Natura 2000: a network of people
Natura 2000 is more than a network to protect areas of high biodiversity value: it is also a framework enabling communities to benefit from the ecosystem services they host. Green Week showcased examples of sustainable economic activities carried out in harmony with nature.
“Natura 2000 is a network of sites, but it's also a network of people and organisations active at local and regional level,” said Neil McIntosh of the European Centre for Nature Conservation.
Neil McIntosh, ECNC
The network is designed to operate with an inclusive process involving regional authorities, NGOs and local private businesses. Successfully handled, it can lead to huge benefits for local communities, he said.
Good examples abound. In Bristol, Europe's Green Capital 2015, the city council is exploring urban approaches to connect people and wildlife. It introduced feral goats in the
Avon Gorge to inhibit invasive plants and save on the need to cut by hand. The goats are a
significant draw for visitors.
Success, said Richard Ennion, the city council member responsible for the Avon Gorge, depends on building an understanding of the value of nature. “We need to define ecosystem services more clearly”, he said, and “translate these into sustainable investment.” Linking beneficiaries to the parties responsible for maintaining and providing such resources is an obvious way forward, he noted.
The need to ensure a connection with local stakeholders was echoed by Thierry Mougey, from the French Federation of Regional Parks. In France, each regional natural park has a Natura 2000 project designed to reflect the local culture, such as maintaining reed beds and managing reed harvesting for local thatched roofing in the Brière, and organising the picking and sale of arnica plants to pharmaceutical companies in the Ballons des Vosges. Taking into account the local cultural dimension is essential, he said.
Good planning and early consultation
When it comes to potentially damaging economic activities, good and early planning at a strategic level can identify potential conflicts with nature conservation areas, optimising choices at project level. Partnerships among key stakeholders need to be identified and established at an early stage.
This approach helped the Renewables Grid Initiative (RGI), which linked European transmission system operators with NGOs, draw up principles for building grid infrastructure without harming nature. RGI founder Antonella Battaglini stressed the need for good communications: “You need a structure or platform to bring the groups together, and these groups need to hear and respect different opinions.”
Good practices from extractive industries need to be shared more widely, said Michelle Wyart-Remy, the Secretary-General of the Industrial Minerals Association Europe. Well-designed mitigation – and effective restoration following mining operations – can prevent negative effects and even contribute to biodiversity, she said.