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Protection of areas to conserve biodiversity


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Diario de Avisos

Luis Herrera Mesa

Full Professor emeritus. University of Navarra

5 June. World Environment Day

One aspect core topic to mitigate species extinction and conserve the biodiversity of ecosystems is the declaration of protected areas, especially for the most threatened species and habitats. vulnerable.

Environmental protection began in Spain in 1973, with the creation of the Federation of Natural and National Parks of Europe, which twenty years later became the EUROPARC Federation as a pan-European organization that brings together institutions from 39 countries dedicated to the management of protected areas and the defense of nature.

According to EUROPARC's 2020 annual report , Spain is the country in the European Union that contributes the most surface area to the network Natura 2000; this network is a cornerstone for the execution of the European directives in subject for the conservation of species. It is considered the most important initiative of the European Union for nature conservation worldwide (Herrera, 2021, 'Ecology, climate change and the sixth extinction', McGraw Hill). The surface area contributed by Spain to the network Natura 2000 is almost double that of France.

The goal of the network Natura 2000 is not to create wildlife reserves in which all human activity is excluded but, on the contrary, to seek a relationship of harmony and symbiosis between natural ecosystems and man. In the areas of network , the aim is to carry out sustainable activities ranging from tourist and sporting activities compatible with nature to agricultural and forestry activities, in such a way as to make the Economics of local authorities compatible with the protection of nature. In this way, the public utility of natural areas is increased and awareness of the need to conserve biodiversity is improved.

The latest report of network Natura 2000 points out that, despite significant efforts in Member States, biodiversity continues to decline with deteriorating trends in most parts of Europe. Most protected habitats and species have a poor status as result of continuing pressures due to land use change, overexploitation and unsustainable management practices, exacerbated by changing water regimes, pollution and invasive alien species.

However, the report also points out that positive advances are being made in certain issue species of reptiles, birds and mammals as a result of the successful in situ and ex situ conservation protection programmes for species such as the Iberian lynx, the giant lizard of La Gomera, several birds of prey, the brown bear and the European mink, among others.

National parks are one of the most outstanding elements of Natural Protected Areas (NPAs) for the conservation of natural heritage. The first European national park was declared in Sweden in 1909. A few years later, the first national park of Ordesa y Monte Perdido was established in Spain in 1918. Since then, 15 other national parks have been created, the latest being the Sierra de las Nieves National Park, in the highest part of the Serranía de Ronda (Málaga), declared in 2021. In addition, 53 Biosphere Reserves have been recognised in the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere programme, 75 wetlands of international importance in the RAMSAR programme, Sites of Community Importance (SCIs), Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), Special Protection Areas for Birds (SPAs) of agreement under the European Union's Wild Birds Directive; Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean Importance (SPAMI), numerous natural parks and geoparks, natural reserves and monuments, as well as other figures developed by the autonomous communities. This natural wealth represents more than 2,000 Protected Natural Spaces with a surface area of approximately 14.8 million hectares, equivalent to 28% of Spanish territory, representing the largest protected area on the European continent, network . goal Spain is thus at the forefront of the European Environment Agency's 'European Union Biodiversity Strategy 2030', which aims to protect at least 30% of the Earth's surface.

Among the objectives of this new EU Biodiversity Strategy are:

  • reduce pesticide use by 50% by 2030;

  • provide space for wildlife, plants, pollinators and natural pest regulators;

  • recover at least 10 % of the agricultural area as high diversity;

  • improving the protection of intact habitats and a plan for the restoration of degraded areas, and

  • strict protection of all primary forests with a reforestation roadmap to plant three billion trees by 2030, as one of the Nature-Based Solutions, which function as carbon dioxide sinks and contribute in part to decarbonising the planet and mitigating climate change.