Nomination for a LIFE Program Award

Our project is nominated for the LIFE Program Award for excellence in nature and biodiversity conservation!

The European Commission has announced the nominations for this year’s LIFE Awards which recognize excellence in nature, environment and climate protection. The Information and Nature Conservation Foundation and Ecoforum for The Nature’s Invasive Alien Species-Free Habitats project is one of three selected in the Nature and Biodiversity field this year, out of all 27 EU member state projects ending in 2023.

The awards of the LIFE Program of the EC aim above all to direct the attention of the nearly 450 million inhabitants of the countries of the Union to the value of nature and to attract their support for its protection.

Each year, two prizes are awarded for projects in the field of biodiversity and nature – one determined by a jury of experts and one – by a vote of the general audience from all member countries.

Our team will turn the announcement of our award nomination into a campaign for the protection of valuable habitats and their species in NATURA 2000 zones. On this page, we present the results of the project that were rated the highest by the LIFE Program and should be promoted and supported by all concerned institutions, local communities and the national audience to conserve our precious wildlife together.

We support the propagation of the Greek Junipers - one of the most ancient, rare and slow-growing types of plants on the Continent!

The project made an EU-wide breakthrough in the propagation of Juniperus Excelsa – tree juniper. We managed to root cuttings. A promising method has also turned out to be the replanting of young specimens that sprouted in our work area, in spots where they have the best chances of survival. We monitor and care for about 450 rooted cuttings to grow healthy and be used to restore habitat 9560*, in the Izgrialoto Gune Mantained Reserve. We also observe ponies around fruit juniper trees in the Reserve. The expected number of saplings from them is over 1000. When they are strong enough, we will replant them in the habitat. We have improved the conditions for the development of Juniperus Excelsa by removing competitive and invasive alien plant species (IAS), improving the species composition and structure and the conditions for natural regeneration.

As a result of our work, the territory of the habitat, in the NATURA 2000 zone, with SDF BG0001030 was significantly increased, in the EC database (from 2.59 ha to 54.83 ha) and its Representation and Relative Surface scores were increased.

We ensured the sustainability of these results through the Conservation Program jointly developed and adopted by key for the conservation of the 9560* Habitat stakeholders

Our achievements are based on the experience gained from three LIFE projects, which carried out studies and experiments on the propagation of Juniperus Excelsa: LIFE16NAT/BG/000817 “Restoration and improvement of the conservation status of priority forest habitats from the Natura 2000 network in Bulgaria”; LIFE12NAT/GR/000539 JunEx “Greek Juniper Forests” in the Greek Prespa National Park and LIFE10 NAT/CY/000717 JUNIPERCY for the conservation of endemic forests with Juniperus species in Cyprus.

We contribute to the protection of pastures and meadows, in grassland habitats, in the Protected Zone Central Balkan Buffer

The project improved the condition of municipal and private pastures and meadows in grassland habitats 6510 and 6210. We trained their owners and managers how to maintain and clean them of IAS, nitrophilous and ruderal plants to get more and better quality hay and grazing opportunities. The municipality of Karlovo accepted the proposed conservation measures and included them in the leаs contracts of all municipal lands. This, as well as the Habitat Protection Program for 6510 and 6210 in the Natura 2000 BG BG0001493 “Central Balkan Buffer” area, are a stable base for better management and maintenance of the great species diversity in the pastures and meadows, in the long term.

We maintain mixed deciduous forests with sycamore, linden and ash in the Central Balkans

In Habitat 9180* Tilio-Acerion forests of slopes, screes and ravines we planted 33,234 saplings of typical species of trees, shrubs and vines; restored 8.41 ha. and removed competing and IAS plants thus reducing their threat on 1333.12 ha. The habitat area in the zone increased by more than 24.04 ha. The data has been provided to the Ministry of Environment for updating the standard form for the zone, in NATURA 2000. The sustainability of the results is ensured by a Program for Habitat 9180* preservation and an agreement for its implementation, signed with the key stakeholders and the manager of the territory – the Central Balkan National Park Directorate.

We have developed and spread valuable information and experience for the control of the most dangerous for Bulgaria IAS plant species

The project and its website have become the main source of information on the threat and control of IAS plants in the country. We have created and shared with all stakeholders data, programs and training materials and a Good Practice Guide. Employees of the Ministry of Environment and Water at the central and regional level were trained. Together with the Ministry, we conducted a media campaign about the IAS threat and published articles about the 19 most threatening the Bulgarian nature IAS plants on the Ministry’s web site. The National Forum brought together experts from all responsible institutions, academic and scientific organizations to exchange experience and information on the conservation of NATURA 2000 zones and the fight against one of the biggest threats for the natural habitats – the IAS plants.