Review of the Year 2022

War in Ukraine and the energy crisis, bird flu and a fish die-off, plus the continuing Coronavirus pandemic and its consequences: 2022 was a complicated year that, for us at EuroNatur too, presented major challenges or left us feeling deeply saddened. However, in our review of the past year, we also describe some beautiful moments and share positive news. Join us as we take a look back.

Increase in bat numbers at winter roost

hibertination site for bats

Even from the outside you can see who is sleeping inside...

© Horst Drewing

The new year began with some good news: the winter bat count at the former Ostquell Brewery in Frankfurt on Oder recorded the highest hibernation numbers in seven years. 1,695 bats (almost a third of them greater mouse-eared bats) spent last winter in the ruins of the brewery. Particularly pleasing was the renovation work on the building which had been on the brink of collapse for the previous three summers. This was clearly well received by the bats, given the high numbers recorded there.

War against Ukraine

On 24 February, Putin unleashed a brutal war of aggression against Ukraine, which is still ongoing. At EuroNatur too, the terrible events left us severely shaken and we found it hard to carry on with our daily work. This year's EuroNatur Award ceremony in October was also a sign of solidarity with Ukraine.

By giving the order to march into Ukraine on 24 February 2022, Putin and his power apparatus have violated international law and brought the most terrible suffering to the people of Ukraine. And they have attacked the very foundations of European society. That is why it is important for all of us to show practical solidarity with the people of Ukraine.

The EuroNatur president EuroNatur-President, Thomas Potthast

Bird flu takes hold

Removal of dead birds

Eerie scenery at the Greek part of Lake Prespa

© SPP Archive - O. Alexandrou

From the very beginning of the year, there were increasing signs that avian influenza would ravage Europe's bird populations this year. Just how bad it would actually turn out to be became clear in March, when around 2500 Dalmatian pelicans died of the highly contagious virus on the lakes of the Balkan Peninsula. The pelicans, which start breeding early in the year, foreshadowed what was also to happen on Germany's coasts in the summer - a mass die-off that threatened the very existence of some species.

Opinion pieces on the energy transition

wind turbine and Solarpanels

Every form of energy generation has an impact on nature - but this impact varies.

© PetroP/despositphotos

You may remember that, on New Year's Eve 2021, the European Commission classified nuclear power and natural gas as sustainable energy sources. It was just one of many incomprehensible European energy policy decisions. The question of how Europe can, instead, tackle the climate and biodiversity crises as one, is the focus of our RED4Nature campaign. In opinion-packed articles, our project leaders and conservation policy staff examine various forms of energy production and test them for sustainability. You can read the articles here: (Our Energy Blog)

Vultures return

After seven years, the LIFE project for the reintroduction of cinereous vultures to the Bulgarian Balkan Mountains came to an end in 2022. EuroNatur has contributed to the project, primarily, by providing expertise in the field of natural regional development in the Balkans. After more than 60 years, endangered cinereous vultures are now breeding again in their traditional homeland - a great success for species conservation! At the end of the project, two EuroNatur employees, as well as journalists and photographers, were present at a reintroduction. Here are some pictures of the large scavenging birds, the fascinating landscape and the dedicated vulture conservationists.

Vjosa National Park on the home straight

In June, the Albanian government officially declared its intention to establish a Vjosa Wild River National Park. EuroNatur, EcoAlbania, Riverwatch and many others have been working towards this for many years.

We all know there is still a lot to do before we can consider the future of the Vjosa secure. But, on 13 June, a major milestone was achieved for Albania, and for river conservationists worldwide.

Gabriel Schwaderer EuroNatur Executive Director, Gabriel Schwaderer

Artists for nature

On 22 June, in the central Place du Luxembourg - the very heart of Brussels - the three international artists, Sarah Yates, Laura Ottone and Aleksandra Nina Knezevic, set up their easels and painted nature pictures and cartoons. The painters wanted to express, in an artistic way, how important it is to them to have a nature-friendly energy mix that considers climate protection and species conservation together. You can see some pictures of the event, which took place as part of our RED4Nature campaign, here.

Exploring the Unknown

From 27 June to 3 July, an international group of scientists, accompanied by river conservationists and media representatives, explored the upper reaches of the Neretva river and its associated cave system. While the lower reaches of the Neretva have already been destroyed by dams and weirs, its upper reaches remain in a natural state. In total, around 70 hydropower projects are planned on the river. The data obtained will help to scientifically demonstrate the Neretva’s ecological value and thus fight off the dam tsunami on the river.

One River, fifty scientists, one goal: Neretva Science Week

People standing in the river with a landing net
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Drought (not just) at the salina

dried out salina basins

The summer of 2022 was very hot and extremely dry. Ulcinj Salina dried up almost completely. Many wetlands in Southern Europe suffered a similar fate as the saltworks.


Another hot summer, the climate crisis is a reality. Many wetlands in Europe dried out, and the flora and fauna at the Ulcinj Salina also suffered in the heat. Many of the salina’s basins, which usually hold water even at the height of summer, dried up. However, it was not just the extreme drought that led to this dramatic situation, but also inadequate management of the salina itself. In the autumn, water management was finally placed in competent hands and resistance to long overdue habitat improvement measures was also dropped. Work is currently in full swing and should be largely completed by next spring.

Twin disasters on the Oder

dead fish at river banks am Flussufer
© Sascha Maier/BUND

In August, shocking news reached us, little by little, from the Oder. An increased concentration of salt, combined with excessively high temperatures and too little oxygen, led to the dramatic die-off of fish, molluscs and other creatures in the river. To this day, the causes of the disaster have not been fully explained.

The Oder now needs time to recover from the environmental disaster. What it needs least of all are insane plans to deepen the channel, the sole purpose of which is to make the river navigable.

Annette Spangenberg Annette Spangenberg, Head of Nature Conservation, EuroNatur

EuroNatur Award: A signal of support for primary forest conservation and a show of solidarity with Ukraine

Europe's last primary and natural forests are under massive stress from exploitation and pressure to utilise resources. The war against Ukraine and its consequences for energy supply are further exacerbating the situation. In presenting this year’s EuroNatur award to German climate and forest conservationist Antje Grothus, to Adelina Zakharchenko of Ukrainian conservation movement Free Svydovets, and to her compatriot, renowned forest conservationist Prof. Dr. Fedir Hamor, we drew attention to the ongoing destruction of forests in the Carpathians - and demonstrated our solidarity with Ukraine. Watch a short video of the moving award ceremony on Mainau Island.

Antje Grothus and Adelina Zakharchenko with certificates
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© Gerald Jarausch

Uncertainty and new impetus for the European Green Belt

Partner organisations of the European Green Belt in Ulcinj at the BESTbelt conference

Partner organisations of the European Green Belt in Ulcinj at the BESTbelt conference

© Melanie Kreutz/BUND Bayern

The peace-building potential of nature conservation is clear for all to see in the European Green Belt. Many nature conservation organisations from countries once hostile to one another work closely together here. Nevertheless, this year we learned that the Iron Curtain is not entirely a thing of the past. Whether Putin's war of aggression against Ukraine will undermine peaceful cooperation on the northern section of the Green Belt in the long term, remains to be seen. Thanks to the BESTbelt project, however, there was also new impetus this year for selected nature conservation projects on Europe's largest biotope network. In November, environmental groups presented their award-winning projects to a wide audience from 22 countries at a conference in Montenegro.


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