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Horta ,  February 12, 2019

LIFE Natura Project is largest conservation project ever created for the Azores

The Regional Secretary for Energy, Environment and Tourism highlighted the LIFE Azores Natura integrated project as "the largest conservation project ever created for the Azores."
"We are talking about a global direct investment of nearly 19.1 million Euros over the next nine years, of which 14.1 million Euros will be directed to the land component. The investment corresponds to a huge number of interventions to be carried out in the areas comprised by the Natura 2000 Network of the Azores," said Marta Guerreiro. She spoke at the presentation of the "LIFE AZORES NATURA – Active Protection and Integrated Management of the Natura 2000 Network."
The government official pointed out that this project provides for "an unprecedented investment in protected habitats and species, which will value even more what is already considered one of the main assets of the Azores and their brand image - Nature."
"Effectively, this is another action that meets our public conservation strategy," added the government official.
The Azores Natura LIFE strategy and the project works are based on a strong institutional partnership. It involves a group of different entities with complementary technical capacities such as AZORINA - Society for Environmental Management and Nature Conservation and SPEA - Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds, in addition to the Regional Directorates for the Environment and Sea Affairs.
The project also includes a pilot action to be jointly developed with another public authority from Macaronesia, responsible for the Natura 2000 Network, the Canary Islands Foundation - La Palma Biosphere Reserve. Its work will focus on prevention, control and eradication of invasive alien species, targeting species that are also a threat in the Azores.
"The resulting partnership structure allows the project to benefit from sound and valuable technical, political and operational knowledge, thus ensuring the continuation of actions after the end of the project," said Marta Guerreiro.
The Regional Secretary recalled that a traditional LIFE project was approved in July 2018, the LIFE VIDALIA - Enhancement and Innovation Programme, an initiative specifically directed to "Azorina Vidalii" and "Lotus Azoricus" specimens that has "contributed to the conservation of these endemic flora species" of the archipelago.
"With a total investment of about 1.8 million Euros over a five-year period, this LIFE project will reinforce natural populations of the species while reducing their threats. It will mainly focus on the islands of Pico, Faial and São Jorge; conservation works will cover all the Natura 2000 sites of these islands," said the government official.
The Regional Secretary mentioned the reinforcement of public environmental policies towards "a clear investment in the conservation of natural heritage and environmental quality." In this regard, he emphasised that the investment plan for the current year includes "an appropriation of 13.8 million Euros for nature conservation policies," contrasting with the annual averages of 9.8 million Euros in 2017 and 2018, and 6.4 million Euros in 2013 and 2016.
In turn, the Regional Secretariat for the Sea, Science and Technology, who also took part in this presentation, considered the LIFE Natura "an extremely important step towards public nature conservation policies." On the occasion, he defended that the Government "will further support" the regional administration in strengthening the preservation of the environment and biodiversity in the Azores."
Regarding its marine component, the LIFE Natura corresponds to an investment over 4.3 million Euros that "will complement measures aimed at the conservation and management of human activities at sea," said Gui Menezes.
The Regional Secretary stated that "the success" of this project depends on "joint work," thus stressing the importance of continuing the Government's policies regarding several institutions that support the regional administration "in path of maintaining the Azores as they are with their unique environmental values."
In this context, he pointed out some actions to be developed under the scope of LIFE Natura with the aim of filling some information gaps on the Azores marine environment, namely the monitoring of marine species and the management of protected species, such as the case of marine turtles.
Gui Menezes pointed out that LIFE Natura includes a considerable component focused on training and dialogue with the civil society. Moreover it also comprises actions aimed at the recovery of marine habitats, control of invasive marine species and the monitoring of human activities at sea, namely whale watching and the use of marine protected areas within the Natura 2000 network, in order to assess the actual compliance with the regulations in force.
The Regional Secretary also highlighted the work to be done on the conservation status of slipper lobster, "the only marine invertebrate listed in the Habitats Directive," stating that "it is a valuable but little known species vulnerable to exploitation." As he noted, the assessment of the network of marine protected areas is "already underway."
The Secretary for the Sea also stated that two vessels will be purchased through LIFE Nature, which "may be used by various public bodies in actions carried out within their area of intervention."
"As for their marine component, the Azores have a history of biodiversity conservation of more than three decades and have been acknowledged in this area both nationally and internationally," said the Regional Secretary.
Gui Menezes also defended that public authorities and citizens are responsible for "the preservation of biodiversity, habitats and the respect for Nature" so that we may further acknowledge the importance of the services provided by ecosystems."


Official government press-releases presented in all foreign languages interfaces of the Azorean Government Portal (Portal do Governo dos Açores) are a sub-set of the government's official press-releases daily output and are chosen for translation and publication on the foreign language interfaces based on audience segmentation criteria. The entire collection of the Azorean government press-releases is available in portuguese, here, from the GACS Press Office site.

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