In Europe, as in the rest of the world, human activities are causing rapid biodiversity loss. Over the last two decades, the EU has been trying to tackle this in various ways, including through the Natura 2000 Network of protected areas. This includes over 27 000 protected areas, covering over million km2, making it the largest coordinated network of protected areas in the world. The Natura 2000 Network creates a framework for mainstreaming conservation into a range of sectors. The European Commission led the development of the Natura 2000 Network.
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The UNDP supported GEF financed project “Strengthening the Protected Area Network” (SPAN; from 2005-2012) used a number of strategies to secure sustainable financing for Namibia’s protected areas (PAs). The project undertook and successfully used a comprehensive economic analysis of the PA system to make the business case for increased investment in PAs. In addition it developed a concession management system compatible with the Government of the Republic of Namibia’s conservation and development objectives, significantly increasing the budget available for park management.
There are instances where tourism can support conservation efforts. Environmental certification, if appropriately designed for the Pacific region, could direct tourism development in the right direction. The proposed Blue Star environmental tourism certification is being developed with the Pacific in mind.
The ongoing UNDP supported, GEF financed project “Namibia Protected Landscape Conservation Areas Initiative (NAM-PLACE)” establishes partnerships between national parks and private landholders, communal conservancies, and forests adjacent to the parks in an innovative approach to landscape-level habitat protection. These partnerships allow for the removal of fences, which increases territory accessible by wildlife and decreases pressure on the park habitats.
What are the solutions – from the perspective of industry?
A protected area’s concession function can help it to achieve many goals, including generating income for protected areas, contributing to economic and rural development, managing overuse and impacts, protecting resources, enhancing conservation, and economic empowerment of people living in and around the protected area.
The biodiversity assets of Southern Africa are globally recognized as exceptional. The protection of these unique landscapes, and their associated flora and fauna, is a high priority on the political and sustainability agenda. The Diamond Route project demonstrates that, regardless of the industry, businesses need not impose a limit on their efforts to contribute positively to the creation, expansion, conservation, management and restoration of Southern Africa's natural capital base.
In order to address the challenge of tourism in protected areas, ISO is providing an international standard, ISO 18065 for Natural Protected Areas Authorities (NPAA) - responsible for ensuring the efficient, sustainable planning and development of tourist services conforming to legal requirements. Risk assessments promote the safety of the visitor and quality assessment of services mitigates impacts upon NPA’s wildlife, flora, fauna and communities. Public use, tourism and recreation can be part of the objectives of a NPA.