Green Infrastructure and EU policy
Humans depend on ecosystem services. However we keep degrading the natural capital that should be indeed our life support system. Although large areas are already protected under N2000, each year more than 1000 km² are subject to land take for housing, industry and recreation. Today about 30 % of the EU territory are fragmented and around 80 % of Europeans live in towns or cities. Health of European citizens due to air pollution and global warming and herewith the quality of life are afflicted by this development.
In its 2020 Biodiversity Strategy, particularly through Target 2, the EU considers Green Infrastructure to play an important role in protecting, conserving and enhancing the EU’s natural capital. Consequently in 2013 the new EU strategy to promote the use of Green Infrastructure in Europe was adopted, comprising four main elements: promoting Green Infrastructure in the main EU policy areas; supporting EU-level GI projects; improving access to finance for GI projects; improving information and promoting innovation.
Green Infrastructure is a strategically planned network of natural and semi natural features, that spans from wilderness areas to green roofs, targeting both urban and rural areas. By connecting core areas of protection through corridors, a balanced system of protection and sustainable use and land management is created.
Implementing Green Infrastructure beyond Protected Areas can help to strengthen the coherence of N2000 sites by creating buffer zones and make core areas of protection more resilient. Green Infrastructure is multifunctional and helps maintain ecosystems healthy, offering natural solutions that are beneficial for nature and people, e.g. through delivering ecosystem services like water and air filtration or better protection from natural disasters.
Green Infrastructure allows investments but leaves room for nature at the same time. Herewith it keeps the balance between development and biodiversity conservation or even enhancement. Green Infrastructure is a way to rethink land use, in order for the environment to become an equal partner in Europe’s success and not a victim of it.
EUROPARC, its Transboundary Protected Areas and Green Infrastructure
As the largest network organization of Protected Areas in Europe, EUROPARC seeks to disseminate and break down EU policy to N2000 sites and other Protected Areas’ needs and feedback the experiences and requirements of its members to the Commission.
Transboundary Protected Areas and Green Infrastructures can be considered twins. They work hand in hand in order to conserve ecosystems and provide landscape connectivity. Indeed connectivity is a key word in both the Green Infrastructure Strategy of the European Commission and transboundary cooperation of Protected Areas. The European Commission highlights the importance of natural transboundary features, like international river basins, forests and mountain ranges to ensure greater connectivity in Europe’s highly fragmented landscape. They are an essential part of the continent’s Green Infrastructure and many of them belong to or lay in a Transboundary Protected Area, like the Danube, large forests as in Bavarian Forest and Šumava or the Massif of Giant Mountains.
EUROPARC is convinced that by working across international borders, transboundary Protected Areas make an important contribution to connecting habitats and herewith ensuring ecological connectivity between natural areas in different countries. They can therefore be seen as a vital knot for implementing the Commission’s Green Infrastructure Strategy, countering habitat loss and fragmentation in Europe.
The annual TransParcNet meeting, bringing together experts in transboundary cooperation in Protected Areas, is an excellent platform for EUROPARC to communicate strategic directions of the EU to the participants and underpin them with case studies from the Federation’s certified Transboundary Areas. In 2014, EUROPARC and its network delivered the meeting with a focus on Green Infrastructure (GI). The result is a collection of examples how transboundary Protected Areas work towards a better connectivity of habitats and landscape. The case studies can be downloaded here at the end of the page.