Where there are wolves, bears, lynx and boar

I have never been to Albania, and was therefore very interested to read on our web that, although relatively small in size, Albania has a rich biological diversity and almost 27% is covered in forests – home to wolves, bears, lynx, wild boar and many more species.

We are currently managing a project that is helping the government to strengthen the management of its protected areas.  The project is financially supported by Italian assistance through DGCS.

 If you want to know more, I suggest you look at our web: http://us4.campaign-archive1.com/?u=c5259cf7e7cec92720f168f68&id=e6f423d8b1&e=053ab40f9d

Happy reading

Species, assessments, Red List!

IUCN published its latest red List of Threatened Species recently, and a story was posted on the IUCN web page: http://www.iucn.org/news_homepage/?10173/Securing-the-web-of-life.  As so often, the information in such global statements is primarily focused on Africa, Asia and Latin America.  We seem to believe that the public is more interested to read about cobras, hummingbirds and tropical fish, than they are about European butterflies and plants.  Yet, we have a track record in preparing European Red Lists of Threatened Species that is impressive. 

During the past years, we have produced the European Red Lists of mammals, amphibians, reptiles, butterflies, freshwater fishes, dragonflies and selected saproxylic beetles, molluscs and vascular plants.  A total of 5,872 European species have been assessed using the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria.  Of these, 63% are endemic to Europe, 30% are threatened with extinction and 30 have already gone extinct in the region.  If you want the full story, there is a lot of information on: http://iucn.org/about/union/secretariat/offices/europe/work/?uNewsID=41

Currently we are working on the first regional Red List of pollinators, medicinal plants and marine fishes in Europe.  Especially, the Red List of Pollinators will be a major milestone.  Production of at least one third of the world’s food, including 87 of the 113 leading food crops, depends on pollination carried out by insects, bats and birds. My colleagues tell me that this ecosystem service is worth over USD 200 billion per year.  Yet, there is a real concern about declining populations of bees and other pollinators, and therefore a scientific record will be very helpful in determining what management action to take in the years to come.

In the long run, we would like to carry out the red lists for all those groups that have not yet been covered, such as lichens and snails, as well as marine molluscs.  There are also 20,000-25,000 vascular plants in Europe that need to be assessed.  In addition, those groups that were reviewed more than 5 years ago should be re-assessed and described to determine what changes have taken place. 

Would it not be nice to discover that a species is doing better now, than at the turn of the century?


Some nature in the Pacific is French

I read the latest story on our web which explained that France has many species on the Red List of Threatened Species.  (http://iucn.org/about/union/secretariat/offices/europe/?10218/IUCN-Red-List-of-Threatened-Species-France-ranks-fifth-worldwide).   This is due to the fact that France still has overseas territories, like Nouvelle Calédonie or Guyane which are rich in biodiversity.  The same applies to other European countries with overseas territories: the highest biodiversity in the Netherlands is in the reefs around the Caribbean islands that still fly the Dutch flag.

This amazing richness of species, coupled with the risk associate with climate change makes these overseas territories important and vulnerable corners of Europe.  It is the main reason why IUCN is involved in a programme to support nature protection and help to develop climate change adaptation action in these far-flung places.

We have a dedicated website to describe the achievements of the programme, which you should have a look at: http://iucn.org/about/union/secretariat/offices/europe/activities/overseas/.  If only to browse the photo gallery!

Biodiversity and local authorities at the IUCN Congress

We are putting on our IUCN Europe website some information about what our Members in Europe will be doing during the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Jeju, Korea in September this year.  There will be a lot of exciting stuff going on, as you can see on the website:  http://www.iucn.org/about/union/secretariat/offices/europe/europe_at_the_congress/member_s_activities/

 One of the most recent entries is a workshop to look at the implementation of the Aichi targets by local authorities.  This is particular relevant, as the 10th Conference of Parties (COP10) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which took place in Nagoya in 2010 adopted a Programme of Work for biodiversity in local authorities.  http://www.cbd.int/authorities/ .

At the next CBD COP11 in Hyderabad, in October this year, the Parties to the CBD will have to report how their cities and local authorities have dealt with these issues.  A workshop in September is an opportune moment to reflect on this.

The workshop is a partnership between the IUCN National Committee in France, a few sub-national governments, ICLEI and the IUCN Regional Office for Europe and the discussions in Jeju will focus on ways for IUCN to strengthen cooperation with local and regional authorities, especially in an effort to help them reach the Aichi targets.

Meanwhile, IUCN Europe is developing a long-term programme of work on biodiversity in cities in Europe, as a component of the 2013-2016 IUCN Programme, and the outcome of this workshop will be instrumental in honing our interest and involvement.

I am off to the Caucasus

I am off to Tbilisi this evening, to visit the IUCN Caucasus Cooperation Centre, our office in the southern Caucasus.  I am joined by the coordinator of our European neighbourhood forests governance (ENPI-FLEG) project.

The ENPI FLEG project phase 1 was a three-year World Bank-IUCN-WWF implemented project with mainly EC funding.  The overall objective of the project is to contribute to establishing legal and sustainable forest management and utilisation practices, strengthening the rule of law, and enhancing local livelihoods in the participating countries in the Russian Federation, Moldova, Belarus, Ukraine and the three southern Caucasus countries.  We subsequently received additional funding from GIZ to work in the Caucasus.

Now, we are negotiating the second phase, and we expect the first decision from the European Commission on 26 June.  The next step is to reach agreement with the World Bank, who will be managing the funds.  We hope to launch phase 2 in September this year.

Our Tbilisi Office has a major role to play in the next phase, and we are meeting Members, partners and our office staff to discuss options for the future.  We hope that the new ENPI FLEG project, possibly with additional resources from one or two of the EU Member States, will enable IUCN to play a significant role in forest governance and policy development in the Caucasus during the coming years.

A key issue that is becoming more and more critical is the demand from the European Commission through the Renewable Energy Directive for all EU Member States to have 20% of their energy from renewable sources, and half of that from bio-energy.  This raises the question if there is enough forest in Europe to satisfy this demand, and how to manage competition with paper and pulp and other wood-dependent industry.  Most likely, wood will have to be imported, and a complication is added through the new timber import regulation 995, which stipulates that all timber entering the European Union has to be certified.  Finally, the cost of transport and the need to limit green house gas emissions make it more and more economical for EU Member States to source timber from Eastern Europe, rather than importing wood from the tropics or USA.

So, what started as a relatively simple forest governance project is becoming a programme dealing with local livelihoods, energy flows and industrial competition.

Welcome to my BLOG

I have started a blog to give you my personal take on what is happening in Europe in the world of nature conservation and sustainable development.

I am writing as IUCN Regional Director for Europe, but the views expressedin this blog are my own, unless I specifically say so.

Please do comment – I will try to respond.

Talk to you soon