Recently, thousands of people from over 15 cities took the streets demainding for real protection of Natura 2000’s zones in Bulgaria. The main reason behind the protests were the controversial changes in the Bulgarian Biodiversity Act, initiated by the government and affecting the function of the European Ecological network.
If these changes pass the first voting stage, they will postpone the compulsory designation orders of Natura 2000 sites, and limit the participation of scientists and experts in the monitoring and management of the zones. Moreover, the lack of conservation objectives and measures will facilitate the destruction of Bulgarian rivers, forests, and coastal areas for another four years.
Another breaking point for the protests was the discovery of several huge constructions in the protected areas on the coast of the Black Sea. “We are exhausted from constantly losing our nature piece by piece,” said Jordanka Dineva from the Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation. “We urgently need a strategy and real actions for nature protection: 34% of the Bulgarian territory is part of the Natura 2000 network, but this is only on paper and left without any real protection and proper management.”
Last week, the European Commission announced that the Bulgarian government has three months to prepare the designation orders of all Natura 2000 sites under the Habitat directive. Twelve years after the establishment of the European network, only 11 out of 234 designation orders were prepared and an infringement procedure against the country will be initiated.
Within the "Game on!" project, we remind that Natura 2000 has a crucial role in the mitigation of climate change effects in Europe, helping ecosystems with their natural adaptation to the shifting conditions. All sites of the network already provide the necessary space for local species and must be properly managed and protected as part of Europe’s green future.
Overall, there is a strong correlation between Natura 2000 and climate change:
- Even though climate change will force species and habitats to transform over time, the protected terrestrial and marine areas are and will remain to be some of the few safe havens of Europe’s biodiversity. A good example: some of the most climate-sensitive species are birds, which are already leaving their current habitats and migrating to other protected areas.
- Natura 2000 zones can and will help us cope with the current and expected extreme climate change-related events (e.g. rising sea levels, floods, heavy rainfall). A significant part of Natura 2000 areas are located along the coast of the Black Sea and river estuaries and form their main defence line.
- The current network of Natura 2000 covers almost 30% of the European forests and a large portion of the European peatlands, which are an effective and natural carbon trapping solution with high carbon processing capacity.
In the next months, the protests are expected to continue until an end to the destructive practices against Natura 2000, and overall European nature is found. To solve the current problems, we first have to solve the old ones; to have a green transition, we must first have a green nature.
For more information and examples, check out the following document by the European Commission.
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