Rewilding Europe – Coordinating Beneficiary
Rewilding Europe (RE) is a Europe-oriented nature conservation NGO, recognized as charity by the Dutch law (ANBI-status by Dutch Tax Authority), whose activities focus on allowing natural processes to shape our landscapes. This is done in a way that such landscapes help solving modern socio-economic issues like climate adaptation, flood protection and fire prevention. At the same time, our approach creates attractive landscapes that support biodiversity conservation and create a base for new local economies, using different sectors such as nature-based tourism. By involving local communities in this process, we try to establish new sustainable rural economies.
Herbivory is one of the key-processes at the basis of many European natural landscapes and their rich biodiversity, and this includes natural grazing by large herbivores like bison, deer, wild horses and bovines (with the latter two extinct in the wild). It’s estimated that more than 50% of Europe’s biodiversity is directly or indirectly linked to herbivory. Land abandonment (between 0,5 and 1 mio/ha/yr (IEEP, 2011)) in parts of Europe, puts this relationship at risk. After millions of years of natural grazing, followed by thousands of years of livestock grazing (which gradually replaced wild herbivores), these landscapes now show a break in the grazing tradition. With the farmers and shepherds, grazing livestock is rapidly declining and almost absent in many regions, while most wild herbivores have become extinct or survived only in very low numbers.
Rewilding Europe and its partners in more than 25 European countries are involved in setting up and supporting new herbivore systems in rewilding areas. The main aim of this specific activity is to bring back and test the process of natural grazing in different eco- and climate regions and its impact on biodiversity, landscape development, trophic chains, and how this can support wildlife tourism, supply of regional products and other new enterprise forms. Part of our work is restocking and reintroduction of wild herbivores and providing local partners with wild-living herds of primitive horse and cattle breeds, via the European Wildlife Bank (EWB), a tool set up by RE.
In order to test and support new economic models based on the approach as described above, RE has established a loan facility, called Rewilding Europe Capital (REC), that provides local enterprises and start-ups with loans for businesses that are not only based on such newly established natural values, but also contribute (in kind or financially) to a more natural landscape. For this purpose RE has signed a contract with the European Investment Bank – under the Natural Capital Financing Facility – to scale up REC’s programme for nature-based enterprises.
As RE considers communication on its evolving vision on this topic and the results from the showcases in the field of vital importance, it deploys a broad spectrum of communication tools, ranging from local education-programmes to tv-documentaries broadcasted worldwide.
Additionally, in order to gather scientific evidence of the ecological and socio-economic benefits connected to rewilding in general – and more specific to natural grazing – RE is involved in the establishment of an independent and dedicated rewilding professorship at the Wageningen University, that will be connected to the scientific review of the management models discussed and tested in the current LIFE-project. Specifically, for the GRAZELIFE project, Rewilding Europe will use the knowledge and experience of Dr. Elisabeth Bakker, associated with the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO).
Having worked in dozens of rewilding projects, in which herbivory is often a key process, RE and its network-partners have extensive practical experience with the challenges of natural grazing within the current European policies, legislation and subsidy-systems. Representatives of the RE-network, gathered in this GRAZELIFE-consortium are therefore well positioned to come up with recommendations to support sustainable grazing-models that benefit Europe’s wider agenda on biodiversity, climate adaptation, fire prevention and other socio-economic issues in rural areas.
Universität Leipzig – Associated Beneficiary
Universität Leipzig (ULEI), which has been founded in 1409, today has about 30,000 students more than 400 professors and enables scientists to work in interdisciplinary projects. ULEI has extensive experience in international research projects and projects of the EU structural funds. In the recently finished 7. Research Framework Program of the EU it participated in some 75 projects (including ERC, MCA, and collaborative projects) with an overall EC-contribution of more than 25 million Euro and was coordinator of 5 collaborative research projects. Currently there are some 40 H2020 projects at ULEI. These are listed in Annex 3b.
Julia Rouet-Leduc is a PhD student working full time with the GRAZELIFE project at the University of Leipzig and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv). The PhD project takes an interdisciplinary approach to explore different types of grazing and the ecosystem services they provide. The research project will use multiple methods to assess the different types of land uses of interest in the GRAZELIFE project and to fill knowledge gaps, especially when it comes to wild and semi-wild grazing systems. The first year of the three-year PhD project will be focused on a literature review, and the rest of the time will be dedicated to bridge the gaps identified in the literature review, for example thanks to semi-structured interviews, field work, etc. The outcome of PhD project will be to make policy recommendations that are especially relevant to the Common Agricultural Policy. Julia has a background in Political Sciences from Sciences Po Paris and a Master in Environmental Sciences and Sustainability from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU)
The team of ULEI will be supervised administratively by Dr. Alfons van der Plas, while the overall work will be jointly supervised by Dr. Guy Pe’er and Dr. van der Plas as PIs. The team’s work would be further supported by Dr. Francisco Moreira (CiBio/InBIO, Portugal). Both G. Pe’er and F. Moreira only require reimbursement of travelling costs in order to facilitate their participation in the project, while in return, gaining much knowledge and support of additional research institutes. The team and institutes are described hereafter.
The German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig is one of four research centers funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) with an average annual budget of 8 million EUR (9 million USD) since October 2012. It is jointly hosted by three universities and eight leading non-university research institutions. iDiv currently employs more than 170 scientists and non-scientists, is still growing and well-connected to leading biodiversity specialists from all over the world. In addition to the topical research groups, iDiv has strong central services (outreach office, biodiversity informatics, bioinformatics), a Synthesis Centre (sDiv) fostering theoretical and synthetic thinking by hosting workshops and funding short-term postdoc and sabbatical positions as well as a PhD school (yDiv) educating young scientists in transdisciplinary biodiversity research. Two research groups at iDiv, “Biodiversity Conservation” and “Ecosystem Services”, explicitly address topics of relevance for this project; and members of these groups have been closely collaborating with Rewilding Europe including a ‘synthesis project’ project specifically addressing rewilding topics. Additionally, iDiv members have an exceptional range of collaboration networks, as well as access to datasets, that will be highly beneficial for the project.
The Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, Germany, was established in 1991 as the first and only centre in the Helmholtz Association of National Research Centres to be exclusively devoted to environmental research in a great variety of fields. It currently employs around 1200 people. Founded in response to the severe pollution prevailing in Central Germany, the UFZ has become a world-wide acknowledged centre of expertise in sustainable land-use and restoration of landscapes, as well as the preservation of biodiversity and natural landscapes. Since its foundation in 1991 the UFZ has participated in more than 160 EC funded projects. UFZ is and was participating in 74 Projects funded within FP7 and Horizon 2020, 10 of them coordinated by UFZ. At present, the UFZ is hosting an ERC advanced grant, 3 Marie Curie Individuals fellowships and is coordinating two ITNs. Over six departments and tens of UFZ members work on topics of relevance to FarmGov, ranging from citizen science and monitoring, through agricultural best practices, to understanding and engaging in science-policy dialogues. At least five departments offer valuable expertise of relevance to the project, namely the Dept. ‘Nature Conservation’, ‘Ecosystem Services’, ‘Community Ecology’, ‘Environmental Politics’ and ‘Environmental Economics’. Examples of relevant projects that are running at or coordinated by UFZ members, include EKLIPSE and ECOPOTENTIAL.
Universidade da Coruña – Associated Beneficiary
UDC is a research and educational institution with leading research groups in many areas including science and technology. UDC has participated and is currently participating in over 125 international research projects, which are mostly co-financed by the European Union (H2020 Programme, previous Framework Programmes, Interreg, COST, NILS, LIFE+, etc.). In addition, our University has coordinated 3 collaborative projects within FP7 and H2020 and coordinates two Starting Grants of the European Research Council. As an entity, UDC has a European Research Projects Office, which provides direct support to project proposals and their financial management. This Office has actively collaborated in the management of 15 Interreg projects.
The research lab led by Jaime Fagúndez at the UDC has a wide experience in conservation management of terrestrial habitats and evaluating the effects of herbivores in natural systems. They have regular meetings with the administration and often communicate with commoners, land owners and stakeholders regarding environmental issues. With their extensive networks in Galicia – because of its tradition with feral herds an interesting region for this GRAZELIFE-project – UDC is well positioned to establish contacts with relevant stakeholders in this area and gather input for recommendations on effective grazing systems.
Rewilding Rhodopes Foundation – Associated Beneficiary
The Rewilding Rhodopes Foundation (till 2015 called New Thracian Gold Foundation) is active in the region of the Eastern Rhodopes in Bulgaria with a strong focus on: promoting and implementing restoration and conservation of natural processes and biodiversity in cooperation with stakeholders; bringing back the variety of wildlife and exploring new ways for people to earn a fair living from the wild; finding new economic drivers to financially support the wilderness areas; stimulating and improving natural grazing and sustainable green tourism in Bulgaria in cooperation with local, regional and national parties.
The RRF team consists of committed wildlife, tourism and communication experts. The Foundation works on the preservation and restoration of wildlife, not only for the sake of wildlife but also for the development of sustainable organic farming and tourism in order to re-utilize the land that has been abandoned in recent years and to generate alternative sources of income for the local inhabitants. Among the major achievements of RRF are the reintroduction of extinct large grazing mammals like wild horses, red deer and wild fallow deer. RRF is associated beneficiary in LIFE RE Vultures project (LIFE14NAT/NL/000901). The Foundation is responsible for actions focused on deer population restoration and supporting local nature friendly business.
Rewilding Ukraine – Associated Beneficiary
Rewilding Ukraine main goals are to support restoration of natural capital in the Danube Delta and foster the nature-based economies. The organisation is building-up a programme to support development of tourism and other economic models that support natural ecosystem. The founders of the organisation were directly involved in implementation of several wetland restoration, natural grazing and community-based projects and consolidate the efforts now to further push for conservation and development of nature-based economies in Ukrainian part of the Danube delta region.
The RU team is well-experienced in the management of EU- and nationally funded projects. RU team members have scientific backgrounds in wetland conservation and restoration, regional development and cross-border cooperation in Europe (including the EU Neighborhood Policy).
Rewilding Ukraine staff are representatives of Ukraine to the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River expert groups for River Basin Management and Flood Protection as well as the Ukrainian national Ramsar Committee, coordinate European Dam Removal Initiative in South-East Europe.
The Rewilding Ukraine team has good experience in coordination of joint activities implemented in cooperation with partners from Romania and republic of Moldova.
Stichting ARK Natuurontwikkeling / ARK Nature – Associated Beneficiary
ARK Nature, established in 1989, is a nature conservation organization that has been pioneering rewilding for over 25 years. ARK Nature’s main focus is rewilding via a bottom-up approach, based on natural processes, linked to economic and social development of the region. ARK is mainly focused on projects in and around the Netherlands, but also elsewhere in Europe.
ARK has almost thirty years of experience in demonstrating how changes in society can provide new opportunities for nature, resulting in wilder landscapes. We are convinced, and have established, that more space for nature improves the quality of life, for people and nature. Robust, spontaneous nature is essential for plants and animals, but also for the economy and people’s well-being.
Large grazers are found to be crucial in the development of the landscapes. ARK is highly experienced in reintroducing native natural herbivores that are key to the landscape forming processes, like European bison and red deer. Also we promote natural grazing with horses and cattle in nature reserves in and around the Netherlands. We have supported and executed ample research into the effects of grazers on biodiversity and on the interaction with visitors in the nature reserve. To create support for herbivory ARK has educated numerous nature managers as well as people living around the nature reserves. This has contributed demonstrably to making natural grazing common practice in the nature reserve.
Until 2007 ARK managed their own herds of cattle and horses. We subsequently established Free Nature which continued as an independent organisation for herd management.
Baltic Environmental Forum Lithuania – Associated Beneficiary
Baltic Environmental Forum Lithuania (BEF-LT) was founded after the finalisation of the technical assistance project in the Baltic States. It was founded in 2003 as a non-governmental, non-profit organisation, with some of the leading environmentalists in the country.
BEF-LT has a long-years’ experience in facilitating a Baltic dialogue and organising trainings and seminars needed for improved professional attitude of its stakeholders on environmental issues. The organisation is dedicated to protection of healthy and clean environment, resource and biodiversity conservation for future generations. The organization’s credo defined as “nature shall be protected not from people but with people”, which illustrates a strong emphasis on communities’ involvement in conservation work as well as importance of addressing social and economic aspects as precondition for ensuring favourable conservation status of protected species / habitats.
Since 2010, BEF-LT is actively dealing with land management issues by preforming habitat restoration, and establishing self-sustaining farming mechanisms to ensure necessary conservation requirements and habitat maintenance. The team consists of experienced entrepreneurs, biologists and communicators dealing with stakeholders from farm to national political levels. BEF-LT has extensive experience working on biodiversity conservation in agricultural landscapes. It is involved in practical conservation projects as well as scientific and political think-tanks focussed on improving rural development and biodiversity conservation goals. BEF-LT has extensive experience in implementation and managing of projects co-financed by LIFE program.