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Grogna, Valérie; Mahy, Marie; Meuris, Steve et al

Report (2009)

This report includes results obtained from the SELNAT research project, conducted between February 2006 and January 2008, under the auspices of the Belgian Science Policy. The principal subject of this ... [more ▼]

This report includes results obtained from the SELNAT research project, conducted between February 2006 and January 2008, under the auspices of the Belgian Science Policy. The principal subject of this project is the implementation of Natura 2000. The Natura 2000 network of protected areas, made up of sites designated under the Community Birds (BD) and Habitats Directives (HD), is a key pillar of action for the conservation of biodiversity (European Commission, 2008). It is central to achieve the commitment to reverse the decline of biodiversity in the European Union by the year 2010 made at the European Council meeting in Gothenburg in June 2001. It aims at sustainable conservation of habitats and species of community importance, taking into account (i) economic, social and cultural requirements and (ii) regional and local circumstances. Central to the Directives is the creation of a Europe-wide ecological network of protected sites – the Natura 2000 Network – which is destined to conserve over a thousand rare, threatened and endemic species and some 220 Natural habitats listed in their annexes. Around 24,000 sites have been included in the Network so far. (European Commission, 2008) Now that the network set-up is nearing completion, there is a need to increase the focus on the active management of the sites so as to ensure long-term conservation and the achievement of the economic and social objectives of the network (CEE, 2004.) This in turn also raises the question of finding the appropriate management strategy, instruments and sufficient financing (at all levels). The principal question for Member States is how to manage Natura 2000 sites to reach the (juridical fixed) ecological targets in the most cost-efficient way, taking into account economic and social objectives and constraints. Ecologists and nature organisations often start from an techno-ecocentric paradigm: ‘How to conserve and manage species and habitats?’, in order to tackle the question mentioned above. The paradigm starts from the opinion that ‘diversity of species and habitats’ is important as such (while this is believed to be important for several reasons). This approach has been criticised lately for being based on a too narrow set of values. It has not provided enough opportunities for combining nature conservation with other forms of land use such as agriculture, forestry or tourism. In several countries this led to difficulties as regards the co-operation of local stakeholders (Jongman & Kristiansen, 1998). On the other hand, the current biodiversity crisis is a direct result of the way in which society has chosen to interact with its Natural environment. If the causes of the problem are social, it stands to reason that the policies striving to solve the problem will need to be based on a solid understanding of social structures and processes, if they are to have any effect. In this research project we tried to study the management of Natura 2000 sites from a ‘sustainability’ paradigm, instead of from the ecocentric paradigm. The central research question is therefore formulated as ‘How to manage Natura 2000 properly, to contribute to a (local) sustainable society?’ With this research we hope to give decision-makers new insights on the economic, social, and environmental consequences of Natura 2000 management and to guide them in the development of more adequate and sustainable policies for the management of Natura 2000-sites. In the first chapter the general objectives and approach of this project are described. The second chapter gives an overview of some of the current bottlenecks for nature conservation and Natura 2000. The results of the research on the elaboration of strategies for Natura 2000 sites are summarizes in chapter tree. Conclusions and recommendations are presented in the last chapter. More information on the research is documented in the different appendixes. During the research, we benefited from contacts with many persons, and more especially in the scope of a Users’ Committee. Besides the representatives of the Belgian Science Policy, we would like to thank all members of the Users’ Committee, among which those who supported us and/or participated in one or several of the meetings, [less ▲]

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