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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

Olaf

Olaf Bastian, Christina Wachler, Markus Leibenath, Martin Neruda THE EUROPEAN NATURA 2000 NETWORK AS A FACTOR FOR RURAL DEVELOPMENT IN THE ORE MOUNTAINS (GERMANY / CZECH REPUBLIC) Two series of workshops were conducted with stakeholders as part of the elaboration process. Each of them, one organized on the German side, the other on the Czech side of the study area, consisted of two single workshops, one focusing on landscape management, the other on rural tourism and environmental education. During the first set of workshops in 2010, the results of the SWOT analyses were presented and discussed. The goal was to involve the participants in the identification of the most important problems and challenges at the interface of nature conservation and landscape management, incl. agriculture, tourism and environmental education. In the months that followed, the project partners dealt with the results and questions that were raised in depth, i.e. they tried to find solutions and draft proposals, and they wrote a preliminary joint strategy paper containing the issues concerned. The draft paper was sent to the stakeholders. One year after the first series of workshops, a second series was organized in 2011 with a similar thematic structure. The same and also additional participants were invited, so as to discuss and improve the draft strategy. Those persons who were interested in this process but could not participate personally in the workshops had the opportunity to send their remarks in writing, e.g. by E-mail. The corrections were made to the final draft of the strategy paper. A final conference was organized at the end of 2011 to present the strategy paper and other results of the project. After an introductory presentation of essential conditions for successful cross-border cooperation in nature conservation, speakers from several European regions with cross-border complexes of nature protection areas presented their own experiences and offered insight into their regions. Parallel to the SWOT analyses and the elaboration of the draft strategy, various concrete measures in all three main topics of the project – landscape management, tourism, environmental education – have been carried out by the project partners themselves. As a result, parts of the draft strategy were already implemented during the project period, and valuable experiences could be gained. The main goal of the draft strategy was to search for methods and approaches to enhance the cross-border cooperation between Saxony and Northern Bohemia, so as to promote long-term sustainable regional development within the entire Ore Mountains ridge zone. The structure of the strategy paper is as follows: introduction (goal of the strategy); present situation (problems and challenges) concerning the main topics; on-going activities; suitable strategies and measures to solve the problems; and possible stakeholders and partners. 3 RESULTS AND DISCUSSION The analyses of potentials and services showed that the NATURA 2000 sites of the Ore Mountains ridge zone provide a wide range of provisioning, regulation and socio-cultural services. Thus, the benefits from these areas go far beyond the original purpose of maintaining threatened species and habitats. There is also much potential, so far unused, which could be developed, but only with consideration for various restrictions to ensure the goals of nature conservation. There are also local cases of overexploitation, e.g. by tourism: the trampling of sensitive vegetation, and the disturbance of such animals as the black grouse (Tetrao tetrix). On the other hand, some valuable areas, such as the mountain meadows, are threatened by land abandonment and insufficient landscape management. 54

Olaf Bastian, Christina Wachler, Markus Leibenath, Martin Neruda THE EUROPEAN NATURA 2000 NETWORK AS A FACTOR FOR RURAL DEVELOPMENT IN THE ORE MOUNTAINS (GERMANY / CZECH REPUBLIC) The following services in particular were identified and assigned to particular NATURA 2000 sites and habitat types: among the � provisioning (economic) services: supply of animal products such as livestock (products: milk, meat, wool), fish and game, supply of plant products (crops, timber, wild fruits/berries, mushrooms), biochemical/ medicinal resources (e.g. spignel Meum athamanticum and other herbs), provision of genetic resources (seeds of forest trees, herbs and grasses), drinking water, energy from water power � regulation (ecological) services: regulation of air quality and local climate (by forests and grassland), water balance regulation (flood mitigation, erosion control, self-purification of waters), habitat services (biodiversity) � socio-cultural services: aesthetic values (e.g. scenery), ethical values (biodiversity, the integrity of creation), services in the field of recreation, rural tourism and environmental education Many ecosystem services from all three categories do not depend on particular vegetation structures but on land cover forms. Of course, ecosystem services that are connected with biodiversity to a higher degree, e.g. habitat function and several socio-cultural services, show stronger correlations to the biological characteristics of the ecosystems concerned. Notwithstanding the very similar natural conditions on both sides of the border, there are distinct differences, e.g. in management planning, but also in the awareness and acceptance of NATURA 2000, the implementation of conservation measures and related environmental education and public relations activities. The results of these analyses provided the basis for the elucidation and discussion of the opportunities and risks of enhancing synergies between nature conservation and rural development. Together with the stakeholders, e.g. by means of the workshops, we identified several crucial challenges and proposed possible solutions for the following main topics: 1. Relationships between agriculture, landscape management and NATURA 2000 The stakeholders called for the cross-border harmonization of nature conservation policies and goals, the cooperation of authorities and organizations responsible for landscape and biotope management, the exchange of experiences, and to launch common (bilateral) cross-border projects. 2. Maintaining the traditional cultural landscapes of the Ore Mountains and their biodiversity The maintenance and extension of flowering meadows is desirable, not only for biodiversity but also for scenery and tourism. As detailed analyses have shown, naturefriendly grassland management can cause economic losses for farmers. That means that without appropriate financial support, long-term maintenance of valuable grassland ecosystems in the Ore Mountains cannot be guaranteed. To overcome or reduce the dependency on subsidies, the recovery of hay from mountain meadows as well as herbs and wild fruits (niche markets for local products) could also make a positive contribution, as could the establishment of regional producer groups, the development of markets and marketing, and the creation of brands of quality, especially in the context of broader marketing activities, such as partnership of National Natural Landscapes in Germany. 55

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