ERASMUS+ Sustainable Tourism: Training for Tomorrow Research

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EUROPARC Federation invites all its members, Charter Parks and stakeholders associated directly or indirectly with the territory of a natural protected area (natural park, national park, nature reserve, Natura 2000 or other), and involved in any way in the planning and/or delivery of tourism and recreation in the region, to complete  the following research (the questionnaire should take around 10 minutes), developed within our ERASMUS+ project “Sustainable Tourism: Training for Tomorrow”.

The research aims to increase the quality, supply and accessibility of training in sustainable tourism for Protected Area stakeholders across Europe.

Your responses will help identify potential training needs in different areas related to sustainable tourism and for different stakeholders; your answers will be totally confidential and treated only for statistical purposes.

Find the Survey in your language (English, French, Italian, and Spanish):

EN: https://uhasselt.eu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_73Z1vyjoBCokk4t

FR: https://uhasselt.eu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_9yoxBIrnrI0k4aF

IT: https://uhasselt.eu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_00nNR7qEHTrMu0Z

ES: https://uhasselt.eu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_cwKug49ylqkQIip

About the project

The ERASMUS+ “Sustainable Tourism: Training for Tomorrow” project aims to build the capacity of Protected Area stakeholders in the field of sustainable tourism.

Funded through the ERASMUS+ Key Action 2 (Strategic partnerships in the field of education and training), the project brought together partners working on different fields in the sustainable tourism sector:

Projects’ objectives

Aiming to jointly develop a European standard for Sustainable Tourism Training for protected areas (PA’s) and drawing from the experiences of the EUROPARC Charter for Sustainable Tourism, the partnership has the following objectives:

  • to increase the quality, supply and accessibility of training in sustainable tourism for PA stakeholders across Europe;
  • to develop innovative, open access, online training platform which will enable access to sustainable tourism training for PA staff, businesses, local/regional authorities, and others;
  • to provide high-quality e-learning and ‘blended learning’ opportunities, through the creation of a new, up-to-date curriculum, and supported by a training toolkit, based on end users’ needs;
  • to disseminate the training curriculum across European and national networks through a comprehensive programme of multiplier events and dissemination initiatives.

Recommendations for the post-2020 Biodiversity Strategy

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In light of the evaluation process of the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy and the discussions on the post-2020 EU Biodiversity Strategy, the European Habitats Forum (EHF), which EUROPARC is a member of, assessed the current EU Biodiversity Strategy and defined a set of recommendations for post-2020 EU Biodiversity Policy and action.

The EU is set to fail its 2020 target to halt biodiversity loss

The EU is set to fail its 2020 target to halt biodiversity loss. Both the 2015 Mid-term evaluation of the EU Biodiversity Strategy, the 2018 IPBES Regional assessment for Europe and Central Asia and the recently published 2019 IPBES Global Assessment confirmed the continuing decline of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystem services in the EU and globally. This presents a significant threat to human wellbeing.

Biodiversity loss is one of the most critical environmental threats alongside climate change and the two are inextricably linked.

Without addressing the rapid loss of biodiversity, the world will struggle and likely fail to live up to the Paris Agreement or to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). And conversely, without addressing climate change, actions to tackle the loss of biodiversity are likely to fail.

Land use change and direct exploitation of organisms remain the main cause of biodiversity loss in natural and semi-natural habitats. Particular pressure is exerted by intensive agricultural practices, land abandonment, urban sprawl, grey infrastructure development, and human activities at sea (such as fishing, shipping or tourism).

The main reasons why the EU is failing to halt biodiversity loss have been known for a long time and they remain the same:

  • The insufficient implementation of existing nature, water, and marine legislation
  • The lack of ownership and the lack of mainstreaming with other sectors and policies: agriculture, fisheries, forestry, and energy, which means that the main drivers of biodiversity loss are not sufficiently addressed
  • The lack of resources (finance gap) and continuation of perverse subsidies

Recommendations for the post-2020 Biodiversity Strategy

The underlying problem is the lack of political will to take nature loss seriously and to act accordingly and the opposition of those with vested interests in the status quo. The EU’s commitment to “lead by example” made in 2010, is significantly undermined because it is not followed up with the action on the ground in all EU Member States and this puts the EU’s credibility at stake, both internationally and at home.

In order to change this and to secure positive political will, more transparency in decision making is essential and the influence of vested interests needs to be challenged. Furthermore, an intense effort needs to be made to communicate to citizens and politicians the often hidden values of nature and ecosystem services. The people’s movement to avert the collapse of our life support system and an impoverished future for our children and grandchildren needs to be supported.

Suggestions on specific targets

The strategy needs to contain ambitious and SMART targets that will strengthen the implementation and enforcement of nature legislation (BHD, WFD, MSFD) and promote the synergies between them.

For the Nature Directives, the focus should be on ensuring effective management of all N2000 sites and reducing the pressures of human activities that prevent maintaining or restoring the protected habitats and species to Favourable Conservation Status (FCS). Effective, systematic and long term biodiversity monitoring, enhanced connectivity, adequate financing and preventing damage are also required. The engagement of EU Member states environmental, agricultural and fisheries authorities in its implementation needs to be guided by a gap analysis, and the gaps need to be closed by 2030 so that FCS is achieved.

For the Water Framework Directive, the focus should be on developing more ambitious and effective management plans by reducing the use of exemptions, strictly applying the non-deterioration obligation, as well as properly implementing the economic provisions to ensure that the value of freshwater ecosystems for their role in safeguarding water resources is truly appreciated.

For the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, the focus should be wider than fisheries impacts and it should ensure that more ambitious programmes of measures are developed and implemented, including by making the necessary funds available. It should cover a wide range of direct management measures addressing both individual threats from specific activities and cumulative impacts on marine ecosystems, in view of reaching Good Environmental Status of EU seas as soon as possible after 2020.

Frequent systematic monitoring of terrestrial and marine biodiversity and production of indicators is essential to track outcomes and evaluate progress. It’s not only essential to monitor population sizes, but for understanding population declines we need to know also more about demographic data. Researchers revealed that only 1.3% of the mammal, bird, reptile and amphibian species have comprehensive information on birth and death rates.  They developed a Demographic Species Knowledge Index which should be supported.

In the context of the UN Decade for ecosystem restoration, and given the fact that progress on target 2 of the current strategy has been largely insufficient, it is clear that a new approach for ecosystem restoration, with stronger commitments, is needed.  Special attention should be given to providing space for natural processes to restore and sustain ecosystem functionality and resilience (following rewilding principles like free flowing rivers and natural grazing for instance), to restoring species populations and to the stimulation of partnerships with other economic sectors in developing nature-based economies. Restoration of connectivity and landscape defragmentation should also be a priority. The mitigation and adaptation potential of restoring forests, wetlands, peatlands and grasslands and coastal, offshore and high seas ecosystems, should be strongly highlighted.

The collapse in freshwater biodiversity should be better addressed in the post 2020 Biodiversity Strategy. Healthy freshwater ecosystems (wetlands, rivers, floodplains, peatlands) are essential for nature, for society and for economies. These ecosystems, especially peatlands, store vast amounts of carbon, making their protection and restoration critical to stopping climate change. In Europe, these ecosystems have been modified for centuries and are zones of the most intense human activity. They are home to Europe’s highest levels of biodiversity, where the biggest decline of species has been detected. Freshwater species are declining at a faster rate than species in any other ecosystems: on average the abundance of populations monitored in the freshwater system declined by 83% in the last decades. Not even half the waters in the EU are considered to be healthy.

Mainstreaming nature protection and enhancement as an objective in other policies is the major challenge. To achieve this, other sectors need greater ownership of nature conservation issues and to take responsibility in the process of developing the biodiversity strategy and achieving benefits for biodiversity, e.g. by having clear tasks assigned to all ministries and parts of administration. Increased collaboration across sectors is needed to better integrate nature conservation and restoration within these sectors. Unless real commitment and political will is shown, we will not see a change in the negative trends. Without assessing and addressing the incentives and drivers, and transforming the economy it will not be possible to halt biodiversity loss. Without a major shift in agriculture policy, where public money actually rewards public goods, we will not be able to halt the dramatic decline of farmland birds and pollinators and support recovery. The same is true for fisheries policies, renewable energy, transport policy etc. Policy measures in all sectors should be developed to direct positive outcomes, including enhancement and achieving biodiversity gains, and biodiversity targets should be applicable across sectors.

The pollinators initiative to tackle the rapid decline of pollinators in Europe needs to be fully implemented and integrated in the post 2020 Biodiversity Strategy. Invertebrates are at the very heart of our ecosystems and their precipitous decline presents a crisis for agriculture and the health of the environment across the EU.  Resolute action is needed to halt and reverse the decline of pollinators and the pollination service they provide. The post 2020 Biodiversity Strategy must include clear targets to address the drivers and pressures behind pollinator decline, including intensive agriculture, pesticide use, and land use change.

Europe’s seas include some of the most intensively used marine waters in the world and remain threatened by a range of human activities that lead to the loss of marine biodiversity and degraded habitats, the overexploitation of fish stocks, and pollution. Main challenges should be addressed by (1) ensuring proper enforcement and implementation of existing management rules, especially to recover fish populations and end overfishing; (2) designing new management rules for issues that are not currently implemented, such as ecosystem-wide impact of commercial and recreational fisheries, underwater noise, and microplastics; (3) implementing robust monitoring systems, collecting sufficient data and making them publically available to allow the design and implementation of better and more effective conservation measures; and (4) adopting financial commitment to ensure management/enforcement/data collection is taking place. Decisions for supporting the marine environment need to be taken while thinking about the long term use and protection of the marine environment. This includes properly applying an ecosystem-based approach to maritime spatial planning, where nature is the fundamental basis of all social and economic development at sea and maritime activities are planned in view to achieving Good Environmental Status of EU seas.

To tackle the finance gap for nature protection and restoration, there is an urgent need to increase available funding at all levels. As stated above, this needs to be in addition to phasing out harmful subsidies and making sure that EU funding does not lead to biodiversity loss (implementation of biodiversity proofing). The funding available for nature conservation and implementation of the biodiversity strategy needs to be increased significantly, by setting a spending target of 50% of the overall budget for nature, climate and environment. As the current budget discussions go into the direction of more responsibility for Member States (subsidiarity), it becomes even more important to make sure that funding opportunities for nature are fully included in the CAP strategic plans and the operational programmes, including EMFF operational programmes.

Given the fact that the EU represents only 7% of the world’s population, but uses up almost 20% of the global biocapacity increased action to tackle global biodiversity loss and to reduce the EU’s global footprint is direly needed. This needs to go beyond the greening of development policies and must pave the road for a fundamental system change regarding trade and consumption policies, including a change of economic incentives and supporting a UN treaty on transnational corporations and human rights to ensure global environmental and human rights standards are respected by corporations in third countries, as they are in Europe. EU trade agreements must ensure the highest environmental standards are maintained. The EU has been supporting biodiversity conservation globally through its development cooperation instruments, and this needs to be continued and stepped up in the next Budget period to support biodiversity and climate action as well as the implementation of the SDGs in Europe and in third countries.

Building capacity for local communities and civil society to ensure proper decision making and implementation of environmental law is essential. The IPBES global assessment summary clearly identifies the need for strengthening environmental laws and policies and improving their implementation as a key lever for protecting biodiversity.  Equally sustainable outcomes are more likely where local communities are involved and participating in decision making.

As the IPBES global assessment has clearly shown, we are facing an ecological emergency and the risks of nature loss for humanity are alarming. However, the report also makes it clear that it is possible to halt and reverse this trend if we implement transformative changes to address the indirect drivers that are the root causes of nature deterioration. The key challenge is to raise political will and ambition to implement effectively the necessary actions. The EU needs to make halting and reversing biodiversity loss by 2030 a top priority on the political agenda of Heads of States and not leave this crucial issue to environment ministers alone.

You can read the full European Habitats Forum Paper HERE!

EUROPARC is one of the members of the European Habitats Forum, together with A Rocha, BatLife Europe, BirdLife Europe and Central Asia, Buglife-The Invertebrate Conservation Trust, Butterfly Conservation Europe, CEEweb for Biodiversity, Client Earth, European Natural Heritage Foundation (Euronatur), European Environmental Bureau (EEB), Eurosite, Friends of the Earth Europe, International Mire Conservation Group, Reptile and Amphibian Conservation Europe (RACE), Rewilding Europe, Societas Europaea Herpetologica, Society for Ecological Restoration (SER), The Nature Conservancy, Wetlands International-European Association and WWF European Policy Office

European Day of Parks – 10 events for the final countdown

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The European Day of Parks is now just hours away! However, the celebration of #OurNationalTreasures has already begun and will continue even after the 24th of May.

We are bringing you 10 events you can plan on attending all over Europe! Portugal, Finland, Ireland, Montenegro, Estonia, UK, Belgium, The Netherlands, Spain, and Italy have prepared the most versatile ways for you to reconnect with nature and celebrate #OurNationalTreasures! Join them!

United in celebration of European Day of Parks

Show that you are a part of the celebration on your social media!

Now you can show you are part of the #EuropeanDayofParks on your Facebook profile as well.

Apply our frame and include the official European Day of Parks logo on your profile picture!

Portugal – 24 May 2019 – Teatro Musical “O Bosque Encantado”

On Friday, May 24, Casa das Viras will host the Pandora Theater, a company of actors and puppets, which will present the play “The Enchanted Forest”.

In this play, the animals that live in the woods come to life… and explain in their own voice the importance of protecting nature.

More about the event here!

Finland – 24 May 2019 – Nature’s moods and moments by Konsta Punkka

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Attend a special photo exhibition in the three Visitor centers of the Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park.  The images of Konsta Punkka, one of Finland’s most world-renowned nature photographers, will take you on a journey into Finnish nature, from the awakening of spring to the abundance of autumn and from one visitor center to another.

The photographs selected for each visitor center form a whole. In order to see the entire exhibition, you must go through the national park from Ylläs to Pallas, or vice versa. The photographic exhibition of tunnel-like landscapes and photographer’s masterpieces gives you free access throughout the summer. The exhibition finale falls on Finnish Nature Day (31 August), when Punkka himself will visit all three Nature Centres to talk about his photographs and work.

More information can be found here!

Ireland – 24 May 2019 – Biophilia – Our Connection with Nature

We all have an innate affinity for nature and landscape; biophilia is one word for this love of our living surroundings. As part of Biodiversity Week and celebrating European Day of Parks, get out into beautiful Burren National Park and activate your senses! Explore how and why we perceive the natural world the way we do, nature’s myriad gifts of physical health and mental wellbeing, and how we can share these benefits in our homes, gardens, and communities to help us connect with natural rhythms and landscapes.

More information can be found here!

Montenegro – 24 May 2019 – Natural treasures of National parks

This year’s celebration of the European Day of Parks will be held in the national parks of Montenegro in order to promote the natural treasures of national parks. During this celebration, several promotional and educational events will be organised in national parks of Lovćen and Dormitor. Educational workshops will be held on thematic and educational trails, as well as in the visitors’ centers of these parks.

To reduce the impact of visitors and raise awareness of the necessity of preserving natural treasures, but also to strengthen the brand of National Parks as a destination that supports the development of sustainable tourism, National Parks of Montenegro have provided two tourist trains for organized transport of tourists. The first ride of the new train will be organized on Friday, May 24th, 2019. During this event, a walking tour along the educational trail around Biogradsko Lake is planned, as well as the taste of traditional gastronomic specialties from the local area of Bjelasica. More information can be found here!

Estonia – 24 May 2019 – Day of Parks 2019

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Republic of Estonia Environmental Board organises the hiking event for families in which they will be able to enjoy the birds singing and learn about spring flowers.

More information can be found here!

United Kingdom – 25 May 2019 – Devil’s Point

National Trust for Scotland – Mar Lodge Estate challenges you to climb this iconic mountain once visited by Queen Victoria, in the company of their ranger team. Good level of fitness is essential as there are some steep uphill sections and uneven terrain on this walk.

More information can be found here!

Belgium – 25 May 2019 – 1000-soortendag

With its large surface area and diversity of natural biotopes, Het Zwin is a real hotspot for biodiversity. On the 1000s species day, we will put this in the spotlight.

Experts are looking for as many species as possible.
On the 1000-species day, specialists from many groups of species come to the Zwin, with the aim of observing as many different species of animals and plants as possible. As a visitor, follow the observations of the experts live!

You will be able to follow the species counter from 24 May on via waarnemingen.be.

Netherlands – 26 May 2019 – Dag van het Nationaal Park Drentsche Aa

On Sunday, May 26, Drentsche Aa National Park will host the European National Parks day 2019 in the Gasterse dunes parking lot. How far can you throw a boulder? Do you know which paw print belongs to which animal? Do you taste the difference between the tap water from the Drentsche Aa and bottled water? Are you going fishing in the Oudemolensche Diep, exploring nature or would you rather make a nature painting?

It will be a pleasant do-and-information market where you can experience and do everything, with a walk in  the Oudemolensche forest. Drentsche Aa National Park staff will talk about the nature and cultural history of the Drentsche Aa area.

They are also inviting you to become National Park Junior Ranger… In September they will start the first National Park Drentsche Aa aspiring  Junior Rangers group. Junior Rangers from the Drents-Friese Wold National Park and Dwingelderveld talk about their nature experiences and nature experiences in recent years. You are very welcome to hear from these experts what it means to become a National Park Junior Ranger.

More information can be found here!

Spain – 26 May 2019 – Geo Rally Fotográfico del Geoparque

Get to known the geology, the landscape, the ethnography, the flora and fauna biodiversity of Geopark and Sierras Subbéticas Natural Park, and use photography as a tool for the enhancement of heritage, allowing you to know and observe it by combining an entertaining and interpretative day trip in contact with nature with the art of photography.

More information can be found here!

Italy – 26 May 2019 – Scientist for one day in Val Canzoi

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Become a scientist for one day in Val Canzoi! Join the guided excursion and playful learning workshop at the Park’s Environmental Education Centre “La Santina”.

More information can be found here!

The European Day of Parks is a commemorative day for Protected Areas across Europe that was launched in 1999 by the EUROPARC Federation to celebrate Protected Areas throughout Europe. It celebrates the creation of the 1st National Parks in Europe – a set of nine parks created in Sweden in 1909.

European Natura 2000 Awards – Applications are open!

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The European Natura 2000 Award aims to raise awareness about the benefits of Natura 2000 and the importance of biodiversity at EU, Member State and local level. It provides an excellent opportunity to promote your work, network and exchange experiences with EU policy makers and other applicants.

Anyone directly involved in Natura 2000 – businesses, authorities, NGOs, volunteers, land owners, educational institutions or individuals – can apply for an Award. By doing so, your efforts to help protect Europe’s most valuable species and habitats will be presented to a wide audience and will help raise the visibility of your activities across the EU. Showcasing your success will also provide inspiration for others who manage and promote Natura 2000 sites.

The Natura 2000 Award recognises good practice in Natura 2000 sites in six different categories:

  • Communication;
  • Socio-Economic Benefits;
  • Conservation;
  • Reconciling Interests / Perceptions;
  • Cross-Border Cooperation and Networking.

As well as a European Citizens’ Award, which  provides  the public with an opportunity to vote for its favourite achievement. The application receiving the highest number of public votes will win the prestigious European Citizens’ Award.

How to apply

It’s simple! Go to the award website and fill in your application form before the 30 September 2019. The website provides detailed information on the application process and offers guidance, tips and examples of how to present your achievements. A summary of each application will be published on the Award website for all to see.

The application form is not complicated and can be completed in all EU languages but it is important that all applicants, including those who have applied previously, read the application form and Guidance for applicants carefully in order to give the application its best chance. Small improvements have been made to the application form and Guidance since the last edition of the Award.

Read the Guidance for application.

Key dates for your diary are as follows:

  • 30 September 2019 – Deadline for submissions
  • March 2020 – Announcement of finalists and public vote
  • May 2020 – Award Ceremony in Brussels

As with the previous editions of the Award, the Award Secretariat provides a help desk for all applicants and potential applicants. Applicants are encouraged to use the on the website or e-mail with any inquiries or concerns about the application process. The e-mail address is: [email protected].

Why to apply

Winning an Award has helped previous applicants, opening new horizons, allowing them to promote their activities on a much wider scale. Winners have particularly highlighted the benefits in terms of raising their profile with the governmental bodies and other stakeholders. For example, the Environmental Organization for Wildlife and Nature Callisto, Greece, winner of the 2018 Reconciling Interests Award said:

“Winning the Natura 2000 Award has had a great impact on the image and status of Callisto. Winning the Award is a great recognition for all the time, work and actions in Kastoria and has had a significant impact both on the external image of Callisto and for all of our experts. This recognition is also a helpful supporting argument for fundraising and asking for further support from Callisto’s friends.”

And the Hungarian Ornithological and Nature Conservation Society – MME (BirdLife Hungary), Winner of the 2018 Conservation Award added:

Both the press release about winning the Award and the press conference at the local event resulted in a very high level of press coverage (100+ media reports), making it one of the most significant topics in the field of nature conservation in Hungary that year.”

Given the key role of member Protected Areas in the management of Natura 2000 network, we encourage all EUROPARC members to have their work acknowledged by applying for the Natura 2000 Award!