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 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.

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’.

Strengthening Cooperation at the AERAP Africa-Europe Science & Innovation Forum

AERAP 2023

This week, LifeWatch ERIC participated in the AERAP Africa-Europe Science and Innovation Forum, an event to reinforce the contribution of research and science through digital technologies and advance collaboration between European and African institutions through strategic innovation programmes. The forum was held in the South African Embassy in Brussels, and focused on the EU Partnership Strategy with Africa, the African Union-European Union Innovation Agenda, the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, compliance with the SDGs, and the Strategy on Research Infrastructures.

LifeWatch ERIC Chief Technology Officer, Juan Miguel González-Aranda, presented in the session ‘Microbial sciences for a sustainable future’, which also featured the participation of Stefano Bertuzzi, CEO of the American Society for Microbiology; Eugene Lottering, of the National Research Foundation in South Africa, and Zeinab Osman, director general of the National Centre for Research in Sudan.

He demonstrated how LifeWatch ERIC promotes synergies in science, technology and innovation between entities and researchers from Africa and Europe, through partnership agreements which foster the green transition and access to energy. Within the AERAP platform, he co-chairs the Green Deal subgroup together with Georgina Ryan, Deputy Director for Green Economy of the Government of South Africa. Furthermore, he explained how LifeWatch ERIC cooperates with the Arab Science Research and Education Network (ASREN) and is helping the coordination of the Indigenous Knowledge Research Infrastructure (IKRI) to support the implementation of the UN Food System Summit. He also made a special mention of African researchers working in the LifeWatch ERIC Artificial Intelligence team, Rohaifa Khaldi and Yassir Benhammou, who just recently were awarded a prize at the AI4Science Workshop by a jury that included representatives from DeepMind and Google.

LifeWatch ERIC Agroecology Coordinator, José Manuel Ávila Castuera, spoke in the session ‘Science for Climate Resilient food systems in Africa’, which included speakers Petronella Chaminuka, Head of the Economic Analysis Unit, Agricultural Research Council of South Africa; and Intisar Soghayroun, who was Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research in Sudan.

He explained the relevance of LifeWatch ERIC as a distributed e-Infrastructure to support agricultural research and innovation in climate-resilient food systems and foster cooperation between Africa and the EU, as a facility that provides resources and services for biodiversity and ecosystems research communities in the long-term. Likewise, he detailed the involvement of LifeWatch ERIC in the structuring of the EU partnership on agroecology, through projects such as AE4EU and ALL-READY, among others. He explained the ten elements of agroecology to change the production paradigm and achieve new models for food provisioning in a globalised context. Adoption of agroecology principles can drive towards biodiversified agroecosystems, which are more sustainable from an environmental, economic and social perspective. This whole path of innovation could facilitate the implementation of an Africa-EU Research and Innovation Partnership on Food and Nutrition Security and Sustainable Agriculture.

Voices of Women at LifeWatch ERIC for International Women’s Day

Voices of Women

In preparation for this year’s International Women’s Day, LifeWatch ERIC International Gender Officer, Africa Zanella, had a clear request: amplify women’s voices. As explored in the “Gender, Equity and Research” campaign for last year’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science, statistically, we know that while more women than ever are getting involved in STEM, there are significant obstacles still to overcome for women in research. 

In light of International Women’s Day 2023, we have therefore created a podcast miniseries specifically dedicated to learning more about authentic experiences of women working in LifeWatch ERIC fields of interest. We asked scientists from our eight member states to talk candidly about their work and experience. The guests were invited to speak in pairs, which produced spontaneous and insightful conversations on these topics, facilitated by LifeWatch ERIC podcast host, Julian Kenny. Being of all ages and hailing from a diversity of backgrounds, the end result produced is an enriching range of experiences and contemporary points of view of women working in research today. Listening to their voices, our eyes are opened to their contribution to society, to science, and the potential offered by the European Union’s Gender Equality Strategy, which LifeWatch ERIC actively supports and incorporates into its everyday work life.

The guests featured in “Voices of Women” are:

The episodes will be released over the course of the week beginning 6 March and will be consolidated with an overview and considerations from LifeWatch ERIC International Gender Officer, Africa Zanella, interviewed by Chief Communication Officer, Sara Montinaro, to be released on 8 March (International Women’s Day). This podcast will examine the progress of the infrastructure as a whole in terms of achieving gender sustainability and equity, a year on from the appointment of LifeWatch ERIC’s International Gender Officer, and explore future plans to continue the commendable and tangible work that she has already set in motion.

The podcasts are available here below. They can also be found on Spotify, Google, Apple, and Amazon.

Collaboration with Endesa to preserve biodiversity and ecosystems and promote sustainable development


Rafael Sánchez Durán, General Manager of Endesa for the regions of Andalusia, Extremadura, Ceuta and Melilla, and Juan Miguel González-Aranda, LifeWatch ERIC Chief Technology Officer and director of the ICT-Core Common Facilities in Spain, have begun holding working meetings to explore collaboration in innovation initiatives fostering sustainable development and the preservation of biodiversity and ecosystems. One such example is the ‘Bosque Endesa Doñana’: the restoration of more than 40 hectares of forest in the Doñana Natural Area that were affected by a fire in 2017, using exclusively native species. Another example is ‘eCitySevilla’, a pioneering public-private collaboration project to transform the Cartuja Scientific and Technological Park (home of the LifeWatch ERIC ICT-Core) into a decarbonised urban district, producing and sharing 100% renewable energy, and making it a complete reality in the year 2025: 25 years ahead of the United Nations Energy and Climate objectives.

Endesa’s initiatives for the conservation of the natural environment have earned it the Andalusian Environment Award from the Andalusian government (Junta de Andalucía): the first energy company to receive this award in the Conservation, Biodiversity and Sustainable Development category. It received this award in acknowledgement of its efforts to protect birdlife by installing nests for the osprey population in the provinces of Cádiz and Huelva; to restore lesser kestrel populations in Malaga through their breeding and subsequent release; and in the LIFE Eurokite project, which focused on the reintroduction of the red kite in the province of Huelva, through the release of species brought over from England.

This award also recognised Endesa’s commitment to reduce its carbon footprint and produce emission-free energy, through shared ecosystems between the primary sector and solar plants. This is the case of the Las Corchas solar plant, located in the Sevillian municipality of Carmona, which is a true model of sustainability, where bees and sheep live in harmony between solar panels.

LifeWatch ERIC supports the Regional Government of Murcia in observation and monitoring of Mar Menor ecosystems

Mar Menor

A general protocol of declaration of intent was signed by the Minister for Environment, Mar Menor, Universities and Research, Juan María Vázquez Rojas, and LifeWatch ERIC CTO, Juan Miguel González Aranda in the framework of the JRU LW.ES-Node LW.ES. This protocol is the starting point for the development of joint projects between the two institutions on the Mar Menor, Region of Murcia and Mediterranean Ecosystems.

LifeWatch ERIC will put its infrastructure for the observation and monitoring of Mar Menor ecosystems at the service of the the Regional Government of Murcia, thanks to the signature of a general protocol of declaration of intent between the Minister for the Environment, Mar Menor, Universities and Research, Juan María Vázquez Rojas, and LifeWatch ERIC CTO, Juan Miguel González-Aranda, in the framework of the JRU LW.ES-Node, LifeWatch Spain.
The specific activities foreseen by this protocol will be framed within the constitution of the LifeWatch ERIC Node in Spain, and will focus on the Mar Menor, Region of Murcia and Mediterranean Ecosystems. A Mixed Monitoring Commission will be established to define all pertaining details.

“The objective of this protocol is to integrate research on the observation and monitoring of the Mar Menor ecosystems and its surroundings, into the European virtual infrastructure for science and technology, and to facilitate, through LifeWatch ERIC, the public knowledge of its state. Monitoring data will be disseminated following transparency criteria, synergies and collaborations will be actively identified and promoted, in particular with other research groups from centres and universities specialised in the observation and development of research on marine ecosystems in a broad sense”, explained Vázquez Rojas.

It is within the objectives of this protocol to promote shared access to scientific infrastructures, multidisciplinary collaboration, integration into national and international research networks, and training, focusing on research, observation and monitoring actions of the marine ecosystem in question. Scientific and outreach events may also be organised to bring together experts in different fields of relevance.

In this context, Juan Miguel González-Aranda presented in the conference held in Murcia ‘Infrastructures for the Observation of Biodiversity and Marine Ecosystems of the Mar Menor’, organised by the Government of Region of Murcia, together with the Minister, Juan María Vazquez Rojas; the General Director of the Mar Menor, Víctor Serrano Conesa, and Manuel Erena Arrabal, Coordinator of the Geographic Information Systems and Remote Sensing Team of the Murcian Institute for Agrarian and Environmental Research and Development (IMIDA).