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In December, BirdLife’s CEO, Patricia Zurita, attended HeidebergCement’s fourth Quarry Life Award ceremony – a contest to inspire school children, graduate students and researchers to find new and innovative ways to boost biodiversity in quarries.

By Shane Sparg

HeidelbergCement held their fourth annual Quarry Life Award (QLA) ceremony on 5 December in Brussels at the elegant Royal Flemish Theatre. Renowned ecologist and filmmaker Chris Morgan opened the show mixing wry humor and conservation in an extended chat with Carolyn Jewell, HeidelbergCement’s Senior Manager of Global Biodiversity.  BirdLife’s CEO, Patricia Zurita, also addressed the international audience to celebrate the partnership for biodiversity between HeidelbergCement and BirdLife.

The Quarry Life Awards is another noteworthy example of HeidelbergCement’s commitment to biodiversity conservation. The contest sparks creativity and its outcomes have already generated significant research breakthroughs. Hundreds of talented young researchers shared their knowledge, imagination and enthusiasm around conservation and their experiences show that counterintuitively, nature can thrive alongside successful business.

The competition featured over 110 biodiversity related projects taking place in and around quarry operations from 25 countries around the world.  The projects were divided into two broad categories: Research and Community, and were judged by an international panel of jurors.  The research stream focused on scientific projects that increase knowledge of quarry ecology and lead to improved biodiversity, landscape, or water management. It is open to academics, scientists, experts and NGOs. The community stream focused on engagement and outreach projects that help the quarry to better connect locally. Furthermore it will raise awareness and help to educate about biodiversity in quarries. This stream is open to everyone – individuals, students, school classes, NGO’s and local communities.

The first prize-winning project, which was both innovative and ground-breaking in its research, came out of the Czech Republic. Winning 30,000€, the project team studied the suitability of quarries as habitats for bees in quarries. With 14 pollinator projects entered, this was a strong theme in the 2018 QLA competition. The focus on pollinators complemented the EU Commission’s 2018 campaign highlighting the value of pollinators. 

The QLA has provided a wide range of evidence that quarry sites can develop into biodiversity hotspots which support some of our most threatened species and habitats. Through the collaboration of all involved, these projects have opened the eyes and ears of the academic world and indeed, local communities, to the positive contribution that quarries can make to preserve, restore and sustain nature.

As a follow-up to the success of the contest, 2019 will be a year of further implementation of some of the ongoing changes and improvements within quarry management and operations to deliver on and contribute to the protection of biodiversity. It is exciting to see competitions such as this, making a difference and resulting in conservation actions. 

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