The European Union (EU) protects over 27,000 natural areas that are of special European importance. The network, called Natura 2000, is set up to ensure the long-term survival of Europe’s most valuable and threatened species and habitats, as listed in the EU Birds and Habitats Directives. Since 1992 the EU also provides funding, through the LIFE Programme, to support action for conservation, restoration and communication for Natura 2000. These billions of euros need to be invested well and restoration measures taken must be effective and efficient. Monitoring of activities, results and impacts is required for such assessments.
The NEEMO consortium carries out the monitoring activities for the LIFE Programme, under contract to the European Commission. My role in this contract is to support the team of technical experts to monitor LIFE Nature projects in the Benelux.
The focus of my work is in monitoring a number of ‘traditional’ nature projects in Belgium, focusing on a specific natural area and with a concrete plan of actions to restore selected species and habitats. In addition, two ‘integrated projects’ will be monitored, one in Belgium and one in the Netherlands. These are nation-wide strategic programmes that have been designed to give a strong impetus to stepping up implementation of Natura 2000. This is urgently needed because biodiversity in Europe is in general terms still in decline, as was again demonstrated by the European Environment Agency’s State of Nature report in 2015. The integrated projects also look at wider benefits of conservation, for example in connection with flood prevention or water purification. Given their strategic nature they focus more on abstract processes, such as governance, stakeholder engagement, and communication.