Home » Archive by category "News"

5 August 2019

CEEweb Academy 2019

CEEweb Academy 2019

Making cities flourish: Building urban communities through biodiversity initiatives

28-30 October 2019

Register here!

The annual CEEweb Academy will hit your brains this year on 28-30 October, focusing on urban biodiversity and citizen engagement! Don’t miss this opportunity to dig in these issues with an array of international speakers and an approach to successful citizen initiatives from the region and participate to it! We will shortly open registrations!

Preliminary Programme

  • Conference
  • Workshop
  • Walkshop
  • CEEweb Annual Meeting

Theme

Making cities flourish: Building urban communities through biodiversity initiatives

Urban areas are by their nature lower on biodiversity and natural areas, and as such are usually treated as “problem areas.” However, urban living can help cut down or reverse the loss of natural areas and help reduce transportation distances. In addition, they possess a wealth of still largely untapped resources: people, communities, willingness for cooperation, knowledge and goodwill. There is increasing recognition that instead of seeing cities as problems, urban areas can become part of the solution.

What is people’s perception, knowledge of biodiversity and what are their concerns? What opportunities and difficulties exist for local initiatives in the Central and Eastern European region? What have been successful strategies? How to build a good public engagement strategy? How to communicate complex topics and the many benefits of biodiversity effectively?

The Annual CEEweb Academy will center around urban biodiversity and citizens’ engagement. It will showcase solutions and good examples of complex urban biodiversity projects that get local residents on board. It will offer the opportunity to learn and develop skills for citizens’ effective engagement.

Citizen Science at its best: students from South Minneapolis help monitor water clarity in Minnehaha Creek for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency as part of their fifth grade science class. Photo: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Creative Commons BY-NC 2.0.

26 July 2019

Rockaway beech

Come and hitch a ride to the INTERREG CE funded BEECH POWER project, aiming to save ecosystem integrity in the UNESCO World Heritage site “Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and other Regions of Europe.”

Photo credit: Patricia Alberth / UNESCO

(more…)

18 July 2019

The new girl in town

Understanding the importance of the preservation of the Eurasian lynx, the Budakeszi Wildlife Park, in Hungary, has brought in Rita — for the joy of the other lynx resident, Csabi.

(Photo credit: Linda Surányi / Budakeszi Vadaspark)

(more…)

11 July 2019

Underrepresented at the core

With the upcoming conformation of the EU’s top positions and institutions — Brexit considered — CEE countries barely have any voice, despite their importance.

The recent conformation of and allocation in the top European Union positions and institutions have left Central and Eastern European countries severely underrepresented. When considering that this block of 11 Member States represent over 19% of the EU population, the lack of balance becomes hardly unnoticeable. Thus, read below CEEweb’s statement on this critical issue.


Central and Eastern Europe widely underrepresented in top EU positions and EU institutions

While the distribution of key positions within the European institutions should take into account a balance between geographical regions of the EU, this geographical balance for the top EU jobs is not being fulfilled for the coming period.

Although some of the actual votes are still ahead, currently zero out of the five top EU leaders — president of the European Parliament, European Commission president, European Council president, European Central Bank president and High Representative for foreign affairs and security — come from a country of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). While in the previous term at least one position was held by a person from a CEE Member State — the European Council president, Donald Tusk, coming from Poland — regrettably there will be none in the current term. Central and Eastern Europe will remain underrepresented in EU institutions and European leaders are failing to send a message that CEE matters enough in the Union.

The 11 countries of Central-Eastern Europe make up more than 19% of the EU’s population. These are countries with particular historical pathways and socio-economic challenges different in nature from those of their Western-European counterparts. While the days are gone when these countries were the ones economically stagnating — with economic growth rates now higher than the EU average — structural vulnerabilities remain beyond the economic developments. These include a dependence on EU funding, the state of public goods and services (including natural capital), value polarization in society, higher than average concentration of farmlands, centralization in governance, weakening and de-legitimization of Civil Society Organizations, and fraud and corruption related to public — including EU — money. While these countries are by no means identical regarding the severity of these challenges, with major differences by country, they are all affected to some degree.

Some of these challenges are rooted in or at least connected with the structure and nature of EU funds. All CEE countries are net recipients of EU funding and the next EU Budget (Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027) will be adopted soon with several open questions and previous suggestions for new types of conditionality, such as the rule of law. Thus, a better representation of these countries in EU leadership would have all the more been needed.

In face of the lack of CEE representation on the top level, the European Parliament has elected 5 Vice-Presidents from CEE, coming from three countries. Vice-Presidents may replace the President when necessary, including to chair plenary sittings. However, as for the European Parliament Committees go, only two of the twenty-two EP Committees are chaired by MEPs from the CEE region at the moment (i.e. the Industry, Research, and Energy Committee (ITRE), chaired by Adina Valean, from Romania (EPP) and the the Employment and Social Affairs Committee, chaired by Lucia Ďuriš Nicholsonová from Slovakia (ECR)).


13 June 2019

A rush of air to the head

As part of its most recent meeting, the ConnectGREEN project partners visited the Badínsky prales Natura 2000 site: a haven of untouched forest ecosystems in the heart of Slovakia.

Back in 1905, Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío started his famous poem “Song of Spring in Autumn” with the following verses: “Youth, divine treasure, you are already leaving to not return!”. Over a century later, with the planet and humankind facing a critical moment which urges for reaction to protect biodiversity, one could perhaps describe our current context with a redefinition of those verses: “Nature, divine treasure, you seem to be leaving to not return!”. Nevertheless, there is always hope — and some time to react, too. On 15 May 2019, during the ConnectGREEN project Partner Meeting, held in Banská Bystrica, Slovakia, an immersion to the Badínsky prales proved that humanity can really be sustainable — if it so wants to.

Located in Banská Bystrica, Slovakia, Badínsky prales extend over 30 hectares and acts as an extension to the Pol’ana Biosphere Reserve, home to 1220 higher plant species, 390 types of mushrooms and 278 animal species. Source: Natura 2000.

Located in the south-eastern part of the Kremnické pohorie mountains, 10 km to the south-west of Banská Bystrica, the area of primeval forest represents the syncretism of forest ecosystems and rural cultural landscapes, and how both themes can be protected and enjoyed. The forest, a Natura 2000 site, is located in the Alpine biogeographical region and has been protected since 1913, thus being one of the natural reserves in Slovakia protected by law for the longest period of time — with its rare primary fir and beech habitat almost untouched by human activity.

As a matter of fact, within its 30.70 ha, only fallen trunks — threatening the forest road operations — are removed, thus securing the lowest possible human interference. Therefore, the Badínsky prales allow for a unique opportunity to enter an originally aged forest, untouched by human extractive patterns.

BRANCHING THE PROTECTION

The importance of the Badínsky prales becomes bigger when one realises that it also acts as an extension of the Pol’ana Biosphere Reserve, which sits on a 20.360 ha area and helps protect 30 species addressed in the Nature Directives and 17 habitat types indicated within the Habitat Directive (22 and 3, respectively, for the specific territory of the Primeval Forests of Badín).

Pol’ana’s history dates back to 13-15 million years ago, when volcanic activities brought a geological and geomorphological context conducive to the development of several rare species. Overall, Pol’ana — which is covered by forests on 85% of its territory — is home to 1220 higher plant species, 390 types of mushrooms and 278 animal species. For the ConnectGREEN project partners — focused in working to increase the capacity of ecological corridors identification and management and to overcome the conflict between infrastructure development and wildlife conservation — the visit to the site was of utter importance, since it helps protect the project’s three emblematic large carnivore species : the grey wolf, the Eurasian Lynx and the brown bear.

Therefore, nature, divine treasure, be protected to never leave.

15 May 2019

The ‘MaGIar’ Way

[This research was presented during the TRANSGREEN International Conference on Natural Infrastructure Connectivity, held in Budapest, Hungary, on 4 April 2019]

In recent decades, land degradation, urban land use and the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services are critical problems taking place at the global scale. Within that context, Hungary launched the Environmental and Energy Efficiency Operational Programme (KEHOP) in 2016, a multi-targeted, complex scheme to comply with the Target 2 commitments of the EU Biodiversity Strategy — which requires 15% of degraded ecosystems and their services to be restored by 2020 by establishing green infrastructure — and develop the scientifically sound basis of the targets of the biodiversity strategy.

KEHOP consists of 4 pillars: Natura, Landscape Character types, Ecosystem Services (ES) and Green Infrastructure (GI). Within the project, case studies of the application of the developed methodology at settlement and at groups of settlements levels will contribute to the testing of the feasibility of Green Infrastructure development. An important innovation of the project refers to participatory approach, involving different stakeholders — including sectors other than nature conservation — in the decision process. This comes to be critical for, during the development of the typology of GI and the analysis of the existing networks, special attention has to be directed towards reaching a consensus between nature conservation, landscape planning and interests in other functions.


GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENT IN HUNGARY SUMMARY OF A PROJECT

Katalin Török1, Eszter Tanács1, Anikó Kovács-Hostyánszki1, László Kollányi2

1 MTA Centre for Ecological Research, Institute of Ecology and Botany; 2 Ormos Imre Foundation

Introduction

The Target 2 of the EU Biodiversity Strategy requires 15% of degraded ecosystems and their services to be restored by 2020, by establishing green infrastructure (EC 2013). This commitment with other targets has been adopted by the national biodiversity strategies. Among others, the evaluation and mapping of ecosystem services is a prerequisite for green infrastructure development in order to take ecosystem services into consideration in the process. Hungary has launched a multi-targeted, complex project (KEHOP) to comply with the commitments and develop the scientifically sound basis of the targets of the biodiversity strategy. The project has four pillars: the Natura pillar supports reporting about the species and habitats of community interest; the second pillar will develop the methodology to identify landscape character types; mapping and evaluating Ecosystem Services is the third pillar; and the fourth is the development of Green Infrastructure. The closest relationship is between ecosystem services and green infrastructure, the other two pillars are out of the scope of this paper.

Estimation of ecosystem services and their mapping

Ecosystem services (ES) are benefits people obtain from ecosystems, including their components (biodiversity) and functions. In order to help member states, the EU has founded the Working Group on Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystems and their Services (MAES WG) that produced and is still producing expert documents, examples, best practices for ES assessment and mapping (Maes et al. 2013). The approach adopted the so-called cascade model of ES (Haines-Young & Potschin 2010) that is followed for the survey in the KEHOP project as well. The model links through steps from ecosystem condition to human wellbeing (Fig. 1). Cascade one represents the biophysical state (structure and processes) of the ecosystem (ecosystem condition), the second identifies the functions of the ecosystem that provide the services (the potential of the ecosystem to provide the services), the third describes the services actually used and the fourth estimates the human benefit of the given ES. It is apparent that degraded ecosystems cannot provide the same level of benefits to humans, so ecosystem condition is of high importance. Therefore, the first step is to map ecosystem types and then ecosystem conditions.

Figure 1. The cascade model of ecosystem service analysis (Haines-Young & Potschin 2010).

Presently, the national ecosystem map is completed at a resolution of 20 x 20 m pixels (Fig. 2) and the next step is the preparation of ecosystem condition maps that will be produced with the support of several indicators, based on existing and continuously updated national databases, like e.g. the Forest Inventory Database (see Fig. 3) or data related to the Water Framework Directive. As there are no such databases for grasslands, in their case the density of grassland patches and some measure of connectivity are planned to be used as indicators of condition.

Figure 2. The new ecosystem type map of Hungary created for the purpose of ecosystem service mapping and evaluation.

In parallel, groups of experts select indicators for the assessment of ES. Important innovation on the project is the participatory approach to involve different stakeholders in the decision process, including sectors other than nature conservation. Through the participatory process 13 ES have been selected to be evaluated, considered to be the most important for the future of human wellbeing in Hungary. The process is multidisciplinary and beside natural scientists, social scientists are involved as well. For a few ES monetary and non-monetary evaluation of economic benefits will be included in the analyses.

Figure 3. Number of invasive tree species in forests under management, based on data from the National Forest Inventory database – an example of a simple condition indicator for forests.

Green infrastructure development

Green infrastructure (GI) is a strategically planned network of natural and semi-natural areas (including water bodies, blue GI) with other environmental features designed and managed to deliver a wide range of ecosystem services in both rural and urban settings (EC 2013b). Its main element is a network of high nature value green habitats, complemented by lower natural state green (and blue) areas. Important feature of GI is its multifunctional benefit. The green infrastructure pillar of the KEHOP project started later than other parts to be able to found on results of other pillars, mainly the ES study. The tasks include the development of the methodology of GI evaluation and prioritization of the strategic development of GI within and outside settlements. Case studies of the application of the developed methodology at settlement and groups of settlement level will contribute to the testing of the feasibility of GI development.

Multifunctional benefits can only arise from well-functioning GI, the prerequisite for this is twofold. State of the elements and the level of connectivity both matter — and are also linked. The reason is that degradation of green areas narrows the functionality and lowers ES provision, therefore during the development of the typology of GI and the analysis of the existing network, special attention has to be directed towards reaching a consensus between nature conservation, landscape planning and interests in other functions. A stakeholder involvement is planned also in this pillar. The importance of connectivity, or the reduction of fragmentation regarding the territories and livelihoods of different species is demonstrated in Fig. 4. Not only the fragmentation but the pattern of GI elements is also a planning priority.

Figure 4. The effect of habitat fragmentation on the core and the buffer area of a habitat patch (EEA 2011).

Presently the project is at the development of the typology of GI elements. During the coming months, the existing GI network has to be identified, and zones presented were the different functions conflict. In the further development of the GI network priorities in habitat improvement, corridor and steppingstone design will be the most important tasks. Two approaches exist for increasing connectivity: either by eliminating barriers or by increasing permeability (McRae et al. 2012). The project will investigate both options at different spatial scales.

REFERENCES

EC – European Commission (2013a), ‘Decision No 1386/2013/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 November 2013 on a General Union Environment Action Programme to 2020 ‘Living well, within the limits of our planet’’ (http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=celex:32013D1386)

EC – European Commission (2013b), Green Infrastructure (GI) — Enhancing Europe’s Natural Capital – COM (2013) 149.

EEA (European Environment Agency) Landscape fragmentation in Europe (2011) report.

Haines-Young, R., Potschin, M, (2010): The links between biodiversity, ecosystem services and human well-being. In: Raffaelli, D.G. and Frid, C.L.J., eds., Ecosystem ecology: a new synthesis Cambridge University Press, p. 110-139.

Maes J., et al. (2013): Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystems and their Services. An analytical framework for ecosystem assessments under action 5 of the EU biodiversity strategy to 2020. Publication office of the European Union, Luxembourg.

McRae BH, Hall SA, Beier P, Theobald DM (2012) Where to Restore Ecological Connectivity? Detecting Barriers and Quantifying Restoration Benefits. PLOS ONE 7(12): e52604. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0052604

12 April 2019

Menu: Green Connectivity

Lessons and food for thought on green and grey infrastructure and spatial planning from the TRANSGREEN International Conference on Natural-Infrastructure Connectivity.

First, count over 110 registered participants. Then, consider a full auditorium. Afterwards, add on one side an urban-green session, which includes presentations on spatial planning, urban green spaces, green infrastructure networks and ecosystem services. After that mix, add a session on ecology topics, which considers the effects of habitat structure under road bridges, wildlife corridors, digital mapping of soil degradation and monitoring methodologies of large carnivores. Shake well and, voilà: the TRANSGREEN International Conference on Natural-Infrastructure Connectivity.

Last 4 April 2019, Budapest, Hungary, received a contingent of scientists, scholars and engineers from the Danube region to discuss and share their work and research on the themes of green and grey infrastructure and spatial planning. The full-day event served to foster cooperation possibilities between the participants and allowed for sharing ongoing research activities and best practices conceived around the Danube region.

The conference was organised by CEEweb for Biodiversity as part of the Interreg Danube Transnational Programme (Interreg DTP) funded TRANSGREEN project, and it aimed towards an ideal scenario of adequate policy development throughout borders and sectors. The goal: get safer and more environmentally-friendly road and rail networks in the mountainous regions of the Danube Basin, going in line with TRANSGREEN’s own aim, a project with a special focus on the Carpathian Mountains and the development of ecological corridors.

And now, the presentations are available for downloading for any interested researcher or party who wants to have access. Thus, bon appétit!

Final agenda

Presentations

3 April 2019

A Wild Photo Contest!

To celebrate 2019 as the Year of Wilderness, the European Wilderness Society is organising the Let’s Get Wild Photo Contest. Get your camera ready!

Battery charged? Camera lenses cleaned? Index finger prepared for heavy clicking? Then, time to set out for the wilderness and get the best photographs you can to participate to the Let’s Get Wild Photo Contest, organised by the European Wilderness Society (EWS) as part of their activities related to the Year of Wilderness.

Entry to the contest is free and open to everyone, and you have until 31 May 2019 to submit your wildest photos. And if you need more motivation than being outdoors and enjoying nature at its best to take the best pictures, then have a look at the prizes:

  • Grand prize: a free ticket to take part in WILDArt 2019 in Majella National Park, Italy.
  • First prize: a two-day visit to the breath-taking High Tatra National Park, including a local Wilderness guide and an overnight stay in a mountain cabin.
  • Second prize: a signed copy of ‘Vlado’s Wildest Places’ book and T-shirt.
  • Third prize: a European Wilderness Society gift package, including a t-shirt, coffee mug and hardcover edition of all their Wilderness Briefs.

Wilderness, WILDLife and WILDPeople

For the contest, there are three separate categories under which you can enter: Wilderness, WILDLife and WILDPeople. Creativity and originality are encouraged, and photos must be taken by the participant submitting the image.

You can participate with a photo for each category and the jury will select the final three winners from the top 10 photos selected by a preliminary general public vote.

To revise the rules and requirements and submit your photos, go to the official Let’s Go Wild Photo Contest page.

Thus, good luck and following clicks!


29 January 2019

On the Conference Road

Don’t miss the TRANSGREEN International Conference on Natural-Infrastructure Connectivity, landing in Budapest on 4 April 2019.

(more…)

10 January 2019

Time to report!

To face 2019, some forget-me-not remarks from the CEEweb Academy 2018!

(more…)