The Project

LIFE RESQUE ALPYR is a LIFE 2020 Nature and Biodiversity project aimed at recovering mountain aquatic habitats, improving the 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 co-financed by the EU LIFE 2020 programme which promotes conservation actions and the recovery of habitats and species of flora and fauna in protected areas of the European Union, integrated into the Natura 2000 network.

Habitats 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 (Calotriton 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 and Nyctalus lasiopterus in 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.

Project Objectives

  1. Restoration of high mountain lake species composition and ecological function and amphibian (Rana temporaria, Calotriton asper, Alytes obstetricans) metapopulation structure on four Natura 2000 sites in the Pyrenees and the Alps, with reestablishment of new populations in lakes by fish removal.
  2. Improving terrestrial or semiaquatic insectivore (Rhinolophus hipposideros, Plecotus macrobullaris, Barbasgtrella barbastellus, Myotis blythii, Myotis bachsteinii, Nyctalus lasiopterus, Myotis myotis and Galemys pyrenaicus) conservation through eradication of invasive fish in high mountain lakes.
  3. Improve the trophic state of high mountain lakes though exclusion of intensive livestock farming and minnow eradication.
  4. Protection and improvement of mires and springs, lakes and meadows through livestock exclusion and active restoration.
  5. Protection and recovery of threatened mires through forest management.
  6. Restoration of meadows and wet heaths through recovery of traditional mowing.

These conservation objectives will be executed on four 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 through 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 the general public.

Main threats

Presence and proliferation of invasive fish (salmonids and cyprinids)

The introduction of trout or minnows in most alpine lakes caused the disappearance of native amphibians and invertebrates at a local and landscape scale, indirectly affecting aquatic mammals or terrestrial species relying on aquatic insects for feeding such as bats. The presence of minnows can also give rise to strong eutrophication of lakes leading to drastic habitat degradation.

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 eutrophication, and trampling and pugging of areas over-frequented by livestock which disturbs mire ecosystems.

Afforestation of mires

Tree encroachment 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

Wet hay 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, arthropod soil communities, etc.)