Celebrating 30 years of bringing green ideas to LIFE in Wales

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and environmental bodies across Wales are lauding the green benefits reaped from LIFE nature projects, as the EU funding programme for the environment and climate change marks its 30th anniversary this week (Saturday 21 May 2022).

Since its launch in 1992, the EU LIFE programme has injected its €5 billion budget into supporting impactful environmental protection, nature conservation and climate action projects across Europe.

From peatland and native oak woodland project to costal sand dunes and freshwater rivers, seven LIFE projects are currently being delivered across Wales, each reaping the benefits of a £50 million funding pot designed to help environmental bodies pave the way towards a more sustainable future.

Over the last 30 years, the projects have been playing a key role in building a nature-rich future for the nation.  Delivered in partnership with a range of organisations and environmental bodies across Wales, the projects are a demonstration of how we can nurture restored ecosystems that are more resilient to climate change, and that are better able to help us cope with climate induced shocks.

Some of the achievements to date include:

  • LIFE Dee River: The£6.8 million, cross-border project aims to bring multiple benefits to the environment, particularly improving the numbers of salmon, lamprey and freshwater pearl mussels, helping them become more sustainable in the future. To date, the project has overseen the removal or alteration to five weirs on the River Dee to improve fish passage, and 25 acres of riverside corridor fenced off on the River Dee.
  • LIFE Welsh raised bogs: The LIFE Welsh Raised Bogs project is the first national restoration programme for raised bogs and for any peatland habitat in Wales. To date, up to 80km of peat bunds have been installed to hold water back on the peatlands – keeping them wetter for longer and helping to store carbon from the atmosphere. Around 92 hectares (almost 227 football pitches) of dense Molinia grass has been cut, which will open up the surface of the bog and allow important sphagnum moss to establish and thrive.
  • Sands of LIFE: This major conservation project aims to revitalise sand dunes across Wales. To date 12 hectares of bare sand have been created to mobilise and rejuvenate dune habitats; 170 hectares mowed and invasive species controlled, 13km of fencing installed to allow sustainable grazing of the dunes.
  • Celtic Rainforests LIFE: The Celtic Rainforests LIFE project aims to improve the conservation status of four areas of woodland in Wales by tackling invasive species. To date, 6,954ha of land has been rid of Rhododendron ponticum – an invasive alien species which can grow so vigorously it smothers other plants and can dominate woodlands.
  • Marches Mosses Bog LIFE: The 2,500-acre peat bog, which crosses the Wales-England border between Wrexham and Shropshire, has been cleared of trees and scrub, ditches have been dammed and bunds created to restore bog water tables to the peat surface.

Earlier this year, it was announced that two new LIFE projects had been given the green light.

Four Rivers for LIFE will be delivered by NRW in partnership with the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, River Restoration Trust, Coleg Sir Gâr and the Woodland Trust, with support from Dŵr Cymru/Welsh Water. The project will see more than £9 million invested into bringing the Rivers Teifi, Cleddau, Tywi and Usk.  into good condition. An estimated 500km of river will be improved.

The LIFE Quaking Bog project will also benefit from £4.5 million to conserve quaking bogs and seven Special Areas of Conservation.  The project will be delivered by NRW, the National Trust and the Snowdonia and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authorities.

These projects, supported through the EU’s LIFE Programme and match funded by the Welsh Government, will ensure that the £13.8 million cash injection will breathe new life into urgent conservation challenges over the next five years.

Clare Pillman, Chief Executive of Natural Resources Wales said:

“We know that the twin crises of nature loss and climate change are inextricably linked, which is why we must all set our ambitions for tackling them on equal footing.  
“The projects supported by LIFE funding over the years demonstrate how Wales is stepping up to that challenge. From Sands of LIFE’s work to revitalise sand dunes and habitats, to the work now underway through the Four Rivers for LIFE project designed to bring rivers into good condition, positive action is happening across the nation, delivering for nature and people.
“We all have a key role to play in the safeguarding and restoration of nature. NRW looks forward to continuing this crucial work with our partners as we look to build on and accelerate the benefits reaped from EU LIFE projects and work towards building a resilient natural environment for future generations.” 

Welsh Government Climate Change Minister Julie James added:

“Over the last six years, we have invested more than £6m to support a number of EU LIFE funded projects.
“This funding has enabled the drawn down of significant funds from the EU and other sources into priority projects in Wales.
“On average, £6 has been secured for every £1 contributed by the Welsh Government – this is a great return on our investment and, as a result, Wales’ most precious habitats and species have benefitted greatly.
“Projects we have seen delivered through EU LIFE funding are key in helping us tackle the pressing nature and climate emergencies and I will continue to press the UK Treasury for adequate replacement funding.”