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Natura 2000 Award - Social inclusion and managing invasive alien species

About the project

Main applicant

Sociedad Española de Ornitología (SEO/BirdLife) 


Socio-economic benefits 

Countries involved


Main N2000 site

Marismas de Santoña, Victoria y Joyel (ES1300007) 


The LIFE Stop Cortaderia project aimed to eradicate pampas grass from five coastal Natura 2000 sites in Cantabria in Spain. However, the project had a very special angle compared to many conservation projects: it decided to simultaneously address the serious difficulties faced by people with disabilities when it comes to entering the labour market.

The LIFE Stop Cortaderia project therefore provides a win-win solution by promoting capacity-building and social integration of people with disabilities whilst providing concrete conservation benefits by providing concrete conservation benefits for natural habitat types of Community interest, such as coastal lagoons, in Natura 2000 sites.

On winning the award, Santiago García from the Asociación Amica, and coordinator of LIFE Stop Cortaderia, said: "The project is a very positive example of how people with disabilities can change their social role and be at the forefront of solutions to ecological and environmental problems, such as controlling Invasive Alien Species". 

During the Award Ceremony, Mr García was joined on stage by Felipe González (SEO/Birdlife), Blanca Serrano (SEO/Birdlife) (on screen), and Guillermo Blanco (Regional Minister for Rural Development, Livestock, Fisheries, Food, and the Environment of the Government of Cantabria) to receive the award for the application “Social inclusion and managing invasive alien species”.

Pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana) is an invasive alien species (IAS) that affects numerous habitat types by displacing native plants and affecting soil quality. "The spread of pampas grass impacts unique species and habitats at coastal sites of Natura 2000 network. Our LIFE project has removed pampas grass and restored the habitat on 290 hectares of dunes, coastal lagoons, cliffs and coastal heaths in Cantabria’s coastal Natura 2000 sites,"  explained Mr González.

In order to enhance social integration for this target group, the Spanish NGOs Amica, Ampros and Sempra - which work on social integration and inclusion issues - created a close collaboration with the Spanish conservation NGO SEO/Birdlife, and the Câmara Municipal de Vila Nova de Gaia and the ESAC-Instituto Politécnico de Coimbra partners in Portugal.

The project, which is supported by the EU LIFE funding programme, employed 22 people with disabilities over a four-year period to work full-time in conservation field work. These people were involved in the mechanical eradication of the IAS, the management of green waste, and the replanting of natural vegetation in order to obstruct future re-growth of the IAS.

A further 40 people with disabilities participated in volunteer actions, allowing them to witness first-hand the type of involvement that they can provide in the context of a biodiversity conservation project. 

The project also demonstrates the effectiveness of partnerships between social and conservation NGOs, and the model is highly replicable particularly for conservation initiatives that require regular hands-on work, to which social partners can provide a very good input.