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Human Activities in Natura 2000 Sites: A Highly Diversified Conservation Network

Abstract

The Natura 2000 network was established across the European Union’s (EU) Member States with the aim to conserve biodiversity, while ensuring the sustainability of human activities. However, to what kind and to what extent Natura 2000 sites are subject to human activities and how this varies across Member States remains unspecified. Here, we analyzed 111,269 human activity records from 14,727 protected sites in 20 Member States. The frequency of occurrence of activities differs among countries, with more than 86 % of all sites being subjected to agriculture or forestry. Activities like hunting, fishing, urbanization, transportation, and tourism are more frequently recorded in south European sites than in northern or eastern ones. The observed variations indicate that Natura 2000 networks are highly heterogeneous among EU Member States. Our analysis highlights the importance of agriculture in European landscapes and indicates possible targets for policy interventions at national, European, or “sub-European” level. The strong human presence in the Natura 2000 network throughout Member States, shows that conservation initiatives could succeed only by combining social and ecological sustainability and by ensuring the integration of policies affecting biodiversity.

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Acknowledgments

The work was supported by the EU FP7 SCALES Project (“Securing the Conservation of biodiversity across Administrative Levels and spatial, temporal and Ecological Scales”; Project #226852).

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Correspondence to Maria A. Tsiafouli.

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Tsiafouli, M.A., Apostolopoulou, E., Mazaris, A.D. et al. Human Activities in Natura 2000 Sites: A Highly Diversified Conservation Network. Environmental Management 51, 1025–1033 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-013-0036-6

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Keywords

  • Agriculture
  • Biodiversity
  • Conservation policy
  • Protected areas
  • Habitats directive
  • Birds directive