Protect, prevent, present: challenges and opportunities for protected areas on World Population Day
With increasing urbanization, more and more Europeans are reaching out to protected areas seeking recreation and silence. This dynamic presents park managers with new challenges. Seasonal and massive tourism can have serious impact on the biodiversity of such sensible areas, with indirect consequences on the local economy itself. That’s why the promotion and the implementation of sustainable management practices and strategies have become one of the actual tasks of protected area managers. EUROPARC Federation enhances their capacity to meet the expectations of stakeholders and offers a unique network to ´(re)connect society with biodiversity´.
EUROPARC Federation´s latest research, done among Protected Areas with European Charter for Sustainable Tourism (ECST) status, shows that more than 40 million people live in and around those areas. This represents about 11 percent of the total population of 7 European countries involved in the ongoing survey. As it is expected that population continues to grow in the coming years, special attention has to be put on land use and infrastructure needs within and around protected areas. A bigger population will result in increasing demand to use natural resources and the environmental pressure on fauna and flora will rise accordingly. Therefore, it is crucial to improve participation of all stakeholders in the planning process for a sustainable development and management of protected areas.
European countries are facing increasing land degradation, a high rate of deforestation, water shortages, dispersion of human settlements, the expansion of infrastructure and land used for an ever increasing industrialization of agricultural production. The UN expects 651 million people to live in Europe by the end of 2050. The effects of such population growth on natural resources and protected areas will be enormous and a better production system reducing waste in the food chain is crucial.
Most Protected Areas (PA) in Europe have a close link to agriculture, as they are located in rural regions, surrounded by logging or farming communities, where the protection of traditional and sustainable agriculture practices are crucial for the conservation of biological diversity and for the local economy.. The Common European Agricultural Policy (CAP) is due to be reformed in 2013 and EUROPARC is closely following and consulting the process, representing its members in 35 countries.
In accordance with the outcomes of the Rio+20 Summit, EUROPARC Federation highlights the linkage between population dynamics and sustainable development, both key factors to reduce negative environmental impacts. Stakeholder participation and integrated sustainable regional management is considered as a solution allowing nations to adapt to environmental changes.
“International cooperation must be at the centre of those processes: enhancing the capacity of protected areas and encouraging their collaboration beyond national borders is at the core of our work. EUROPARC Federations knows that sharing best practices and professional exchange is most valuable to enhance the potential of our members across Europe”, says EUROPARC President Thomas Hansson. Thus, protected areas actions to protect nature, prevent the exploitation of resources and the extinction of species will be strengthened – and nature presented at its best”.
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