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The Green Belt as a European Ecological Network strengths and gaps

The Green Belt as a European Ecological Network strengths and gaps

Rob H.G. Jongman

Rob H.G. Jongman ECOLOGICAL NETWORKS: A SOCIETY APPROACH FOR BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION conclusion that these features should be included in conservation strategies in the structure of ecological networks. As in ecological networks biodiversity conservation is moving outside the reserved areas and claims conservation measures in the wider countryside involvement of other land users and their consent and understanding is essential. Therefore, implementation in relation to the spatial scale of ecological networks and the differences between countries in planning are shortly elaborated as well as the role of stakeholders. A logical consequence is the inclusion of public support. 2 CONNECTIVITY AND CONNECTEDNESS Many species disperse through our landscapes and need islands and corridors to do so. Migration is a species or population’s periodic movement typically of relatively long distance from one area to another to avoid unfavourable seasons or conditions [4]. Migration is a specification of dispersal, while it is targeted and has a direction. Routes for species migration consist of zones that are accessible for the species to move from one site to another and back. Migration routes can be manifold, from single wooded banks to small-scale landscapes and from river shores to whole rivers and coastlines. Migrating species are vulnerable in their lifecycle. They are not all year available to signal the importance of a site as a temporary habitat. European storks (Ciconia ciconia) for instance breed in large parts of Europe and they winter in Africa, migrating 10,000 km each season [5]. In the past many species have adapted to the cultural landscapes of Europe, because they were accessible and not hostile. Large areas with good living conditions that are always inhabited are defined as core areas for populations. In good reproductive years species will move from these areas into other – even marginal - sites [6]. Reduction is quality and size of the breeding area will cause a reduction of the populations that can survive and an increased risk of extinction, because of reduced dispersal between habitats, causing less exchange of genetic information and less colonisation of empty habitats. Increasing traffic and intensifying agriculture made the European cultural landscape more difficult to cross for natural species. Forests and hedgerows disappeared in intensively used agricultural land, forests became uniform production forests, streams have been straightened and dammed and the road-network became asphalted, denser and more intensively used. Last but not least many large and important wetlands have been drained. Plants and animals both disperse by wind, water or with help of other species or by own movements. Dispersal is essential in population survival and the functioning of biotopes. However, dispersal and migration can only function if there are sites to disperse from and to and means for dispersal. On the one hand animal species will leave a population if living conditions cannot support all individuals and on the other hand species will fill in gaps in populations or sites that are empty. Fluctuations in populations can cause changes in species abundance and species composition of a site. Birth, death, immigration and emigration are the main processes to regulate fluctuations at the population level and these depend on habitat quality, habitat size and connectivity and corridors. Corridors may be continuous, linear [7] or interrupted as stepping stones [8]. The main functional aspect of in the landscape of importance for dispersal and migration and in this way in the persistence of populations is connectivity and connectedness [9]. Connectivity is a functional landscape parameter indicating the processes by which sub-populations of organisms are interconnected into a functional demographic unit. Connectedness refers to the structural links between elements of the spatial structure of a landscape. Structural parameters can be different from functional parameters. For some species connectivity is measured in the 4

Rob H.G. Jongman ECOLOGICAL NETWORKS: A SOCIETY APPROACH FOR BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION single distance between sites, for other species it also has to include the structure of the landscape. The connectedness through hedgerows or streams includes the possibility of corridors and barriers. Due to differences in need of migration corridors can be manifold, from single wooded banks to small-scale landscapes and from river shores to whole rivers and coastlines. For fish it means that rivers are not blocked by dams and of good water quality. For mammals and amphibians it means that routes are available and that man-made barriers can be crossed. These groups migrate over distances from several metres to hundreds of kilometres. For small mammals ecological corridors can be hedgerows, streams and all kind of other natural features that offer shelter. 3 THE STRUCTURE OF ECOLOGICAL NETWORKS Ecological networks can be defined as systems of areas of high biodiversity value and their interconnections that make a fragmented natural system coherent to support more biological diversity than in non-connected form. An ecological network is composed of core areas, usually protected by buffer zones and connected through ecological corridors [10]. Core areas have mostly been identified by traditional nature conservation policies as National Parks or nature reserves. The fact that we acknowledge that species make use of landscapes makes it unavoidable that we integrate nature conservation in general land use policy and spatial planning. In this way ecological corridors and buffer zones are becoming key elements in nature conservation strategy, but also highly discussed elements as they are the landscape elements where several functions coincide and that might be conflicting with other land use functions. The emphasis in ecological network planning is shifting from nature protection towards sustainable development for a region as a whole by integrating biodiversity issues. The observed change in thinking originates from the discourse in the international policy arena of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the World Summit on Sustainable Development and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which perceive environment rather as making a contribution to sustainable development than as an intrinsic value to be protected from use. Following this, the CBD agreed to the Aichi targets, that also include the by 2020, at the latest, biodiversity values have been integrated into national and local development [11]. Implementation of these international agendas is increasingly guided by the ecosystem services approach. This approach can be regarded as a strategy for the management of land, water and living resources that promotes conservation and sustainable use of the services that biodiversity offers to society [12] At the heart of the approach is the awareness that, without the effective and sustainable management of ecosystems, there can be no economic development that generates sustainable human and social welfare. Equally, without engagement of various sectors of economy and society in the management of ecosystems, there can be no effective biodiversity conservation. This shift in emphasis runs parallel with changing paradigms in protected area management that have moved from “strictly nature oriented” to “nature and people oriented” [13]. A consequence of perceiving an ecological network as a means towards sustainable development is the increasing number and diversity of stakeholders and land use interests that need to be incorporated in the design and management process. It is evident that the institutionalisation of such an approach change will greatly benefit from the overall support by stakeholders. Or as Bennett [14] puts it: “No programme of the breath and ambition of an ecological network can achieve results without the active support of local communities and 5

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