Conservation without borders – nature helps Europe overcome political divides

Conservation action involving several countries brings large scale benefits to nature and helps resolve social and political conflicts, a new IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) publication shows.

Sar Planina, a mountain range in the Balkans

The book, Crossing Borders for Nature: European examples of transboundary conservation, draws on cross-border conservation in Europe, highlighting its challenges and benefits. It was published as part of a project led by IUCN and the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) which aims to improve transboundary conservation in the mountainous border zone between Albania, Macedonia and the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo.

“Due to isolation in the past and recent political instability in the area, the border between those countries was strictly guarded for decades,” says Tomasz Pezold, IUCN's Project Officer and one of the publication’s editors. “As a result, it now represents one of the last intact natural sites in Europe with some of the largest populations of species such as bear, wolf and lynx. Cross-border conservation in this region creates the opportunity to preserve this unique natural heritage in its integrity and brings together countries that were isolated for years.”

Transboundary conservation brings with it large-scale ecological benefits by protecting extensive natural areas, supporting species migrations and reducing the risk of biodiversity loss. It also encourages former enemies to start talking, generates additional income opportunities, and helps resolve political conflicts.

“Many examples illustrate the benefits transboundary cooperation brings to protect natural and cultural heritage, improving the lives of local communities, reducing tensions and re-establishing friendly neighbourly relations,“ says Prof. Dr. Beate Jessel, President of the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN). “Although effective cross-border conservation involves overcoming political, economic and social differences across borders, countries and protected area managers increasingly recognize its potential.”

In the Prespa Lakes area, a region of unique diversity of species and geological structures which lies within Albania, Macedonia and Greece, transboundary conservation action is used as a means to ease political tensions between the three countries.

In the East Carpathians Biosphere Reserve, which includes Poland, the Slovak Republic and Ukraine, cross-border cooperation to protect the area’s nature has helped to rebuild friendly relationships between nations that lost tens of thousands of people in armed conflicts in the 1940s and suffered years of isolation under the Communist regime.

Since the establishment of the Bavarian Forest and Šumava National Parks, located between Prague in the Czech Republic and Munich in Germany, tourism has become an important component of the regional economy, providing additional jobs and income.

“Nature doesn’t stop at borders or man-made boundaries and nor should our efforts to conserve it,” says Maja Vasilijević, co-editor of the publication. “Transboundary conservation is increasingly important in protecting and maintaining large ecosystems and enhancing the socioeconomic development in the areas.”

For more information or to set up interviews, please contact 

Borjana Pervan, IUCN Media Relations, m +41 79 857 4072, e 

For high-resolution images of the regions, go to:


Work area: 
Protected Areas
Protected Areas
South-Eastern Europe 
European Union
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