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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 key stakeholders”. In the USA and in several European countries Greenway Planning is emphasising social interests such as outdoor recreation with biodiversity conservation, building on the tradition of Greenbelt Planning and Parkway Planning (http://www.aevvegwa.org) [15]. Connectivity and connectedness come together in the concept of ecological corridors. Ecological corridors can be defined functionally to indicate connectivity and as physical structures to indicate connectedness. They can be defined as functional connections enabling dispersal and migration of species that could be subject to local extinction (Bouwma et al 2002). As physical structures they also can be defined as various landscape structures, other than core areas, in size and shape varying from wide to narrow and from meandering to straight structures, which represent links that permeate the landscape, maintaining or reestablishing natural connectivity (Jongman 2004). Corridors can be classified into three or four classes according to the shape that they have: linear, stepping stone and landscape corridors (Figure 1). Figure 1: Different shapes of corridors: line corridors, line corridors with nodes, stepping stone corridor and landscape corridor [16] As physical structures within an ecological network ecological corridors are multifunctional landscape structures. In Europe ecological corridors are often the result of human intervention in nature: hedgerows, stonewalls, landscapes with small forests, canals and rivers. Others such as coastlines and watercourses are predominantly natural. The nature of ecological corridors and their efficiency in interconnecting remnants and in permeating the landscape depend on the habitat site they originate from and the land use mosaic within which they are embedded in and of which they consist. Their density and spatial arrangement change according to the type of land use. Their connectivity function varies from high to low depending on their spatial arrangement, internal structure and management. Ecological corridors are multifunctional in both ecological and societal sense, because they are not the core areas of a nature conservation system but function in the wider landscape. They can also be part of ‘greenways’ that exist in many parts of Europe, sometimes under different names [17,18]. They can be as wide as a watershed or as narrow as a trail. Corridors, if designed wrongly, also can have negative influence such as the breaking of isolation that is needed for certain species, exposing populations to more competitive species, the possibility of spreading of diseases, exotic species, and weeds, disrupting local adaptations, facilitating spread of fire and abiotic disturbances and disruption of local adaptations [19]. Beier and Noss [20] stipulate that based on empirical research ecological corridors to maintain biodiversity are valuable conservation tools. Not maintaining or reestablishing ecological corridors would mean that mankind neglects the last remnants of natural connectivity and in this way could harm its own nature conservation objectives. Moreover, nowadays practice shows that transport by man are much more important for 6

Rob H.G. Jongman ECOLOGICAL NETWORKS: A SOCIETY APPROACH FOR BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION spreading species and diseases as showed the foot and mouth disease outbreaks in Europe in 2001 and 2007. Finally a network can be hampered by all kind of barriers. Natural barriers do exist at all levels and are important to prevent problems with invasive species. Mountains and rivers can be barriers for mammals and agricultural roads can already be barriers for insects and spiders [21]. Designing corridors is important to overcome modern barriers for nature such as roads, open agricultural landscapes and dams. (Figure 2). 4 HIERARCHY OF ECOLOGICAL NETWORKS 7 Figure 2: Fish ladder in one of the headwaters of the Tweed (Scotland) for migration of Salmon (Photo Rob Jongman) Ecological networks are effectively implemented at the landscape level; they reflect the complexity of pattern and processes in the landscape. This means that between the Pan European Ecological Network (PEEN) [22] and its local application several levels of planning can be identified with applications for different purposes. Four levels can be identified [23]: 1. mega-scale: very large natural core areas (>10000 km 2 ), 2. macro-scale: large natural core areas (>1000 km 2 ) connected with wide corridors or stepping stone elements (width >10 km); 3. meso-scale: medium size core areas (10-1000 km 2 ) and connecting corridors between these areas (width 0,1-10 km); 4. micro-scale: habitats, woodlots, wetlands, grassland patches, ponds (

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