Hiking through a dense forest with leaves rustling in the wind; paddling across a crystal clear lake with bright pebbles underneath; or reaching up for a gap in the rocks while climbing, tense with the fear of losing grip - these are all moments that may not exist without protected natural areas.
Extending across the 28 European Union countries, Natura 2000 is the most widespread group of protected areas in the world[i]. These spaces are spread across 27 000 sites and cover nearly 1/5 of the Union’s terrestrial area and 4 per cent of its marine waters.
Not only do these protected areas increase the abundance of biodiversity across Europe, they also support a range of ecosystem services, including carbon sequestration, pollination, flood control and increased tourism and recreation[ii] [iii] [iv].
This year marks the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development (#IY2017), with some of its key areas focusing on resource efficiency, environmental protection and climate change. The official opening will be on 18 January 2017 in Madrid, corresponding with the Spanish Tourism Fair[v].
We hope to see protected areas and sustainable tourism continue to grow and flourish throughout 2017!
Natura 2000 is just one of the environmental projects highlighted by the sixth Global Environment Outlook report for the pan-European region. If this interests you, find out more on p.88.
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[i] Protected areas in Europe: An overview. European Environment Agency
[ii] Costs and socio-economic benefits associated with the Natura 2000 network. Institute for European Environmental Policy, Brussels
[iii] Flash Eurobarometer 379: Attitudes towards biodiversity. European Commission, Brussels
[iv] The state of nature in the EU - Natura 2000 barometer. Nature and Biodiversity Newsletter. European Commission
[v] International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development