Countries of the Region
Albania, Andorra, Armenia,Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Faroe Islands, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro. Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Svalbard and Jan Mayen Islands, Sweden,Switzerland, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uzbekhistan
Our programme ‘Protected Areas in Europe: for People and Nature’ focuses on the practical projects and advice that WCPA aims to undertake between 2005 and 2008. We believe that people and nature are inseparable in such a well-trodden and densely peopled continent and we work to ensure that conflict is lessened and good practice is promoted. We provide an Advisory Service to those who wish an objective, experienced based and expert input on any issues about the establishment, management and use of Europe’s protected areas. Our members are selected for their knowledge and experience and for their objectivity. Over the next few years we shall be focussing our attention on some key issues.
- Natura 2000 concerning the selection of sites, management mechanisms, negotiation with stakeholders.
- Establishment and management of marine protected areas on the shelf seas around Europe, with a particular emphasis on the Mediterranean.
- Defining objectives and setting standards for protected areas through the use of the IUCN Protected Areas category system.
Practical methods of connecting protected areas to each other and linking them into the surrounding landscape.
- Training for protected areas staff and all others involved in and with protected areas.
- Linking protected areas across international boundaries especially in central and eastern Europe.
The programmes are available as downloads on the right side of this screen
Protecting our heritage
Europe has a rich tapestry of areas that reflect the continent’s natural and cultural history. These sites represent our shared heritage and are protected in each country as national parks, regional parks, nature parks, nature reserves, protected landscapes and countless other designations suited to the circumstances of the nation and its constituent parts. There are tens of thousands of these designated areas around Europe representing the very best places for the plants and animals that live there, the habitats and ecosystems which provide them with their natural home, and for the landscapes representing Europe’s long and often tortuous earth history and the interaction of human society with it since it was first settled a few thousand years ago.
These special places are all styled ‘protected areas’ essentially because specific efforts are needed to protect them for the benefit of current and future generations. Many governments at national, provincial and local levels, many charitable organisations and many private owners are involved in this protection effort as owners and as guardians. Citizens are proud of their heritage and have high expectations that all of these special places will be properly cared for to safeguard their integrity and to restore those elements which have become degraded or damaged. These special places are also for civil society to enjoy for recreation, and for owners to produce food and fibre and other resources which society needs. They are also important in their own right as cultural icons, as the natural sources and reservoirs for our water supplies, and as the stores of great genetic diversity.
A network of expert volunteers
The importance of these natural spaces has been recognised for many centuries, but the twentieth century saw the development of dedicated legislation, the establishment of management bodies, new funding mechanisms, and novel management schemes to protect them. Over this period, a great body of knowledge and experience has been accumulated by all the people working in and around protected areas.
To harness this expertise, The World Conservation Union (IUCN) established a group of experts called the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA). Its members are volunteers acting in their free time. They have gained their experience and expertise by working for governments and their agencies, non-governmental organisations, consultancies or other organisations. This network primarily works by offering advice to state and non-state organisations and taking part in projects. The European Region of WCPA, covers 36 countries and has around 250 members, and is part of a network of some 1400 volunteer experts worldwide.
What is happening to Protected Areas in Europe?
Profound changes have affected natural habitats, species and cultural landscapes in recent decades. Most significant has been the growth of coastal resort complexes, particularly along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, the continuing intensification of agriculture arising from the financial incentives provided for food production, development of transport infrastructure to speed public and private transit over long distances, the continuing high exploitation of marine fish stocks and, sadly, the effect of armed conflict in certain parts of the region.
The single most significant change in the distribution of population is the growth of major urban areas through infilling within the urban space, expansion on the periphery and amalgamation of settlements. The space for green areas has been reduced with consequent diminution in landscape quality and species niches.
Climate change will have significant effects on protected areas and especially on the species and habitats within them, irrespective of what concerted global action is taken. Species are likely to be lost from some protected areas and not be able to migrate successfully because of the fragmentation of habitats that has occurred and the lack of ecological corridors and networks to facilitate such transfers. Developing landscape scale approaches and implementing more extensively the ecological networks and corridors will be necessary.
Global frameworks for European action
At the global level a number of key events have taken place to ensure the continuing protection of Earth’s natural places and it is vitally important that Europe makes it contribution.
In 2003 3,000 of world’s leading experts on protected areas attended the World Parks Congress (WPC) in Durban, South Africa. They agreed the Durban Accord setting out the challenges for protected areas and people and inviting action from parties throughout the world. The Durban Action Plan developed at the WPC provides a detailed plan of work needed to implement the Durban Accord. These documents identified that protected areas had formed the main vehicles for in situ conservation and had achieved great progress, but that significant gaps remained. An increase in financial investment is urgently needed to ensure that the management of protected areas is made more effective and that they are linked more with their surrounding communities. This financing is unlikely to come from traditional government sources, therefore new and innovative methods are needed to diversify the financial support for protected areas.
The results of this Congress fed into the efforts made within the framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity for protected areas. In 2004, at the 7th Conference of the Parties in Kuala Lumpur, a Programme of Work on Protected Areas was adopted. This Programme provides a series of targets and guidelines for the development, management and monitoring of protected areas and the equitable sharing of the benefits that derive from them. Europe’s protected areas can make key contributions to the commitments made globally to halt the loss of biodiversity by 2010.
It is essential that we use all the means at our disposal to implement the Durban Accord and Action Plan, and the CBD Programme of Work on Protected Areas and these documents form the framework for WPCA’s activities in Europe.
Traditionally designating protecting areas meant limiting their use and access by humans. This was seen as the most effective way of ensuring the continued survival of the important ecological features within. Furthermore these ‘islands’ of protection had, to in many cases, conform to national or regional boundaries. The role of protected areas has now expanded to ensure that they function as a component of their wider ecosystems and surrounding landscapes, and their integration with local communities and civil society more generally.
There are a number of mechanisms now being employed to improve connectivity between protected areas and their surrounding landscapes. Corridors are generally used to connect separate protected areas or specific habitats, national ecological networks have been established, and a pan-European ecological network is being implemented. New approaches to the engagement of local communities in the identification and management of protected areas have brought many gains and removed unnecessary barriers. New governance structures and initiatives to build the capacity of key stakeholders are expanding. An important approach that has recently been ratified is the European Landscape Convention. This agreement sets out to promote European landscape protection, management and planning through activities undertaken at the national level. WCPA will support the extension of these approaches throughout the region.
The Natura 2000 network of protected areas provides a great opportunity for securing greater protection of Europe’s diversity of species and habitats and to ensure that they are ecologically connected. Since the EU Habitats and Species Directive came into force over a decade ago, the EU Member States have concentrated their efforts on establishing the sites and ensuring that a sufficiently representative sample of areas within each country was identified. The emphasis is now moving from implementation to management, but a greater focus must be put on connectivity measures. There is extensive experience within the WCPA network on Natura 2000, including implementing connectivity measures and the management of protected areas. In the Programme period, WCPA will seek to develop firm links with the European Commission and active stakeholders concerning the effective management of Natura 2000.
Ktsia-Tabatskuri Managed Reserve, Georgia
Photo: IUCN/Tobias Garstecki