LIFE Project Cover Photo

Restoration of Iberian elms (Ulmus minor and U. laevis) in the Tagus River basin

Reference: LIFE13 BIO/ES/000556 | Acronym: LIFE elm



Elm groves are included in the EU Habitats Directive (subtype 2.3 of habitat 92A0). They have suffered degradation as a result of alterations to their habitat and the impact of Dutch elm disease (DED). European white elm (Ulmus laevis) groves in Spain have become very fragmented and reduced, while field elm (Ulmus minor) groves are seriously threatened in Europe.


The LIFE elm project aimed to apply the knowledge and genetic resources generated over 27 years by the Spanish Elm Breeding Programme, as well as by the EU project RESGEN 78, ‘Conservation of Genetic Resources of European Elms’ funded by the EU through the Council Regulation (EC No 870/2004) on genetic resources in agriculture, to restore the ecological role and functions played by elm groves.

Specifically, the project aimed to:

  • Reintroduce Iberian elms to riparian habitats of EU importance (Natura 2000 sites) belonging to the Tagus River basin;
  • Integrate the conservation and use of Iberian elms in forest management plans.
  • To achieve these aims, the project planned to:

  • Develop in vitro propagation techniques of seven Iberian elms (Ulmus minor) clones resistant to DED, allowing the use of these clones as forest reproductive material;
  • Achieve stable and representative communities of the elm grove habitat in natural areas;
  • Evaluate the environmental adaptation of the clones and seedlings planted;
  • Disseminate the project results.


    The LIFE elm project actions led to the inclusion of the seven DED-resistant Ulmus minor clones used in the project in the Community Plant Variety Office (CPVO), which protects their industrial property throughout the territory of the EU. The project facilitated the mass production of these clones through in vitro propagation, improving traditional propagation protocols and nursery culture techniques. Nearly 10 000 of these trees (9 652) were planted in riverside areas and urban settings along with more than 7 000 U. laevis trees (7 128). An overall survival rate of 85% was recorded at the end of the project.

    Specific results of the project included:

  • 24.70 ha of natural land restored with elms in Aranjuez and 20.59 ha in S.S. de los Reyes;
  • 16 km of riverbanks restored, with eight stretches are accessible to the public and containing recreational facilities;
  • 9 ha of informative plantations with elms in urban settings, which include gardens, parks, schoolyards and peri-urban green areas;
  • 5 km of tree alignments recovered with elms on historical roads within the Cultural Landscape of Aranjuez declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO;
  • Around 30 000 elms planted on public land in 36 of the 50 Spanish provinces, through plant donations made by the Ministry to public entities and associations, thus demonstrating project replicability;
  • Initiation in the use of Spanish elms in actions of ecological restoration of river banks by seven of the nine Spanish hydrographic confederations (CH) thanks to donations from the Ministry – CH Duero, CH Ebro, CH Guadalquivir, CH Guadiana, CH Júcar, CH Segura and CT Tajo;
  • Characterization of the relict Spanish populations of U. laevis, allowing their conservation and the use of reproductive materials according to their gene pool.
  • The LIFE Elm project can be said to have initiated the recovery of the Spanish elm stands. Its actions were communicated through an extensive dissemination campaign that included:

  • Installation of more than 20 informative panels in the plantation plots in Aranjuez and San Sebastián de los Reyes as well as in the National Centre of Forest Genetic Resources Puerta de Hierro (Madrid);
  • Elaboration of a Manual for the Sustainable Management of the Spanish Elm Stands in the Tagus River Basin;
  • Organisation of more than 30 informative sessions and the creation of project website in Spanish and English, Facebook page and Twitter account;
  • Publication of nine articles in national and international scientific and informative journals;
  • Two radio interviews with the project coordinator and one television report, along with the dissemination of the documentary, ‘Giants with mud feet’, and a project five-minute promotional video; and
  • Attendance at nine scientific conferences in which the LIFE Elm project has been presented, six of them international.

    Reference: LIFE13 BIO/ES/000556
    Acronym: LIFE elm
    Start Date: 01/07/2014
    End Date: 30/09/2019
    Total Budget: 1,348,799 €
    EU Contribution: 660,535 €
    Project Location:


    Coordinating Beneficiary: Universidad Politécnica de Madrid
    Legal Status: PAT
    Address: Ramiro de Maeztu 7, 28040, Madrid, España
    Contact Person: Juan Antonio MARTÍN GARCÍA
    Tel: +34910671758

    LIFE Project Map



    • Forests


    • introduction of plant species
    • protected area
    • restoration measure
    • endangered species


    • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directive (21.05.1992)


    Name Type
    Universidad Politécnica de Madrid Coordinator
    CH Tajo(Confederación Hidrográfica del Tajo; Ministerio de Agricultura, Alimentación y Medio Ambiente), Spain Participant
    DGDRyPF(Dirección General de Desarrollo Rural y Política Forestal; Ministerio de Agricultura, Alimentación y Medio Ambiente), Spain Participant
    Aranjuez(Delegación de Medio Ambiente, Parques y Jardines, y Agricultura. Ayuntamiento de Aranjuez), Spain Participant
    SS Reyes(Delegación de Medio Ambiente. Ayuntamiento de San Sebastián de los Reyes), Spain Participant