guichon31As habitat loss is the single largest cause behind the current alarming levels of biodiversity loss, restoration of degraded habitats and post-industrial sites is a great way of returning more land to nature without having to take it away from humans. Ecological restoration can help us improve conservation status of species and habitats while providing employment and delivering a range of socio-economic benefits. Furthermore, EU Member States have committed themselves to reaching ecosystem restoration targets under the European 2020 Biodiversity Strategy:

“By 2020, ecosystems and their services are maintained and enhanced by establishing green infrastructure and restoring at least 15 % of degraded ecosystems“.

The above restoration target is a global rather than just a European commitment, as all signatories to the

Michael Otto Stiftung logo projectConvention on Biological Diversity agreed at the CBD CoP10 in Nagoya to restore 15% of degraded ecosystems by 2020 (according to the Global Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020).

    • Action 6a) under Target 2: “By 2014, Member States, with the assistance of the Commission, will develop a strategic framework to set priorities for ecosystem restoration at sub-national, national and EU level”.


Click on the titles to learn more about each case

Lithuania: Species Conservation by Developing an Ecological Network

Introduction The LIFE+ Nature project was carried out due to the existing network of protected areas being insufficient to safeguard endangered reptile and amphibian species. Thus, the project’s aim was to develop an ecological network and restore and preserve local biodiversity[1]. Site description and importance The project was implemented in Lazdijai and Varena Districts of Southern Lithuania which are characterized by low water body density and high rate of natural succession on abandoned agricultural areas which constituted a serious threat to amphibian and reptile species.[2] The project Goals and objectives
  1. To create an ecological corridor between the protected areas and develop an ecological network that can be applied as a model for similar cases.
  2. To secure long-term viability of populations within the ecological network through direct conservation measures and habitat management.
  3. To protect small and isolated populations from extinction and to reintroduce species where local populations have already gone extinct.
  4. To raise awareness among local inhabitants to support conservation goals.
  5. To generate, share and exchange expert knowledge on ecological networks, target species and research appropriate management strategies.
Current status The project was concluded in September 2014 having achieved its goal of rebuilding the extinct populations and increasing the ecological, economic and existence value of Southern Lithuanian landscape. Activities
  1. Developed a functional ecological network to protect target species including European Tree frog Hyla arborea, Sand lizard Lacerta agilis, Common spadefoot toad Pelobates fuscus, European pond turtle Emys orbicularis, Green toad Bufo viridis, Large white-faced Darter Leucorrhinia pectoralis and restored their habitat.
  2. Conducted environmental education for students and local communities by organizing workshops for school children, excursions, photo competitions and exhibitions.
  • Lithuanian Fund for Nature
  • Partners: Ministry of Environment of the Republic of Lithuania, Dzūkija National Park, Meteliai and the Veisiejai Regional Parks, Lithuanian Zoo, Amphi Consult
  • 50% from the LIFE programme
  • 25% from the Ministry of Environment of the Republic of Lithuania
  • 25% from remaining associate partners and donors
Project duration 09/30/2010 – 09/30/2014 More Information [1]Lithuania Fund for Nature. 2011. Development of a Pilot Ecological Network through Nature Frame areas in South Lithuania. URL: (Consulted 6 December 2014) [2]European Commission. 2009. Nature & Biodiversity Projects 2009. URL: (Consulted on 6 December 2014)

Bulgaria: New Thracian Gold – A Sustainable Initiative in Eastern Rhodope Mountains

Introduction The New Thracian Gold (NTG) project fostered organic farming, sustainable tourism and employed habitat restoration to promote sustainable economic activity compatible with retaining a valuable wilderness area. Site description and importance The project was conducted in six municipalities in Eastern Rhodopes[1]. The area is a highly bio-diverse with 1962 plant species (including 23 endemic to Bulgaria), 4329 animal and 278 bird species. [2] The project Goals and objectives
  1. To promote the unique biodiversity of the region, restore natural gazing and recreate a wilderness area for wildlife.
  2. To build up a network of organic farmers and a platform to sell their products to local tourism businesses and beyond.
  3. To promote Eastern Rhodopes as a sustainable tourism destination.
Current status The project ended in September 2014 having successfully achieved its goals, received much praise and been recognized as a good model for fostering sustainable tourism. Activities carried out
  1. Restored rare local breeds such as Rhodopean shorthorn cattle, Bulgarian gray cattle, Karakachan sheep and Karakachan horse and Fallow deer.
  2. Reintroduced Red deer and Tarpans.
  3. Educated and trained students and the public through workshops, lectures, photo competitions and establishing an environmental club.
  4. Developed marketing strategies and advertisement for sustainable tourism through guidebooks, tourism fairs, media tours and creation of new products.
  • ARK and Avalon Dutch Environmental Organizations
  • Supporters: Gabi Tour, Taofes, Agrarian University of Plodiv, Friends of Rhodopi Cow Foundation and Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation
  • Dutch Postcode Lottery (largest charity lottery in the Netherlands)
Project duration 01/09/2009 – 01/09/2014 More Information [1]New Thracian Gold Project (NTG). 2013. About New Thracian Gold. URL: ( Consulted on 7 December 2014) [2]Petrova, A. 2004. A contribution to the flora of East Bulgaria. Phytol Balcan, 10(2-3), 201-205

Romania: Ecological Restoration in Lower Prut Floodplain Natural Park

Introduction Lower Prut Floodplain Natural Park constitutes an entrance to the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve – an area of international ecological importance[1]. Unfortunately, farm abandonment, anthropogenic pressure and lack of adequate management constitute a threat to the habitat and species. The project’s aim was to improve the conservation status and solve the environmental problems resulting from human activity. Site description and importance The Park covers an area of 8247 hectares of diverse aquatic ecosystems (ponds, lakes, forests and wet pastures). It constitutes a nesting site for more than one hundred bird species as well we being part of one of the three main migratory corridors for birds nesting in Eurasia. The project Goals and objectives
  1. To establish a scientific inventory, conduct site restoration and monitoring activities.
  2. To raise public awareness.
  3. To implementation a management plan for the Park.
  4. To establish four new Natura 2000 sites.
Current status The project concluded in 2010 having increased the number of aquatic bird species and designated new Natura 200 sites with the engagement of different sectors. Activities carried out
  1. Inventoried the ecological potential of Lower Prut Floodplain Natural Park.
  2. Drafted an integrated management plan in accordance with the Romanian legal requirements, the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) and Birds Directive (79/409/EEC).
  3. Restored aquatic bird sites in Lower Prut Floodplain Natural Park (Mata Lake, Pochina Lake and Vlascuta Lake).
  4. Established bird monitoring activities.
  5. Conduct socio-economic evaluation and Environmental Impact Assessment of human activities in the area.
  • Coordination: Galati Regional Environmental Protection Agency
  • Partners: University of Bucharest, Romanian Ornithological Society and Galati Forestry District.
  • LIFE programme
Project duration 01/11/2005 – 30/10/2010 More Information[1]European Commission. 2010. Lower Prut Floodplain – Ecological restoration of the Lower Prut Floodplain Natural Park. URL: (Consulted on 14 December 2014)

Slovakia: Urban Biodiversity Protection of Birds and Bats in Building

birdsandbatsIntroduction This unique species conservation project focuses on restoration of urban bird and bat habitats while in cooperation with multiple sectors. The Common Swift Apus apus was until recently a common species[1], which inhabited ventilation shafts or attics in human settlements due to the loss of its natural habitat. Unfortunately, increasing intensity of thermal insulation and reconstruction of buildings has led to a great decline in swift populations during the past decade. The project aims to halt the decline of Common Swift and bat populations in Slovakia through restoring nesting sites in urban areas. Site description and importance The project is implemented in the whole of Slovakia with a special focus on 8 regional capitals and other towns where swift and bat populations long-term existence needs to be ensured. The project Goals and objectives
  1. To create and strengthen the institutional capacity to restore nesting habitats of Common Swift and bat species through training and improved communication and coordination between stakeholders (decision makers, owners, state authorities, architects, construction companies and users/ janitors of buildings).
  2. To preserve existing nesting and roosting habitats.
  3. To raise public awareness regarding Common Swift and bat protection and their nesting and roosting urban habitats.
Current status The project is still on-going; however, it has already restored XXX nesting sites, created a network of experts, organised campaigns, lectures and workshops to increase public awareness and facilitate cooperation. Activities carried out
  1. Created a methodology and guidelines for the protection of Common Swifts, bats and birds.
  2. Implemented a monitoring plan in urban areas.
  3. Conducted educational training for key stakeholders and decision makers.
  4. Employed practical conservation measures during reconstruction and insulation of buildings as well as installing nesting boxes.
  5. Promoted the project, organised meetings with project experts and stakeholders as well as excursions in project cities and presentations in schools.
  • Coordination: Regional Association for Nature Conservation and Sustainable Development BROZ
  • Partners: Slovak Bat Conservation Society and BirdLife Slovakia.
  • LIFE programme
Project duration 01/01/2010 – 31/12/2015 More Information [1]Return of Swifts. 2014. Will Common Swift and Bats survive in Slovakia cities? URL: (Consulted on 15 December 2014)

Croatia & Serbia: Trans-boundary wetland restoration in the Mura-Drava-Danube Area


he lower courses of the Drava and Mura rivers used to be called “the Amazon of Europe” thanks to their rich biological diversity and their vital role in enhancing the social-economic well-being of the region[1]. Unfortunately, anthropogenic pressure threatened this precious natural resource and led to biodiversity loss. A project was thus jointly initiated by Serbia and Croatia to restore the floodplains of Štrbac and Podunavlje fishponds as a fauna and flora habitat[2]. Site description and importance

Restoration took place on two sites in the Drava-Danube confluence area recognized internationally as important plant, butterfly and bird habitats[3]:

  1. Štrbac region of Gornje Podunavlje Special Nature Reserve in Serbia (wet meadows and a shallow pond overgrown by vegetation resulting in habitat and biodiversity loss).
  2. Podunavlje fishponds in Kopački Rit Nature Park in Croatia (abandoned fishpond which has lost its ecological function of a wetland resulting in a drastic decrease of the fish and other species’ populations.

The project

Goals and objectives

  1. To provide good quality habitats for the Danube’s flora and fauna.
  2. To display the benefits of wetlands to decision makers and the public.
  3. To demonstrate good wetland restoration practice that could be replicated elsewhere in the Danube basin.

Current status

The project is on-going; however, restored wetlands in Croatia are already providing socio-economic benefits such as employment (since the local community was involved in the restoration project), ecotourism and flood prevention. In Serbia the project has restored natural habitats with potential recreational and touristic benefits and has triggered a discussion on wetland restoration among experts from different sectors.

Activities carried out


  1. Removed vegetation that covered the fishpond to allow precipitation and run-off water to fill the pond and recreate the open water habitat. This activity was supported by the local community.
  2. Created educational trail and bird watching tower.
  3. Organised field visits to promote project, involve stakeholders and educate pupils.
  4. Conducted monitoring activities.
  5. Organized a press conference to promote the project.


  1. Mechanically removed shrubby and woody vegetation to replenish the wetland and improve the flora and fauna habitat with emphasis on migratory birds’ stopover habitat.
  2. Created an education trail to raise awareness regarding ecosystem services, biodiversity, the value wetlands and ecosystem restoration in the Mura-Drava-Danube area.
  3. Conducted monitoring activities.
  4. Organised a joint workshop for the public to raise awareness on wetlands.
  5. Organised a field visit for journalists from various media.
  6. Held a photo exhibition in project area.


  • Coordination: World Wildlife Foundation & Coca-Cola Foundation
  • Partners: Kopački Rit Natural Park, Croatian Society for Bird and Nature Protection (Hrvatsko Društvo za Zaštitu Ptica i Prirode), Vojvodinašume public enterprise, Institute for Nature Conservation of Vojvodina Province, and Provincial Secretariat of Urbanism, Construction and Environmental Protection.


  • Coca- Cola Foundation

Project duration

01/01/2009 – 01/01/2020

More Information[1] WWF Austria. 2009. A Plan for Conserving and Restoring the Drava and Mura Rivers for Nature and People. LIFELINE DRAVA-MURA 2009-2020 Report. WWF Austria

[2] Reeder, D., Mohl, A., Schneider-Jacoby, M. 2006. The Protection of the Drava-Mura Wetlands. In “The Green Belt of Europe, From Vision to Reality”, IUCN: Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

[3] WWF. 2012. Wetland Restoration in the Drava-Mura-Danube Area. In “Final Report Wetland Restoration December 2012”. World WildLife


Report on Socio-Economic Benefits of Wetland Restoration in Central and Eastern Europe
Implementation of 2020 EU Biodiversity Strategy: Priorities for the restoration of ecosystems and their services in the EU