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Natura 2000

From 2010 to 2014, I was involved in a research on Natura 2000. Natura 2000 is Europe’s network of protected nature areas. I looked at the implementation of Natura 2000 in a Dutch area called Geuldal, Province of Limburg.

Natura 2000 implementation was seen as a pretty straightforward process. It resembled the Dutch way of looking after nature and the implementation of it should be easy. But the case of the Geuldal, a case that was even known as one of the good examples of Natura 2000 implementation, shows that any change in policy results in unexpected reactions. The drafting of the management plan was done rather quickly in 2009 but did not sufficiently address all the consequences. This uncertainty still has a big effect on the people living in the area. In particular the farmers see Natura 2000 as a possible future threat.


The project of which this study was part of was called BeFoFu – Beech Forest for the Future.  BeFoFu aimed at developing scientific knowledge to develop novel cross-national strategies for coherent beech forest conservation in Europe with a focus on Natura 2000. At the EU level, the conservation of European beech forests is most prominently addressed by the Natura 2000 protected area network. It highlights beech forests as one forest type of community importance. Member states are obliged to achieve and maintain favourable conservation status of target habitats within the protected beech forest areas. Natura 2000 does not, however, necessarily and directly result in safeguarding beech forest biodiversity at the local level. Across the EU, the implementation process of Natura 2000 has been impaired by conflicts and diverging stakeholder interests regarding forest management. The financing of Natura 2000 protected areas, particularly on privately owned land, remains a particularly crucial issue.

BeFoFu has an interdisciplinary approach, which evaluates the ecological as well as institutional background for beech forest conservation and management in selected European countries.
In this sense, one project group will analyze the effects of different management and conservation strategies employed in various EU member states under Natura 2000 on beech forest biodiversity, and assess the impacts of global climate change on beech forest ecosystems. Another project group will analyze institutional structures and processes – including the various conflicts – of Natura 2000 implementation at different policy levels in order to understand the policy-relevant effects of the Directive and its effects on beech forest biodiversity conservation. A third group will evaluate existing market-based instruments on ecosystem services provided by beech forests and explore new financing mechanisms


Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Germany; Wageningen University, the Netherlands; French Institute for Forestry, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, France; University of Stirling, UK; University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, Austria

The project ran from 2010-2013