Bulgaria. The unique partnership of an environmental NGO and media organisations had an impressive outreach estimated at 4.5 million people through national events, audio and video productions, articles and webinars.
The organisers believe that 62 per cent of the Bulgarian population will be reached by the actions, that will continue until the end of 2023 and that a change in attitude or behaviour may be expected for about 10 per cent of this audience.
What’s more, the intervention facilitated effective access to national-level media for citizen organisations, thus giving them a voice. It also catalysed the interest of other national media in nature-related issues. As a result, topics such as the construction of hotels on coastal dunes were widely discussed and brought firmly into the national consciousness.
The Conservation on Land Award went to the project Adaptation of Eleonora’s falcon to climate change, led by the University of Patras in Greece.
This project implemented a range of actions aimed to facilitate Eleonora’s Falcon’s adaptation to climate change focusing on the improvement of its breeding performance over seven Natura 2000 sites. In fact, Greece is home to more than 80 per cent of the global Eleonora’s falcon breeding population. This migratory bird of prey is highly dependent on the quality of breeding and foraging habitats, as well as on the availability of food sources.
The actions implemented included a rat eradication programme to prevent egg predation, installing artificial nests for optimal egg temperature regulation and ensuring food sources from passerine birds by planting fruit trees, bushes and cereals to increase stopover times.
In all, the project has led to a 42 per cent increase in the breeding success of Eleonora’s falcon in the project area, as well as leading to an improvement for local ecosystems and other important species.