Update shows wide use of the wilderness definition

A recent review of Wild Europe’s definition of wilderness, originally produced in 2014, shows its use is widespread and expanding. The intention was to create a set of criteria that produce uniformly high standards for protection and restoration, regardless of biogeographical or cultural circumstance.

Below are some of the applications:

  • The Wild Europe definition has been adopted by the European Commission for its Wilderness Register, and for its Guidelines on wilderness and wild area management in the Natura 2000 network – reference: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/natura2000/wilderness/pdf/WildernessGuidelines.pdf
  • The German Federal government is using linkage to the definition within a broader approach for their 2% wilderness target, albeit tied to a smaller minimum size in order to be able to achieve this ambitious national objective within a reasonably short timescale – reference: https://www.bfn.de/themen/biotop-und-landschaftsschutz/wildnisgebiete/qualitaetskriterien.html 
  • The Austrian National Parks Association has adopted the Wild Europe minimum size along with its other criteria because the definition is seen as offering a credible and practical instrument. It has already been used as the basis for designation of wilderness areas for Kalkalpen and Hohe Tauern National Parks.
  • Fundatia Conservation Carpathia (FCC) Romania, aiming to assemble the largest privately funded wilderness reserve in Europe, is using the definition as the basis for planning its acquired landholdings, negotiating community land use agreements where purchase is not possible.
  • The European Wilderness Society has developed the EWQA (European Wilderness Quality Assessment), a programme of certification based on the Wild Europe definition, which it is rolling out in a number of countries across Europe.
  • The definition has a key role to play in long-term wilderness planning for Sumava National Park (Czech Republic), alongside a model programme of ‘wilderness support’ which Wild Europe has run since 2012 in conjunction with local NGOs, involving international representation, economic feasibility assessment and enterprise implementation

Valley Head of Krimmler Achental, Hohe Tauern NP

December 2019

New protection for ancient English woodland

Amid the gloom of Brexit with its uncertain outlook for environmental legislation, new planning rules in July 2018 offer highly welcome extended protection for ancient woodland in England.

Epping Forest, an ancient wood …… in Greater London. Photo by David IliffEpping Forest, an ancient wood …… in Greater London. Photo by David Iliff

This habitat, under pressure from new infrastructure and housing schemes across the country – with only 2% of original cover remaining – will now benefit from equal status to listed buildings and scheduled monuments.

Ancient woods, defined principally as existing continuously on maps since 1600AD, may now only be damaged by development for ‘wholly exceptional reasons’ – a phrase yet to be tested in law for this context, but its equivalent already provides stringent guardianship for built heritage property.

The next step will be a campaign to extend this protection to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with devolved jurisdiction over woodland issues.

Wild Europe is liaising on the Old Growth Forest Protection Strategy with DEFRA, the English Environment Ministry which also represents the United Kingdom as a contracting party to the Bern Convention.

Large Carnivore Management Best Practice

 

A study collating best practice on protection management of wolf, bear, lynx and wolverine in EU member states has been produced by the EC DG for Internal Policies (February 2018).

It was commissioned by the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs at the request of the EP Committee on Petitions (PETI).

The legal framework for protection is reviewed under conditions of derogation, along with measures to promote coexistence and implications for management.

While populations are recovering, the Study concludes that significant further endeavour is required to recover fuller functionality across former ranges where ecological and spatial conditions remain favourable or can be restored.

Key findings:

  • Lethal control has little effect as a management measure
  • Hunting worsens the impact of intolerance, eg poaching
  • Wider dissemination of successful livestock management practices to mitigate conflict is crucial
  • Compensation must be linked to such practices, and not operated in isolation, to produce sustainable outcomes
  • More focus needed on promotion, communication and engagement of all stakeholders

CEEweb joins Wild Europe

We warmly welcome our latest new member to the Wild Europe partnership.

CEEweb is a network of nature conservation organizations from Central and East Europe, working together to protect the natural heritage of the region.

Founded in 1994, the network aims to influence policies for enhancement of biodiversity, to promote enforcement of conventions for conservation, and to further the principles of sustainable development.

Some of the largest remaining areas of relatively intact natural ecosystem are located within CEEweb’s geographical remit, and we look forward to liaising with their many experts.

Global management guidelines published for wilderness protected areas

The IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas, in tandem with the Wild Foundation, published in 2016 a comprehensive set of guidelines governing all key aspects of management for wilderness areas.

These are applied under all forms of governance – public, private, local community. They also address a range of management instruments, including rewilding and restoration.

A range of case studies are examined, including the Natura 2000 network (Page 38 Case Study 11 provided by Wild Europe), where EC guidelines for management of wilderness areas are based on our definition of wilderness. 

Some 2.5% of the EU land area (then including the UK) is protected for its wilderness attributes within the Natura 2000 network, although the proportion covered by wilderness as defined by the minimum scale in Wild Europe’s definition is nearer 2%.

Read more: Wilderness protected area management guidelines

Overview of 2% wilderness target in Germany published

A key overview of the German Federal government’s target for wilderness on 2% of national territory has been published in the Journal for Nature Conservation. Other aims include 5% of all forests and 10% of state forests.

Germany is setting an important lead for Europe through this strategic framework, and the overview document titled More wilderness for Germany: Implementing an important objective of Germany’s National Strategy on Biological Diversity (JNC 42/2018) provides an authoritative insight into the rationale behind the target.

The definition of wilderness used in the target incorporates Wild Europe’s approach, also adopted by the European Wilderness Society. It is assessed along with consideration of the scale & location of areas which could be involved.

The task of reaching this target is regarded as achievable – a message which, alongside the good management practice that increasingly underwrites it in Germany and elsewhere, provides an important catalyst for other countries assessing a wilderness strategy.

Wilderness benefits for EU Strategy

Introduction

Publication of the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy in May 2011 provided a range of opportunities for promoting protection and restoration of wilderness and wild areas. These relate directly to the benefits such areas can provide, in both EU and neighbour (non EU) states across Europe.

The process of re-setting targets for the Biodiversity Strategy was initiated in January 2010 with publication of the EC Communication titled Options for an EU vision and target for biodiversity beyond 2010. Discussions on new targets were initiated at a high-level EC Presidency conference in Madrid, where Wild Europe provided a presentation on Integrating wilderness into European protected areas
Integrating wilderness into European protected areas.

Wild Europe subsequently drafted a submission on the importance of including wilderness in the EU Post 2020 Biodiversity Strategy (See script immediately below)

Benefits of Wilderness in achieving targets for the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy

1) Background

Despite substantial progress in recent years, Europe’s biodiversity is under continued pressure linked principally to habitat destruction, pollution and climate change as well as the impact of invasive alien species. At the same time, there is a growing support for wilderness areas (Note 1) and appreciation of their value, as characterised by five aspects in particular:

  • Development from 2005 of the Wild Europe partnership, a group of key conservation organizations (Note 2), promoting a coordinated strategy on protection and restoration of wilderness areas
  • A Resolution for Wilderness in November 2008, signed by around 150 conservation NGOs and other organisations across Europe
  • A special Report of the European Parliament calling for improved protection and funding of wilderness areas as well as endorsement of the Wild Europe initiative, adopted on 3rd February 2009 by 538 votes to 19 (Note 3)
  • The Prague Conference on Wilderness and Large Natural Habitat Areas organized by the Wild Europe partnership and jointly hosted by the Czech EU Presidency and the European Commission, producing an Action Agenda of policy recommendations in May 2009
  • The CBD Global Biodiversity Outlook Report of May 2010 stressing opportunities for ‘rewilding’ restoration on a landscape scale across Europe (Note 4)

2) Wilderness in the EU Biodiversity Strategy

Protection of the last remaining wilderness areas, together with appropriate restoration, can make an important contribution to achieving the EU biodiversity objectives for the post 2010 strategy, particularly with reference to the Headline Target: “Halting the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystem services in the EU by 2020, and restoring them in so far as feasible, while stepping up the EU contribution to averting global biodiversity loss”

Therefore the Wild Europe partnership suggests incorporating the following reference to wilderness in the post 2010 strategy:

Wilderness is a unique part of our natural heritage. It represents a proportion of the European continent that is very small – around 1% – and shrinking. Many areas are under threat from logging, development of infrastructure, climate change and other factors.

At the same time, there are unprecedented opportunities throughout Europe for restoration of large areas of natural process and habitat, linked by biological corridors into a functioning ecosystem.

Because of their size, relative remoteness and natural condition, wilderness and wild areas can significantly strengthen the effectiveness of the Natura 2000 network and form a key element in Europe’s green infrastructure.

If appropriately protected and restored, they can also offer substantial environmental, economic, social, and cultural benefits – for local communities, landholders and society in general.

3) How wilderness can support EU Biodiversity Strategy

The outcomes of wilderness and wild area protection and restoration can be related to individual Sub-targets within the EU Post 2010 Biodiversity Strategy:

Sub-target 1 (ST1) Integration and sustainable use of resources

  • Wilderness can provide substantial income and employment opportunities through nature tourism together with recreational, educational, social programme, corporate training and other non-extractive initiatives of relevance to both rural development and urban needs agendas. In marketing terms alone, wilderness is a strong ‘brand’ – underwritten by experiential impact and size: the latter enabling a scale of activity that might compromise conservation objectives in smaller traditional reserves. For example, Oulanka National Park in Finland generates over 14 million euro per year in income effect (including local multiplier) and employs 183 personnel (Note 5). Studies in the Bayerischer Wald National Park (Germany) indicate a similar impact (Note 6).
  • The size and intactness of wilderness areas enables large-scale provision of high quality ecosystem services, of particular relevance in addressing climate change. There is significantly higher carbon storage capacity in undisturbed forest, peatland and wetland as against their more managed counterparts. The same arguments can apply to flood mitigation (in both watershed or lowland sink locations), improved water-table retention and pollution alleviation.
  • Such ecosystem service benefits can be more likely to attract a wide and sustainable range of funding support – often from public and private sources not normally associated with conservation: carbon offset and credit income for sequestration from power utilities, industry with high energy-usage, and the general CRS and PR agendas of the corporate sector; in one 30,000 hectare region in the Carpathians alone 22 million euros of carbon offset finance from old growth forest protection was identified in 2010. Substantial hydrology related funding can also be available from water utilities, insurance companies, local authority and statutory agencies keen to reduce the high cost of downstream flood prevention, water treatment and compensation claims.
  • This opportunity applies as much to restoration as to protection projects – for example the reduction in climate changing gas emissions (carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide) resulting from the transformation from net positive emissions on marginal agricultural land to net negative emissions on restored habitats. Regarding flood mitigation, a report published in July 2010 by WWF cites some 800,000 hectares of floodplain restoration potential along the Danube, bring important savings in costs of flood damage and alternative investment in prevention schemes.
  • Such economic benefits can be particularly significant in remoter regions where traditional land uses are becoming increasingly unviable, resulting in widespread rural decline and land abandonment. The ‘multiplier’ effect of income injections in the local economy can be disproportionately strong in such areas.
  • The wilderness brand label can also help with marketing goods and services from adjacent productive areas, eg organic wild area beef or lamb, whilst property values can be enhanced by proximity to wilderness (not always a beneficial effect).
  • Wilderness is increasingly used to address urban social issues such as youth development, drug addiction, healthcare and conflict resolution. The effectiveness of these programmes is underwritten by 1) the large scale of areas involved, enabling such activities to occur without compromising biodiversity goals; and 2) the psychological attributes of large wild areas that can facilitate a range of relevant remedial therapies.
  • Additionally to the income and employment they bring, the societal value of such programmes can be quantified – in terms, for example, of the financial benefit to society of custodial expenses avoided, lower criminal reoffending rates or lower medical costs from improved physiological healthcare results. They also enable engagement with the all-important urban political arena where conservation traditionally has a relatively low policy and budget profile.
  • Cost per unit area of non intervention management can be significantly lower

Problematic issues:

  • There can be some local reduction in income and employment resulting from exclusion of extractive activities such as logging and commercial grazing from core areas, but these involve minimal overall productive capacity and are usually of marginal profitability. Any such loss can be counter-balanced by the funding and income potential together with employment benefits outlined above.
  • The attitude of local communities towards wilderness and its wildlife can be problematic, and appropriate awareness raising of their benefits should form part of any protection or restoration programme.
  • Lack of service infrastructure can prevent local communities in areas adjacent to wilderness from benefiting fully from tourism and other opportunities. Training, business counselling, quality accreditation and marketing support are often needed to ensure maximum value added is gained.
  • Whilst all activities outlined above are non-extractive, it is important that their scale and conduct does not undermine the very wilderness values they are intended to help support. Clear management guidelines and codes of professional conduct are needed.

Sub-target 2 (ST2) Over-exploitation

Because support for attainment of this target by wilderness and wild land involves a combination of benefits already referred to above, this is only cited briefly below to avoid repetition. However, such areas can help to tackle the effects of overgrazing, inappropriately located logging and intensive farming – eg landslides, flooding, seasonal aridification, contamination of water supplies and general pollution.

Their size and non intervention status can help species of fauna and flora to recover and repopulation regions where more intense human impact has depleted or even eliminated native elements.

As with address of the above sub-targets, they can also provide a baseline of relatively intact ecosystems against which the impacts of such over-exploitation can be measured and best means of addressing it developed accordingly.

Sub-target 3 (ST3) Fragmentation and Green Infrastructure

  • Wilderness and large wild areas have the potential to provide key ‘cornerstone’ building blocks for an ecological network; this applies at international level through mountain ranges (eg Carpathians, Pyrenees, Alps), and at country level – for example in highly developed Holland the ‘Eco-net is’ projected to cover 17% of the country by 2018.
  • The strength of the ecosystem services provision of wilderness areas, described above, can bring substantial benefits in helping promote and fund the concept of green infrastructure generally.
  • The socio-economic benefit-based approach that can be applied to wilderness has the potential to generate significant policy and funding support – thus promoting the restoration both of large individual areas and the connectivity corridors between them – and potentially adding to both the size, number and level of ecosystem integrity of smaller, more fragmented areas of habitat. This impact would strengthen both the N2000 reserve network and the green infrastructure within which it is embedded.
  • Whilst understandably centred on EU territory, Biodiversity Strategy related to N2000, green infrastructure and connectivity initiatives would not cease at the EU boundaries. Through effective neighbourhood and other policies, supported by replication of the above benefit-based valuation and utilization initiatives, the threats and opportunities relating to wilderness and wild areas in non EU European states can also be addressed.

Sub-target 4 (ST4) Invasive Species

  • The remote condition of wilderness areas and their species provides some obstacle to access by many invasives.
  • This together with the predominantly natural and healthy functioning of their ecosystems can provide greater relative resilience to such invasives.
  • Insofar as such resilience is also likely to be an important factor in withstanding the impact of climate change, this should doubly help wilderness areas – as against smaller, more trammelled habitats whose ecosystems and species are undermined by climate change, rendering them more susceptible to the impact of invasives. Such impacts may well become more marked over time, if the natural ranges and tolerance levels of different species become increasingly disrupted.
  • Overall, wilderness areas can provide a natural baseline against which the ecological health of smaller and more modified conservation areas, as well as natural processes generally, can be measured. This role may become increasingly valuable if such disruption increases in calibrating the relative impacts of invasives, and determining appropriate strategy to address this.
  • Insofar that wilderness areas can support funding generation, as against their relatively lower unit maintenance costs, this can also contribute towards cost of invasive control programmes – which are likely to rise substantially with shifting climate patterns and growing volumes of trade and travel related species introductions.

Sub-target 5 (ST5) Nature Conservation

  • Conservation of wilderness, with (near) wholly intact ecosystems and capable of maintaining itself through a natural succession governed by natural processes can be regarded as a valid biodiversity objective in its own right, and a keynote element in Europe’s natural heritage.
  • A range of species (including invertebrates) benefit from these intact ecosystems, where natural processes operate in undisturbed conditions.
  • Wilderness is also important for preserving species that require large, compact and relatively remote areas
  • Because of their size wilderness areas can support more extensive gene pools for long-term species sustainability, and facilitate opportunity for adaptation and migration in response to climate change. This effect is reinforced by their provision of more resilient ecosystems, which as noted previously can also help resistance against invasive species.
  • As applies to Sub-targets above, the role of wilderness as a natural baseline against which the ecological health of smaller and more modified conservation areas can be measured, will become increasingly important for relative comparison and development of appropriate conservation strategies.  It can also help guard against what is regarded by some conservationists as a ‘baseline shift’ whereby over time progressively lower levels of biodiversity richness, however measured, become an acceptable standard for achievement.
  • The socio-economic benefit based approach that can be applied to wilderness can, as with the above Sub targets, contribute substantially to arresting the decline in biodiversity by enabling enlargement of existing reserves, creation of extensive new ones, and provision of effective biodiversity corridors between these. Quantification of the full range of wilderness benefits, involving conventional Return on Capital, Discounted Cash Flow or other methods, enables cost:benefit related calculation of their value as against alternative forms of land use – particularly in remoter and more marginal areas of agriculture and forestry  where opportunity costs and profit margins in related to traditional land use are lowest.
  • The indirect impacts of wilderness in enhancing political support for conservation can also be significant; its ability to contribute, through economic and social benefits usage, to rural development programmes and urban social needs strengthens direct linkage between biodiversity conservation and key political concerns.
  • As outlined above, wilderness can also prospectively generate substantial funding opportunity, with potential for correspondingly lower management costs often pertaining.
  • Given that the majority of wilderness areas are located within N2000 areas, the above benefits will all contribute to the strengthening both of this network, and through impact on Sub target 3 above, broader green infrastructure on a landscape scale.
  • Such benefits can be seen in the individual initiatives being developed for wilderness areas: eg the Wilderness Register which will identify all key areas of natural habitat and process with a view to supporting enhanced protection – including those areas currently lying outside the N2000 network – thus prospectively contributing to further expansion its physical coverage (if individual circumstances are appropriate).

Problematic issues:

  • There is sometimes reference to conflict between wild areas and maximization of biodiversity, for example with species that are dependent on agricultural or multiple land use. However any localized loss is offset by gains in wilderness-specific species, particularly given the substantial potential for restoration, and can also be readily mitigated by using cost-effective naturalistic management such as herbivore grazing to maintain habitat mosaics in wild areas. Furthermore, to place the issue in context, wilderness represents a very small proportion of the EU: 1% as against 17%+ for the Natura 2000 network.
  • Any prospective conflicts between the non intervention principles of wilderness and commercial forestry – related to windblow, bark beetle and fire risk – necessitate more focus on establishing cooperative mechanisms, large scale spatial planning  and clarification of underlying scientific issues. However, this can be readily achieved within a framework of practical cooperation, and there is also great potential for achieving mutual benefit – eg through enabling funding from wilderness related tourism and ecosystem services for forest owners, particularly in areas of marginal profitability. As a quid pro quo for protecting given areas of forest it may also be feasible to raise commercial productivity in neighbouring districts.

Sub-target 6 (ST6) Contribution to global biodiversity

  • Protection and restoration of wilderness and wild areas within the Biodiversity Strategy will respond to the recommendation of the 3rd CBD Global Biodiversity Outlook report which cited the potential for restoring 200 000 km2 in Europe (of which roughly 86,000 km2 in the EU). Europe’s existing and future world class models of wilderness conservation could thus be profiled and regarded internationally within EU strategy.
  • EU wilderness policy has even wider implications for global conservation. If we in our highly populated and developed continent are seen to be protecting and restoring substantial areas of wilderness – and doing so moreover for socio-economic as well as biodiversity motives – that sends a powerful message to countries elsewhere with much larger relatively intact ecosystems which are considering future land use options.

4) Implementation of wilderness strategy

To support achievement of the above outcomes it is recommended that wilderness strategy includes four key elements, as proposed for example by the Wild Europe initiative.

4.1 Translating the strategy into practice

  • A threefold emphasis is suggested: involving protection (eg the Wilderness Register and associated protection plans), restoration and communication strategies
  • Design and implementation of strategy should involve economists, forestry, agricultural and business specialists working alongside conservationists.
  • A spatial approach involving core, buffer and transition zones in and around wilderness areas can achieve practical reconciliation of different land use objectives and activities while enabling operation of key wilderness principles.

4.2 Ensuring inter-sectoral coordination

  • A practical consensus should be sought between interested parties: landholding, forestry, farming, business and urban social as well as conservation.
  • This can be echoed through close coordination between the relevant European Commission DGs, based on awareness of the value of wilderness areas

4.3 Coherent approach to spatial planning

  • Protection and restoration projects can be viewed as part of a broader ‘regional mosaic’ of land uses that includes commercial forestry and agricultural land use areas, and promotes links with wider recreational, hydrological, environmental and urban social requirements.
  • The zonation approach used by the Wild Europe partnership – involving core, buffer and transition zones – can help achieve practical involvement with these land uses and requirements.

4.4 A multi-source funding strategy

  • Initiatives should be carefully budgeted with a view to long-term sustainability
  • New as well as traditional funding sources should be identified, through the private sector (philanthropy, general corporate, recreation and tourism) and public institutions (education, healthcare, probationary services) in addition to more traditional NGO, agency, governmental and EC provision.
  • This agenda is as much about promoting appropriate policy as actual sourcing: eg facilitating linkage between ecosystem services and relevant funding flows.
  • A valuation approach closely aligned to the TEEB initiative is needed, promoting a cost-benefit framework for project work.

5) Notes to the above

1. Brief definitions

  • Wilderness
    • Large areas without human habitation, artifact, or significant modification, where natural processes govern.
    • In addition to their intrinsic, spiritual and aesthetic qualities, wilderness areas can provide important economic, social and environmental benefits for local communities, landholders and society at large.
  • Wild areas
    • Smaller and often fragmented areas, where the condition of natural habitat and relevant species is either partially or substantially modified by grazing, sporting activity, forestry or general imprint of human artifact.
    • They are scattered across the continent and need to be connected through functional ecological corridors

2. A special Report of the European Parliament led to a motion for a Resolution of 15/12/2008 adopted on 5th February 2009.

3.The CBD Global Biodiversity Outlook Report (http://gbo3.cbd.int ) page 75

“There are opportunities for rewilding landscapes from farmland abandonment in some regions – in Europe, for example, about 200,000 square kilometers of land are expected to be freed up by 2050. Ecological restoration and reintroduction of large herbivores and carnivores will be important in creating self-sustaining ecosystems with minimal need for further human intervention.”

A smaller, but still very significant, land area applies within EU territory.

4.Oulanka National Park in Finland, income and employment statistics. see whole METLA study at:
http://www.metla.fi/julkaisut/workingpapers/2010/mwp149.pdf

5. A study on the value of wilderness to tourism in the Bayerischer Wald National Park can be found at:
http://www.nationalpark-bayerischer-wald.bayern.de/doc/service/publikationen/d_berichte/en_studie_job_kurz_ba.pdf

How the Wild Europe definition of wilderness builds on the IUCN Category 1b definition

Background

The Wild Europe definition of wilderness was developed over four years by over 50 experts with the input and support of IUCN personnel. It has been adopted by the European Commission and is now used in many areas across Europe.

The definition was established to cater specifically for the needs of a European context, and to offer a relatively rigorous and standardized underpin for both protection and restoration initiatives across a wide variety of geographic and cultural circumstances.

It seeks to build on and strengthen rather than replace the existing IUCN Category 1b definition – which is excellent but global and thus relatively generalised.

Far from being a dilution of the IUCN definition, the Wild Europe definition thus is widely regarded as considerably strengthening the credibility and practical implementation of wilderness in Europe.

IUCN Category 1b definition of wilderness

“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.”

The Wild Europe definition

“A wilderness is an area governed by natural processes. It is composed of native habitats and species, and large enough for the effective ecological functioning of natural processes. It is unmodified or only slightly modified and without intrusive or extractive human activity, settlements, infrastructure or visual disturbance.”

Building on the IUCN definition

There are key elements in the Wild Europe definition of wilderness which in practice help it to build effectively on its Category 1b origin, focusing for a European context:

  1. Minimum size is stipulated by the Wild Europe definition. This aspect alone is critical. Under the IUCN 1b Category definition there are for example many areas of only around 50 hectares; this is fine for the USA and other countries that also have large tracts of ‘real’ wilderness by any definition. However a more rigorous approach is felt necessary for the wilderness concept to be credible in crowded and highly developed Europe.
  2. Clear specification on the impact and location of human activities and artifacts is offered by the Wild Europe definition, with zonation principles and a set of criteria. It is difficult in practice to protect and restore wilderness areas in Europe, where human presence is almost ubiquitous, without these specific elements.
  3. A strong stance, in practice, on prohibition of extractive uses in core zones and their regulation in buffer and transition zones. Again, the extra rigour provided by the Wild Europe definition lends credibility to the concept, a clear standpoint for other land uses which could otherwise encroach.
  4. Specific stipulations on natural processes – particularly important in identifying the component elements of a wilderness in order to protect or reconstruct it in a European context where such process have often been substantially altered
  5. Other – there are less significant differentiations as well, for example of the presence of large mammals, and stipulations on volume of visitors

The Wild Europe definition of wilderness is intended to provide a practical holistic approach: whether in an ecological, economic (non extractive), psychological, aesthetic or spiritual sense.

Key elements in the wording of the EU Parliament Resolution on wilderness, February 2009

In its Resolution  “expresses its strong support for the strengthening of wilderness-related policies and measures” and 

 “Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and Commission, and to the governments and parliaments of the Member States”.

Element

Main Actions (numbers taken from the Resolution)

Better protection of wilderness 10. Commission and Member States to devote special attention to the effective protection of wilderness areas;

11. Commission to detect immediate threats to wilderness areas;

12. Commission to develop appropriate recommendations that provide guidance to the Member States on the best approaches for ensuring the protection of natural habitats;

13. Commission and Member States to protect wilderness areas by implementing the Birds and Habitats Directives, the Water Framework Directive and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive in a more effective and more consistent way, with better financing, in order to avoid the destruction of these areas by harmful, non-sustainable development;

14. Welcomes the review of the Birds and Habitats Directives with a view, where necessary, to amending them to provide better protection for threatened species and biotopes;

15. Commission to accept the Wild Europe Initiative, a partnership of several nature conservation organisations including IUCN, IUCN-WCPA, WWF, Birdlife International and PAN Parks, with a strong interest in wild lands or nearly wild areas;

Appropriate management of wilderness in Natura 2000 areas 16. Commission, in cooperation with stakeholders, to develop guidelines on how to protect, manage, use sustainably,monitor and finance wilderness areas under the Natura 2000 network, especially with regard to challenges such as climate change, illegal logging and increasing demand for goods;

17. Expresses deep concerns for European biodiversity policy due to lack of funding for management of the Natura 2000 network; in this context, calls on the Commission to prepare, as foreseen in the Habitats Directive, Community co-funding for the management of sites in Member States;

18.  Commission to give a special status to and stricter protection for wilderness zones in the Natura 2000 network;

19. Rural development policy and the integration of environmental protection into the EU agricultural sector must be reinforced; however, the Rural Development Fund insufficient to finance biodiversity and wilderness conservation in terms of resources and its programming and expertise;

20.  Commission to ensure that the Natura 2000 network will be strengthened further to become a coherent and functioning ecological network in which wilderness areas have a central place; stresses the need for coherent policies, in particular in the common agricultural policy, transport, energy and the budget in order not to undermine the conservation objectives of Natura 2000;

Developing wilderness areas 4.   Commission to develop an EU wilderness strategy, coherent with the Birds and Habitats Directives, using an ecosystem approach, identifying threatened species and biotopes, and setting priorities;

5.  Commission and the Member States to develop wilderness areas; stresses the need for the provision of special funding for reducing fragmentation, careful management of re-wilding areas, development of compensation mechanisms, raising awareness, building understanding and introducing wilderness-related concepts such as the role of free natural processes into the monitoring and measurement of favourable conservation status; this work should be carried out in cooperation with the local population and other stakeholders;

Promotion of wilderness 6.   Commission and Member States to co-operate with local non-governmental organisations, stakeholders and the local population to promote the value of wilderness;

7.   Member States to launch and support information campaigns to raise awareness among the general public about wilderness and its significance and to cultivate the perception that biodiversity protection can be compatible with economic growth and jobs;

8.   Member States to exchange their experiences of best practices and lessons learnedabout wilderness areas by bringing together key European experts to examine the concept of wilderness in the European Union and place wilderness on the European agenda;

9.   Commission and the Member States to ensure that tourism, even if focusing on introducing visitors to the habitats and wildlife of a wilderness area, is handled with extreme care, making full use of experience gained inside and outside Europe on how to minimise its impact, and with reference, where appropriate, to Article 6 of the Habitats Directive.

Wilderness and climate change 22. Commission to monitor and assess the impact of climate change on wilderness;

23. Commission and the Member States to set wilderness conservation as a priority in their strategy to address climate change;

24. Commission, in the context of climate change, to undertake research and provide guidance as to when and how human intervention can manage wilderness in order to preserve it;

Definition and mapping of wilderness 1.  Commission to define wilderness; the definition should address aspects such as ecosystem services, conservation value, climate change and sustainable use;

2.   Commission to mandate the EEA and other relevant European bodies to map Europe’s last wilderness areas, in order to ascertain the current distribution, level of biodiversity and cover of still-untouched areas as well as areas where human activities are minimal (divided into major habitats types: forest, freshwater and marine wilderness areas);

3.   Commission to undertake a study on the value and benefits of wilderness protection; the study should particularly address the issues of ecosystem services, the level of biodiversity of wilderness areas, climate change adaptation and sustainable nature touri

Tackling alien species in wilderness areas 21. Commission and Member States to work together to develop a robust legislative framework on invasive alien species that tackles both ecological and economic impacts arising from such species and the particular vulnerability of wilderness areas to this threat.

Wild Europe Programme 2017/18

Despite the uncertainties created by Brexit, 2016/17 saw further solid progress by Wild Europe.

A key focus has been the urgent need to develop a coordinated protection strategy for remaining ancient, or old growth, forests; this iconic habitat for the wilderness agenda is coming under growing threat as Europe emerges from recession, timber prices rise and illegal logging proliferates.

We have continued our support for developing model areas and national level programmes for wildlands and wilderness, alongside a range of projects designed to promote their value.

Objectives for 2017/18 have now been published. For a strategic outline of the previous year see Achievements & Objectives in 2017/18 More detailed reports are available on request.”
Despite the uncertainties created by Brexit, 2016/17 saw further solid progress by Wild Europe.

A key focus has been the urgent need to develop a coordinated protection strategy for remaining ancient, or old growth, forests; this iconic habitat for the wilderness agenda is coming under growing threat as Europe emerges from recession, timber prices rise and illegal logging proliferates.

We have continued our support for developing model areas and national level programmes for wildlands and wilderness, alongside a range of projects designed to promote their value.

Objectives for 2017/18 have now been published. For a strategic outline of the previous year see Achievements & Objectives in 2018/19 More detailed reports are available on request.

Wilderness benefits for EU Strategy

 

Introduction

Publication of the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy in May 2011 provided a range of opportunities for promoting protection and restoration of wilderness and wild areas. These relate directly to the benefits such areas can provide, in both EU and neighbour (non EU) states across Europe.

The process of re-setting targets for the Biodiversity Strategy was initiated in January 2010 with publication of the EC Communication titled Options for an EU vision and target for biodiversity beyond 2010. Discussions on new targets were initiated at a high-level EC Presidency conference in Madrid, where Wild Europe provided a presentation on
Integrating wilderness into European protected areas.

Wild Europe subsequently drafted a submission on the importance of including wilderness in the EU Post 2020 Biodiversity Strategy (See script immediately below)

Benefits of Wilderness in achieving targets for the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy

1) Background

Despite substantial progress in recent years, Europe’s biodiversity is under continued pressure linked principally to habitat destruction, pollution and climate change as well as the impact of invasive alien species. At the same time, there is a growing support for wilderness areas (Note 1) and appreciation of their value, as characterised by five aspects in particular:

  • Development from 2005 of the Wild Europe partnership, a group of key conservation organizations (Note 2), promoting a coordinated strategy on protection and restoration of wilderness areas
  • A Resolution for Wilderness in November 2008, signed by around 150 conservation NGOs and other organisations across Europe
  • A special Report of the European Parliament calling for improved protection and funding of wilderness areas as well as endorsement of the Wild Europe initiative, adopted on 3rd February 2009 by 538 votes to 19 (Note 3)
  • The Prague Conference on Wilderness and Large Natural Habitat Areas organized by the Wild Europe partnership and jointly hosted by the Czech EU Presidency and the European Commission, producing an Action Agenda of policy recommendations in May 2009
  • The CBD Global Biodiversity Outlook Report of May 2010 stressing opportunities for ‘rewilding’ restoration on a landscape scale across Europe (Note 4)

2) Wilderness in the EU Biodiversity Strategy

Protection of the last remaining wilderness areas, together with appropriate restoration, can make an important contribution to achieving the EU biodiversity objectives for the post 2010 strategy, particularly with reference to the Headline Target: “Halting the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystem services in the EU by 2020, and restoring them in so far as feasible, while stepping up the EU contribution to averting global biodiversity loss”

Therefore the Wild Europe partnership suggests incorporating the following reference to wilderness in the post 2010 strategy:

Wilderness is a unique part of our natural heritage. It represents a proportion of the European continent that is very small – around 1% – and shrinking. Many areas are under threat from logging, development of infrastructure, climate change and other factors.

At the same time, there are unprecedented opportunities throughout Europe for restoration of large areas of natural process and habitat, linked by biological corridors into a functioning ecosystem.

Because of their size, relative remoteness and natural condition, wilderness and wild areas can significantly strengthen the effectiveness of the Natura 2000 network and form a key element in Europe’s green infrastructure.

If appropriately protected and restored, they can also offer substantial environmental, economic, social, and cultural benefits – for local communities, landholders and society in general.

3) How wilderness can support EU Biodiversity Strategy

The outcomes of wilderness and wild area protection and restoration can be related to individual Sub-targets within the EU Post 2010 Biodiversity Strategy:

Sub-target 1 (ST1) Integration and sustainable use of resources

  • Wilderness can provide substantial income and employment opportunities through nature tourism together with recreational, educational, social programme, corporate training and other non-extractive initiatives of relevance to both rural development and urban needs agendas. In marketing terms alone, wilderness is a strong ‘brand’ – underwritten by experiential impact and size: the latter enabling a scale of activity that might compromise conservation objectives in smaller traditional reserves. For example, Oulanka National Park in Finland generates over 14 million euro per year in income effect (including local multiplier) and employs 183 personnel (Note 5). Studies in the Bayerischer Wald National Park (Germany) indicate a similar impact (Note 6).
  • The size and intactness of wilderness areas enables large-scale provision of high quality ecosystem services, of particular relevance in addressing climate change. There is significantly higher carbon storage capacity in undisturbed forest, peatland and wetland as against their more managed counterparts. The same arguments can apply to flood mitigation (in both watershed or lowland sink locations), improved water-table retention and pollution alleviation.
  • Such ecosystem service benefits can be more likely to attract a wide and sustainable range of funding support – often from public and private sources not normally associated with conservation: carbon offset and credit income for sequestration from power utilities, industry with high energy-usage, and the general CRS and PR agendas of the corporate sector; in one 30,000 hectare region in the Carpathians alone 22 million euros of carbon offset finance from old growth forest protection was identified in 2010. Substantial hydrology related funding can also be available from water utilities, insurance companies, local authority and statutory agencies keen to reduce the high cost of downstream flood prevention, water treatment and compensation claims.
  • This opportunity applies as much to restoration as to protection projects – for example the reduction in climate changing gas emissions (carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide) resulting from the transformation from net positive emissions on marginal agricultural land to net negative emissions on restored habitats. Regarding flood mitigation, a report published in July 2010 by WWF cites some 800,000 hectares of floodplain restoration potential along the Danube, bring important savings in costs of flood damage and alternative investment in prevention schemes.
  • Such economic benefits can be particularly significant in remoter regions where traditional land uses are becoming increasingly unviable, resulting in widespread rural decline and land abandonment. The ‘multiplier’ effect of income injections in the local economy can be disproportionately strong in such areas.
  • The wilderness brand label can also help with marketing goods and services from adjacent productive areas, eg organic wild area beef or lamb, whilst property values can be enhanced by proximity to wilderness (not always a beneficial effect).
  • Wilderness is increasingly used to address urban social issues such as youth development, drug addiction, healthcare and conflict resolution. The effectiveness of these programmes is underwritten by 1) the large scale of areas involved, enabling such activities to occur without compromising biodiversity goals; and 2) the psychological attributes of large wild areas that can facilitate a range of relevant remedial therapies.
  • Additionally to the income and employment they bring, the societal value of such programmes can be quantified – in terms, for example, of the financial benefit to society of custodial expenses avoided, lower criminal reoffending rates or lower medical costs from improved physiological healthcare results. They also enable engagement with the all-important urban political arena where conservation traditionally has a relatively low policy and budget profile.
  • Cost per unit area of non intervention management can be significantly lower

Problematic issues:

  • There can be some local reduction in income and employment resulting from exclusion of extractive activities such as logging and commercial grazing from core areas, but these involve minimal overall productive capacity and are usually of marginal profitability. Any such loss can be counter-balanced by the funding and income potential together with employment benefits outlined above.
  • The attitude of local communities towards wilderness and its wildlife can be problematic, and appropriate awareness raising of their benefits should form part of any protection or restoration programme.
  • Lack of service infrastructure can prevent local communities in areas adjacent to wilderness from benefiting fully from tourism and other opportunities. Training, business counselling, quality accreditation and marketing support are often needed to ensure maximum value added is gained.
  • Whilst all activities outlined above are non-extractive, it is important that their scale and conduct does not undermine the very wilderness values they are intended to help support. Clear management guidelines and codes of professional conduct are needed.

Sub-target 2 (ST2) Over-exploitation

Because support for attainment of this target by wilderness and wild land involves a combination of benefits already referred to above, this is only cited briefly below to avoid repetition. However, such areas can help to tackle the effects of overgrazing, inappropriately located logging and intensive farming – eg landslides, flooding, seasonal aridification, contamination of water supplies and general pollution.

Their size and non intervention status can help species of fauna and flora to recover and repopulation regions where more intense human impact has depleted or even eliminated native elements.

Sub-target 3 (ST3) Fragmentation and Green Infrastructure

  • Wilderness and large wild areas have the potential to provide key ‘cornerstone’ building blocks for an ecological network; this applies at international level through mountain ranges (eg Carpathians, Pyrenees, Alps), and at country level – for example in highly developed Holland the ‘Eco-net is’ projected to cover 17% of the country by 2018.
  • The strength of the ecosystem services provision of wilderness areas, described above, can bring substantial benefits in helping promote and fund the concept of green infrastructure generally.
  • The socio-economic benefit-based approach that can be applied to wilderness has the potential to generate significant policy and funding support – thus promoting the restoration both of large individual areas and the connectivity corridors between them – and potentially adding to both the size, number and level of ecosystem integrity of smaller, more fragmented areas of habitat. This impact would strengthen both the N2000 reserve network and the green infrastructure within which it is embedded.
  • Whilst understandably centred on EU territory, Biodiversity Strategy related to N2000, green infrastructure and connectivity initiatives would not cease at the EU boundaries. Through effective neighbourhood and other policies, supported by replication of the above benefit-based valuation and utilization initiatives, the threats and opportunities relating to wilderness and wild areas in non EU European states can also be addressed.

Sub-target 4 (ST4) Invasive Species

  • The remote condition of wilderness areas and their species provides some obstacle to access by many invasives.
  • This together with the predominantly natural and healthy functioning of their ecosystems can provide greater relative resilience to such invasives.
  • Insofar as such resilience is also likely to be an important factor in withstanding the impact of climate change, this should doubly help wilderness areas – as against smaller, more trammelled habitats whose ecosystems and species are undermined by climate change, rendering them more susceptible to the impact of invasives. Such impacts may well become more marked over time, if the natural ranges and tolerance levels of different species become increasingly disrupted.
  • Overall, wilderness areas can provide a natural baseline against which the ecological health of smaller and more modified conservation areas, as well as natural processes generally, can be measured. This role may become increasingly valuable if such disruption increases in calibrating the relative impacts of invasives, and determining appropriate strategy to address this.
  • Insofar that wilderness areas can support funding generation, as against their relatively lower unit maintenance costs, this can also contribute towards cost of invasive control programmes – which are likely to rise substantially with shifting climate patterns and growing volumes of trade and travel related species introductions.

Sub-target 5 (ST5) Nature Conservation

  • Conservation of wilderness, with (near) wholly intact ecosystems and capable of maintaining itself through a natural succession governed by natural processes can be regarded as a valid biodiversity objective in its own right, and a keynote element in Europe’s natural heritage.
  • A range of species (including invertebrates) benefit from these intact ecosystems, where natural processes operate in undisturbed conditions.
  • Wilderness is also important for preserving species that require large, compact and relatively remote areas
  • Because of their size wilderness areas can support more extensive gene pools for long-term species sustainability, and facilitate opportunity for adaptation and migration in response to climate change. This effect is reinforced by their provision of more resilient ecosystems, which as noted previously can also help resistance against invasive species.
  • As applies to Sub-targets above, the role of wilderness as a natural baseline against which the ecological health of smaller and more modified conservation areas can be measured, will become increasingly important for relative comparison and development of appropriate conservation strategies.  It can also help guard against what is regarded by some conservationists as a ‘baseline shift’ whereby over time progressively lower levels of biodiversity richness, however measured, become an acceptable standard for achievement.
  • The socio-economic benefit based approach that can be applied to wilderness can, as with the above Sub targets, contribute substantially to arresting the decline in biodiversity by enabling enlargement of existing reserves, creation of extensive new ones, and provision of effective biodiversity corridors between these. Quantification of the full range of wilderness benefits, involving conventional Return on Capital, Discounted Cash Flow or other methods, enables cost:benefit related calculation of their value as against alternative forms of land use – particularly in remoter and more marginal areas of agriculture and forestry  where opportunity costs and profit margins in related to traditional land use are lowest.
  • The indirect impacts of wilderness in enhancing political support for conservation can also be significant; its ability to contribute, through economic and social benefits usage, to rural development programmes and urban social needs strengthens direct linkage between biodiversity conservation and key political concerns.
  • As outlined above, wilderness can also prospectively generate substantial funding opportunity, with potential for correspondingly lower management costs often pertaining.
  • Given that the majority of wilderness areas are located within N2000 areas, the above benefits will all contribute to the strengthening both of this network, and through impact on Sub target 3 above, broader green infrastructure on a landscape scale.
  • Such benefits can be seen in the individual initiatives being developed for wilderness areas: eg the Wilderness Register which will identify all key areas of natural habitat and process with a view to supporting enhanced protection – including those areas currently lying outside the N2000 network – thus prospectively contributing to further expansion its physical coverage (if individual circumstances are appropriate).

Problematic issues:

  • There is sometimes reference to conflict between wild areas and maximization of biodiversity, for example with species that are dependent on agricultural or multiple land use. However any localized loss is offset by gains in wilderness-specific species, particularly given the substantial potential for restoration, and can also be readily mitigated by using cost-effective naturalistic management such as herbivore grazing to maintain habitat mosaics in wild areas. Furthermore, to place the issue in context, wilderness represents a very small proportion of the EU: 1% as against 17%+ for the Natura 2000 network.
  • Any prospective conflicts between the non intervention principles of wilderness and commercial forestry – related to windblow, bark beetle and fire risk – necessitate more focus on establishing cooperative mechanisms, large scale spatial planning  and clarification of underlying scientific issues. However, this can be readily achieved within a framework of practical cooperation, and there is also great potential for achieving mutual benefit – eg through enabling funding from wilderness related tourism and ecosystem services for forest owners, particularly in areas of marginal profitability. As a quid pro quo for protecting given areas of forest it may also be feasible to raise commercial productivity in neighbouring districts.

Sub-target 6 (ST6) Contribution to global biodiversity

  • Protection and restoration of wilderness and wild areas within the Biodiversity Strategy will respond to the recommendation of the 3rd CBD Global Biodiversity Outlook report which cited the potential for restoring 200 000 km2 in Europe (of which roughly 86,000 km2 in the EU). Europe’s existing and future world class models of wilderness conservation could thus be profiled and regarded internationally within EU strategy.
  • EU wilderness policy has even wider implications for global conservation. If we in our highly populated and developed continent are seen to be protecting and restoring substantial areas of wilderness – and doing so moreover for socio-economic as well as biodiversity motives – that sends a powerful message to countries elsewhere with much larger relatively intact ecosystems which are considering future land use options.

As with address of the above sub-targets, they can also provide a baseline of relatively intact ecosystems against which the impacts of such over-exploitation can be measured and best means of addressing it developed accordingly.

4) Implementation of wilderness strategy

To support achievement of the above outcomes it is recommended that wilderness strategy includes four key elements, as proposed for example by the Wild Europe initiative.

4.1 Translating the strategy into practice

  • A threefold emphasis is suggested: involving protection (eg the Wilderness Register and associated protection plans), restoration and communication strategies
  • Design and implementation of strategy should involve economists, forestry, agricultural and business specialists working alongside conservationists.
  • A spatial approach involving core, buffer and transition zones in and around wilderness areas can achieve practical reconciliation of different land use objectives and activities while enabling operation of key wilderness principles.

4.2 Ensuring inter-sectoral coordination

  • A practical consensus should be sought between interested parties: landholding, forestry, farming, business and urban social as well as conservation.
  • This can be echoed through close coordination between the relevant European Commission DGs, based on awareness of the value of wilderness areas

4.3 Coherent approach to spatial planning

  • Protection and restoration projects can be viewed as part of a broader ‘regional mosaic’ of land uses that includes commercial forestry and agricultural land use areas, and promotes links with wider recreational, hydrological, environmental and urban social requirements.
  • The zonation approach used by the Wild Europe partnership – involving core, buffer and transition zones – can help achieve practical involvement with these land uses and requirements.

4.4 A multi-source funding strategy

  • Initiatives should be carefully budgeted with a view to long-term sustainability
  • New as well as traditional funding sources should be identified, through the private sector (philanthropy, general corporate, recreation and tourism) and public institutions (education, healthcare, probationary services) in addition to more traditional NGO, agency, governmental and EC provision.
  • This agenda is as much about promoting appropriate policy as actual sourcing: eg facilitating linkage between ecosystem services and relevant funding flows.
  • A valuation approach closely aligned to the TEEB initiative is needed, promoting a cost-benefit framework for project work.

5) Notes to the above

1. Brief definitions

  • Wilderness
    • Large areas without human habitation, artifact, or significant modification, where natural processes govern.
    • In addition to their intrinsic, spiritual and aesthetic qualities, wilderness areas can provide important economic, social and environmental benefits for local communities, landholders and society at large.
  • Wild areas
    • Smaller and often fragmented areas, where the condition of natural habitat and relevant species is either partially or substantially modified by grazing, sporting activity, forestry or general imprint of human artifact.
    • They are scattered across the continent and need to be connected through functional ecological corridors

2. A special Report of the European Parliament led to a motion for a Resolution of 15/12/2008
(http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+REPORT+A6-2008-0478+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN) adopted on 5th February 2009.

3.The CBD Global Biodiversity Outlook Report (http://gbo3.cbd.int ) page 75

“There are opportunities for rewilding landscapes from farmland abandonment in some regions – in Europe, for example, about 200,000 square kilometers of land are expected to be freed up by 2050. Ecological restoration and reintroduction of large herbivores and carnivores will be important in creating self-sustaining ecosystems with minimal need for further human intervention.”

A smaller, but still very significant, land area applies within EU territory.

4.Oulanka National Park in Finland, income and employment statistics. see whole METLA study at:
http://www.metla.fi/julkaisut/workingpapers/2010/mwp149.pdf

5. A study on the value of wilderness to tourism in the Bayerischer Wald National Park can be found at:
http://www.nationalpark-bayerischer-wald.bayern.de/doc/service/publikationen/d_berichte/en_studie_job_kurz_ba.pdf

 

Valuing benefits

Many elements of wilderness and wild lands, including their intrinsic spiritual, landscape and biodiversity values, are literally priceless.

The quantification approach is thus intended to supplement and not supplant traditional approaches to assessment of wildland.

However it is increasingly feasible and indeed important to quantify the benefits of wilderness, wildlands and large natural habitat areas, both in monetary terms and for wider societal gain.

Why valuation?

Sheep, conifers, wind farms or wild areas? Relative valuations are one way of determiningSheep, conifers, wind farms or wild areas? Relative valuations are one way of determining

It is important to quantify the benefits of wild areas:

  • To provide cost:benefit based argument against threats and alternative land uses
  • In support of funding requests for protection or restoration projects
  • To inform policy decisions, particularly in competition with other sectors

Valuation of wild areas helps articulate their importance to key decision takers, whether local landholders or national politicians who tend to be predominantly urban.

It can also help underwrite wider support among media and the general public, with wilderness increasingly seen as an integral part of modern society.

Quantifying the benefits

1. Direct benefit valuation

  • Income flows, cost savings, employment creation
  • Additional benefits from ancillary activities (accommodation and branding opportunities, possible increases in land values.  Assess the multiplier effect.
  • Use sensitivity analysis to factor in alternative assumptions about subsidy levels, income and employment potential from benefits etc.

2. Indirect benefit valuation

  •  Environmental benefits – eg flood mitigation: examples of savings in downstream capital expenditure, running costs and insurance claims as the result of natural habitat restoration in catchment areas and lowland flood sinks reducing run-off variability or pollution.
  • Social benefits of wild areas: eg youth at risk – costs saved through reduced re-offence rates or non-custodial sentencing; remedial or palliative healthcare – eg less working days lost from stress or; shorter and thus cheaper psychotherapy courses

3. Opportunity for use of Contingent Valuation and Willingness to Pay (WTP)

Communities can benefit for multiple wild area benefits, but their value is seldom quantified – Maramures in Romania. - Frans SchepersCommunities can benefit for multiple wild area benefits, but their value is seldom quantified – Maramures in Romania. – Frans Schepers

These econometric methods can help quantify the worth of landscape and species conservation through assessments the values ascribed to these by consumers, taxpayers and general public.

Contingent Valuation represents the value of a particular measure – for example how much of the last 5% of their Income Tax would a tax payer like to see spent on restoring a wetland containing beaver, as against a marginal increase in housing subsidy or road building.

Willingness to Pay measures how much a consumer would contribute towards a particular experience – eg visiting a wild area; this can then be aggregated to calculate its consumption value.

4.   Review the overall cost-benefit of protection or restoration

There are three steps in this process:

  1. Assessment of the aggregate “net value” of a particular protection or restoration measure. Take into account income and employment created on the one hand, and costs on the other: including direct land cost, the loss of alternative land use (‘opportunity cost’ in economist’s parlance) and any costs associated with restoration (through natural and assisted regeneration) or protection. Measures of Contingent Valuation and Willingness to Pay can also be used here.
  2. Comparison of cost:benefit – as against alternative land uses: eg logging or agricultural use. There is a need to take account of trends in subsidies – eg the future impact of Common Agricultural Reform reforms – and of farm and timber prices
  3. Draw conclusions on the quantifiable rationale for protecting or restoring a wild area. These should be run alongside aesthetic, biodiversity and other arguments

Economic benefits

As well as containing an irreplaceable natural heritage for Europe’s biodiversity and landscapes, wild areas can offer substantial economic benefits – for local communities, landholders and society in general.

In addition to payments related to biodiversity conservation, nature tourism in wild areas already contributes substantially to local economies, particularly in remoter rural areas where alternative sources of income and employment are relatively scarce. The ‘multiplier’ effect of income injections in the local economy can also be disproportionately strong in such areas.

In marketing terms alone, wilderness is a strong ‘brand’ – underwritten by experiential impact and size: the latter enabling a scale of activity that might compromise conservation objectives in smaller traditional reserves.

For example, in 2010 Oulanka National Park in Finland generated over 14 million euro per year in income effect (including local multiplier) and employed 183 personnel.

See the METLA study at: METLA Study

Studies in the Bayerischer Wald National Park (Germany) indicate a similar impact 

These benefit are increasingly paralleled by funding to landholders and communities for provision of ecosystem services (see Environmental Benefits).

Programmes addressing urban social issues such as youth development, healthcare and conflict resolution can provide further economic potential (see Social Benefits).

Linking with the TEEB initiative

Pavan Sukhdev, Coordinator of the EC funded study on The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEBPavan Sukhdev, Coordinator of the EC funded study on The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) and current President of WWF

This capacity to provide cost-effective returns from investment in protection and restoration is a key feature of the report on The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) which is identifying initiatives that deliver a high rate of return.

A growing number of wild area projects are now being quantified on such a basis, which is intended to reinforce rather than substitute for more traditional values of biodiversity as an intrinsic benefit.

Further work is required to ensure that wild area benefits are linked to payment systems that bring direct benefit to local communities and landholders, in return for enabling appropriate protection and restoration measures.

To view the TEEB report: http://www.teebweb.org/Home/tabid/924/Default.aspx

Alternative land uses

Growing recognition and quantification of wilderness and wild area benefits is reinforcing support for their intrinsic and biodiversity benefits – leading to development of further innovative funding instruments. Cost per unit area of non intervention management can also be significantly lower

Extensive land abandonment and the marginal productive value of much existing land use, particularly in remoter or geographically more challenging areas, further emphasizes the economic basis for protecting and restoring wilderness and wild lands.

There is substantial potential to build a joint position among conservation, landholding, farming, forestry and other interests to promote appropriate funding and policy reforms in pursuit of this agenda – particularly with regard to CAP reform.

Addressing concerns

  • There can be some local reduction in income and employment resulting from exclusion of extractive activities such as logging and commercial grazing from core areas, but these involve minimal overall productive capacity and are usually of marginal profitability. Any such loss can be counter-balanced by the funding and income potential together with employment benefits outlined elsewhere.
  • The attitude of local communities towards wilderness and its wildlife is of central importance, and appropriate awareness raising of their benefits should form part of any protection or restoration programme.
  • Lack of service infrastructure can prevent local communities in areas adjacent to wilderness from benefiting fully from tourism and other opportunities. Training, business counselling, quality accreditation and marketing support are often needed to ensure maximum value added is gained.
  • Whilst all activities outlined here are non-extractive, it is important that their scale and conduct does not undermine the very wilderness values they are intended to help support. Clear management guidelines and codes of professional conduct are needed.

A checklist of economic benefits

Business related:

  • Direct income and employment generation – in contrast with likely diminution in subsidy for traditional farming in more marginal, particularly upland, areas.
  • Ecotourism and other tertiary activities – including agri-tourism (model farms), cultural and historic tourism, specialist sporting, corporate incentive and leisure fields. There is substantial scope for marketing joint packages, enhancing existing regional attractions.
  • Wild areas as a backdrop for corporate activities involving negotiation, training and team-building by participants from business and other organizations.
  • Ancillary local commercial activities provide additional income: accommodation, retail, transport, distribution and craft businesses – generating a “multiplier effect” whereby wealth generated is recycled in the local economy.
  • Use of “Wild” and related brands and logos in marketing promotions for local and regional agricultural produce, and other goods and services.
  • Increases in land values of properties within and alongside wild natural habitat areas, although this can create problems for local communities requiring special address.
  • Evidence of taxpayers ascribing substantial value to species in wild areas when questioned about allocation of their incremental levies between alternative uses. This can be used in representations to secure funding for protection or restoration.

Social related:

  • Income and employment gains, particularly in more remote areas, could provide opportunity to stem the decline of rural communities and bring support to local landholders.
  • Opportunity for sustainable development within local communities that can also help articulate and maintain traditional culture and lifestyles.
  • An effective location for urban social programmes, offering substantial benefit to participants and savings for taxpayers from outcomes – eg lower reoffending rates and custodial sentences for youth at risk, benefits from successful conflict resolution
  • Use of wild areas for physiological, recuperation and trauma therapy is also increasingly recognized as a cost:effective form of healthcare.
  • Capacity to accommodate a range of school and adult education programmes – thus reinforcing the role of conservation and sustainable development in school curricula.

Environmental related:

  • Substantial potential for carbon sequestration, with potential for carbon offset and credit funding
  • Flood mitigation bringing commercial returns in the form of downstream flood mitigation and.
  • Water storage, balancing of water tables in areas of more erratic rainfall with benefits for farming and urban land use in adjacent areas
  • Enhanced water and soil quality, mitigating impact of pollution and improving productivity of fisheries
  • Scope for developing sea defence alignments with rising sea levels, involving managed coastal retreat and creation of new coastal wild areas, for which there are also strong economic arguments.

Social benefits

There is growing recognition of the beneficial impact of wilderness experience for personal therapy and social skills development. This is increasingly underpinned by an expanding body of scientific research.

A range of newer related initiatives has emerged – many of which, combined with more traditional treatment programmes, address important inner urban issues such as youth at risk, youth development, rehabilitation, healthcare and conflict reconciliation.

Wild areas can facilitate conflict resolution projectsWild areas can facilitate conflict resolution projects
Helping to address urban social problems Helping to address urban social problems

One project in this latter category, supported by the Wilderness Foundation UK, brings together former terrorist adversaries from the Northern Ireland conflict as a recognizably successful element in the ongoing peace process.

The effectiveness of these programmes is underwritten by the large scale of areas involved, enabling such activities to occur without compromising biodiversity goals, and the psychological attributes of large wild areas that can facilitate a range of relevant remedial therapies.

In addition to the income and employment they bring, the societal value of such programmes can be quantified – in terms, for example, of the financial benefit to society of custodial expenses avoided, lower criminal reoffending rates or lower medical costs from improved physiological healthcare results.

They also provide a growing link between biodiversity interests and the social priorities of urban politicians, which the ‘traditional’ conservation agenda has generally failed to achieve to any significant degree.

This aspect alone can help make a significant contribution to the policy and funding profile of conservation generally among decision takers in the mainline political arena.

For further information, see: A study of the social benefits of wildlands for youth at risk, healthcare and conflict resolution

Next steps in utilising social benefits

Many social programmes are still being developed on a relatively limited scale.

Three key actions are required to fully realize their potential:

  • clear representation of the scientific research underpinning their effectiveness, particularly  in relation to wilderness and wild area experience
  • proactive identification and development of markets for each benefit category
  • incentives for capacity building to deliver the benefits

Environmental benefits

Large wild areas provide ecosystem services that are essential to society.

These include carbon sequestration, flood mitigation and alleviation of soil and water pollution – all of which are important ‘green infrastructure’ benefits capable of tackling the impacts of climate change.

The value of such services can frequently be quantified and linked to prospective funding for large scale protection and restoration schemes – often from public and private sector sources not normally associated with conservation.

The sheer size of many wilderness and wild areas can deliver such services on a significant scale, and their unmanaged natural condition also offers important advantages – for example undisturbed old growth forests, peatlands and wetlands have considerably greater carbon storage capacity than their more managed equivalents.

Carbon sequestration

Undisturbed habitat has significantly higher carbon storage capacityUndisturbed habitat has significantly higher carbon storage capacity

Carbon markets already enable corporate funding from offset agreements and there is growing potential to generate finance from high energy users and polluters: carbon offset and credit income for sequestration from power utilities, industry with high energy-usage, and the general CRS and PR agendas of the corporate sector.

For example 4.5 million euro of carbon offset funding potential has been identified for old growth forest protection through a model commercial study of one area in the Carpathians, with 22 million projected for another site further East.

This opportunity applies as much to restoration as to protection projects – for example the reduction in climate changing gas emissions (carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide) resulting from the transformation from net positive emissions on marginal agricultural land to net negative emissions on restored habitats.

Flood mitigation and other hydrological services

Protection or restoration of upland watersheds and lowland sinks that reduce downstream flooding or pollution can attract significant funding from local authorities, statutory agencies and utilities anxious to reduce the cost of downstream flood prevention and water treatment, or insurance companies seeking to lower the incidence of compensation claims.

These benefits can be supplemented by corresponding retention of water through the presence of natural habitat in the dry season – an attribute of growing significance to farming and urban interests in areas adjacent to wilderness as rainfall patterns become more erratic with the advance of climate change.

There are clear benefits of size in planning large area restoration of an entire watershed or a lowland sink, in the latter instance applying both hydrological engineering to return water courses to their former more sinuous form and re-establishing riparian marsh and wetland forest to reduce discharge energy and create capacity for absorbing surplus flow.

Research into these hydrological benefits is rapidly proving their value. In Wales, a scheme to re-establish natural vegetation in upland areas denuded of natural habitat by overgrazing has already resulted in significantly reduced rates of run-off and is now being more widely assessed by the Centre for Hydrology and Ecology (CEH) in Aberystwith.

A much larger-scale assessment of restoration potential is underway on the Danube basin.

Danube flood threat signals massive restoration potential

Large scale wild area restoration can mitigate floodingLarge scale wild area restoration can mitigate flooding

A new WWF study in 2010 showed that restoring the natural capacity of the Danube floodplains to retain flood waters would help protect people from flood impacts, cost much less than the damages caused by floods, and, in addition, provide important benefits to nature, people, and local economies.

Human intervention in the Danube area has degraded and more than halved the area of floodplains that can retain water and minimise flood impacts.

“This year Romania, for example, has been hit again by severe storms and floods, which have killed 25 people and forced 16,500 more to leave their homes. Unfortunately the frequency and intensity of flood events is expected to continue. The good news is that the solutions for flood management that work with nature, not against it exist and are within arms reach”, said Orieta Hulea, Head of Freshwater at the WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme.

Floodplains as ‘natural sponges’

Floodplains are like natural sponges, they act as natural storage reservoirs allowing large volumes of water to be stored and slowly and safely released down rivers and into the groundwater.

If cut off from the main river beds and drained for agriculture, as has happened on the lower Danube and across most of Europe in the last century, their potential for flood retention is lost and the risks from floods are increased.

Massive restoration potential

A WWF study “Assessment of the restoration potential along the Danube and main tributaries” estimates the potential for floodplain restoration at about 800,000 ha along the Danube, about 500,000 ha of this in the lower Danube.

The Danube River Basin Management Plan, which was officially adopted by all Danube countries, including both EU and non-EU member states, already includes 473,000 ha of floodplain in Romania to be reconnected with the river. But the implementation of these measures is planned to start only after 2015 mainly due to insufficient allocation of financial resources and land ownership issues.

WWF calculated that if at least 100,000 ha from these potential areas would be restored – at an estimated cost of 500,000 €/km² – this would mean an investment of 500 million €, costing less than the damages caused by floods or the investment in higher and stronger dykes.

The restoration of the 196 areas with highest potential identified by WWF along the longest European river would cost about 6 billion Euro.

A wider EU Danube strategy

The EU Commission and Danube countries are currently developing an EU Danube Strategy in order to tackle specific challenges facing the region, including socio-economic development, sustainable transport, biodiversity and water and flood risk management.

“If the EU Danube Strategy is to become an effective tool to guarantee the necessary political commitment and funds to protect the Danube’s people and its rich biodiversity, floodplain restoration needs to become one of its key priority actions. The recent floods that have hit the area show us that inaction till 2015 is not an option. We need to make sure that at least one large scale restoration project is implemented in each Danube country by 2015.” said Sergey Moroz, EU Water Policy Officer at WWF.

Benefits to Conservation

Contribution to Biodiversity

As the failure to meet many of the 2010 targets illustrates, Europe’s biodiversity is under continued threat: from habitat destruction, pollution and climate change as well as the impact of invasive alien species.

In the EU, 60% of the most valuable habitats are in unfavorable conservation status.

With natural habitat and process still largely intact, wilderness areas provide a base point or ‘gold standard’ of natural ecological condition against which other areas can be measured. They still narrate the ongoing story of evolution,

Highly endangered - Marsican brown bear, ItalyHighly endangered – Marsican brown bear, Italy

They support species that are dependent for their survival on large, remote areas, and can harbour extensive gene pools for long-term species sustainability. They also provide opportunity for adaptation and migration in response to climate change, enabling development of more resilient ecosystems.

Their scale can also support income earning and therapeutic activities which could otherwise conflict with conservation interests in smaller areas.

It should be feasible to achieve aims for conservation of wilderness and wild areas where these occur within the Natura 2000 network, by promoting regimes of ‘non-intervention’ management and restoration.

In countries adjacent to the European Union where important areas of wilderness remain, outside Natura 2000 areas, alternative means of protection will be required – but the biodiversity benefits could be just as significant.

The Role of Wild Areas in Halting Biodiversity Loss

It is heartening that opportunities are opening up for a “re-wilding” of at least parts of Europe. These remnants, or reconstructions, of wilderness are critical in conserving biodiversity.

Judging from the ecological principle that larger areas are able to support more species, linking wild lands together to make extensive protected areas will conserve greater biodiversity than the smaller areas could.  They will also enable species to adapt to climate change, by giving them room to move as habitats change along with the climate.

Many other benefits for biodiversity are increasingly cited:

  • Higher ratio of core to margins, with less disturbance of inner area
  • A larger gene pool for species survival
  • Potential to encompass whole ecosystems, including water sources
  • Scale enables significant sustainable nature tourism without the same compromise to biodiversity interest that can occur with smaller reserves
  • Scale also enables appropriate scale for benefits from addressing climate change to be derived by landholders, local communities etc from prospective funding of ecosystem services: eg from carbon sequestration (carbon credits from energy users, polluters etc), flood mitigation (funding from government agencies, sponsorship from utility and insurance companies), pollution alleviation etc.
  • Size can facilitate use of wild land areas for urban social projects (youth development, youth at risk, healthcare) of direct relevance to mainstream political agendas and offering future funding sources from ‘social services’ from currently small but well established budget holders (Interior Ministries, Health Services, Probationary services)
  • The above attributes can enable cost:benefit calculations to promote protection, restoration or general funding of appropriate land use or biodiversity management
Iberian lynx, endangered by habitat fragmentation and loss of prey speciesIberian lynx, endangered by habitat fragmentation and loss of prey species

Restoration of wildland areas, bringing to bear the above arguments, can enable upgrading and enlargement of existing reserves, with linkage into a network – connecting biodiversity islands, enabling longer distance migration and sharing of gene pools.

As the failure to meet many of the 2010 targets illustrates, Europe’s biodiversity is under continued threat: from habitat destruction, pollution and climate change as well as the impact of invasive alien species.

In the EU, 60% of the most valuable habitats are in unfavorable conservation status.“European wilderness is the building block for a greener Europe” Ladislav Miko, Director of Natural Environment at the European Commission. Protecting and restoring the last remaining wilderness can contribution significantly to supporting EU post 2010 biodiversity strategy.

With natural habitat and process still largely intact, wilderness areas still narrate the ongoing story of evolution, providing a base point or ‘gold standard’ of natural ecological condition against which other areas can be measured.

Wilderness and wild area initiatives for connectivity

Jeffrey McNeely, IUCN Chief Scientist, explains the benefits of wild lands to biodiversityJeffrey McNeely, IUCN Chief Scientist, explains the benefits of wild lands to biodiversity

Building on global examples, Europe is now developing some significant landscape-level approaches to wilderness. The connectivity agenda is also gathering momentum.

The European Green Belt is an ecological network from the Barents to the Black Sea, and Spain, Portugal, France, Andorra and Italy are working together to strengthen the Great Ecological Connectivity Corridor, involving the Cantabrian Range, the Pyrenees, the Massif Central, and the Western Alps.

Some are even hoping that the Great Mountain Corridor, already conceived as a 1300-km corridor, can eventually extend into the Carpathian Mountains of Eastern Europe.  While linking the Cantabrians to the Alps may seem a little bit of a stretch, a wolf from the Cantabrians was reportedly seen last year in the Pyrenees, close to a pack of wolves that arrived from the French Alps a decade ago, after having crossed the Rhone Valley.

Other more modest trans-boundary efforts are also notable, such as Bialowieza between Poland and Belarus, the last remaining habitat of the Wisant or European Bison and a World Heritage site.

Europe has many other trans-boundary protected areas, either already functioning or available in potential, for expanding potential wilderness.

Addressing supposed conflict between biodiversity and wilderness principles

The issue of conflict between conservation management and principles of wildness should be addressed, since the area of common ground and benefit is much greater than allowed for in the current debate:

  • Benefits from wildlands cited above generally outweigh concerns over diminution in richness of biodiversity
  • Any concerns that ‘wilding’ an area previously heavily managed for agricultural grazing or other purposes can be substantially mitigated by extensive management techniques, including grazing: by ungulates, beaver – even semi-feral cattle where relevant
  • Allowance can still be made for localized management related to specific species, whilst retaining an overall wildland landscape
  • Smaller scale high intensity biodiversity can be balanced out by much larger scale lower intensity

Impetus behind further re-wilding

Land use in Europe is dynamic, with many areas once devoted to agriculture now being abandoned, especially as young people move to cities, more technology is applied to high-productivity lands, and areas of marginal agriculture often mimic nature.  All of this facilitates a sort of “re-wilding” of at least certain parts of Europe.

In Eastern Europe, especially, much farmland has been abandoned in recent years, especially in the Carpathian Mountains.  Unfortunately, this abandonment of agriculture was compensated by increased harvesting of older forests, leading to forest fragmentation.

Restoration will also involve political and social decisions, as some areas of apparent wilderness are in fact domestic habitats, such as the grouse moors of Scotland.  Returning the grouse moors to the native forests that once covered much of Scotland is a highly controversial topic and will require sensitive handling.  But incorporating wilderness values into the discussion may provide a basis for productive dialogue.

Yet another challenge should be added here, namely the importance to the rest of the world for Europe to reduce its global ecological footprint.

Europe’s impact on wild lands throughout the tropics has significant implications for conservation in those countries.  Therefore, as Europe develops a strategy for conserving biodiversity in the coming decade, a “foreign policy for biodiversity” should be included, and this element should incorporate wild land issues, drawing from the experience of Europe and expressing willingness to exchange expertise and experience with other countries.

The prospects for wilderness will be greatly enhanced if wilderness is broadly accepted as a global value.

Overview

Global significance of European wilderness

Although covering only 1% of Europe, our wilderness is directly representative of the much larger relatively pristine areas of habitat and natural process that are a key focus of conservation elsewhere in the world.

If we in Europe are seen to be protecting and restoring large areas of our own wild natural heritage, and doing so moreover for economic and social as well as conservation motives, that sends a powerful signal to countries elsewhere in the world who are currently determining future land use options for their own often much larger and comparatively pristine ecosystems.

A priceless heritage

 width=Wild areas are valuable in many ways: Alan Watson/Forest Light

In addition to their intrinsic spiritual, landscape and biodiversity value, wild areas of natural habitat can offer benefits for landholders, farmers, communities and society in general.

These can be derived through traditional activities such as nature tourism, bringing income and employment.

Environmental benefits can also be particularly valuable – notably in addressing the impact of climate change by storing carbon emissions or mitigating floods. Known as ecosystem services, such benefits often have a commercial value and can attract funding for local beneficiaries.

Wild areas can also support a range of recently emerging ventures, many of which address important inner urban issues such as education, youth development, youth at risk, rehabilitation and healthcare.

Wilderness included in EC Biodiversity Strategy

For the first time, wilderness has been formally included in the EU Post 2010 Biodiversity Strategy.

This followed representations by Wild Europe and supporting organizations, and should have a significant positive influence on provision of policy and funding support.

An endless sea of wildness, offering valuable carbon storage and ecotourism potential. The Poland, Ukraine, Slovakia borderlands Frans Schepers, WWF NetherlandsAn endless sea of wildness, offering valuable carbon storage and ecotourism potential. The Poland, Ukraine, Slovakia borderlands Frans Schepers, WWF Netherlands

Protection of the last remaining wilderness areas, together with appropriate restoration, can make an important contribution to achieving the EU biodiversity objectives for the post 2010 strategy, particularly with reference to the Headline Target:

“Halting the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystem services in the EU by 2020, and restoring them in so far as feasible, while stepping up the EU contribution to averting global biodiversity loss”

Although the actual wording for inclusion of wilderness has yet to be published, the Wild Europe partnership suggested incorporating the following reference to wilderness in the post 2010 strategy:

Wilderness is a unique part of our natural heritage. It represents a proportion of the European continent that is very small – around 1% – and shrinking. Many areas are under threat from logging, development of infrastructure, climate change and other factors.

At the same time, there are unprecedented opportunities throughout Europe for restoration of large areas of natural process and habitat, linked by biological corridors into a functioning ecosystem.

Because of their size, relative remoteness and natural condition, wilderness and wild areas can significantly strengthen the effectiveness of the Natura 2000 network and form a key element in Europe’s green infrastructure.

If appropriately protected and restored, they can also offer substantial environmental, economic, social, and cultural benefits – for local communities, landholders and society in general.

Representations have been made under the following sub-targets in the Strategy:

  • Sub-target 1   Integration and sustainable use of resources
  • Sub-target 3   Fragmentation and green Infrastructure
  • Sub-target 4   Invasive species
  • Sub-target 5   Nature conservation
  • Sub-target 6   Contribution to global biodiversity

Problematic issues are addressed and proposals are made for implementation of a wilderness strategy.

View the Wild Europe Submission

EC Presidency Conference pointed the way to large scale restoration

Kurt Vandenberghe - Wilderness was included in the new EU Biodiversity Strategy
Kurt Vandenberghe – Wilderness was included in the new EU Biodiversity Strategy

10 years after it was held in Brussels, Wild Europe’s conference on restoration remains highly relevant.

An updated strategy of ecological restoration is currently being developed within Wild Europe network and further announcements will follow. Meanwhile it was useful to retain key elements from the 2010 conference.

Hailed as a timely success, the Conference initiated development of an effective strategy for restoring natural habitat and process to very large areas. A broad range of proposals was provided by participants.

Organized in Brussels on 16th and 17th November by Wild Europe, the Conference took place just a week after the Nagoya summit with its urgent call to halt the loss of global biodiversity.

With the current recession in mind, emphasis throughout was on the potential for such restoration to deliver cost:effective outcomes for the Natura 2000 network, both within the EU and relevant conservation initiatives in neighbouring states.

There is unprecedented opportunity for large scale restoration of wilderness and wild areas. The CBD’s 2010 Global Biodiversity Outlook published in mid 2010 defined potential for ‘rewilding’ 200,000 km2 of marginal and abandoned land across Europe. This is paralleled by a key objective announced at Nagoya which targets restoration of 15% of degraded lands by 2020.

The restoration strategy outlined by the Conference will now be developed through a wider inter-sector consultation exercise.

Key announcements for wilderness

Stefan Leiner - A Wilderness Register would be developed in 2011
Stefan Leiner – A Wilderness Register would be developed in 2011

A considerable boost was provided for this strategy towards the end of the conference by two announcements:

Kurt Vandenberghe, Head of Cabinet to Commissioner Potocnik, declared that, for the first time, wilderness was formally included in the EU Post 2010 Biodiversity Strategy.

This follows representations by Wild Europe and supporting organizations, and should have a significant positive influence on provision of policy and funding support.

Stefan Leiner, Head of Unit for Natura 2000, delivering the final presentation which summarised recommendations from the conference, confirmed that implementation of a Wilderness Register would proceed in 2011. Wild Europe had provided proposals for this.

This will be of relevance to newly restored as well as existing wilderness and wild areas.

There is an Agenda and a list of Presentations from the conference.

A background of great opportunity

Jo Mulongoy – global significant of wild area restoration in Europe
Jo Mulongoy – global significant of wild area restoration in Europe

Jo Mulongoy, Head of Science for the CBD in Montreal who opened the conference along with Ladislav Miko, Director of Natural Environment at the European Commission, hailed the opportunity for restoration of large wild areas with natural processes, habitats and wildlife in Europe as a contribution to global biodiversity objectives.

This had already been cited in the CBD’s 2010 Global Biodiversity Outlook. It was now further enshrined in the Nagoya Strategic Plan, not least in the target for restoring 15% of degraded land by 2020, as well as associated documents and COP 10 decisions.

Ladislav Miko spoke of the need to adopt an ecosystem approach based on natural processes in the EU Biodiversity Strategy, underlining a three pronged plan: protecting existing wilderness, restoring large wild areas, and reinstating natural processes on marginal farm and forestry land.

Ladislav Miko - the conference can contribute significantly to EU Biodiversity Strategy
Ladislav Miko – the conference can contribute significantly to EU Biodiversity Strategy

Natural process restoration and non intervention management were cost-effective. In addition to its intrinsic and spiritual worth as our natural heritage, and its importance for biodiversity, wilderness offered significant economic benefits from tourism and ecosystem services that was especially valuable in time of recession.

A comprehensive definition of wild area restoration was then provided by Vlado Vancura, conservation director for PANParks Foundation. This engaged a spectrum of opportunity from existing wild areas needing relatively minor transition management to become ‘wilderness’ – to the wholesale restoration of natural process and habitat on marginal farmland, for which there was extensive potential.

The Million Project, to protect a million hectares of wilderness across Europe, was a key parallel initiative recently launched by PANParks.

If they can do it….

This overview was followed by presentations highlighting success stories already achieved – even in the most unlikely parts of the EU’s original economic heartland.

Alan Bowley, Senior Reserves Manager for Natural England, explained how formerly fertile croplands in East Anglia were being converted into thriving examples of landscape scale ecosystems producing multiple benefits of carbon sequestration, flood mitigation and tourism revenue for local communities – as well as substantial biodiversity gains.

Christof Schenck from The Foundation for Natural Landscapes outlined a similar picture for purchase and restoration of former military training areas in Brandenburg, Germany – where a target for wilderness on 2% of national territory has been set by 2020.

The achievement of riverine floodplain re-establishment across central eastern Netherlands was highlighted by Johan Bekhuis, Ark Foundation; partnerships with local community and business, cultural and social interests and innovative fund raising were all important facets.

Three stories of restoration in the old EU heartland - former cropland in England, military land in Germany, and riverine floodplain in NetherlandsThree stories of restoration in the old EU heartland – former cropland in England, military land in Germany, and riverine floodplain in Netherlands

The agenda then widened to encompass actual and potential restoration opportunity across Europe.

Magnus Sylven, international consultant former director of WWF Europe & Middle East, provided an overview of how an ecosystem approach focused on natural processes and species reintroductions was an increasingly important aspect of conservation policy in a growing range of countries, illustrating this with examples that included forest, wetland, natural grazing and connectivity schemes.

From vision to practicality – 1 million hectares

Wilderness in the Eastern Carpathians, Frans Schepers WWF Netherlands
Wilderness in the Eastern Carpathians, Frans Schepers WWF Netherlands

The vision for future restoration potential was linked with current practicality by Frans Schepers, Programme Leader for the Rewilding Europe initiative (Wild Europe Field Programme), who announced establishment of five areas, each with a minimum of 100,000 hectares where community focused restoration initiatives based on wilderness principles are to be initiated throughout Europe.

Chosen from many candidate sites following an initial presentation at the Wild Europe conference in Prague in May 2009 these include: Western Iberia, Velebit (Croatia), Danube Delta (Romania), Southern Carpathians (Romania), and Eastern Carpathians in the borderlands of Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine; this latter area alone could extend to some 250,000 hectares.

The launch of Rewilding Europe, also in Brussels, took place immediately following the conference, on 18th November, moderated by Her Royal Highness Princess Laurentien van Oranje of the Netherlands.

The rationale for restoration

Harvey Locke, Vice President of Wild Foundation (US) provided a timely reminder that ‘wilderness’ or ‘will of the land’ originated as a European term. He pointed out that restoration of abandoned farmlands along with connectivity is well established practice in North America, achieving the benefits for conservation and ecosystem services already evident from existing schemes in Europe and providing capacity for mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

Some of the key drivers underwriting the potential for wild area restoration were outlined in the following three sessions.

David Baldock, director of the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP), assessed current and likely future scenarios for land abandonment, relating these to commodity price trends, reform of Common Agricultural Policy, global competitiveness and more localized economic and cultural phenomena.

Lech river: restored to its natural hydrological process – Anton Vorauer WWF Austria
Lech river: restored to its natural hydrological process – Anton Vorauer WWF Austria

These suggested an overall prospect equating to 3 or 4% of Europe’s land area, allowing comfortable spatial capacity for large scale restoration targets.

The ecosystem services benefits that can flow from such opportunity were sketched by two specialists: Hugh Fullerton Smith director of the European Nature Trust for carbon sequestration and Anton Vorauer from WWF’s Alpine Programme on flood mitigation using the example of the Lech river in Tyrol.

Both emphasized the economic gains from innovative funding – just one project for carbon offset identifying 4.5 million euro of direct funding potential.

Esa Härkönen, Senior Advisor for the Metsahällitus forestry agency (Finland) paralleled these benefits by demonstrating the impact of ecotourism and other non extractive activities associated with wild areas in providing sustainable development for local communities and the wider regional economy – often in remoter areas where the income and employment secured had considerable effect.

Wild by Design – new landscapes, natural ecosystems

Large herbivores such as this ‘auroch’ surrogate can help retain biodiversity-rich mixed habitat – Pierre Devilliers CMS
Large herbivores such as this ‘auroch’ surrogate can help retain biodiversity-rich mixed habitat – Pierre Devilliers CMS

For its next stage, the conference went on to assess requirements for effective restoration ecology within the overall Strategy. Paul Grigoriev, Programme Coordinator for IUCN’s European Office, chaired a session involving examination of four key elements of restoration ecology.

  • Process: Vania Proenca from Lisbon University underlined the impact of abandonment, assessing the benefits of natural process restoration for biodiversity and local economies. She addressed the need for self-sustaining ecosystems with resilience to climate change and fire risk – the latter particularly important in the Mediterranean region.
  • Management: while non intervention was appropriate for existing areas of wilderness, naturalistic management involving extensive grazing by natural herbivore substitutes such as auroch can play a key role in maintaining a species rich habitat mosaic in newly restored areas. Feiko Prins for the Large Herbivore Foundation also made it clear that natural process management could be cost-effective, although sensitive local communication was required on landscape changes and interactions between wildlife and livestock.
  • Connectivity: linkage of existing and newly restored wild areas is important to strengthen gene pools and enable migration and adaptation in the face of climate change. Giacomo Luciani from the UN Environmental Programme in Vienna explained the example of the Carpathian Convention in establishing corridors though seven countries, with links to the Austrian Alps through the AKK project.
  • Reintroductions of keystone species was championed by Pierre Devilliers Chair of the Scientific Council for the Convention on Migratory Species, as a vital element for ensuring a balanced, healthy ecosystem. There was a moral and cultural as well as ecological imperative to ensure ‘space for nature’, reinstating herbivore and carnivore species formerly present.

Reappearance of keystone species, essential for a balanced ecosystem – Pierre Devilliers CMS
Reappearance of keystone species, essential for a balanced ecosystem – Pierre Devillliers CMS

Day 2 – Developing the Strategy

A tale of two restorations

The Dutch Econet, international linkage of wild areas
The Dutch Econet, international linkage of wild areas

Day Two, Wednesday 17th November, began with two very different but highly significant examples, showing both the challenges and opportunities for a visionary Restoration Strategy.

Chris Kalden, Director General of Staatsbosbeheer, originally a timber producing agency now managing a large proportion of Dutch protected areas and promoting the benefits of nature conservation based on natural processes, began by outlining the National Ecological Network – targeting no less than 17% of national territory by 2018 and extending into Belgium and Germany.

This policy had been achieved by close inter sector cooperation backed by political will. One of its crown jewels, the Oostvaardersplassen, has become an internationally iconic neo-urban wild area with a envisaged expansion that aims to double its size to some 18,000 hectares at a cost of around 400 million euro, an ambitious project of the Province of Flevoland. To manage a wild area in an urban and commercial agricultural setting means that one has to deal sensitively with conflicting value orientations.

In stark contrast was the equally widely applicable model of wild forest restoration undertaken in the Bayerischer Wald (Bavaria, Germany) since its establishment as a national park in 1970.

The ‘Wild Heart of Europe’, Sumava-Bayerisch Wald spans the Czech Bavarian borderThe ‘Wild Heart of Europe’, Sumava-Bayerisch Wald spans the Czech Bavarian border

Hans Keiner, Deputy Director of the Park, demonstrated how natural process reinstatement and non intervention management – even following die back across large areas of forestry caused by windfall and bark beetle – can produce highly beneficial biodiversity outcomes that provide significant benefits for local communities and the wider economy, creating nearly 1000 jobs in the ‘Wild Heart of Europe’.

Since 1999 the area has been linked in a transboundary initiative with Sumava in the Czech Republic.

Building consensus between sectors

Wider replication of such examples can best be achieved through building a consensus on benefits among different sectors. The next session exemplified this, with three presentations from very different perspectives.

Forest restoration – natural processes can offer conservation, ecosystem and tourism income for landholders – Daniel Vallauri, WWF France
Forest restoration – natural processes can offer conservation, ecosystem and tourism income for landholders – Daniel Vallauri, WWF France

Representing the landholder and farmer viewpoint, Marie-Alice Budniok of the European Landowners Association, outlined a number of schemes being developed that demonstrated how private sector estates could gain from restoring natural habitat and processes, given appropriate incentive. There is great potential for closer linkage with conservation interests here.

The viewpoint of the forestry sector was explained by Daniel Vallauri of WWF France, focusing on opportunity for consensus to address the technical challenges of ‘wild area’ forest restoration.

Social benefits from wilderness help address urban social problems
Social benefits from wilderness help address urban social problems

Whilst clarifying the benefits of such restoration, he also stressed the need for the Strategy to identify effective procedure to resolve prospective conflicts from windfall, bark beetle and fire risk.

Jo Roberts, Director of the Wilderness Foundation UK, spoke of the opportunity for urban social programmes derived from wild area experience.

The next steps will be to identify and promote clear scientific evidence for development of large potential markets in youth development, youth at risk, healthcare and conflict resolution.

TEEB and the economic value of wild areas

Moving the conference on to the economic core of wild area restoration, Giacomo Luciani of the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) Vienna Office introduced presentations on valuation, business and funding potential.

Pavan Sukhdev – rewilding landscapes across 200,000 km2 in Europe offers cost effective opportunity for biodiversity objectives
Pavan Sukhdev – rewilding landscapes across 200,000 km2 in Europe offers cost effective opportunity for biodiversity objectives

Pavan Sukhdev, the coordinator of the study on The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) and head of UNEP’s Green Economy initiative, stressed the crucial importance to a Strategy of a framework to quantify benefits, and costs, of restoration projects.

These must reinforce rather than supplant more traditional views of the intrinsic value of nature, but experience worldwide – as exemplified in Nagoya – has shown that ‘returns on investment’ are often high and thus important in gaining policy and funding support.

Emphasis on natural process efficiency is a strong card for wild areas, especially in time of recession with even fewer resources for conservation funding.

Business has a key role in helping deliver these benefits for local communities and landholders. But Neil Birnie, Chief Executive of Conservation Capital Ltd, stressed the need for wilderness conservation objectives to be explicitly stated from the outset.

A new approach was required, more rigorously driven by business practice, and initiatives he proposed to underpin this included a private sector Investment Fund for new low impact ventures, a European Ecotourism Network with focus on wild areas, and development of the Business for Wilderness Forum initiated at the Prague conference in 2009.

Marianne Kettenun from IEEP rounded off this economic focus by considering a range of funding options: better use of existing sources along with effective development of innovative grant, fiscal and private sector capital instruments as well as new markets for services. Multiple benefits of wilderness enabled address of a correspondingly broad set of EC related opportunities – including EU Structural Funds and Social Funds, alongside a reformed CAP and further LIFE schemes. Diversity was the key.

These key drivers were then linked by Alberto Arroyo, Natura 2000 policy coordinator for WWF, to an assessment of the EC policy framework. This affirmed the importance of restoration, explicitly cited in the headline target for the post 2010 Biodiversity Strategy. Protection in Natura 2000 areas would shortly be underwritten by guidelines for non intervention management, with emphasis on better implementation of existing legislation.

In the current difficult economic circumstances, wilderness offered a cost:effective approach through operation of natural process. The underlining focus, in EU and neighbouring states, should be on proving and promoting the values of wilderness and wild area benefits.

What do we need to know, and how do we project the knowledge?

Attention turned to what further knowledge was needed to advance the restoration strategy.

Steve Carver, Director of the recently formed Wildland Research Institute in Leeds University, outlined a research agenda which included practical definitions, mapping and guidelines to inform restoration management, together with a scientific underpin for benefits and development of innovative funding mechanisms.

Today’s children in the wild are tomorrow’s committed environmentalists and voters
Today’s children in the wild are tomorrow’s committed environmentalists and voters

Helen McDade, Policy Director for John Muir Trust, then stressed the importance of including wild areas in the education curriculum – both to reinforce appreciation of the value of conservation, and unlock the great potential for social wellbeing from experiential learning. Of the 100,000 people completing the JMT Award for environmental projects, nearly a quarter are from socially excluded groups.

Amid ever lessening contact with nature, direct experience was the most powerful means of building future support for its protection, among children but also politicians and other decision takers.

Wilderness in the Post 2010 Biodiversity Strategy

Kurt Vandenberghe, Head of Cabinet to Commissioner Potocnik in the European Commission, delivered the keynote presentation – declaring that, for the first time, wilderness was formally included in the EU Post 2010 Biodiversity Strategy.

This follows representations by Wild Europe and supporting organizations, and should have a significant positive influence on provision of policy and funding support.

Referring to the successes (such as ABS) as well as the challenges arising from the Nagoya conference, he cited grounds for optimism through adoption of a green agenda. So far a wilderness was concerned, the restoration agenda fitted well with growing recognition of the value of wild areas and their delivery of ecosystem and other services – as well as the need for focusing on productivity in use of existing resources for conservation outcomes.

The Restoration Strategy should in particular seek to interface with the EU Biodiversity Strategy, CAP reform opportunities, Cohesion Funding and the Green Paper on Forestry Strategy

Communication – the power of imagery

A ‘hearts and minds theme’ was central to Staffan Widstrand’s presentation on communication.

Communicating wilderness to hearts and minds – Staffan Widstrand, Wild Wonders of Europe
Communicating wilderness to hearts and minds – Staffan Widstrand, Wild Wonders of Europe

As founder-director of the Wild Wonders of Europe photographic initiative, he sketched the need for a communication strategy for restoration to have a two pronged approach – for the ‘heart’ of the general public and how to capture it with imagery, emotion, mass communication – and the ‘mind’: ie decision takers in government, the institutions, conservation, business and other sectors.

The power of such imagery was a background theme to the conference.

After the formal close of Day 1, on 16th November, there was a social reception featuring two films – both outstanding examples of creative communication. First, the internationally acclaimed entrée for global Year of Biodiversity made by Wild Wonders of Europe, depicting … the wonders of wild Europe, with emphasis on opportunity for restoration.

Then came Keeper of the Wilderness – a visually stunning story of how Ticha Valley, a formerly burned forest and degraded pastureland in the Tatra Mountains of Slovakia, has over the last 50 years become a haven for rich biodiversity, symbolized by healthy populations of brown bear, red deer and wolf.

Gyula Heguy coordinator of the massively supported Resolution for wilderness and its restoration from the EU Parliament
Gyula Heguy coordinator of the massively supported Resolution for wilderness and its restoration from the EU Parliament

Gyula Hegyi, who as MEP coordinated the EU Parliamentary on improved protection and funding for wilderness in 2009 by a massive 538 votes to only 19, was well placed to speak on the importance of communicating the right messages to the right ears.

He defined a number of key decision taking points where representation of the value for wilderness and the need for its restoration could have most impact.

Inputting amendments to proposed legislation via a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) was one way in which individuals could get involved. On a broader basis, it was important to take decision takers and journalists into wilderness areas – they understood the moral, conservation and economic arguments once these were explained, but the impact of direct experience was especially enlightening.

There is also potential to develop closer links between the Environment, Climate and Employment and Social Affairs DG among others.

Building the restoration strategy

Central to the proceedings were two sets of workshop sessions where participants contributed their individual expertise.

On Day 1, alternative visions for restoration over 25, 50 and 100 years were laid out – an important exercise given what is by definition a long term concept, but anchored firmly in economic, business, policy and social as well as ecological and biodiversity principles.

This base of practical vision was built on during Day 2 by a further set of participant workshops – covering assessment of the need for new policies and incentives, biodiversity benefits of wilderness, the role of corporates in funding and the sustainability agenda, building a standard ‘toolkit’ for restoration, and development of a communications strategy.

The Wilderness Register – a significant step forward for wild area protection in Europe – Daniel Vallauri WWF France
The Wilderness Register – a significant step forward for wild area protection in Europe – Daniel Vallauri WWF France

Stefan Leiner, Head of Unit for Natura 2000, delivering the final presentation provided a thorough summary of recommendations from the conference.

He highlighted five elements in particular: measures to support a more rigorous business based approach for developing local community capacity to gain from ecotourism and other non extractive activities, the importance of building cross-sectoral consensus behind a restoration strategy, planning restoration projects within a clear cost-benefit framework, and focusing on improved delivery from existing resource as well as seeking new funding.

He also confirmed that implementation of the Wilderness Register produced by Wild Europe will proceed in 2011. This will be of relevance to newly restored as well as existing wilderness and wild areas.

Next Steps

Hailed as a significant success, the EC Presidency conference on restoration has produced many new initiatives.

The conference deliberately avoided framing any rounded conclusions on a restoration strategy. This needs to be based on more comprehensive consultation over the next few months – involving landholding, forestry, farming, business, regional development and urban social as well as conservation interests across Europe.

However a large number of valuable recommendations will be carried forward. These included:

  • promoting the modification and strengthening of existing restoration policies and incentives, with proposal for some new measures – albeit within existing legal frameworks
  • a ‘toolkit’ for practical restoration procedure – planning, management and ancillary aspects (funding, coordination, communication, administration)
  • promoting individual opportunities and initiatives for benefit-based restoration: enlarging and strengthening existing areas, creating new areas, implementing effective linkage
  • further development of practical definitions and mapping in support of this, together with promotion of a general research agenda
  • sharing best practice on identification, valuation and usage of wilderness benefits
  • identifying improved mechanisms for gaining from these benefits, particularly ecosystem and social services
  • development of supportive instruments for local community and landholder enterprise
  • fund raising – improved usage of existing resource, facilitating access to new sources, development of innovative instruments
  • promotion of education and urban related social projects
  • building joint approaches based on common ground with landholding, forestry, farming, business, social and other interests
  • a ‘hearts and minds’ communication strategy, including representation of the value of wilderness to key decision takers – via local, national and regional government and institutions
  • emphasis on sustainable, long term protection of restored areas

From Ireland to the Urals – Europe wide opportunity for large scale restoration
From Ireland to the Urals – Europe wide opportunity for large scale restoration

Coupling ambitious vision with hardheaded economic and political reality offers unprecedented potential to bring substantial benefits to conservation across Europe – from the West coast of Ireland to the Ural Mountains in the East.

Value to global biodiversity

As the CBD and the targets resulting from the Nagoya conerence make clear, the value of such strategy to global biodiversity objectives can also be significant.

If we in Europe are restoring natural processes, habitats and wildlife in our crowded and developed continent – and doing so moreover for economic and social as well as conservation motives – we stand a greater chance of persuading those countries with much larger remaining areas of relatively pristine ecosystem to protect their own natural heritage.

See also:
Conference Agenda
Presentations

First bison for 400 years roam freely in Germany

For the first time in 400 years, free roaming bison have been reintroduced to Germany.For the first time in 400 years, free roaming bison have been reintroduced to Germany.

A small group of bison has been released, in April 2013, into a 10,000 hectare forest in the Rothaar Mountains of North Rhine Westphalia.

One of the cows has since given birth to a male calf, and it is hoped the herd will grow to around 25 animals.

This release follows a long period of behavioural study, and assessment of the role of bison in the ecosystem as well as their impact on the forest itself. As a large herbivore they fill an important niche and help maintain a mosaic of different habitats – forest intermingled with shrub and grassland – that can support a more varied biodiversity.

Plans were recently proposed by the Rewilding Europe programme to reintroduce bison into the Southern Carpathians.

Rewilding Europe

The Rewilding Europe programme, previously titled the Wild Europe Field Programme, involves restoration of at least a million hectares across Europe.

Ten areas, representing a range of habitat biomes, are to be targeted as model sites. Each will be a minimum of 100,000 hectares although in some cases there may be potential for further expansion and linkage with existing protected land into a network of wild areas.

The initiative was started at the Wild Europe conference in Prague in 2009, where participants were invited to submit potential areas together with nomination of prospective local partners for coordinating their restoration and protection.

As explained in the brief for Wild Europe Field Programme (see brochure depicted above), this is based on wilderness principles, with absence of human infrastructure and no extractive activities in large core areas.

Opportunity for the Programme is derived from the large scale abandonment of former farmland that has occurred across some 40 million hectares in Europe, which provides unprecedented potential for restoration of substantial stretches of wilderness linked to existing protected areas.

Extensive managed grazing will be used to retain a balanced mosaic of open savannah and wooded savannah and forest and seek to maximise richness of biodiversity.

Emphasis will be placed on using nature tourism and other low impact activities to provide income and employment for local communities and landholders. Wherever possible, such benefits will be supplemented by facilitation of payments for ecosystem services and other sources of funding.

New areas announced

Based on applications from all over Europe, five areas have now been selected as the first model projects to show how the vision can be put into practice.

  • Western Iberia (Spain/Portugal)
  • Velebit (Croatia)
  • Danube Delta (Romania)
  • Southern Carpathians (Romania)
  • Eastern Carpathians (border between Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine).

Launch of the Wild Europe field programme

Representatives from the five new areas participate at the launchRepresentatives from the five new areas participate at the launch

On the 18th November 2010 the Wild Europe Field Programme – renamed ‘Rewilding Europe’ – was launched in Brussels by Princess Laurentien van Oranje.

The launch was attended by partner organizations from the first five field projects areas together with representatives from the European Commission, funding institutions and many NGO’s.

Rewilding Europe has since secured a substantial amount of funding and preparatory work has begun in the five areas.

For further information visit: rewildingeurope.com

 

Reforming CAP – a conservation and landholder coalition

Wild Europe has participated in a number of meetings to discuss Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) reform, and its proposals have been detailed in successive representations. There is great potential to develop a proactive strategy for reform of the CAP, particularly based on the concept of ‘public payments for public goods’.

The Great Fen, restoring wetland in the East Anglia region of England (Photo credit: Thomas & Keith Sisman)The Great Fen, restoring wetland in the East Anglia region of England (Photo credit: Thomas & Keith Sisman)

Currently still taking around 40% of the EU budget in support of less than 4% of Gross Domestic Product, the scale of this budget is politically unsustainable and likely to undergo significant reduction over the next few years.

Opportunity to build a common strategy

By building a coalition of conservation, landholder, farmer, business and community interests, it should be feasible to use CAP subsidies for restoring large areas of wilderness and wild land of natural habitat and process from marginal agricultural and forestry land with low economic viability.

Linked through utilization of economic, social and environmental benefits from such areas to the rural development and urban needs agendas, this CAP reform initiative could enable reallocation of EU CAP support in a manner that would benefit local communities and landholders as well as wild area objectives.

There are three key facets of this process, which must be both realistic and fair to existing landholders:

1,  proactive planning of restoration rather than simply using abandonment – involving for example extensive naturalistic grazing in some areas to ensure a mosaic of habitats, and attention to the role of wild food plants, with a view to maximising biodiversity enrichment whilst focusing on naturalness of habitat and process.

2.  multiple income sourcing to provide a practical alternative to unsustainable subsidy of marginal farming (in particular livestock) – by redirection of CAP payments into restoration activity, and paralleling this income with proactive capacity building to ensure maximum value added for farmers, landholders and local communities from nature tourism, ecosystem services, land banking and other innovative funding mechanisms.

3.  a cost:benefit valuation approach that delivers in the context of rural development and urban needs agendas, as well as providing a far-reaching agenda for large scale and sustainable wilderness and wild area creation.

A colourful earner currently. But without subsidy - is there any profit in keeping the hills bare?A colourful earner currently. But without subsidy – is there any profit in keeping the hills bare?

By enabling enlargement of existing wild natural areas, creation of large new ones and facilitating the connectivity between them, this approach could substantially strengthen both the N2000 network and the green infrastructure programme within which it sits.

It also offers a direct and practical response to the CBD’s 3rd Global Biodiversity Outlook report which cited the prospective benefits to global conservation of such restoration across 200,000 km2 of abandoned land across Europe.

The alternative scenario may see such subsidy being lost to both farming and conservation under current options for CAP budget reduction, so there is active opportunity to adopt a common approach.

The next step will involve liaison with other sectors with a view to carrying forward these objectives.

Representation on CAP Reform

Wild Europe also made representation to the 2012 EU reform process.

The public debate consultation was based around four key questions posed by the European Commission:

  • Q1    Why do we need a European common agricultural policy?
  • Q2    What do citizens expect from agriculture?
  • Q3    Why reform the CAP?
  • Q4     What tools do we need for the CAP of tomorrow?

CBD Outlook Report highlighted opportunity for large scale restoration across Europe

Wild area restoration in Europe - of global significanceWild area restoration in Europe – of global significance

Potential for restoration in Europe received significant confirmation from the CBD in its 3rd Global Biodiversity Outlook report (2010).

Published in advance of the Nagoya Conference to address the world’s declining biodiversity, the Report cited a huge potential for ecological restoration on abandoned farmland to support global biodiversity strategy.

“…There are opportunities for rewilding landscapes from farmland abandonment in some regions – in Europe, for example, about 200,000 square kilometers of land are expected to be freed up by 2050. Ecological restoration and reintroduction of large herbivores and carnivores will be important in creating self-sustaining ecosystems with minimal need for further human intervention.” CBD 3rd GBO, 2010, page 75

The role of undisturbed old growth forest in particular is emphasized in the Report, not only through storing significantly greater quantities of carbon than its managed counterpart, but via the process of ‘carbon fertilization’ which could augment this capacity further. Similar arguments apply to undisturbed wetland and peat areas.

Against a backdrop of failure to meet most of the 2010 Biodiversity Targets, the Report remains an important indicator for the 2020 UN decade on ecosystem restoration.

For further detail on the CBD Global Biodiversity Outlook Report, see: https://www.cbd.int/gbo3/

Update from 2018 JRC Report

A 2018 report by the Joint Research Council cited an annual increment of some 280,000 hectares being added annually to abandoned land, which it forecast would total around 5.6 million hectares, some 3% of agricultural land, by 3020. A further 15 – 20 million hectares are “at high potential risk” of abandonment – ie have promising potential.

Spain (particularly North/Northwest) and Poland (particularly around the Chelmsko-zamojski region) are cited as contributing almost a third of this. Much of the remainder is focused in Southern and Eastern Romania, Southwestern France, Southern and Central Spain, Portugal, Cyprus, Latvia and Estonia.There is thus considerable opportunity for restoring large networks of natural ecosystem areas in the Restoration Strategy forthcoming from the 2030 EU Biodiversity Strategy published in May 2020.

JRC report available here.

The potential for restoration

There is now unprecedented opportunity for restoration of natural habitats and processes across Europe. This could create a series of very large wild areas, linked by habitat corridors into a functioning ecosystem

Abandonment of grazing uplands, Picos de Europa, SpainAbandonment of grazing uplands, Picos de Europa, Spain

Natural regeneration is already occurring, especially in remoter regions, with partial or total abandonment of some 40 million hectares of former grazing land leading to reappearance of shrubs and trees. There are also a growing number of restoration initiatives planned through managed intervention.

This opportunity is underwritten by two main factors.

On the one hand, more marginal areas of farmland and forestry are becoming increasingly uneconomic. Despite recent increases in commodity prices and rising global population, this trend is likely to be sustained by changes in agricultural practice together with reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and pressure for free trade through the World Trade Organization.

At the same time there is growing appreciation of the wide range of economic and social as well as environmental benefits offered by such areas. (see Benefits section)

This in turn offers considerable scope for restoration initiatives that combine wilderness and biodiversity objectives with utilisation of these benefits for local farmers, landholders and communities.

Promoting new wild landscapes

Red deer along with other ungulates can help maintain a diverse mosaic of wood and grasslandRed deer along with other ungulates can help maintain a diverse mosaic of wood and grassland

In addition to occurring naturally, restoration can also be encouraged through managed interventions, particularly in areas which have been substantially modified with substantial or complete removal of original vegetation.

These interventions may include managed planting from external seed sources, breaking up ground compacted by heavy grazing and reinstatement of natural processes – such as re-establishment of fluvial meanders or removal of artificial drainage.

At the same time, there is a need to recognise the importance of herbivores in the maintenance of diverse vegetation structures. By creating more habitats, for example glades in forest and mosaics of woodland and grassland, this that can reconcile the need to maximize biodiversity (as measured in number of species) whilst promoting principles of wildness as opposed to management through direct human intervention. In core areas of wilderness and wild land, where non intervention management is practised, this role is undertaken by deer, bison and beaver.

Elsewhere, there is a growing trend to use ‘naturalistic’ management involving extensive grazing by livestock, some species of which are represented as substituting for their natural ancestors – eg Heck cattle for the extinct forest dwelling auroch and Konik ponies for the ancient tarpan.

Vision for a bright futureVision for a bright future

A vision for the future

There is a historic potential for putting into practice this vision for landscape scale restoration of large natural habitat areas.

Success in developing the vision will require a coordinated consensus of interested parties reaching beyond conservation to encompass government, landholding, forestry, farming, business, local community and urban social interests among many others.

If this can be achieved, the vision has every chance of being realized.

 

Reintroductions

In addition to reinstatement of natural habitat and process, restoration can involve reintroduction of species previously occurring in a particular area.

Some reintroductions occur naturally, such as the return of the osprey to England or the spread of wolf into South Eastern France from the Italian Alps.

Many reintroductions involve forward planning, including beaver now reintroduced to 26 countries across Europe, or European bison to the Rothaargebirge region in North-Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.

Bringing biodiversity and tourism benefitsBringing biodiversity and tourism benefits

Such reintroductions are provided for in Article 22 of the EU Habitats Directive and can bring significant enrichment to local biodiversity. To many, they also mark the fulfillment of a responsibility by man to reinstate a species he has extirpated.

Such reintroductions can also be controversial and require careful handling with full prior consultation, particularly among local communities and landholders where releases are to occur.

However, they can also help restore more balanced natural processes and enable enrichment of biodiversity as well as bringing economic benefits. Beaver create a wider variety of wetland habitats that support yet further species including mammals, birds, amphibians. Fish and invertebrates.

Similarly, by maintaining a mosaic of forest and grassland, European bison can help support a wider range of fauna and flora than would occur if a monoculture of climax arboreal vegetation were to occur.

There is increasingly widespread use of ‘surrogate’ species in place of their wild counterparts for naturalistic management of vegetation – including Heck cattle as a substitute for the extinct auroch and Konik horses for Tarpan, although there is some question over how far such comparisons reflect genetic reality.

Economic benefits from reintroduction

Reappearance of species formerly present can provide a major tourist attraction, of significance to the local and even regional economy.

The wolf has brought prosperity to local communities in AbruzziThe wolf has brought prosperity to local communities in Abruzzi
Provider of valuable engineering services for wetland habitatProvider of valuable engineering services for wetland habitat

In Scotland, wildlife tourism brings some £65 million annual revenue together with employment for nearly 2,800 – often in relatively poor rural areas. Reintroduction of Sea Eagle, the fourth largest in the world, to the Isle of Mull now produces significantly more income to local communities than farming.

In Abruzzo National Park, only 130 kilometers from Rome, local farming communities now gain better livelihoods from tourism based on the return of the wolf to restored areas of natural habitat than were previously earned from livestock herding.

Located in the Central Apennines the National Park covers 44,000 hectares of mountain forest and grassland and enjoys the Marsican brown bear as its symbol.

Reintroductions can bring similar economic benefits for local landholders and communities across central and eastern Europe as well. This can have a particularly stong impact in remoter areas, where traditional agricultural and forestry practice is less viable. However, alongside reintroduction programmes, there is often a need to focus on capacity building – eg provision of adequate local accommodation, guidance and general services if local communities are to gain maximum benefit from nature tourism.

Beaver are particularly prized for their economic benefit. Negative impacts from the 26 countries where reintroduction has occurred over the last 80 years have been almost without exception very limited and localised.

Positive benefits on the other hand have included flood mitigation, alleviation of pollution – together with revenue and employment from nature tourism. Because beaver consume a low calorie diet they forage for up to 18 hours a day, thus making ideal subjects for wildlife watchers.

Vaclav HavelVaclav Havel

Vaclav Havel 1936 – 2011

Statesman, playwright, hero of countless millions across Europe for his enduring struggle to secure freedom, finally realized in the Velvet Revolution of 1989.

Even while presiding over the rebuilding of his nation, as President of Czechoslovakia and subsequently the Czech Republic, the poet and the visionary in Vaclav Havel recognized the value of the wild in restoring meaning to our crowded lives. It was his memorable rhetoric which, in May 2009, opened the first EC Presidency Conference on wilderness, held in Prague.

“We have lost sight of eternity and are destroying nature for future generations.”

Few people deserve to be called ‘great’. Vaclav Havel was one of those. His name and memory will live on, undimmed, in our work to safeguard Europe’s last wild areas.