How successful are biodiversity policies, strategies and projects at connecting humans and nature in the Alps? The greenAlps project surveyed how efficient and effective nature conservation instruments are from the European to the municipal level. Our ultimate goal is to stimulate pro-nature governance change in Alpine countries.
Chapter 1 presents a long-term vision for biodiversity in the Alps. Keeping Alpine biodiversity intact calls for spatial and land-use planning that values nature for its services to human society, but also for its own sake. It emphasises the importance of natural and human networks, and of human connections to nature. It envisages trans-sectoral cooperation among stakeholders at all levels, from the local to the transnational.
Chapter 2 provides a glimpse into EU biodiversity policy and the problems arising from the mostly voluntary nature of the various policies and strategies, which makes it difficult to engage actors from diverse sectors in nature conservation activities, even though there are potential synergies between conservation stakeholders and those from other sectors. We recommend that future transnational cooperation programmes make a concerted effort to include nature conservation in actions targeted at the “non-environment” sectors.
Chapter 3 explores the role of ecosystem services-based approaches as nature conservation tools. The EU Biodiversity Strategy highlights the role of biodiversity as “natural capital”. We build on the work of the recharge.green project to highlight the important benefits Alpine ecosystems provide to people. We reflect on the debate over the financial valuation of nature and emphasise that there are pragmatic ways of making the true social value of ecosystems clear to stakeholders outside nature
conservation, especially when the EU focus is squarely on economic growth. We recommend that the EU continue to dedicate special funding to on-the-ground actions to protect and, where needed, improve ecological connectivity and the functioning of ecosystem services for the foreseeable future.
Chapter 4 relates some of our critical results analysis of relevant projects financed during the last Alpine Space Programme financing period (2007-2013). We looked at potential gaps in the project life cycle that may hinder the achievement of project visions and goals. Based on stakeholder interviews we recommend concrete implementation measures in pilot areas beyond a project’s lifetime (or an extension of the project duration for this purpose). Visible results are important to avoid stakeholder disappointment and burnout. We recommend some possible changes to the project cycle to ground projects in reality, and we point out some factors that are key to project sustainability. We also highlight some interesting tools and instruments developed by various Alpine Space projects, and how they could be applied in other Alpine areas.
Chapter 5 homes in on the relevance of ecological connectivity for local stakeholders. Ecological connectivity is a central concern in nature conservation. There is, however, insufficient progress in the implementation of connectivity measures. We tried to find out whether EU policies and projects targeting this area are meaningful to local stakeholders and whether they line up with their needs. The two threats posed by local development that were most commonly mentioned by greenAlps
workshop participants were the closely related themes of landscape fragmentation and the loss of local identity. Nevertheless, there is a perception in some pilot areas that regional policies and projects are too far removed from local stakeholders. It is evident that governments must define clear goals that prioritise nature conservation in a trans-sectoral context, but also meet the needs of communities and common European interests.
Chapter 6 summarises our findings and suggests key ingredients for achieving sustainable Alpine development. We propose a trans-sectoral landscape vision of the Alpine Space that includes all economic and social sectors and builds on a macro-regional approach agreed between the various countries. A common approach would be a very important step towards more successful planning and implementation of nature policies.