Protected areas as part of green infrastructure

Term „Green Infrastructure” is used more and more frequently in nature conservation and development discussions. Green infrastructure means different things to different people depending on the context in which it is used. For example, some people refer to trees in urban areas as green infrastructure because of the “green” benefits they provide, while others use green infrastructure to refer to engineered structures (e.g. water treatment facilities) that are designed to be environmentally friendly.


Green Infrastructure is a network of natural areas and features, including protected areas, high nature value agricultural land, greenways, wetlands, green roofs, parks, forest reserves and marine areas. Green Infrastructure can support a range of vital ecosystem functions, and thus also provide recreational opportunities, support human health and improve the quality of life.


In June 2011, the European Commission adopted a new strategy to halt the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the EU by 2020. There are six main targets and 20 actions to help Europe reach its goal. Seminar focuses on the target 2- Better protection for ecosystems, and more use of green infrastructure. Thus, EU Green Infrastructure is aimed at strengthening ecosystems by developing an integrated land management. It will protect and restore Europe's rich natural heritage and counter loss and fragmentation of the natural environment. Green Infrastructure is an essential tool for climate change mitigation and adaptation. Investing in and building up Green Infrastructure needs smart and integrated approaches to spatial planning. It is an important element of the EU's biodiversity and nature policy, and developing Green Infrastructure will support achieving the agreed EU biodiversity targets.


Seminar is dedicated to dr Eerik Kumari (07.03.1912-08.01.1984), pioneer figure in Estonian nature conservation.

 

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SUMMARY ABOUT THE SEMINAR

Welcoming words of the seminar were made by the Nordic-Baltic section president Kaja Lotman, who thanked the previous section president Thomas Hansson with an Estonian honeypot. Leelo Kukk, deputy director general of Keskkonnaamet / Estonian Environmental Board confirmed that the presidency status is very important for Estonia and assured that we will do our best to achieve the objectives of the section.

The first block of presentations gave an insight into what is meant by the term „green infrastructure“. Karen Zaunberger from European Commission introduced the term with what kind of benefits it can provide. For example: multifunctional use for greening transport and energy; giving space to ecosystems and maintaining biodiversity; strengthening the functionality of ecosystems for delivering goods and services, such as provision of clean water and air, flood retention, attractive recreational areas; mitigating and adapting to climate change effects, for acting as barriers against erosion, and for enhancing the quality of life (health, conserving historic and cultural heritage); financial investments possibilities. McKenna Davis from Ecologic Institute gave an overview of Institute’s study on several European green infrastructure projects, their design, implementation and costs. All the researched projects were diverse in their drivers and barriers. Amongst the most interesting results were the range of objectives, sectors, activities and elements addressed across the projects. Kalev Sepp from Estonian University of Life Sciences looked upon the background of the green infrastructure concept and what can be learned from the previous experiences and giving examples of Estonian developments in this field.

The second part of the seminar concentrated on the several examples of green infrastructure concept implementation. Martin Strnad from Nature Conservation Agency of the Czech Republic (Beskydy Protected Landscape Area) showed Czech approach to green infrastructure concept. In Beskydy Protected Landscape Area, the most critical areas are actually outside the protected area or on the border. Sometimes the problem lies in the fact that mammal corridors look good on paper, but in the real life end in the middle of nowhere. Thus landscape connectivity is a vital precondition for conservation of ecosystems. Jörg Schmiedel from BUND (Friends of the Earth Germany) observed the phenomen „Green Belt“, which does not only include nature but also cultural aspects. Raluca Dan from WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme showed green infrastructure examples in South-East Europe. The presentation focused on Lower-Danube area, where the lessons learnt were connected with involving communities and as many stakeholders as possible, taking into account also social-economical aspects. Hanno Zingel from the Estonian Ministry of Environment gave an overview about the Estonian nature conservation developments. Lauri Klein from Estonian Environment Information Centre proposed several methods on how to integrate green infrastructure into spatial planning. For example, there should be: a common understanding on what green infrastructure is and what should it serve; common agreement on measures so it „works“  also in reality; involvement of all stakeholders; not to lose the target „ avoid the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services“. The first step is to find out the components - what you have and where?  Second step is detection of movements and needs – who, how and where are moving? And the third step is to formulate mitigation hierarchy and planning rules – what is needed to ensure “working” network? But there are still problems involved in the concept implementation (Estonian case studies): functional principles of green network are not well enough studied and formulated before setting county level plans; planning act allows detailed plans to change general plans, also within green network; administrative weakness on municipality level. Andris Urtans from Latvian Nature Conservation Agency presentation was about development of green infrastructures in Latvia through initiative “Place a Stone in a Stream“. The aim of this initiative is to support and increase biodiversity in rivers, improve river functionality and selfpurification capacities, improve functionality of river coastal zone and shape river landscape, adapt possible climate change impacts on to the river ecosystem, raise citizen awareness and motivation through practical involvement.

The seminar workshops focused on 4 topics: benefits of green infrastructure, Natura 2000 principal and administrative coherence, next steps to implementing green infrastructure, how functional is green infrastructure.

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