Natural capital embraces natural resources, land and ecosystems and is also essential for delivering ecosystem services that underpin our economy. The EU Biodiversity Strategy, together with the Habitats and Birds Directives, constitute the pillars of the EU’s nature protection policy. The strategy aims to ensure that EU’s natural capital is managed sustainably for the benefit of future generations, that biodiversity loss is halted and that there is an enhanced restoration of ecosystems, by, for instance, the Natura 2000 network.

Regions in Europe play a significant role in improving biodiversity and ecosystem protection and tackling environmental degradation. In addition, a number of regions have started to look beyond nature’s fundamental values and acknowledged that natural assets have an impact on regions’ development opportunities in the long-term.

There are five Interreg Europe projects that address nature protection: BID-REX, IMPACT, Land-Sea, PERFECT and Night Light. The projects reflect some of the key challenges and opportunities faced by European regions, such as:

Balancing ecosystem protection and sustainable exploitation of protected areas

Valuable nature areas, if managed in a sustainable manner, can hold much potential for regions and create opportunities for green growth and new jobs. The IMPACT project aims to change ecosystem management policies through exploring how to pursue profitable activities and, at the same time, avoid damaging nature. The Land-Sea project seeks to address management policies for coastal areas in relation to eco-tourism development. The Night Light project addresses light pollution by focusing on policy measures for designation of nature areas with protected dark skies and by exploring opportunities for eco-tourism in such areas.

Digitalisation of natural heritage

Access to quality data is essential for improved decision making. The BID-REX project aims to strengthen the preservation of natural value by improving regional decision making and by enhancing the use of biodiversity data in regional policy processes.

Exploring the benefits of green infrastructure

Green infrastructure is a network of high quality natural and semi-natural areas that help to achieve the multiple benefits that ecosystem services can provide in both rural and urban settings. Examples of ecosystem services include improved air, water and soil quality, increased water run-off, biodiversity protection and climate change adaptation. The PERFECT project will support the implementation of regional development policies for the protection and development of natural heritage through development of action plans for improving green infrastructure in regions. 

All projects under the Environment and Resource Efficiency Policy Learning Platform share common issues and many linkages between them can be found. The Interreg Europe Policy Learning Platform is developed to stimulate knowledge exchange among project partners, regions and other interested practitioners. To fine-tune the services and products of the Platform to the user needs, we encourage you to share your ideas with Venelina Varbova, [email protected], Thematic Manager for Environment and Resource Efficiency. 

Image credit: Image by Roman Grac from Pixabay