Reimagining Europe’s landscapes: ELP announces grants to catalyse new restoration initiatives

Posted: 23rd July 2019

New grants from the Endangered Landscapes Programme mean that steps will be taken to plan for the restoration of some of Europe’s most iconic landscapes. From Iceland’s extensive wetlands that were drained for conversion to agriculture and have impacted migratory waterfowl, to the Azov-Black Sea ecological corridor where development has degraded land and aquatic ecosystems, the potential exists to restore biodiversity and ecosystem processes to benefit people and nature.

The sun rises over a cork oak woodland in Eastern Guadiana, where one of our newly-awarded Project Planning Grants is located. Photo Credit: LPN.

The Endangered Landscapes Programme is delighted to announce that after a highly competitive process that attracted over 100 applications for funding, over US$800,000 has been awarded in Project Planning Grants. The grants will allow partnerships to develop new and innovative restoration initiatives across Europe, and address the challenges associated with restoration work at a landscape scale. 

Restoring biodiversity and natural ecosystem processes at a landscape scale is a complex business. A diversity of stakeholders with different (and often divergent) interests need to be engaged, bringing an increased risk of conflict between institutions and individuals unless time is taken to build trust and consensus. 

The complexity of land ownership at the landscape scale requires a sensitive and considered approach to achieving consensus between land owners and managers. Photo credit: Ben Porter.

An additional challenge is the variety of tenure types involved in a large-scale project. A small reserve might be owned or leased by a single organisation that has influence over an entire area, but the success of a larger-scale project will often depend on collective participation of multiple landowners. Getting enough landowners and managers to buy-in to a shared vision for landscape change can take time, as does the production of scientific evidence needed to support policy change or prepare funding proposals.  

The Endangered Landscapes Programme recognises that the consultation, participatory planning, research, analysis and teambuilding required to develop landscape-scale projects requires significant time and money. It also recognises that these resources may be an obstacle to the development of new restoration initiatives. The recently awarded Project Planning Grants are helping organisations to overcome these barriers by providing funding to support the work needed to build alliances, prepare plans and draft funding proposals for the development of exciting, innovative landscape restoration projects.  

Here are some summaries of some of these exciting projects and the work they will be undertaking: 

In Iceland, over 90% (>500,000 ha) of lowland wetlands, which are rich in birds, invertebrates and plants, have historically been drained for agriculture. However, over 350,000 ha of these damaged ecosystems are no longer used and yet they collectively account for over 70% of Iceland’s carbon emissions. The ELP is funding Votlendissjóðurinn (The Wetland Fund) to lead a partnership focused on creating a plan to start restoring these damaged peatlands.
Photo credit: Eythor Edvardsson / Votlendi

Bulgaria’s ‘Green Belt’ is a stretch of land found in South East Bulgaria, along its border with Turkey. Formerly a strictly controlled border zone, this is one of the least populated regions in Bulgaria and is now the stronghold for the Balkan Eastern Imperial Eagle. It also forms part of the flyway for thousands of storks and raptors. This area has been degraded by commercial plantation forestry, which used ill-suited species that provide feeble economic returns. The Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds will use ELP funding to create a plan for restoring biodiversity and ecosystem processes to this border area, which includes conversion of commercial forests into native oak forest – providing habitat for native biodiversity and building ecosystem resilience against climate change.
Photo credit: Svetoslav Spasov / BSPB 

The Humber estuary on England’s East coast is an important site for over-wintering, migratory and breeding birds, grey seals and lamprey, and is a significant fin-fish nursery servicing the North Sea. Intensive agriculture and hard engineering for flood management, however, have contributed to habitat fragmentation and connectivity loss. With rising sea levels, vulnerability of farmland and increasing conflict between the needs of industry and wildlife, options are being explored. This includes the allocation of large areas of defended and intensively farmed land to transition to a wilder landscape. With funding from the ELP, the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust will facilitate feasibility studies and discussions with key stakeholders.
Photo credit: Jono Leadley

The plans developed by these projects will be especially timely as attention around the world focuses on restoration of degraded lands in the build-up to the United Nation’s Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030). According to the Global Environment Facility (GEF), around one quarter of the Earth’s land surface (roughly 2 billion ha), has already been degraded, undermining the livelihoods and wellbeing of 1.5 billion people worldwide. Restoring ecosystems is fundamental to achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, especially those related to climate change, poverty eradication, food security, water and biodiversity conservation. 

A list of projects receiving planning grants is provided below. If you would like to read more about their progress and other work funded by the Endangered Landscapes Programme, you can sign up to receive regular updates via email at the bottom of this page. 

Enhancing opportunities for ecological restoration in the Azov-Black Sea eco-corridor  Centre for Regional Studies (CRS) 
Restoring Iceland’s degraded wetlands for biodiversity and climate   Votlendissjóðurinn (Wetland Fund) 
A practical vision for the restoration of peatlands at the national level: Belarus  BirdLife Belarus (APB) 
The Southern Iberian Chain: rewilding one of Spain’s most iconic landscapes  Rewilding Europe 
Białowieża: cracking the stalemate and restoring Europe’s last remaining lowland primeval forest  Polish Society for the Protection of Birds (OTOP) 
Restoring the Mediterranean landscape of Margem Esquerda – Eastern Guadiana region in Portugal  Liga para a Protecção da Natureza (LPN) 
Restoring the Humber: the Coastal Conservation Corridor  Yorkshire Wildlife Trust 
Restoring ecological networks in SE Bulgaria’s Green Belt  BirdLife Bulgaria (BSPB) 
Restoring the Ticino River Basin Landscape.   One River – Many Systems – One Landscape  Istituto Oikos 
Cumbria’s Natural Quarter: Connecting people and landscape in the Lakes, Dale and Eden RSPB

The Endangered Landscapes Programme is a partnership between the Cambridge Conservation Initiative and Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin. The funding of Project Planning Grants has received additional generous support from Fondation Segré.

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