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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


Kun Zhang REVIEW AND GAPS: EUROPEAN ECOLOGICAL NETWORKS IN THE PAST 40 YEARS was also the beginning for several major organizations, like EURPARC, IUCN (the world conservation Union), WWF and many others. The initial concept for a European ecological network was EECONET. As a conservation model it was first published by Bennett in the year of 1991. At this period, project cooperation and protecting protocols involved more countries to participate in the construction of ecological networks. Ecological networks as a concept and strategy for conservation have been clarified, and began to be spread more widely. Certain conservation models have been proposed, pilot projects have been conducted and the focus increasingly was on the preservation of semi-natural landscapes [3]. However, the theory and practice of ecological network were still in their exploratory period. In 1992, the European Union issued the Directive which focuses on the conservation of natural habitats and wild fauna and flora (92/43/EEC), also known as the ‘Habitats Directive’ or the ‘Fauna-Flora-Habitats (FFH) Directive’. It was adopted as an implementation instrument of the 1979 Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats. Together with the Birds Directive (79/409/EEC), it constitutes the main legal framework for nature conservation in the European Union. Its aim is to contribute to the conservation of natural habitats and wild fauna and flora in the European territory (European Commission 2003). In 1995, at the conference of European Environment Ministers, in Bulgaria, 54 European countries endorsed the initiative to establish a ‘Pan-European Ecological Network’ within the next twenty years. 3.3 The third period: further implementation and extension (around 2000-present) Increasing urbanization, the deterioration of urban living environment and the emphasizing of spatial structures and functions in landscape ecology lead to the extension of the ecological network strategy. Primarily, during this period, ecological networks are not only concerned with biological or ecological protection. The idea expanded to include webs of linkages for several different aims e.g. ecological, social, political, cultural aims [1]. Additionally ecological networks were now widely integrated into spatial planning. They were also included into sustainable urban development [4]. Simultaneously, based on the Natura 2000 from the previous decade, European countries began to gradually implement the idea at national and local scales. Especially, 34 transboundary cooperation projects were identified within establishing ecological networks across Germany’s external borders in the period 2003-2005 [7]. The three most important developments in this period pertain to the establishment of the Pan-European Ecological Network, the European Green Belt and the ecological network within the realm of the Alpine Convention. The Pan European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy (PEBDLS) was developed, under the auspices of the Council of Europe, in order to achieve effective implementations of the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) at European level. A crucial component of the PEBLDS is the development of the Pan European Ecological Network (PEEN), which would be as a guiding vision for coherence in biodiversity conservation. One of the major goals of PEEN is to develop an indicative map of the Pan- 108

Kun Zhang REVIEW AND GAPS: EUROPEAN ECOLOGICAL NETWORKS IN THE PAST 40 YEARS European Ecological Network for the whole of Europe (Council of Europe, 1999). Three subprojects have been developed: Central and Eastern Europe, completed in 2002; South-Eastern Europe, completed in 2006; and Western Europe, also completed in 2006 [8-9]. The European Green Belt is a project which literally has made use of the former ‘Iron Curtain’. Running from the Barents Sea to the Black Sea it forms a long ‘belt’ with a now predominantly ‘green’ vision. Not only does this project aim at ecological conservation but it also tackles territorial challenges with special geopolitical and cultural relevance [10]. The Alpine Convention is an international agreement between Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, Switzerland, the Principality of Liechtenstein, the Principality of Monaco and the European Community. The scope of the Alpine Convention covers the entire Alpine region. This is one of the largest natural regions left in Europe and therefore of particular importance for biodiversity [11]. 4 BASIC PRINCIPLES AND RESEARCH BOTTLENECK 4.1 Theories and principles Originally, the Humanities with a topologically oriented (physical) geography that includes geomorphology, hydrology and climatology have had profound impacts on ‘landscape sciences’ (with German and Scandinavian research influencing, among others, Russian and East European research). Parallel to developments in geography, the new science of ‘landscape ecology’ began (in Europe and North America) to put the focus on issues like landscape heterogeneity and fragmentation, ecotones and edge effects, disturbance and stability, all of which concentrated on (chorological) landscape processes. These insights into processes provided the starting points for models of ecological networks. Specific attention was paid to landscape connectivity, and models based on ‘island biogeography’ and of ‘metapopulations’ provided the foundational theories. With these theories also introduced the concept of ‘spatial coherence’ as a planning issue for nature conservation and physical planning. This concept was transformed into the strategy for the development of ecological network. To name one publication of many that appeared during this time, Forman’s (1995) classic patch-matrix-corridor model was well received as it provided the basis for the planning of connectivity systems and of linkages which play critical roles in establishing ecological networks [2]. 4.2 Theory and knowledge bottlenecks Core area: bias in selecting areas and focal species Knowledge about so called ’focal species’ and the optimal distribution of their habitats are prerequisites for core area planning in particular, and for ecological protection in general [12]. Nearly every attempt to construct an ecological network would encounter these issues that are connected to targeting certain species and to understand the optimal spatial distribution of relevant habitats. In fact, there is still uncertainty about the accuracy and objectivity with which concepts of species related proposals are made, for example by 109

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