LIFE Project Cover Photo

Restore desertified areas with an innovative tree growing method across the Mediterranean border to increase resilience.

Reference: LIFE15 CCA/ES/000125 | Acronym: LIFE The Green Link

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

BACKGROUND

European countries are increasingly facing floods, water scarcity, heatwaves, prolonged droughts, unpredictable river flows and decreased rainfall with related impacts on vegetation. These phenomena are closely related to human development and climate change. Their impact is expected to intensify existing risks, particularly in regions where water scarcity is already a concern. In the Mediterranean area, the impacts of climate change are becoming increasingly perceptible and severe. Many semi-arid regions are suffering significant declines in water availability and increases in temperature, which has increased the rate of desertification and the prevalence of forest fires. Dealing with dry and non-productive soils requires an integrated approach through adaptation measures that reduce the vulnerability and strengthen the resilience of Mediterranean ecosystems. The idea of replacing irrigation by using “water buckets” to plant trees was tested by an earlier LIFE project, The Green Deserts (LIFE09 ENV/ES/000447), but improvements to the system are needed to make it an economically-viable solution for reforestation.

 


OBJECTIVES

The objective of the LIFE THE GREEN LINK project was to demonstrate an innovative growing method which replaces irrigation in desertified areas where the failure rate of tree planting restoration can reach 70%. This builds on the work of a previous LIFE project, by lowering production and planting costs to make the technology more viable for reforestation activities. Specific objectives included: demonstrating that the Mediterranean area can combat climate change with an effective tool through six trials in three countries suffering from desertification; demonstrating the economic feasibility of an improved and more sustainable technology to plant indigenous and resilient tree species without irrigation; integrating novel methodologies to measure biodiversity, soil carbon stock, soil loss and human well-being in the mid-term, while allowing assessment of climate change impact and resilience in the future; mapping ecosystem services at landscape level to improve adaptation strategies, on the basis that better understanding of positive outputs from the project will improve future scaling and policymaking; and replicating the project experience by actively engaging stakeholders to share methods and results for uptake across southern Europe.


 


RESULTS

The LIFE THE GREEN LINK project demonstrated an innovative method, Cocoon technology, to help plants survive and establish deep root systems in desertified areas. In these areas, the failure rate of restoration by planting can be 50% to 85%. The new technology improves on this failure rate in a cost-effective manner. The ‘Cocoon system’ builds on a prototype developed in a previous LIFE project. It is made of recycled cartons, is very water efficient, low-cost and 100% biodegradable, and in trials without irrigation achieved survival rates of 58% on average and up to 90%. Different modifications strongly improved its performance and resistance to adverse conditions. By the end of the project, the new lid and shelter proved to be more resistant than the initial versions, preventing premature collapse, reducing water loss and seedling damage.

The project team planted 22 301 seedlings of 31 different species or varieties, over a total area of 73 ha in Spain. Replication of the project experience was also carried out in 50 additional locations in Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal, with more than 7 511 Cocoons distributed with this aim.

Overall, the use of Cocoon technology improves the efficacy of the plantations, compared with the traditional method, avoiding or at least reducing the need for frequent irrigation in the first years. On average the control group (planting without Cocoon) had a survival rate of 40%, while Cocoon plantations had a survival rate of 58%. Results showed high variation between countries, depending on diverse factors (local climatic conditions, type of soil, quality of the sapling, qualified workers for planting cocoons, etc.). Local conditions appear to be a determinant factor for the success of the Cocoon (e.g. in humid regions, it has less added value). The Cocoon was also found to be less efficient compared to traditional techniques when planting species tolerant to drought (e.g. Pinus halepensis, Tetraclinis articulata, Prunus dulcis, Rosmarinus officinalis).

Regarding soil conditions, at the beginning of the project soils showed low organic matter content (Calabria, Jijona, Almeria and Gran Canaria), as well as low phosphatase activity (Catalonia and Ptolemais). Despite the short time elapsed, by the end of the project increasing trends were observed in the contents of total carbon and nitrogen as well as in enzymatic activities (e.g. phosphatase).

The project contributed to improving the perception of local stakeholders about the capacity of each site to provide ecosystem services. Agricultural production was considered the most important service, with climate regulation and freshwater supply as those services that require more attention due to their vulnerability.

Thanks to the project, and the growing demand for carbon compensation and nature restoration projects, some companies are attracted to the idea of reforestation as a way to offset their carbon emissions (e.g. Leaseplan, a Dutch leasing company, contributed to reforest 25 ha by planting 1 000 Cocoons in Spain). This demonstrated that the Cocoon tool may have a good market uptake at EU level due to its high transferability potential.

The project is strongly aligned to EU climate change adaptation policy objectives. It promotes ecosystem-based adaptation strategies and technologies for sustainable management of water, and combating desertification in Mediterranean countries, and it contributes to the implementation of the EU Habitats Directive, Birds Directive and the Biodiversity Strategy.

Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Communication Plan (see "Read more" section).

 

 

ADMINISTRATIVE DATA


Reference: LIFE15 CCA/ES/000125
Acronym: LIFE The Green Link
Start Date: 01/07/2016
End Date: 31/03/2020
Total Budget: 2,891,702 €
EU Contribution: 1,725,719 €
Project Location:

CONTACT DETAILS


Coordinating Beneficiary: CENTRO DE INVESTIGACION ECOLOGICA Y APLICACIONES FORESTALES
Legal Status: PAT
Address: UNIVERSIDAD AUTONOMA DE BARCELONA - FACULTAD DE CIENCIAS (BELLATERRA), 08193, CERDANYOLA DEL VALLS, España
Contact Person: José Antonio Fuentes
Email: v.carabassa@creaf.uab.cat
Tel: 34932724790
Website: http://www.creaf.cat


LIFE Project Map

ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES ADDRESSED

THEMES

  • Natural resources and ecosystems

KEYWORDS

  • forest management
  • desertification
  • water shortage

TARGET EU LEGISLATION

  • COM(2013)216 - EU Strategy on adaptation to climate change (16.04.2013)
  • COM(2011) 244 final “Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020” (03.05.2011)
  • Directive 2000/60 - Framework for Community action in the field of water policy (23.10.2000)
  • Regulation 525/2013 - Monitoring and reporting greenhouse gas emissions & reporting other information at national and Union level relevant to climate change and repealing Decision No 280/2004 (21.05.2013)

BENEFICIARIES

Name Type
CENTRO DE INVESTIGACION ECOLOGICA Y APLICACIONES FORESTALES (CREAF) Coordinator
Gestión y Planeamiento Territorial y Medioambiental, S.A. (GESPLAN), Spain Participant
Cabildo de Gran Canaria, Spain Participant
VOLTERRA ECOSYSTEMS SL, Spain Participant
Agencia Estatal Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas - Centro de Investigaciones sobre Desertificación, Spain Participant
Land Life Company BV, The Netherlands Participant
CENTRE FOR RESEARCH & TECHNOLOGY HELLAS, Greece Participant
Biopoplar S.r.l., Italy Participant
Van Leijen S.r.l., Italy Participant
Universidad de Almería – Centro Andaluz para la Evaluación y Seguimiento del Cambio Global, Spain Participant

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