From 12 – 14 June 2019 on behalf of the European Habitats Forum (EHF), Eurosite has attended the Biogeographical seminar for the Atlantic Region. The Seminar was hosted jointly by DG Environment and the Agency for Nature and Forests of the Government of Flanders, and was attended by some 100 participants coming from almost all Member States from this region (Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Spain, the Netherlands and UK).

The main topics discussed at the Seminar were: 

  1. Protection and conservation of meadow birds
  2. Integrated approaches to tackling nitrogen pollution impacts on Natura 2000 sites
  3. Improving the conservation of Natura 2000 features through integrated management
  4. Developing stakeholder engagement in Natura 2000 through translation of best practices

Meadow bird decline is a region-wide problem. Some success factors were identified for the improvement of their status, this includes: a landscape approach and setting of strong conservation targets with correct ecological conditions; combination of conservation sites and a good agri-environment schemes in the surrounding agricultural land; Result-based Payment Schemes; and a single point of contact for farmers to reach the site manager.

In terms of nitrogen pollution, one of the conclusions was that interpretation of articles 6.3 and 6.4 of the Habitats Directive reduces the flexibility for restoration, locking the state of the site to the time of designation. Further, a more integrated approach to various funding streams, currently sectoral and compartmentalized, could improve implementation of restoration measures. Conservation funding should be recognized as a positive investment and not just cost.

More cross-border exchange of knowledge is needed for the nitrogen issues, application of integrated management approaches, as well as stakeholder involvement. There is no universal solution to these issues, however, exchange of best practice examples at the biogeographic level on these issues could benefit the site managers. For example, France has a very elaborate approach to stakeholder engagement around Natura 2000 sites, as well as a special training programme for site managers based on their needs.

The PAFs will have a very important role in tackling all of the issues mentioned above. PAFs should include all the necessary funding for the Natura 2000 management, including the needs for capacity building and networking activities. The information from PAFs will even influence the work programme of LIFE in the next Multiannual Financial Framework. 

The full report of the Seminar will be available on the Natura 2000 Communication Platform: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/natura2000/platform/

photo credit: Wim Dirckx