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Third Alpine Natura 2000 Seminar


From 8 – 11 September 2020 on behalf of the European Habitats Forum (EHF), Eurosite attended the third Alpine Natura 2000 seminar. The Seminar was hosted jointly by the Ministry of the Environment of Sweden and the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) on behalf of the European Commission. Wageningen University Research, as the main contractor of DG Environment, was responsible for its preparation and organisation.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the seminar was organised fully online and was attended by 162 participants from 12 countries. The seminar focused on knowledge sharing and action planning: besides larger plenary sessions and presentations, it included 20 facilitated sub-group meetings, a knowledge market and additional facilitated discussions.

The plenary session was opened by Mr. Jan Terstad (the Ministry of the Environment of Sweden), Mr. Claes Svedlindh, Head of the Nature Department of the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) and Mr. Humberto Delgado Rosa, Director for Natural Capital of DG Environment in the European Commission. It was followed by presentations on the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2020-2030 and the Multi-Annual Financial Framework 2021-2027, including LIFE regulations, such as Strategic Nature Projects – SNAPs (Frank Vassen, DG ENV), and an update on the results of the Habitats Directive Article 17 reporting (Mora Aronsson, ETC-BD).

The discussion was continued in parallel thematic sessions, where four individual themes were discussed during two morning sessions. The discussions focused on two questions asked to the attendees. The selected themes and the corresponding questions were:

  1. Defining and coordinating a Natura 2000 restoration agenda for the Alpine region.
    • How to ensure that Europe’s mountain regions maintain (economically viable) farm structures for managing species-rich grasslands? 
    • How to ensure that more people will acquire the skills and capacities needed for site restoration work, and how can we organize this? 
  2. Managing land use to improve the conservation of Alpine Natura 2000 habitats and species.
    • What factors need to be considered as we develop and implement results-based agri-environment payments schemes? 
    • How can we define certification and promotion of Natura 2000 site products and tourism services based on biodiversity criteria?
  3. Optimising co-benefits of Natura 2000 management with climate change mitigation and adaptation.
    • How to increase cross-border co-operation on defining management measures to protect habitats and species threatened by climate change? 
    • How to improve the knowledge base of climate change effect on habitats (and species)? 
  4. Improving ecological connectivity for Natura 2000 Alpine habitats and species.
    • How can we increase connectivity in particular for Natura 2000 habitats as well as invertebrates and their habitats? 
    • How can we prevent connectivity-loss by diversifying the rural economy in remote areas of Europe? 

One of the most interesting presentations from a natural site management perspective was given by Wolfgang Suske (Suske Consulting) on result-based payment schemes and nature conservation plans in Austria. It underlined that the real involvement of farmers in all stages of planning, implementation and biodiversity monitoring, based on close cooperation of experts and implementation authorities with landowners is of crucial importance for successful and long-term nature conservation. We are looking forward to support the further development of a growing Result Based Payments Network (www.rbpnetwork.eu).

Another presentation of great relevance to the Eurosite network was made by Marine Vilarelle (Commission syndicale de la Vallée de Baigorry, France) on restoration of “Trame verte et bleue” (green and blue network) at site level. It proved the importance and effectiveness of novel GIS and landscape modelling approaches in site management. It was followed by the introduction of the promising concept of SimOïko platform used to simulate the life of fauna and flora in a digitized landscape to support decision-making processes (simoiko.fr).

The seminar was summarized by Mr. Nicola Notaro, Head of the Nature Protection Unit in DG ENVI. He encouraged national authorities and experts to strengthen transnational cooperation in the Natura 2000 Alpine region, after which Conny Jacobson (SEPA) concluded that actively developing an adaptive management of the protected areas network will make a difference in these changing times.

Participation in the seminar provided a basis for the follow-up discussion on how Eurosite could be more involved in Natura 2000 biogeographical processes. In networking with other attendees, we found that the situation in the Alpine region is significantly different, comparing to the other biogeographical regions. The lower profitability of extensive agricultural use caused by harsh environmental conditions and limited availability of mountain sites fosters abandonment of grasslands and pastures in this region. It accelerates secondary succession of vegetation and thus leads to deterioration of the conservation status of semi-natural habitats. Such a situation could be improved by closer cooperation with mountain sites managers, including farmers and private landowners. Moreover, further development of management methods and sharing information about successful conservation measures would support this process. 

Being inspired by the seminar, we would like to attract Eurosite members to a deeper involvement in collaboration between site managers in the mountain regions of Europe. To do so, plans are made to explore the option of establishing a group within existing or new Eurosite working groups to support the EC in the Natura 2000 Alpine process between seminars.

The full report of the Seminar will be available on the Natura 2000 Communication Platform: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/natura2000/platform/.