In our increasingly fragmented and modified cultural landscape, taking account of the functional and spatial coherence of protected area networks plays a key role in effective nature conservation. Many species and habitat types cannot be maintained in the isolation of protection areas due to their dependence on specific interrelationships within their environment. This makes it necessary to establish a functional biotope network.
Ecological coherence and aspects relating to the network of interlinked biotopes are therefore taken up in EU directives (e.g. the Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive), international conventions and treaties (e.g. the Convention on Biodiversity) and statements of policy intent (e.g. the EU Council’s statement that biodiversity decline should be halted by 2010).
Articles 3 and 10 of the Habitats Directive call on member states to encourage the management of landscape features that are essential for the migration, dispersal and genetic exchange of wild species and so improve the ecological coherence of the Natura 2000 network of protection areas. Examples include features serving as stepping stones and linear structures such as river banks and hedges. In promoting the management of these features, Article 10 of the Habitats Directive does not create an obligation to mark out new protection areas, but is a supplementary provision that may be applied differently for each species and each type of habitat.
Section 3 of the Federal Nature Conservation Act (BNatSchG), which requires the Länder to establish a cross-Länder network of interlinked biotopes on at least ten percent of the land area, and Section 5 (3) and (4) 3 of BNatSchG on maintenance and promotion of linear and stepping-stone components needed to maintain a biotope network provide a far-reaching legal basis which also has relevance in the implementation of the requirements set out under Article 3 and 10 of the Habitats Directive.
From 9 – 13 May 2005, a workshop on Biotopverbund und Kohärenz nach Artikel 10 der Fauna-Flora-Habitat-Richtlinie (Ecological Networks and Coherence according to Article 10 of the Habitats Directive) took place on the island of Vilm. The focus of the workshop was two-fold: to finalise and support implementation of Article 10 of the Habitats Directive in the EU, and to help clarify Germany’s special situation with regard to the interrelationships and mutual supplementing of the cross-Länder network of interlinked biotopes and implementation of Article 10 of the Habitats Directive.
Some 40 participants attended the workshop. These included members of the EU Commission (DG Environment), the expert group on development of the EU Council’s Pan European Ecological Network (PEEN), representatives from eleven member states, independent experts, NGO members and staff from the various Länder administrations.
List of participants (PDF)
Presentations were given on Coherence of Networks of Protected Areas, Coherence in Natura 2000 Depending on Site Proposals, and Spatial and Functional Aspects of Coherence in Natura 2000.
Following the presentations, groups were formed to take up specific issues of coherence and to produce additional recommendations for action. At the end of the workshop, the results were used to formulate conclusions which took the form of an official proposal. The full original text is contained in Ssymank et al. 2006 (German with an English-language summary) in the magazine Naturschutz und Landschaftsplanung.
Annex 1 to the Workshop Conclusions (PDF)
The EU Commission Habitats Committee and the EU Nature Directors Meeting both believe that further research-level exchange is needed, not least in light of climate change, and that one of the key responsibilities for the future involves drawing up a package of methods and practical models for implementation.