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EU Birds Directive Annex I vs national bird protection interests ...

EU Birds Directive Annex I vs national bird protection interests ...

EU Birds Directive Annex I vs national bird protection interests

EU Birds Directive Annex I vs national bird protectioninterests: legislative impact on bird conservation in LatviaOTARS OPERMANIS 1 , EDMUNDS RAČINSKIS 2 AND AINĀRS AUNIŅŠ 3AbstractIn 2004, as a part of European Union’s Natura 2000 programme, Latvia substantially increased itsnetwork of protected areas which now includes 336 sites and reaching approximately 11.9% of thenational territory. This included the establishment of 69 new protected areas and the enlargementof 38 existing sites. However, criticism from the Latvian scientific community is still heard becausenew sites and site extensions were based on the presence of species listed in the annexes of theEuropean Union Birds and Habitats Directives, many of them relatively common in Latvia, whileseveral rare species were not used as site selection criteria. Users of natural resources also complainthat protected territories are too many or too large as sites were also designated for commonand widespread species that already have favourable conservation status. We analysed bird datafrom the Latvian Natura 2000 sites and concluded that site selection based on the Birds DirectiveAnnex I species has equally contributed to protection of national priority species, not includedin the Birds Directive Annex I. In the meantime, we identified other potential problems that mayaffect species protection: the lack of knowledge on bird species ecology, the lack of appropriatemanagement of protected areas and high number of species requiring protection outside the Natura2000 sites. An extension of the Biosphere Reserve network outside Natura 2000 is suggested as asolution for the latter problem.1. IntroductionThe establishment of protected territories isconsidered a keystone conservation measureto protect threatened species and ecosystems(Bibby 1998). Protected territories have directlycontributed to the preservation of many speciesin Europe (BirdLife International 2004a).Global trends in biodiversity decline (BirdLifeInternational 2000) force scientists and conservationiststo lobby governments in order to extendprotected area networks. Most categoriesof protected territories are highly restricting humanactivities, therefore the efforts in establishingnew ones often face intense criticism fromland-owners and natural resource users. Hencethe question ‘how much is enough?’ is alwayspresent in discussions at all levels.In 2004, Latvia substantially increased itsnetwork of specially protected nature territoriesreaching 11.9% of the country’s area. The enlargementwas based on accession obligations tothe European Union and, in particular, the establishmentof protected areas for species listedin the EU Birds Directive Annex I, EU HabitatsDirective Annex II and for habitat types listedin the EU Habitats Directive Annex I (EuropeanCommission 1992, European Commission1996). While being satisfied about the overall1Laboratory of Ornithology, Institute of Biology, Miera 3, Salaspils LV-2169, Latvia; Present address: UNDPLatvia, Pils str. 21, LV-1167, Riga, Latvia, e-mail: otars.opermanis@undp.org2Latvian Ornithological Society, Kalnciema str. 27-18, LV-1046, Riga, Latvia.3Latvian Fund for Nature, Mazcenu aleja 3, Jaunmārupe, LV-2166, Latvia.45

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