LIFE RESQUE ALPYR is a LIFE 2020 Nature and Biodiversity project aimed at recovering mountain aquatic habitats improving conservation of several target habitats/species in four Nature 2000 sites from the alpine biogeographical regions of the Pyrenees (NE Spain) and the Alps (NW Italy).

The project is financed jointly by the EU LIFE 2020 program that promotes conservation actions and recovery of habitats and species of flora and fauna in protected areas of the European Union, integrated into the Natura 2000 network.

Habitat and species

The target habitats include eleven aquatic or semi-aquatic habitats of which five are priority: high mountain lakes (HCIs 3110 and 3130), alpine or subalpine grasslands, heaths and meadows (HCIs 4020*, 6230*, 6410 and 6520), mires (HCIs 7110*, 7140, 7230 and 91D0*) and petrifying springs (HCI 7220*).

Target species include native amphibians from both areas (Rana temporaria) or from the Pyrenees (Euproctus asper, Alytes obstetricans); the semiaquatic mammal Galemys pyrenaicus living in Pyrenean streams and lakes; and seven insectivorous bats, Barbastella barbastellus, Myotis myotis, and Plecotus macrobullaris present in the Pyrenees and the Alps and Rhinolophus hipposideros, Myotis blythii, Myotis bachsteinii, Nyctalus lasiopterus from the Pyrenees.

The target habitats and most species have a naturally fragmented distribution, occurring on small areas in the whole European Alpine biogeographic zone, and are affected by anthropogenic pressures.

Conservation actions

  1. Experimental non-native fish eradication (salmonids and cyprinids) in 22 high mountain lakes using chemical (rotenone) and mechanical (nets and electrofishing) methods.
  2. Selective mowing of meadows to restore their biodiversity and those of accompanying mires
  3. Livestock management and assisted plant migration for restoring natural values in mires, meadows and lakes
  4. Conservation improvement of mires by selective deforestation

These conservation actions will be executed infour Nature 2000 sites from the alpine biogeographical regions of the Pyrenees (NE Spain) and the Alps (NW Italy): SCIs Aigüestortes, Alt Pallars, Parco Nazionale del Gran Paradiso and Parco Naturale Mont Avic. The necessary baseline information to support the conservation actions will be obtained by preparatory actions. In addition, monitoring actions will be developed during all the project period to adequately assess the success of the conservation actions, and a dissemination strategy will be implemented to reach all the relevant stakeholders and general audience.

Main threats

  • Presence and proliferation of invasive fish (salmonids and cyprinids)

The introduction of trout or minnows in most alpine lakes caused the disappearances of native amphibians and invertebrates at a local and landscape scale, indirectly affecting aquatic mammals or terrestial species relying on aquatic insects for feeding such as bats.

  • Livestock overgrazing and trampling

Massive livestock access to aquatic habitats can produce an excess of nutrients from urine and feces dropped by the animals, affecting the ecological status of lakes and mires through eutrophications, and trampling and pugging of livestock over-frequented areas disturbing mire ecosystems.

  • Afforestation of mires

Tree encoachment in subalpine grasslands and afforestation in mires cause the drawdown of water tables and compromise the long-term conservation of these habitats.

  • Abandonment of traditional uses like hay mowing

Hay wets meadows are a biodiversity hotspot, but mowing is decreasing because of land-abandonment in European mountain regions, which entails surface reductions of hay meadows and loss of associated biodiversity (plants, birds, pollinators,…)