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European Climate Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency
News article14 November 2022European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency

‘Olives for life’ connect agriculture and biodiversity

LIFE14 NAT/ES/001094
LIFE14 NAT/ES/001094. All rights reserved. Licensed to the European Union under conditions.

The LIFE Olivares Vivos project developed an innovative model of olive growing that can be used elsewhere in Europe.

Olive groves extend over nearly five million hectares of the EU. One of the main crops in Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain, with nearly 1.9 million olive farms, the olive sector is a vital source of employment and economic activity. What’s more, olive groves can harbour great biodiversity, as well as connect areas of high conservation value. Intensive cultivation of the crop, however, has led to the deterioration of this function.

LIFE Olivares Vivos aimed to design and certify biodiversity-friendly olive groves. Initial expectations were exceeded: LIFE Olivares Vivos has become an international benchmark for biodiversity-friendly agriculture, in part by carrying out the largest scientific study in the world of biodiversity in olive groves.

‘The objective of Olivares Vivos is basically to recover the biodiversity that the olive grove used to have, that the olive grove can have, and we know it’s substantial. We aim to restore it, and then convert that biodiversity into profitability for the farmer, thanks to our certification seal’ said José Eugenio Gutiérrez Ureña, from LIFE Olivares Vivos, in Andalusia, Spain. 

The second stage of the project LIFE Olivares Vivos +, aimed to spread the biodiversity-friendly practices and project findings more widely; including the feasibility of maintaining productivity while reducing pesticide and fertilizer use by more than 20%, how to protect soil from erosion, and how to protect biodiversity with nature-based solutions. 

The evidence is impressive: in the forty olive groves studied in the project, and in just three years, the number of species of birds, ants, bees and plants has increased between 7 and 12%, and their abundance increased by 40%, and in the medium term, an additional 25% of wildlife species could still be recovered.

Altogether and in absolute terms, 180 species of birds, 60 species of ants, 200 species of wild bees and more than 750 species of plants have been found in the 40 olive groves studied, including a new species for science, Linaria qartobensis.

  • Learn more about the LIFE Olivares Vivos projects in the #LIFEis30 podcast series, episode "Food for thought".

LIFE Olivares Vivos supports the implementation of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives, the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 and the Nature Restoration Law.

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