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Environmental preservation and innovation: 25 years of LIFE+ projects in the UB

The University of Barcelona has been an active part of this call since its birth, with 11 projects of different themes which obtained more than 2.700.000 euros in funding.

The University of Barcelona has been an active part of this call since its birth, with 11 projects of different themes which obtained more than 2.700.000 euros in funding.

28/08/2017

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On May 21, 1922, the European Union approved of the LIFE program, a financial tool to promote innovation projects that encourage environmental preservation, climate action and development of community policies in these fields. This year is the 25th anniversary of this milestone, which coincided with the creation of the Habitats Directive of the European Union. The University of Barcelona has been an active part of this call since its birth, with 11 projects of different themes which obtained more than 2.700.000 euros in funding.

Mining restoration with ecological criteria

Between 2004 and 2007, Ramon Vallejo, lecturer from the Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ecology and Environmental Sciences, led the first LIFE project coordinated by the UB: Ecotechnology for environmental restoration of limestone quarries (ECOQUARRY) The aim of LIFE+ ECOQUARRY was to apply ecological knowledge in the restoration of open-pit mining activities. “It allowed us to extend the applications of our research in mining companies from the concrete and arid sectors. As a result, a guideline of limestone quarry restoration in Mediterranean conditions was published”, says the researcher.

LIFE+ ECOQUARRY project was followed up by LIFE+ ECORESTCLAY, a 5-year project that began in 2013 with the participation of the UB as a partner. This one aims to add ecological restoration actions from a holistic view, not very common in the mining sector. “The integration of extractive activities in that environment during and after the exploitation can have objectives related to promoting biodiversity, preservation of certain species or uses to improve the natural, rural and urban environments”, says Montserrat Jorba, lecturer from the Faculty of Biology and the Biodiversity Research Institute (IRBio), who leads the part of the project corresponding to the University of Barcelona. “The LIFE program has sponsored different projects which are directly focused on giving solutions for these areas, which are degraded by mining activity”, says the researcher.

According to the UB researcher, regarding the restoration of extractive activities, the program was essential to add innovating actions at a real scale, which enable assessing them with ecological and biodiversity criteria in the short and mid-terms. “The current LIFE project allows us to verify a new restoration model, based on building final landforms which are more similar to the natural ones, more ecologically integrated in their environment” says Montserrat Jorba.

Temporary rivers and habitat recovery in high mountains

At the moment the University of Barcelona has two ongoing LIFE projects. Narcís Prats, professor at the Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ecology and Environmental Sciences of the UB, is coordinating the LIFE+ TRivers project, which began in 2014 and will continue until 2019, and which studies hydrology and ecology in temporary rivers, aiming to create new tools to improve its management and ease decision-taking according to the Water Framework Directive of the European Union.

“The program has been particularly important to transmit the long career of our research group on temporary rivers in applied subjects. In our case, this means implementing at a practical level what we could do in the MIRAGE project, from the 7th Framework Program, and will serve to transform the work into a working tool for the sustainable management of water in Mediterranean hydrographical basins”, says Narcís Prat.

Another project that counts with participation of the UB is LIFE+ Limno Pirineus, a project coordinated by the Blanes Centre for Advanced Studies (CEAB-CSIC), dedicated to the recovery of marine habitats and species in the Pyrenees. Empar Carrillo, from the Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ecology and Environmental Sciences and IRBio, leads the UB team which works on wetland systems surrounding ponds and gullies in order to identify its threats and find preservation actions to be taken. Another objective is to recover species and reduce their extinction risk, such as the case of the water plantain Luronium natans, currently threatened by the high level of isolation in populations.

Environmental preservation and innovation

The history of UB participation in the LIFE program started with its first funding call. Since 1992, researchers of the UB were trained as project partners in different subjects that build up part of the program. Therefore, the UB has participated in actions of preservation and recovery of habitats and species such as the green algae Caulerpa taxifolia in the Mediterranean (Antònia Ribera, retired lecturer from the former Department of Natural Products, Plant Biology and Soil Science), or the viability of the Mediterranean monk seal in Cap Blanc or the preservation of the meadows of the seagrass Posidonia oceanica (Àlex Aguilar, from the Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ecology and Environmental Sciences).

There have been other projects on subjects such as the analysis of the arbutin content in leaves of the Arctostaphylos plant order (Carlos Codina, emeritus lecturer from the Department of Biology, Healthcare and Environment) or others which are more applied, such as the treatment of river waters with ultrafiltration membrane technology (Francisco Lucena, from the Department of Genetics, Microbiology and Statistics) or the reduction of water consumption and pollution in carwash facilities (Miquel Salgot, from the Department of Biology, Healthcare and Environment).

To commemorate this twenty-fifth anniversary, the LIFE project community has organized different events around Europe, which are available on this calendar.

 

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