Inauguration of the International Centre for Development and Innovation in Agroecology and Agrobiodiversity


On 31 March 2023, in the Huelvan municipality of La Palma del Condado, known for its agricultural and wine-growing activity, the office of the International Centre for Development and Innovation in Agroecology and Agrobiodiversity (CIDIA) was inaugurated. CIDIA aims to become an internationally-relevant cutting-edge centre in the innovation and development of sustainable agricultural practices, in line with the EU Green Deal, the Farm to Fork strategy, the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030, the new EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

CIDIA’s general objective is the development of studies, tools and demonstrative experiences that foster the transition towards specific agroecological practices with special emphasis on protected areas and areas that allow for the balancing of socio-economic development with the objectives of environmental conservation and European policies. Agroecology researchers from ​LifeWatch ERIC will work together with researchers from the Agroecosystems History Laboratory at the Pablo de Olavide University, in Seville.

LifeWatch ERIC is promoting CIDIA within the SmartFood initiative, which is one of the ongoing ERDF projects in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development of the Junta de Andalucía, through Agricultural and Fisheries Management Agency of Andalusia (AGAPA). The subtitle of SmartFood is “biodiversity, ecosystem services and digitisation axes of agricultural, forestry and fishing activity in Andalusia”. Its objective is to make technological monitoring infrastructures available to the sector to carry out innovative monitoring of the effects they have on the environment the different practices of exploitation of natural resources, and the generation of new knowledge for the sustainable management of the ecosystems involved.

At the inauguration, LifeWatch ERIC CTO, Juan Miguel González-Aranda, thanked the regional and local authorities for their collaboration, as well as the involvement of the Universities of Huelva and Pablo de Olavide, in making the start-up a reality. He stressed that the initiative “puts advanced technologies and knowledge at the service of farmers and ranchers, which must be accessible to all citizens”.

Among CIDIA’s lines of action, the following stand out:

-Developing the evaluation methodologies and the latest-generation ICT tools necessary for ecological evaluation, including the socioeconomic valuation of agro-ecosystem services based on the developments carried out in SmartFood and applying cutting-edge technologies such as blockchain (LifeBlock);

-Defining good sustainable agricultural practices adapted to the selected experimental sites as well as those designed for monitoring and evaluation of their results through the use of ICT;

-Developing demonstrative experiences in the Doñana environment that allow for the balancing of agriculture development with conservation objectives, oriented to the problem of water overexploitation;

-Developing standards and procedures for optimised land use and farm management in association with habitats and species of special conservation in protected areas and the eco-scheme certification methodology of the EU CAP.

The inauguration was headed by Juan Miguel González Aranda, LifeWatch ERIC CTO; José Carlos Álvarez Martín, Managing Director of AGAPA, and Manuel García Félix, Mayor of La Palma del Condado. Together with them were Bella Verano Domínguez, Delegate of the Junta de Andalucía in Huelva; José Enrique García Ramos, Director of Research at the University of Huelva; Antonia Jiménez Rodríguez, Vice Chancellor for Research, Transfer and Doctorates at Pablo de Olavide University; Manuel Jiménez Sánchez, General Director of Research at Pablo de Olavide University; Manuel González de Molina, Professor at the Pablo de Olavide University, where he directs the Agroecosystems History Laboratory; José Manuel Ávila, LifeWatch ERIC Agroecology Coordinator, and Rocío Moreno Domínguez, LifeWatch ERIC ICT-Core Federtech ERDF Project Executive Coordinator. 

MARCO-BOLO project launched to better understand marine biodiversity decline and restore ocean health

MARCO-BOLO project

Funded by the European Union’s Horizon Europe programme and the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), MARCO-BOLO (MARCO-BOLO (MARine Coastal BiOdiversity Long-term Observations) is a €7.3 million, 4-year project that will structure and strengthen European coastal and marine biodiversity observation capabilities, linking them to global efforts to understand and restore ocean health.

The project kick-off meeting took place in Paris from 14 to 15 March 2023, gathering more than 80 participants from the project’s 28 partner institutions emanating from 14 countries and collaborating projects and partners.  The meeting also included representatives from the European Commission, the Marine Biodiversity Observation Network (MBON), EU4OceanObs, and related European-funded Horizon Europe and H2020 projects OBAMA-next, BIOcean5D, DTO- Bioflow, EuropaBON. The project is coordinated by the European Marine Biological Resource Centre (EMBRC), one of the leading European Research Infrastructures, which aims at advancing ocean science to better address global environmental and societal issues.

MARCO-BOLO’s key objectives

The project has the following key objectives:

  • Improve acquisition, coordination and delivery of marine, coastal and freshwater biodiversity observations to relevant users.
  • Enable technologies for cost-effective, timely and accurate biodiversity observations.
  • Test new tools, technologies and models to better understand biodiversity decline.
  • Empower European biodiversity observatory operators, data producers and users by creating and sharing best practice guidelines for gathering and using biodiversity data to contribute to biodiversity restoration efforts.

MARCO-BOLO objectives are of European and global importance. The project deliverables will provide tangible advice for a sustainable research pipeline from data collection to data use and for a better coordinated global observing system that can better connect biodiversity with ecosystem services. A close collaboration between MARCO-BOLO and EU4OceanObs will ensure that the project outcomes are being communicated, in the international ocean governance landscape, as one of the many EU contributions to enhance collection and use of ocean data for societal challenges and needs.

LifeWatch Belgium’s Big Seashell Survey Takes Off in France

Big Seashell Survey 2023

The Big Annual Seashell Survey, with shells collected across more than 400 kilometres of beaches, has become one of the largest citizen science initiatives on Europe’s coasts. This annual LifeWatch Belgium initiative began in 2018, driven by the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) in close cooperation with EOS Science, the Province of West Flanders, Natuurpunt, the Strandwerkgroep, Kusterfgoed and the ten coastal municipalities. In 2022, at the fifth edition, the Netherlands participated for the first time. And during last Saturday’s edition on 25 March, the Netherlands accounted for their entire coastline, and staff from CPIE Flandre Maritime in Zuydcoote (northern France) also took part.

In total, the estimated 2,000 participants picked up 82,444 shells (B: 40,770 ex.; NL: 34,689 ex.; F: 6,985 ex) from the beach during the Big Seashell Survey 2023. In the three countries combined, volunteers encountered 66 different species (B: 51; NL: 55; F: 35). The two most prevalent shells remain the Cut trough shell and Common cockle, making the top five in each of the three countries. There are also clear regional differences; Belgium again saw its ‘traditional’ trio score highest, with Cut trough shell (23%), Baltic tellin (23%) and Common cockle (21%). In the Netherlands too, the Cut trough shell was the most numerous shell (32%), followed by Common cockle (18%) and Elliptical trough shell (17%). The Baltic tellin made it into the top five only in Zeeland. The Zuydcoote counting station in France saw a top-three formed by Common cockle (24%), Pullet carpet shell (21%) and Blue mussel (17%). There, Cut trough shell only came in at position five. And Atlantic razor shell finished fourth in each of the countries.
Project initiator Jan Seys analyses the figures: “Over the entire length of the counted stretch, Cut trough shell and Common cockle are omnipresent. Most of these shells are old, as you can derive from the low number of double shells (<4%), and you find them everywhere. On top of that, you can clearly see local differences, with typically many Baltic tellin on the Belgian east and middle coasts and on the Zeeland coast, and for instance a striking number of recent Pullet carpet shell and Grooved razor shell towards the French border. The Netherlands, in turn, has more fossil Elliptical trough shell. To see those patterns, you need a Big Annual Seashell Survey.” 

There were also striking differences among individual species. For instance, the Netherlands counted only 1,188 Blue mussels in total, while France collected 1,200 specimens at barely one station (and Belgium: 3,398 ex. At all ten stations). Soft-shelled clam, on the other hand, was only found in the Netherlands (total: 436 ex.).

In the three countries combined, the participants found 6 exotic species, accounting for 9% of the shell species. Expressed in number of specimens, the occurrence of exotics appears to increase proportionally towards the Channel. The abundance there of the Atlantic razor clam, supplemented by Dwarf surf clam and Japanese carpet shell makes the difference (F: 14.8%; B: 13.2%; NL: 7.7%). Other important exotic species are the American piddock, Pacific oyster and Slipper mullet.

Finally, this year, attention was also focused on the occurrence of round holes in shells, which testify to silent deaths perpetrated by predatory snails, such as necklace shells and Dogwhelk. These bore through the calcareous shells with their grating tongue, only to suck up the soft flesh inside with their proboscis. In any case, the snails themselves were relatively rare (Dogwhelk: 14 ex.; Spotted necklace shell: 106 ex.; Common necklace shell: 147 ex.). Interestingly, based on almost three hundred checked samples from the Belgian coast, less than 1% of all shells showed bore holes. Half of these occurred on the Cut trough shell; other important prey were Banded wedge-shell, Elliptical trough shell, Thick trough shell and Baltic tellin. Incidentally, many of the affected specimens were (sub)fossil ones.

The Big Seashell Survey 2023 was for everyone. In Ostend, two reception classes for foreign-speaking newcomers (OKAN) actively participated in the shell count, with 14–18-year-old participants from Pakistan, Romania, Ukraine, Somalia and Saudi Arabia, among others. And in Ghent, Ekoli vzw, working diligently for inclusive science, went to work with students of VBS Sancta Maria Gentbrugge.

This article was orignally posted on the website of LifeWatch Belgium.

LifeWatch Bulgaria Celebrates World Water Day

World Water Day

This year, several LifeWatch Bulgaria partners were heavily involved in World Water Day in Plovdiv, observed on 22 March. The LifeWatch Bulgaria Consortium joined in the colourful event, organised by the Municipality of Plovdiv, The Agricultural University-Plovdiv, the Regional Inspectorate of Environment and Water – Plovdiv, “Water Supply and Sewerage” Ltd. – Plovdiv and the East Aegean River Basin Directorate. This year’s theme was “Accelerating Change”, focusing on resolving the global drinking and wastewater crisis. The campaign encourages us to change the way we use and manage water resources. And because water affects us all, we need to take action to make this happen in a reasonable and sustainable way. All of us – everyone.

In fact, there was a big focus on raising awareness through citizen science, showcased by the large number of participants; nearly 400 children from kindergartens, schools and eco-clubs in the city took part in the celebration, with 36 educational institutions, institutions, institutions and organisations participating. Students from Plovdiv schools made models, presentations and drawings related to this year’s motto “Be the change you want to see in the world”. At the end of the celebration, students with the most interesting projects were given prizes. 

This year, a tradition was established for the Leader of the Bulgarian LifeWatch Consortium, the Agricultural University-Plovdiv, to celebrate World Water Day. The University had a stand, where lecturers from the Department of Agroecology and Environmental Protection, together with students majoring in Ecology and Environmental Protection, had prepared a quiz with facts about water. During the event, all curious people were presented with experiments through which they were acquainted with some of the properties of water.

The Green Balkans Organisation, a partner of the Bulgarian LifeWatch Consortium, also took part in the initiative, presenting information about the Natura 2000 ecological network and several waterfowl species – the Sandwich Tern, Red-breasted Goose and Pygmy Cormorant. Students had the opportunity to arrange the entertaining puzzle with the pygmy cormorant by answering the questions within it, and all visitors to Green Balkans’ table received informative materials and posters.

The event was also attended by LifeWatch Bulgaria colleagues from the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds, with information on birds and forests, and the International Movement “Save the Soil” presented interesting facts about biodiversity and how important water is for ecosystems.

Natura 2000 is the largest coordinated network for nature conservation. More than 30% of the territory of Bulgaria falls within the scope of the network – 120
protected areas for the conservation of wild birds and 234 protected areas for the conservation of natural habitats.

The Red-breasted Goose is a globally threatened and protected species, protected by the Natura 2000 ecological network. Bulgaria is an important place for the conservation of the species – almost the entire world population spends the winter in the region of Coastal Dobrudzha.

With only a few nesting grounds in the country, the Pygmy Cormorant is one of the three species of cormorants found in Bulgaria. The species is closely related to ponds and nests colonially, making it vulnerable to disturbance. One of the species most threatened with extinction, which is why it is strictly protected and protected by the Natura 2000 ecological network.

In Bulgaria, the Sandwich Tern nests only on Pomorie and Atanasovsko Lakes. Thanks to years of hard work, today the population of the species in Pomorie Lake is the largest on the Balkan Peninsula. Listed as an endangered species and included in the Birds Directive, the Sandwich Tern and its habitats are protected by the Natura 2000 ecological network.

Toward a network of operational marine biology: The ANERIS project has officially launched

ANERIS project

Marine and coastal biodiversity is under threat due to human activities, climate change and other factors. In order to protect and preserve these precious ecosystems, the new research project ANERIS has been launched under the Horizon Europe programme. Coordinated by the Institute of Marine Sciences ICM-CSIC, ANERIS is to protect these ecosystems through technological, scientific and methodological innovation in the fields of marine life-sensing and monitoring.

The aspiring work of ANERIS officially kicked-off with the project’s first consortium meeting, which took place on 8 and 9 March 2023 in Barcelona, Spain. Members of the 25 partnering organisations, including LifeWatch ERIC, gathered at ICM-CSIC to discuss the goals and objectives of the project, as well as the specific technologies and methods that will be used. 

Gathered by a joint mission, the ANERIS partners will work together for the next four years to build the next generation of marine-sensing instruments and infrastructure for systematic routine measurements and monitoring of oceanic and coastal life, and their rapid interpretation and dissemination to all interested stakeholders. In total, ANERIS aims to pioneer 11 new technologies related to marine ecosystem monitoring, data processing and dissemination:

  • NANOMICS – NAnopore sequeNcing for Operational Marine genomICS
  • MARGENODAT – workflows for the MARine GENOmics DAta managemenT
  • SLIM-2.0 – A Virtual Environment for genomic data analysis (ANERIS extended version)
  • EMUAS – Expandable Multi-imaging Underwater Acquisition System
  • AIES-ZOO – Automatic Information Extraction System for ZOOplankton images
  • AIES-PHY – Automatic Information Extraction System for PHYtoplankton images
  • ATIRES – Automatic underwaTer Image REstoration System
  • AIES-MAC – Automatic Information Extraction System for MACroorganisms
  • AMAMER – Advanced Multiplatform App for Marine lifE Reporting
  • AMOVALIH – Advanced Marine Observations VALidation-Identification system based on Hybrid intelligence
  • AWIMAR – Adaptive Web Interfaces for MARine life reporting, sharing and consulting

These technologies will be validated across four ANERIS case studies:

  • High-temporal resolution marine life monitoring in research infrastructure observatories;
  • Improved spatial and temporal resolution of marine life monitoring based on genomics;
  • Large scale marine participatory actions;
  • Merging imaging and genomic information in different monitoring scenarios.

During the second day of the ANERIS project kick-off meeting, which was kindly hosted by the members of the Catalan Federation of Underwater Activities (FECDAS), the partners began the co-design and co-creation processes of the technologies within each case study by brainstorming the specific knowledge gaps, their potential solutions, and how to achieve them within the project.

After two days of exciting discussions and some serious planning, the consortium feels confident that the project is starting off on the right foot. The ANERIS consortium members are committed to working together to achieve the project’s goals and to help preserve marine and coastal biodiversity for future generations. With this, we are eagerly looking forward to all the impactful achievements ANERIS is going to develop in the upcoming four years. 

Stay tuned on the ANERIS project channels for regular news and updates:

The LifeWatch Community Platform is here!

LifeWatch Community

Roll up, roll up! LifeWatch followers and collaborators are cordially invited to the grand unveiling of the LifeWatch Community platform, now openly available to everyone! Who should become a member? Well, if you’re interested in biodiversity and ecosystem research, then you should!

The content of the Community platform will be widely shaped by its members, allowing them to create and contribute to forums, add opportunities, jobs and events of interest to the community, and hold meetings and collaborative brainstorming together with other members. These features are particularly well-suited to the needs of partners involved in European projects focused on biodiversity, who can benefit from the working groups as the perfect collaborative space.

Once a member of the Community, you can select your skills from a preset list, in order to facilitate linkages among the community. In need of a collaborator with a specific specialisation? Whether the keywords are data sciencesenvironmental sciences or biotechnology, simply carry out a search for the skills you are looking for to identify potential matches.

The platform is also a great space to learn about upcoming events. Of immediate relevance to the community is the upcoming LifeWatch ERIC Biodiversity and Ecosystem eScience Conference in Seville, for which interested persons can already submit their abstract on the Community platform.

While many aspects of the platform can be browsed without registering, we recommend opening an account in order to benefit from the full range of resources available. Sign up now to enhance the community experience for everyone, put your range of abilities and knowledge at everyone’s disposal, in a mutual and sincere effort to foster open science.

If you require any assistance with any of the registration process or functionalities of the Community, please do not hesitate to get in touch with communications[@]

Agreement between LifeWatch ERIC, IICA and COOP to develop the ‘Cooperative Technological Competence Center’ in the Americas

Cooperative Technological Competence Center

LifeWatch ERIC, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and Cooperatives of the Americas (COOP) have signed an important general technical cooperation agreement. Its objectives include developing the Cooperative Technological Competence Center and promoting digitalisation processes in agriculture across the Americas, through its cooperatives. This within the context of the green and digital transition, which represents an opportunity to build and consolidate national and international alliances and generate a broad social, environmental and economic impact.

The agreement, signed by Christos Arvanitidis, LifeWatch ERIC CEO; Manuel Otero, General Director of IICA; Graciela Fernández, COOP President; and Danilo Salerno, COOP Regional Director, structure the common vision that these institutions have on the importance and urgency of a green transition, for which it is crucial that there be a harmonious digital transition, creating unified, open, secure, reliable and agile management data spaces to make data a key factor in alliances, management processes and decision-making.

IICA is an organisation with 80 years of experience, whose mission is to stimulate, promote and support the efforts of its 34 member states to achieve their agricultural development and rural well-being through international technical cooperation of excellence focused on the needs of their agri-food systems. The International Cooperative Alliance, founded in 1895, is an organisation that unites, represents and serves cooperatives worldwide, establishing in 1990 its Regional Office for the Americas in San José (Costa Rica), called Cooperatives of the Americas (COOP). Its aim is to promote the repositioning of the cooperative model in the modern economic, political, social and commercial environment.

COOP and the IICA on Agriculture have been developing a ‘Joint Cooperation Program’ since 2019 for the modernisation and digitisation of cooperative services for family farming in the Americas, making family production systems more diversified, respectful of the environment and natural resources, ensuring development, generation after generation, not only of agriculture, production and the economic livelihood of people, but also their own family life. The aim of the programme is that such production systems generate income and genuine employment, while protecting biodiversity and fragile agroecological systems.

The agreement with LifeWatch ERIC reinforces the ‘Joint Cooperation Program’ and connects it with the Common European Agricultural Data Space. It promotes the cooperative model as a key player in local development, as well as an associative solution for access to markets and economies of scale in the agri-food value chain, with favourable environmental management.

LifeWatch ERIC for Blue Innovation at the Port of Cádiz

blue innovation

The Port Authority of the Bay of Cádiz has kickstarted its blue innovation strategy with the Conference ‘Innovation at the service of port competitiveness’, featuring the participation of local, national and international agents in the field of innovation, research and entrepreneurship. Among these were LifeWatch ERIC, Puertos del Estado (Spanish government), the University of Cádiz, Telefónica, Archangelus Systems and Total Maritime Solutions.

President of the Port Authority, Teófila Martínez, who in turn chairs the RETE Association for Collaboration Between Ports and Cities, explained “the need to intensify innovation efforts in order to assume and assimilate the technological revolution and the impact it has on ports. Our goal is to create a culture of innovation and take a proactive role in promoting sustainable development which involves everyone”. José Llorca, responsible for Innovation at Puertos del Estado and the government’s Ports 4.0 Fund, then highlighted the role of the LifeWatch ERIC digital infrastructure as a promoter of change.

LifeWatch ERIC CTO, Juan Miguel González-Aranda, explained how LifeBlock technology, developed by the LifeWatch ERIC ICT-Core, can help integrate biodiversity protection into port development. One way is through ‘smart contracts’ for the port authority to manage the use of natural resources and guarantee compliance with environmental regulations. For example, for the discharge of wastewater, or regulating the use of goods transit areas, or blue carbon tokenisation, or sustainable fishing and smart market management. To this end, all the stakeholders in the port ecosystem would be involved, to generate trust and promote participatory governance in decisions.

Another path that LifeWatch ERIC proposes is the development of a digital twin for environmental impact and monitoring of the marine or coastal ecosystems affected by port activity, in synergy with similar initiatives in Europe such as the BioDT project, in which LifeWatch ERIC is co-responsible for international deployment by creating IaaS, PaaS and SaaS models, through the provision of user-friendly interfaces.

For the Port in the Bay of Cádiz, the following key actions have been identified in order to monitor and control the spread of invasive alien species; the protection of seabed and reef habitats, to help assess environmental quality and ecosystem services in ports, including an ecological assessment of operations such as dredging, and the validation of preventive and corrective mechanisms to improve the quality of water bodies. 

LifeWatch ERIC offers its collaboration for the port’s blue innovation through financial instruments with which it is working, such as within the Horizon Europe programme’s Climate, Energy and Mobility Cluster, on ‘Climate resilient and safe maritime ports’; or the ‘Demonstration of DC powered data centres, buildings, industries and ports’. Within the Food, Bioeconomy, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Cluster is the ‘Demonstration of marine and coastal infrastructures as hybrid blue-grey Nature-based Solutions’, and ‘Invasive alien species’. Finally, within Missions – Adaptation to Climate Change, is ‘Testing and demonstrating transformative solutions to protect critical infrastructure from climate change, mainstreaming nature-based solutions’.

Ten remarkable new marine species from 2022

WoRMS Top ten 2022

As for previous years, the World Register of Marine Species, WoRMS (hosted by VLIZ, focal point of LifeWatch Belgium), has again released its annual list of the top-ten marine species described by researchers during the past year to coincide with World Taxonomist Appreciation Day on 19 March! 

If you were unaware of this celebration of all the work that taxonomists do, you can find more here and here.

Every day in labs, museums, and out on fieldwork, taxonomists are busy collecting, cataloguing, identifying, comparing, describing, and naming species new to science. Some 300 taxonomists globally also contribute their valuable time to keeping the World Register of Marine Species up to date. Today is a chance for those at WoRMS to thank their taxonomic editors for this important task. Let’s celebrate the work of taxonomists now with the WoRMS list of the top-ten marine species described in 2022 as nominated and voted for by taxonomists, journal editors and WoRMS users!

This top-ten list is just a small highlight of about 2,000 fascinating new marine species discovered every year (there were almost 1,700 marine species described in 2022 and added to WoRMS, including some 300 fossil species). Here is the top-ten:

How were the species chosen?

A call for nominations was announced in December 2022, sent to all editors of WoRMS and editors of major taxonomy journals, and posted openly on the WoRMS website and social media so anyone had the opportunity to nominate their favorite marine species. Nominated species must have been described between 1 January and December 31st, 2022, and have come from the marine environment (including fossil taxa). A small committee of volunteers (including both taxonomists and data managers) was brought together to decide upon the final candidates. The list is in no hierarchical order.

The final decisions reflect the immense diversity of animal groups in the marine environment (including crustaceans, corals, sponges, jellies and worms) and highlight some of the challenges facing the marine environment today. The final candidates also feature some particularly astonishing marine creatures, notable for their interest to both science and the public.

Each of these marine animals has a story. This year the chosen species cover the weird, the bewildering and the astonishing! We feature, amongst others, the cute-looking Fluffy Sponge Crab, the Japanese Retweet Mite (remember the Japanese Twitter Mite from the Top Ten 2021?), the mysterious King Ghidorah’s Branching Worm, the illustrious Satan’s Mud Dragon, and the 35 million year old Ballerina Sponge.

Image credit: Colin McLay and Western Australian Museum

This article was originally posted on the website of LifeWatch Belgium.

IBERLifeWatch contributes to defining a sustainable hunting model for biodiversity conservation

LifeWatch ERIC has contributed to the scientific debate on defining the conditions in which hunting can play a potentially positive role in biodiversity conservation, by presenting models of innovative and sustainable management of natural capital. In certain conditions, hunting could be used as a conservation measure, when a lack of natural predators drives populations of protected species to numerical overgrowth and the severe overexploitation of their trophic resources; this is what was argued at the 10th edition of the International Hunting Fair (FICAR), a biannual event, which took place in Rosal de la Frontera in the province of Huelva. In parallel, through the IBERLifeWatch initiative, LifeWatch ERIC promoted progress in Iberian biodiversity cooperation, as a community of good practices in science, technology and innovation, with the involvement of important stakeholders of the Alentejo-Algarve-Andalusia Euroregion.

LifeWatch ERIC collaborates with the Mértola Biological Station (Portugal), which in turn collaborates with the IREC Institute for Research on Hunting Resources of the Spanish Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), forming an Iberian triangle that focuses on the scientific, innovation and sustainability factors of resources for the sustainable socioeconomic growth of small municipalities in this type of region, in synergy with the 2030 SDGs and the EU Green Deal.

As documented in publications by Jorge Cassinello Roldán, CSIC senior scientist and IREC director, who has a PhD in Biological Sciences specialising in the study of ecology and animal behaviour; new scientific knowledge helps manage hunting activity in a way that is more in line with the defence of the environment, and promotes the use of natural resources in a sustainable manner, ensuring its continuity for future generations.

One of the main activities in which LifeWatch ERIC was involved at FICAR was the session entitled ‘Innovative and sustainable management of natural capital: Hunting as an ally of conservation’. Moderated by Juan Miguel González-Aranda, LifeWatch ERIC CTO, the following speakers presented: Paulo C. Alves, director of the Mértola Biological Station, who presented the paper ‘Cross-border cooperation in conservation’; Vicente Jurado Doña, Professor of Ecology at the University of Seville, with a presentation entitled ‘Dehesa y seca de la encina‘; Javier Castroviejo Bolívar, former director of the Doñana Biological Station, whose presentation was ‘Hunting as an ally of conservation’; José María Liñán Cruz, professional hunter, with the theme ‘Man as administrator of nature’, and Diego de los Santos Parejo, LifeWatch ERIC researcher, with the presentation ‘Hunting and conservation of the Iberian lynx, the story of a miracle’.

In his speech, Professor Paulo C. Alves gave examples of the role of hunting in controlling the rabbit population in the Iberian Peninsula, with cases of good Iberian cooperation practices for the conservation of rabbit populations using their censuses and hunting in a sustainable way, a field in which the Mértola Biological Station is a research centre of reference.

LifeWatch ERIC also participated in the inauguration of FICAR, chaired by Loles López, Councillor for Social Inclusion, Youth, Families and Equality of the Junta de Andalucía. And at the LifeWatch ERIC stand, meetings were held with her and other authorities and representatives of various social sectors and territorial areas, such as José Enrique Borrallo Romero, General Director of Protected Natural Spaces of the Junta de Andalucía; Duarte Lobo, President of the Portuguese Confederation of Micro-SMEs, Small and Medium Enterprises (CPPME), and Antonio Carlos Vázquez, Mayor of Rosal de la Frontera.