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Mind the gap in Europe’s Nature 2000 species coverage

pub­lished 22 Decem­ber 2012 | mod­i­fied 22 Decem­ber 2012
Randu meadowsHow well does Natura 2000 cover species of Euro­pean inter­est?

The des­ig­na­tion of Natura 2000 sites has been based on species and habi­tats listed in the Annexes of the Habi­tats and Birds Direc­tive. The effec­tive­ness of the selec­tion process and the result­ing Natura 2000 net­work has often been ques­tioned as each coun­try made its des­ig­na­tions largely inde­pen­dently and in most cases with­out con­sid­er­ing the the­o­ries of opti­mal reserve site selec­tion.

Although there have been a series of meet­ings between the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, the coun­tries and oth­ers (includ­ing some NGOs), the effec­tive­ness of the selec­tion process and the result­ing Natura 2000 net­work has never been explic­itly analysed at the Euro­pean scale by an inde­pen­dent group. How­ever, such a sci­en­tific analy­sis has been pub­lished in the open access jour­nal Nature Con­ser­va­tion on Decem­ber 17.

“Here we present such an analy­sis, focus­ing on the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of dif­fer­ent species in the sites, selected for the net­work. Our results show that it is mostly effec­tive in cov­er­ing tar­get species and min­imis­ing the num­ber of gap species (i.e. species not rep­re­sented in a sin­gle site of the Natura 2000 net­work)” said Prof. Klaus Henle, from the Helmholtz Cen­tre for Envi­ron­men­tal Research — UFZ in Leipzig, Ger­many and mem­ber of the research team.

The authors, how­ever, also demon­strate that the rep­re­sen­ta­tion is uneven among species. Some species are over­rep­re­sented while oth­ers are only rep­re­sented in a low num­ber of sites. “This is mainly due to dif­fer­ing pat­terns in species ranges, as wide-​spread species are inevitably rep­re­sented in many sites, but nar­row ranged species are often cov­ered only by a small num­ber of sites in a par­tic­u­lar area,” Prof Henle adds.

The team also pro­poses a rep­re­sen­ta­tion index, that would detect species that are under­rep­re­sented and could be used to direct future con­ser­va­tion efforts — and not only in Europe. “Sys­tem­atic approaches in plan­ning reserve net­works have been inten­sively devel­oped in the past, to guide effi­cient reserve site selec­tion. How­ever, on a global scale, no con­certed action plan exists to nom­i­nate con­ser­va­tion areas, despite repeated calls for inter­na­tional coor­di­na­tion” con­cludes Prof Henle.

(Source: PEN­SOFT news, 18.12.2012)
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