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Frequently asked questions
FAQ to the LIFE IP

The following FAQ list answers the most common questions in regard to the Integrated LIFE Project „Atlantic Sand Landscapes“.


What are the key data for the project?

EU project reference:

LIFE15 IPE/DE/007 (first German Integrated LIFE Project within the LIFE priority area “Nature and Biodiversity”)

Coordinating  Beneficiary:

Ministry for Environment, Agriculture, Conservation and Consumer Protection of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia (MULNV)

Associated Beneficiary:

Ministry for the Environment of Lower Saxony (MU)

Overall coordination North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony as well as project management and operational implementation in NRW:

District Government of Münster

Supporting Partners:

State Agency for Nature, Environment and Consumer Protection (LANUV) in North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony Water Management, Coastal Defence and Nature Conservation Agency (NLWKN, project management and operational implementation in Lower Saxony)

Project duration:

01.10.2016 – 30.09.2026 (divided into four phases of 2.5 years each)

Total budget:

16,875,000 €

EU contribution:

10,125,000 €


What does "Atlantic Region" mean?

The biogeographical regions are a zone model within the European Union and serve in particular as a basic grid for the evaluation and selection of Natura 2000 sites. They each have specific characteristics in regard to occurring species and habitats. 

The so-called "Atlantic Region" marks the coastal Northwest Europe and aside from parts of Germany comprises regions in Belgium, Denmark, France, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom as well as Ireland and the Netherlands.

In Germany, this biogeographical region covers about 70,000 square kilometres, corresponding to 20 percent of the terrestrial land cover and stretching over the western part of the North German Plain. The majority (about 80 percent) lies within North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony; the remaining area is distributed among the city states of Bremen and Hamburg as well as parts of Schleswig-Holstein and Saxony-Anhalt.


What does "biodiversity" mean?

According to the Convention on Biological Diversity of the United Nations the term "biodiversity" or "biological diversity" is defined as "the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems".

Further Information

What is the EU LIFE Programme and what does LIFE IP mean?

The LIFE Programme (L´Instrument Financier pour l´Environnement) is the EU’s funding instrument for environment, nature and climate action. It started in 1992 and – just as Habitats Directive - celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2017. So far four full funding cycles have been completed:

  • LIFE I: 1992–1995
  • LIFE II: 1996–1999
  • LIFE III: 2000–2006
  • LIFE+: 2007–2013

In this period, all over Europe a total of 3,954 projects have been co-financed. With 29 projects so far, North Rhine-Westphalia is at the top of the German federal states in using LIFE for the implementation of Natura 2000.

The so-called „Integrated Projects“ were introduced to be able to implement environmental legislation and goals on a wider scale and to increase the impact of the LIFE programme. They provide funding for plans, programmes and strategies developed on the regional, multi-regional or national level. The integrative approach considers additional problem areas beyond nature and environmental aspects (e.g. climate change and sustainable use of resources). Furthermore, Integrated Projects must utilise additional EU funds (e.g. EFRE/ELER) or further national or private funding sources. Therefore, one important aim is to mobilize external funding.

The LIFE IP "Atlantic Sand Landscapes" is the first Integrated Project in Germany within the LIFE priority area "Nature and Biodiversity".

Further Information

What is "Natura 2000"?

Natura 2000 is a network of nature protection areas to preserve endangered or typical habitat types and species across the European Union. It constitutes the first detailed legal instrument for habitat and species protection in the European Union. It is made up of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) designated respectively under the Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora) and the Birds Directive (Council Directive 2009/147/EC on the conservation of wild birds). With currently more than 27,000 protected areas which cover almost 20 percent of the European Union the Natura 2000 network is the largest coordinated transnational protected area network of the world and contributes significantly to the conservation of biological diversity within the EU.

Further Information

What is the "Report on the Habitats Directive"?

The EU member states are bound to draft a report upon the implemented measures and results of monitoring every six years and to submit this national report to the European Commission. Germany completed the first national report for the reporting period 1994 – 2000 in 2001. As there had not yet been any precise definitions of the reporting format, and at that time – at least in Germany – the designation of Natura 2000 network sites had just started, there had been mainly a general report about the status of the implementation of the Habitats Directive. The resulting first summarizing report of the European Commission was published on 5th January 2004. Part I assesses the overall progress in regard to the Natura 2000 network during the reporting period. Part II compiled summary reports of all EU member states. Subsequently, specifications were developed and the reporting format for the period 2001 – 2006 was adopted. The national report about the status of species and habitat types in Germany was drafted on the basis of the best available data in close cooperation of the federal government and the federal states and submitted to the EU Commission in December 2007. On the European level the combined report of all member states was published in July 2009. For the reporting period 2007 – 2012 the member states again delivered detailed assessments on the conservation status and trends for habitat types and species in 2013. For the first time it was possible to evaluate and analyse changes in conservation status as well as an assessment of the progress achieved in regard to the Natura 2000 network for achieving the goals of article 3 of the Habitats Directive.

The collection of data for the fourth reporting period (2013 – 2018) has been largely completed. The next national report with the third assessment of the conservation statuses will be published in 2019, the compiled EU report is scheduled for 2020/2021.

Further Information

What are "habitat types" and "focus species"?

The protected areas of the Natura 2000 network mainly serve for the conservation of habitat types and species of community importance listed in the various annexes of the Birds and Habitats Directives.

Annex I of the Habitats Directive lists 231 different natural and semi-natural habitat types which need to be preserved via the designation of protected areas in the Natura 2000 network. In Germany, a total of 92 habitat types is listed.

Annex II of the Habitats Directive covers those animal and plant species for which Special Areas of Conservation need to be designated.

Annex IV is a list of animal and plant species requiring strict protection, i.e. their occurrences must not be damaged or destructed anywhere within the European Union (i.e. also outside of the Natura 2000 network).

Annex V lists animal and plant species for which there are regulations in regard to removal from the wild for use (e.g. for medical plants).

Altogether, there are more than 1,000 animal and plant species listed in Annexes II, IV and V of the Habitats Directive. In Germany, there are 138 species listed on Annex II, 134 species on Annex IV and 103 species on Annex V. 

Furthermore, the Birds Directive lists 181 bird species and subspecies the habitat of which needs to be protected.

Further Information

How can the "conservation status" be assessed?

For each species and habitat type four parameters are assessed: the range, the current population of a species or the area of habitat types, the suitable habitat for a species or the structure and functions of habitat types respectively, and future prospects. The assessment of the conservation status is made by a 3-grade assessment matrix within each of the biogeographic regions, using the colours of the traffic light system:

  • Favourable (green)
  • Unfavourable – inadequate (yellow)
  • Unfavourable – bad (red).

If the available data do not allow for an assessment of one parameter, this will be indicated as „unknown“ (grey).

Once one of the four parameters is marked "red" or "yellow", the assessment of the species or habitat type as a whole is indicated in "red" or "yellow". To obtain an overall "green" estimation, at least three of the four parameters must have been assessed as "green".

If at least two parameters are marked as "grey" (but no parameter has been assessed as "red" or "yellow"), also the overall estimation is indicated in "grey".   


What is the "Prioritised Action Framework (PAF)"?

The Prioritised Action Framework (PAF) is essentially a policy planning tool for funding the areas of the Natura 2000 network with a view to promote and encourage access to and utilization of the widest range of EU financial instruments. In particular, the PAF sets management priorities and funding requirements for the protected areas of the Natura 2000 network, at the national and regional level, in an attempt to facilitate their integration into the current operational programs for the various EU financial instruments. In addition, further species and habitats for which the respective member state or regions bear specific responsibility need to be incorporated.

Further Information

How will the implementation actions for the next project phases be developed?

For the second phase of the LIFE IP the sector agencies of both federal states will elaborate the implementation measures in a top-down approach based on the updated available data and the resulting analysis of further needs. The specifications will then be worked out together with the stakeholders. Please contact the respective contact person for further coordination if you have any suggestion!


What is the meaning of biocenosis, biotope or habitat and ecosystem?

The term "biocenosis" was coined in 1877 by Karl August Möbius, a German zoologist and ecologist. He had realized during his studies of oyster beds at the North Sea coast that there had not yet been a term for a given aggregation of beings of different species which may be considered a "community". The term is derived from the Greek words "bios" = life and "koinós" = collective. A biocenosis is composed of plant communities (phytocenosis) and animal communities (zoocenosis), which are characterized by more or less typical associationd of species in the respective habitat.

The term "biotope" in contrast refers to a spatially limited living environment which is characterized by a specific combination of physical and chemical environmental factors (e.g. temperature, humidity, soil conditions) and thereby differs from adjacent habitats. The term had been coined by the German biologist Friedrich Dahl in 1908.

The term "ecosystem" finally is used in ecology for the functional unit of biotope and biocenosis.

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