The total of €80 million (£49 million) for the 94 projects, most of which aim to conserve different kinds of natural habitat, will be allocated to NGOs and public authorities, especially local and regional authorities in member states and five EU candidate countries which have signed association agreements for participation in the LIFE Programme. By far the biggest recipients are Italy, with funding for 21 projects, and Spain, with funding for 17.

Each of the 94 projects selected from a preliminary list of 310 meets at least one of the three criteria of LIFE-Nature, with some 67% being proposed under the Habitats Directive, 25% of the sites classified as Special Protection Areas under the Birds Directive and 7% for the conservation of species of flora and fauna of Community importance. The total investment cost for all the selected projects is €152 million (£93 million), of which €80 million is provided by LIFE while the rest is covered by the beneficiaries, their partners and co-financiers.

LIFE is the only EU programme providing aid for the environment throughout the Union and in bordering regions with most of its funds aimed at one-off expenses and recurring biotope management, such as surveillance.

More than 65 % of the natural habitats listed in the Habitats Directive are affected by the projects selected this year, including alluvial valleys, wetlands, grasslands and forests. Several projects are targeting species, including birds, minks, lynxes and seals.

Italy is to receive one-eighth of LIFE’s funding with a great part of the selected projects located in the north, especially in the Alpine regions. Among the projects directed at habitats 38% concern wetlands, 19% involve river ecosystems and 14% springs and connected habitats.

Spain is to receive the greatest amount of funding, with more than €13 million (£8 million) provided under LIFE. Most of the projects are aimed at the conservation of habitats and species that are considered of priority importance in the European Union, including steppe areas, wetlands, riparian forests, dunes, lagoons, coastal and marine areas. One project will try to implement suitable management measures to avoid the degradation of marine habitats and species, mainly Posidonia beds, around the Balearic Islands. A plan to save the European mink aims to stop the regression of one of the last viable populations of the species in the European Union and LIFE will also finance a project to combat one of the main threats for the brown bear populations in the Cantabrian Mountains, the illegal use of snares to combat the increase of wild boar populations.

Both the United Kingdom and Germany will receive funding for six projects apiece. The UK’s €10.5 million (£6.4 million) will be used principally in Scotland, the site of four projects which focus on the conservation of a range of priority habitat types such as active blanket and raised bogs, alluvial forests and other woodland habitats. There is also a project for the eradication of the American mink from the Western isles of Scotland where the species is beginning to decimate important bird populations. In Southern England, there will be an innovative partnership between a conservation agency and the Ministry of Defence to restore large tracks of the Salisbury plain, one of the largest unbroken expanses of chalk grassland in North West Europe, developing a more flexible farming system through a process of active shepherding.

Germany’s projects range from the Baltic coast in the north to the Black Forest in the south and as in previous years, the restoration of wetland areas is the prevailing objective of the German projects with four projects trying to make up for large-scale drainage of wetlands in the past. Two of the wetland projects are targeting primarily at bird species, such as breeding or migrating waterfowl, and the two other wetland projects primarily at the protection of endangered habitats.

In Ireland, one project involves the reintroduction of the golden eagle into the Glenveagh National Park in Donegal, after the species died out 100 years ago, while in Austria a ‘green bridge’ will be constructed over a motorway, to facilitate the immigration of brown bears into the Austrian Alps and to strengthen the small Alpine bear populations.

Other countries with new projects approved are: Finland (5); France (4); Austria (4); Portugal (4); Romania (4); Belgium (3); Greece (3); Estonia (3); Latvia (3); Slovenia (3); Netherlands (2); Sweden (2); Ireland (2); and Denmark and Hungary (1 each).

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie