Scientists call the EU to strengthen legal framework for nature conservation
This article is based on a press release from the Society for Conservation Biology
The recent International and European Congress for Conservation Biology (ICCB-ECCB 2015) in Montpellier, France, was attended by 2,046 scientists and conservation professionals from almost 100 countries. The congress saw a series of events that addressed the Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT), which the EU is currently conducting to evaluate the impacts and relevance of the Habitats and Birds Directives (“Fitness Check”). These Nature Directives, and the Natura 2000 protected area complex built upon them, are considered the most eminent cornerstones of European biodiversity conservation.
There was a general consensus across a series of ICCB‐ECCB 2015 events that the Nature Directives have made a difference for nature conservation in Europe. Among a wide range of major achievements, the Nature Directives have managed to:
- build Natura 2000, a new network of protected sites of unprecedented size in Europe, providing connectivity for ecosystems and species across the European landscapes;
- slow down the degradation of European biodiversity, by reducing the pace of decline of a number of species from European landscapes, or even achieve their comeback;
- slow down or revert land use changes threatening biodiversity;
- strengthen nature conservation administrations in EU countries, by facilitating key components of an effective on‐site conservation management, such as implementing biodiversity‐sound land use schemes, carrying out impact assessments and standardised biodiversity monitoring.
However, concerns raised at the congress addressed the relatively sparse interaction with the scientific community in both the implementation of the directives and the REFIT. A peer review by relevant conservation scientists and academics specializing in legal affairs would have been appropriate for the REFIT process and could have added more relevant knowledge.
Scientists have found there is inadequate implementation of Habitats Directive Article 18 (scientific research) by both the EU Commission and most Member States. Scientists and scientific methods have not been adequately used to support more effective conservation planning and management. Specification of favorable conservation status for species and habitat types, best management practices, monitoring programs and the quality of impact assessments require more and continued scrutiny from the scientific community.
More information about SCB’s position is here!