2021 Online

Due to the ongoing pandemic, THE event for Protected Area professionals in Europe took place online. On the 6th and 7th of October, around 170 participants from over 30 countries got together during the EUROPARC Conference, to discuss how Protected Areas can make the most of the spotlight they are under.

Parks in the Spotlight – Powered by People; Inspired by Nature

After a successfully “first try” at an online Conference in 2020, we further developed the format in 2021. In two half days, we explored how things are achieved on the ground in Protected Areas, and what more is needed to enable Parks and Protected Areas to fulfil their potential and meet the challenges being presented.

The conference looked at the practical management that turns political and societal topics – such as climate change, biodiversity restoration, health, tourism and economy (especially post covid), capacity building, technology, role of youth and agriculture – into reality.

Inspired by Nature, it is the People of Parks, the staff, their communities, partners and stakeholders that make the necessary changes happen.

This conference gave all a chance to debate, discuss and deliver new ideas, thinking and approaches about how we can address the political, societal and environmental challenges of today, to plan and prepare for a better future.

Read the EUROPARC Conference Report 2021!

Keynote speakers

It wouldn’t be a EUROPARC Conference, without stimulating keynote speakers to set the tone. On day one the following speakers got us of to an inspiring start:

Ladislav Miko

So, Parks are in the spotlight across a range of different policies – what does that mean for the future? The Head of European Commission Representation in Slovakia reminds us that we are dealing with a different Europe: political priorities have changed, and they reflect changes in environment and the demand of citizens. The green agenda now dominates even traditionally  non-green political forces. Ladislav highlighted that challenges for Protected Areas have shifted, but they are not smaller. These challenges include the biodiversity and climate crises, but also the politically competing areas that Protected Areas need to deal with. All in all, this will result in Protected Area professionals sometimes having to ask the “uneasy questions”: what is the priority and how do we address conflicts of interest? Ladislav expertly highlighted these challenges from a policy perspective. 

Dr. George Holmes

George Holmes then put the spotlight on conservationist themselves. What are their values? What do nature conservationist think, and why? The Associate Professor of Conservation and Society at the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds created a special survey for the EUROPARC Network where he asked exactly these questions. During his keynote address, he presented the results.

The global conservation movement is diverse, but NOT divided.

Was one of his findings, a notion he has found to be true in his career studying conservationists. Additionally, although the challenges presented to us are numerous, his survey found that overall the EUROPARC network is generally positive about the future. George’s findings will help us create the future of conservation.

Frans Schepers

After turning the spotlight on the policy and environmentalist, it was now time to look at how we can achieve things on the ground. Frans Schepers from Rewilding Europe presented the work they are doing around Europe. The core principle of Rewilding Europe is that if we allow nature to bounce back, it does. As such, to get the best conservation results, protection is not enough: we need to recover our landscapes. During his keynote address, he spoke about the need, opportunities and principles for practical rewilding in Europe, and how this can be achieved. By providing examples from the eight landscapes Rewilding Europe currently pioneer, Frans demonstrated a variety of scalable rewilding models. Additionally, he presented ideas on what role Protected Areas can play in creating more functional natural landscapes in Europe, to help scaling up towards a wilder Europe.

Participatory workshops

Following a small break, with virtual “field trips” from all over Europe, participants moved to their chosen workshops. They could choose from 10 different workshops, that focussed on topics ranging from sustainable tourism, to climate change. The workshops all included a range of participatory elements. You can find the workshop presentations here.

Speakers’ Corner

A success feature of last year’s Conference made its return in 2021: the Speakers’ Corner. Conference Delegates could secure a 5 minute slot to present their work, project or idea. During one hour, 9 different speakers presented their work:

  • Net Zero with Nature by Naomi Conway, Development Director, National Parks Partnerships.
  • Lake District National Park carbon budgeting and net zero by Tim Duckmanton, Team Leader for Strategy and Environment – Lake District National Park Authority.
  • Sen-Eye: Autonomous wildfire detection service by Rolf Waerzeggers, Product manager – Senhive.
  • NAT:KIT – A toolkit for bike visitor management in Protected Areas by Nico Graaff, General Manager – Mountain Bike Tourism Forum Germany.
  • Rangers – Nature’s heroes and the troubles they face by Jemima Lomax, Ranger Community Coordinator – Force For Nature.
  • Observadores del Mar: a marine conservation citizen science platform by Joaquim Garrabou, Coordinator of Observadores del Mar – Spanish Research Council (CSIC), Marine Science Institute.
  • Dugout boats – intangible heritage of Soomaa national park, Estonia, by Aivar Ruukel, Nature guide – Sooma National Park.
  • Supporting the implementation of SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) in protected areas – the SDG.imp learning platform by Christoph Mathias, Researcher – Institute for Rural Development Research.
  • Transboundary Parks: following nature’s design, by Stefano Santi, Italian Network of the European Green Belt.

Where to next?

Of course, a EUROPARC Conference always has some surprises in store: next year there will be TWO face-to-face EUROPARC Conferences. The Conference in Austria, which was supposed to happen in 2020, will now take place from the 2nd till the 6th of May the Neusiedler See – Seewinkel National Park. We will discover what it takes to communicate in the 21st century (one hint: Question your Mindset!). You can find more information here.

But the fun doesn’t stop there! From the 4 – 7 October 2022 we will meet in Argelès-sur-Mer for a special Conference focussed on Climate Change, as part of the LIFE Natur’Adapt project. During this Conference, organised by new EUROPARC Member Federation des Reserves Naturelles Catalanes, we will discover how we can create resilient Parks. More information will follow, but for now SAVE THE DATE!