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Key issues

The Fitness Check of the Birds and Habitats Directives revealed that around 50%  of the areas designated as a Natura 2000 site lack a management plan. In the following information will be presented on a number of key issues that managers of protected areas encounter when elaborating a management plan and which impede the elaboration of management plans.

To identify what managers of protected areas are struggling with when elaborating management plans a questionnaire was sent out to the Eurosite network. The responses revealed  that one of the most difficult issues is the cooperation with stakeholders like land users, hunters and  those living in and around the protected site. Issues include a) how to reconcile the interests of different stakeholders, b) how to reconcile conflicts between stakeholder groups themselves and c) how to reconcile conflicts between stakeholders and the management of the protected area. Of particular importance is the cooperation  with the landowners and farmers to ensure that their management does not conflict with the management objectives of the protected area. A question related to this is; how to compensate landowners for the loss of income when they are willing to adjust their management. Under the section “stakeholder involvement” information will be provided on how to identify stakeholders, how to differentiate between the different stakeholders and their interests and how to deal with conflicts.

Another issue with increasing importance is how to deal with the impacts of climate change. Increasing temperatures, changing precipitation patterns and the shifting of seasons have a significant impact on biodiversity and thus on how to protect biodiversity. Recent research in the Netherlands revealed that 40% of plant species occurring in the Netherlands are coming under pressure because of climate change. Temperature increase is already responsible for the fact that for around 100 plant species it is simply too warm (Vakblad Natuur Bos en Landschap, January 2020). The toolbox provides information on how management interventions can be designed to adapt to climate change in order to prevent the loss of biodiversity but also how protected areas can be a tool to mitigate climate change impacts by sequestering CO2. Adaptive management is a recommended strategy for being able to adapt to a changing climate.

In addition the toolkit will provide information on how management of protected areas can support achieving EU policy objectives as laid down among others in the Birds and Habitats Directives. Both directives have been transposed in national legislation in EU member states and instead of referring to the national nature protection legislation of each individual member states the toolbox refers to the two most important EU Directives.  Next to the Birds and Habitats Directives also the EU Water Framework Directive, the Common Agricultural Policy and the EU Biodiversity Strategy provide important information and guidance on how to ensure that biodiversity loss is stopped.

An important tool for halting biodiversity loss is the creation of ecological networks which allow species to disperse and migrate. This issue has become ever more relevant in view of climate change and is addressed under “fragmentation and connectivity”.

Since the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Report of 2005 the economy has entered ecology and the assessment of ecosystem services has become an important topic in nature conservation. Providing insight in the services ecosystems provide to society has become a manner to show that ecosystems do not only provide soft values as biodiversity and landscape beauty but show that these values represent an economic value as well. The toolbox therefore provides information on how to map ecosystem services and how to attach monetary value to these ecosystem services.

Other issues which are relevant for this toolbox and which will be addressed in the future, are, among others; visitor management and tourism, forestry and protected areas and how to make protected area management science proof based on knowledge about the complex interactions between air quality, water, soil, species and habitats.

In response to the Eurosite questionnaire, managers also stressed the need for designing SMART objectives. Last but not least, "how to source the required funds for the implementation of the planned management interventions" was indicated as an important topic as well.