Looking back on the Eurosite Annual Meeting 2020 ‘Zooming’ in on European natural site management — from plan to action
Connecting digitally for Europe’s nature
There is a first for everything: this year, in which we needed to adapt to new and different circumstances, the Eurosite Annual Meeting was organised in an online setting for the very first time. The event was divided into four morning sessions from 2 to 5 November 2020. Eurosite’s working groups played a vital role in the organisation of the sessions, which focussed on management planning, ecosystem services, peatland restoration and management, and remote sensing.
Eurosite President Dr. Tilmann Disselhoff, who was appointed during our Annual General Meeting on 30 October 2020, welcomed all the participants, after which Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries thanked participants for their efforts in preserving European nature in a video especially recorded for the Eurosite Annual Meeting. He emphasised the importance of networks such as Eurosite and conferences like the Annual Meeting.
“You are talking about site management and action on the ground. Both elements are absolutely central for Europe’s policy for biodiversity and getting nature back on track. A conference like this is a great occasion for sharing experience. For learning from each other and preparing for the challenges ahead.” – Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries
Management planning and implementation
The remainder of day 1 was catered for by the Eurosite Management Planning Expert Group. In a mini workshop, the chairman of that group, Mr. Henk Zingstra, explained how to use the online Eurosite Management Planning Toolkit that was launched last year and further developed throughout 2020. The toolkit supports site managers in creating their management plans and explains the various elements a good management plan should contain. Ben Le Bas (Natural England) and Kristian van Oene (Natuurmonumenten) elaborated on these matters, such as adaptive management and mapping, focusing on the importance of having a management plan in place.
Ecosystem Services and their value
The Economics and Ecosystem Services Working Group, under the leadership of Mr. Jan Veenstra, delivered the second day of the conference, teaching the audience about the concept of ecosystem services. Members of the working group presented case studies, Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) schemes, and provided information on ecosystem services in relation to GIS models. Mrs. Marina Škunca of Geonatura Ltd. gave a tutorial on QGIS and the mapping of ecosystem services in practice.
Peatland restoration and management
On day 3 participants were taken on a journey on peatland restoration and management under the guidance of the Peatland Restoration and Management Group’s chair Mr. Paul Leadbitter of the North Pennines AONB Partnership. Mrs. Dianna Kopansky of the United Nations Environment Programme started that journey from a global perspective by introducing the UN’s Global Peatland Initiative (GPI), which Eurosite joined earlier this year. The GPI is an initiative to save peatlands as the world’s largest terrestrial organic carbon stock. Mrs. Kopansky also promoted the UN’s Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030) and invited participants to share and promote their work. From a global perspective we ‘zoomed in’ on a European and interregional perspective from the Interreg projects Care-Peat and CarbonConnects, and a national perspective in which the UK Peatland Strategy was explained. Lastly, Paul Leadbitter took participants on a visual trip showing the restoration success in the Pennine PeatLIFE project by means of a video filmed by a drone.
The Eurosite Remote Sensing Support Group facilitated the last day of the 2020 Annual Meeting, providing participants with an overview of open access software packages for viewing satellite imagery, and sharing knowledge and experience on LiDAR and satellite data for vegetation monitoring and native and invasive species mapping.
Annual General Meeting
Traditionally, the Annual General Meeting (AGM) for Eurosite members is also part of the Annual Meeting. The AGM took place on 30 October and provided new members with the possibility to introduce themselves and their organisations. The new Eurosite Strategy to 2025 was officially adopted by the members, and the Annual Report 2019 and the preliminary budget for 2021 were approved. Stefan Versweyveld’s second term as President came to an end and the network thanked him for his guidance and ongoing commitment.
We are happy to introduce you to our new Board and Council members:
- Tilmann Disselhoff, Eurosite President;
- Miquel Rafa, Board member;
- Rhys Jones, Board member;
- Bohdan Prots, Council member representing Ukraine;
- Christophe Lépine, Council member representing France;
- Debbie Kamphuis, Council member representing the Netherlands;
- Lefkios Skordas, Council member representing Cyprus.
- Nick Edwards, Council member representing the United Kingdom;
- Patrick Nuvelstijn, Council member representing the Netherlands;
- Stanislav Březina, Council member representing the Czech Republic;
- Xavier Escuté I Gasulla, Council member representing Spain;
On behalf of the Eurosite network a warm and big thank you to all Board and Council members whose terms ended and who fulfilled their roles with dedication in the past years!
Save the date for the Eurosite Annual Meeting 2021
All days of the online conference contained an interactive part in which participants either had the opportunity to discuss statements regarding the themes of the day or could further share knowledge during plenary Q&A sessions. Since one of the main purposes of Eurosite is the facilitation of sharing knowledge and experience through networking, the event closed with the ‘Eurosite café’, an informal networking session in which participants could virtually walk through various rooms to catch up with their international colleagues. During the conference’s closing words, Eurosite President Tilmann Disselhoff invited participants to save the date for next year’s Annual Meeting, which will take place on Cyprus in the first week of November 2021.
All presentations are available on the dedicated event page. A workshop report will be uploaded soon. Please note that participants can also request the recordings of the webinars by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo credit: Clive Hurford