Achieving the EU’s nature protection commitments

Posted on 09 October 2020

Implementing Protected Area targets on the ground
In May, the European Commission published the 2030 EU Biodiversity Strategy which contained ambitious commitments for stronger nature protection. The strategy commits to more effective implementation of conservation in existing protected areas and to extend the protected area (PA) network to a minimum of 30% of EU land and sea, including through increasing connectivity, and ensuring at least 10% of EU land and sea areas are “strictly protected”.

Making these targets a reality on the ground will be essential in changing the fate of biodiversity in Europe. With that in mind WWF, together with 16 other nature protection NGOs as members of the European Habitats Forum, have published a joint policy paper with recommendations on how to turn those targets into concrete actions.

To achieve these ambitions, the paper outlines the following recommendations: 
  • Improve the management effectiveness and actual protection of all existing and new protected areas as an urgent priority.
  • Create an ecologically coherent and representative network of protected areas that covers the full range of ecosystems and their characteristic biodiversity across EUs land and seas. 
  • Close all gaps in the completion of the Natura 2000 network as a matter of priority.
  • For PAs that to count towards the 30% target, they need to comply with the IUCN’s definition of PA’s, its accompanying principles and common objectives and be effectively managed.  
  • The criteria to define strict protection must be aligned with the IUCN 1 & 2 management[1]. categories and focus primarily on non-intervention management and the protection of large scale natural processes, vulnerable biodiversity and carbon rich areas. Strict protection must exclude all extractive and habitat altering activities. Only activities strictly required for the conservation purposes in line with the ecological requirements of the site should be allowed.
  • Strict protection and non-intervention does not mean inaction: activities designed to achieve the conservation objectives of the site should be allowed and implemented, including equitable management actions linked to pressures’ and threats’ reduction, visitors and local residents, and those restoration measures to make non-intervention possible. This includes measures to find solutions compatible with the ecological needs of the site while recognising the needs and rights of people who have customarily used the area in question.
  • The protected area targets need to be reached both at national and at biogeographical levels.

[1] IUCN categories:

1a Strict Nature Reserve: Category 1a are strictly protected areas set aside to protect biodiversity and also possibly geological/geomorphical features, where human visitation, use and impacts are strictly controlled and limited to ensure protection of the conservation values. Such protected areas can serve as indispensable reference areas for scientific research and monitoring

1b Wilderness Area: Category 1b protected areas are usually large unmodified or slightly modified areas, retaining their natural character and influence without permanent or significant human habitation, which are protected and managed so as to preserve their natural condition.

2 National Park: Category 2 protected areas are large natural or near natural areas set aside to protect large-scale ecological processes, along with the complement of species and ecosystems characteristic of the area, which also provide a foundation for environmentally and culturally compatible, spiritual, scientific, educational, recreational, and visitor opportunities.
Pine trees in a South West National Park. Finnish Archipelago. Finland
© Mauri Rautkari / WWF