Atlantic islands are considered as one of the most biodiverse areas in the EU. The ecosystems in these islands share common environmental problems, particularly considering the dunes are among the most endangered habitats. According to the Habitat Directive´s Article 17 sexennial report 2013-2018, some of the main threats identified for habitat types 2130* (Fixed coastal dunes with herbaceous vegetation “grey dunes”) and 4030 (European dry heaths) in the project area relate to the existence of senescent forest plantations and tree encroachment, the spreading of invasive alien species, the impact of recreational/tourism activities, and climate change.
The main objective of the LIFE INSULAR project is to implement a transnational strategy for an integrated restoration of the priority habitat type 2130* (“grey dunes”) and the habitat 4030 (European dry heath) in five Atlantic Ocean islands spread across the Atlantic and Macaronesian biogeographical regions, promoting their favourable conservation status and increasing their resilience to climate change.
To achieve this, the project aims to:
- Increase the area covered by the habitat types 2130* and 4030 by eliminating old forest plantations and subsequently restoring the areas with plant species characteristic of these habitat types;
- Improve the conservation status (structure and functions) of habitat types 2130* and 4030 through the elimination of old forest plantations, encroaching trees and the control of invasive alien species;
- Improve the future prospects of habitat types 2130* and 4030 by means of the improvement of the knowledge base and the implementation of protection measures against anthropogenic pressures;
- Raise awareness about the relevance, natural values and ecosystem services provided by these habitat types;
- Transfer the project experience at EU level.
The project contributes to the implementation of the EU Habitats Directive and the 2030 Biodiversity Strategy.
- Technical document of characterisation and diagnosis of island habitats, identification of monitoring indicators;
- Eight technical plans for each of the targeted SACs and a contingency plan;
- Collection of plant reproductive material and cultivation of characteristic species for the habitat type 2130* (“grey dunes”) restoration (8 000 plants) in Cíes islands (off Galicia, Spain) and Éire islands (Ireland), and for 4030 (European dry heath) restoration (150 000 plants) in Cíes islands;
- Increasing 32 ha of the habitat type 2130* and 22 ha of the habitat type 4030 by removing old forest plantations in Cíes and Éire islands;
- Improvement of the conservation status of the habitat types 2130* and 4030 on 121 ha and 95 ha, respectively, by removing encroached trees, thinning perimetral plantations, removing invasive alien species (IAS), and establishing protection measures against human activities;
- Installation of four devices (footbaths, carpets) in Spanish islands for IAS elimination from the footwear of island visitors, avoiding the dispersal of the IAS propagules/seeds in the 2130* habitat;
- Annual reports, report analysing the impact of concrete conservation actions on insular habitats, report on socio-economic impacts, and reports compiling the project performance indicators and on the project’s demonstration/pilot strategy;
- Communication strategy, including website, brochures, merchandising, mass media news, 16 informative panels, audio-visual package for tour operators, and university extension course (20 students);
- Transfer/replication strategy, including 16 stakeholder events, 8 capacity building and technical training events, a manual for replication and transfer of best practice on insular habitats, and end of project seminar;
- RED INSULAR network, involving digital meeting forum and repository, for the transfer of LIFE INSULAR results for their replicability in other projects, 3 INSULAR international Workshops in Spain, France and Portugal, and involvement of 5 EU Member States.