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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) 3. Generation of economic benefits through landscape management (e.g. use of biomass from management measures for energy) Due to the poor or absent markets for the biomass cut on the mountain meadows (modern cattle breeds need other fodder, richer in protein and calories), the search for alternative purchasers is justified. A possible energy recovery of biomass from landscape management measures raises hope, but there are several obstacles: the rather low content of energy compared to such crops as maize, technological problems in the production of biogas, and logistical problems (long transport distances). Suitable economical and technological framework conditions and alternative value-added chains are needed. These tasks cannot be solved in the short term. Nevertheless, cross-border cooperation may be helpful in future to reduce logistic problems, to concentrate efforts and to develop biomass through landscape management on both sides of the border. 4. Avoiding conflicts with wind turbines along the mountain ridge The European Union has set the goal of increasing the renewable share of energy consumption in the EU significantly, in order to reduce dependency on imported oil and gas as well as to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions [6]. A major part of the renewable energy mix is to be provided by wind energy. From the point of view of investors in the wind energy sector, the Ore Mountains are seen as a very attractive location for wind turbines – much more than was previously the case. Wind turbines may disturb animals (bats and birds) and alter the landscape’s visual quality, which can have an effect on its attractiveness for tourists. In order to avoid or reduce conflicts with nature conservation and tourism, we have, together with the stakeholders, defined the following demands: Choice of suitable sites, exclusion of protected areas and aesthetically sensitive areas (e.g. the mountain ridge), intensification of regional planning and cross-border Environmental Impact Assessment, early contact to local stakeholders and planning authorities. 5. Protection of characteristic bird species, especially the black grouse (Tetrao tetrix) The black grouse (Tetrao tetrix), a rare and threatened species of fowl with a significant population in the Ore Mountains on the European scale, shows the importance of large cross-border NATURA 2000 habitat complexes. The birds prefer large undisturbed landscapes covered by sparse woods with berry bushes (bilberries/ Vaccinium myrtillus) and pioneer shrubs (rowan/ Sorbus aucuparia, birch/ Betula pendula). The major reasons for the decline of the black grouse populations include the afforestation of clearings and forest meadows with spruce monocultures, the increase in predator populations such as the red fox and the wild boar, and disturbances, e.g. by tourists. Due to the supra-regional importance of this species, the Ore Mountains population must be ensured on a permanent basis, precisely by maintaining and restoring their habitats, resolving conflicts with land users, prioritizing species protection in sensitive areas, and communicating targets, measures and restrictions to the lay public. 6. Promoting environment-friendly sustainable tourism and cross-border cooperative efforts Due to favourable natural conditions (diversified un-spoilt landscape, large forests, mountain meadows and other elements of the traditional cultural landscape) and cultural and historical elements (mining history, Christmas customs), attractive opportunities and offers, 56

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 Ore Mountains attract many tourists. The stakeholders identified a need for competitive destination management organisations, common marketing strategies, the coordination of offers, the stimulation of bi-/multilingualism on both sides of the border, innovative offers in the sphere of rural tourism, support for local and cross-border public transport, and better cooperation between nature conservation and tourism. For example, the question was discussed whether and how the tourist sector should support nature conservation, e.g. by way of fees for maintaining attractive landscape elements, such as flowering mountain meadows. 7. Environmental education and visitor management in sensitive areas The initial situation in the Ore Mountains is rather good; many institutions offer environmental education. Challenges include enhancing bilingualism, improving cooperation with the tourism industry to advocate environment-friendly behaviour, and applying new technologies (e.g. smartphones) to generate innovative offers. Unspoilt nature, such as the large forests of the Ore Mountains, mainly in the higher altitudes, affords opportunities for both local and cross-border nature and landscape experiences. The outstanding natural value of the Ore Mountain ridge zone – in general – is a strategic advantage for tourism and environmental education. The requirements of nature conservation must be respected, the more so as disturbance of sensitive species and ecosystems has already been ascertained and could be further aggravated by modern outdoor activities, like geo-caching, snowmobiles, etc. The education of visitors is absolutely necessary and can be combined with visitor management, for example to experience raised bogs. In particular, sites which are ecologically fragile and stressed by various factors, like the core habitats of the black grouse, are unsuitable for tourism. There is a need for sophisticated tourism concepts that take the demands of protected areas as well as the peculiarity and beauty of the landscape into consideration. 8. Environment-friendly winter sports The ski tracks on the ridge of the Ore Mountains enjoy great popularity. The growing numbers of visitors mean even more stress to flora, fauna and fragile ecosystems. To reduce the threats and to spare sensitive areas from visitors (e.g., conflicts with skiers in raised bogs), the localization of ecologically-compatible bundled ski trails on both sides of the border has been fostered. There is also the particular challenge of environmental education: Recreating a cross-border atlas of ski pistes and trails consisting of several small maps where naturefriendly behaviour is also advocated, might represent an exceptional contribution. The measures, which the project team had already realized during the course of the project, are also worth mentioning: marketing actions for regional products from protected areas (from wild fruits); a brochure and concept for visitor guidance in NATURA 2000 sites (e.g. the Western Ore Mountains SPA); two brochures about cross-border nature trails in the Eastern part of the Ore Mountains; an information table about the Černý potok creek restoration project realized together with the Agency for Nature Conservation and Landscape Protection of the Czech Republic; the image brochure “Ore Mountains: naturally without borders”; the brochure and internet presentation “Nature borderless: The European network of protected areas: The example of the Bohemian and Saxon Ore Mountains”; and articles in the daily press. 57

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