The European Union (EU) protects almost 28,000 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 protection, 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 therefore required to assess their implementation and impact.
The NEEMO consortium monitors the LIFE Programme, under contract to the European Commission and its Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA, previously EASME). My role in this contract is to act as technical expert to monitor LIFE Nature projects in the Benelux.
The focus of my work is on monitoring a number of ‘traditional’ nature projects, focusing on a specific natural area and with a concrete plan of actions to restore selected species and habitats. In addition, I monitor ‘integrated projects’. These are large-scale strategic programmes that have been designed to give a strong impetus to stepping up the implementation of Natura 2000. This is urgently needed because biodiversity in Europe is in general terms still in decline, as is demonstrated among others by the European Environment Agency’s State of Nature report. 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.
Apart from project monitoring I am NEEMO’s central contact point on ecosystem services and green infrastructure, I contribute to publications and presentations. For example, I was editor of the report ‘Bringing nature back through LIFE‘, in the sideline of which I was interviewed for the Green European Journal. Furthermore, I facilitate meetings, such as the session on the LIFE Programme at the EU Green Week 2020. The study was also a focal item of a webinar on 10 May 2021, hosted by MEP Bas Eickhout in response to an invitation by me.