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European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency
News article25 June 2024European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency3 min read

LIFE Awards 2024 Winners: spotlight on Nature Protection

Taking top spot in this year’s LIFE Award for Nature Protection was LIFE Flusserlebnis Isar, an ambitious seven-year project combining nature and water conservation to restore Germany’s iconic River Isar.

LIFE Awards 2024 Winners Nature Protection
© Julie de Bellaing / European Union, 2024.

Centuries of intensive farming, industrialisation and urban expansion had left the River Isar - which flows through the Bavarian capital Munich - in a sorry state. Many of the birds, fish and other wildlife had abandoned their habitats, while flood prevention schemes, energy production, dams and weirs disrupted the river’s natural flow. 

Nearly a decade after LIFE Flusserlebnis Isar began, the river is once more flowing freely and endangered species have returned. “The real winners are the fish from the river!” said an emotional project manager Antje Uhl as she collected the 2024 LIFE Award for Nature Protection. “Together with the birds and other wildlife, they are very busy breeding in the new river we created for them, and the clean waters we restored for them.” 

LIFE Flusserlebnis Isar - a pioneering collaborative project by local nature protection and water management authorities - has already racked up some impressive achievements. A new 650 metre branch of the river was created, along with five hectares of shallow water habitat for fish and 20 new or restored lakes. “It is so important that we give nature the space it needs to thrive,” she added. “It’s also important to have a team working together to protect nature - it’s only as a team we can reach these goals.” 

Freshwater fish have been among the main beneficiaries - surveys carried out after the project closed show a forty-fold increase in catches of Danube Roach and an astonishing 100 times more Common Nase. Birds such as the rare Little Ringed Plover - which hadn’t been seen on the river for many years - are now breeding once again. 

It’s not just the wildlife that has benefitted from LIFE Flusserlebnis Isar. Cleaner water has made the River Isar a favourite spot for recreational swimming - especially in summer, when residents flock to the water to swim and cool down. Near the town of Landau, for example, 400m of gravel banks have been restored and are now enjoyed by tourists and residents alike, and is featured in travel websites aiming to bring holiday makers to the area.  

Flusserlebnis Isar - means “The River Isar Experience” - and that’s exactly what the project set out to do, combining both social and educational experiences. “The name of the LIFE Nature project speaks for itself!” says Rainer Haselbeck, District President of Lower Bavaria. “Since the project started, we have primarily pursued two goals: to make the river and floodplain landscape of the Isar more natural again, but at the same time to win over and inspire people for it. A big thank you to everyone who has contributed to the success of this ambitious project!” 

Success has come through close collaboration between water and nature conservation authorities in Lower Bavaria. Seven ‘river experience’ tours have also been created and promoted by the Lower Bavarian tourist authority to encourage visitors to experience reptiles, birds, fish, insects and mammals such as beavers. Among the project’s other achievements have been to restore 55 ha of floodplain forest areas and replant five ha of floodplain forest; plant 25,000 trees and rejuvenate nearly 100 old willow trees; and to create 14 ha of grasslands.  

The LIFE Programme is the EU's funding instrument for the environment and climate action. Since 1992 it has co-financed more than 6,000 projects across the EU and other countries. Applications are now open for €571 million worth of funding for LIFE projects in 2024.


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