Habitat fragmentation is one of the leading causes of biodiversity loss in the world today. Central Eastern Europe is no exception to this: here, ecological connectivity in the Carpathians and other mountain ranges in the Danube region is severely threatened by poorly planned economic development, caused in part by historic and administrative capacity constraints that have made inter-ministerial cooperation and stakeholder involvement across different sectors difficult. Moreover, mitigation measures, such as green bridges, are either often missing or dysfunctional due to inadequate design, location, and inappropriate surrounding land-use management.
The carving up of our remaining wilderness and the loss of eco-corridors can have devastating effects on the wildlife and habitats of Central and Eastern Europe. Linear transport infrastructure, urban development, intensive agricultural, forestry, and water management practices can interrupt ecological corridors, cause traffic-deaths, and lower the reproductive success of key species. This in turn impacts the effectiveness of ecosystem services we all depend on.
WWF-CEE will address this vital issue as lead partner in the newly launched project SaveGREEN. Together with 12 other project partners, WWF-CEE will foster cross-sectoral and transnational cooperation and build a comprehensive know-how towards the development of concrete solutions aimed at improving, restoring, and preserving the functionality of key ecological corridors in the Carpathians. Based on the identification, collection, and promotion of best practices for safeguarding ecological corridors in the project’s 8 pilot areas in Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Ukraine, Romania, and Bulgaria, SaveGREEN will allow the project team to derive concrete recommendations for follow-up actions and the integration of measures into policy design.
In pursuing these ambitious aims, SaveGREEN can build on the results of previous Interreg DTP projects that WWF-CEE participated in, which also dealt with ecological connectivity in the Carpathians and Danube Basin – i.e. TRANSGREEN, ConnectGREEN, and HARMON.
The Pilot Areas
1) Kobernausser forest (Austria)
2) Pöttsching (Alpine-Carpathian corridor, Austria)
3) Beskydy-Kysuce (Czech-Slovak cross-border area)
4) Novohrad-Nógrád (Slovak-Hungarian cross-border area)
5) Zakarpattia region (Ukraine)
6) Mures valley (Arad-Deva, Romania)
7) Mures valley (Târgu Mureş-Târgu Neamţ, Romania)
8) Rila-Verila-Kraisthe corridor (Bulgaria)
Development of a standardised monitoring methodology for structural and functional connectivity, including an application toolbox for the monitoring of structural and functional connectivity for field experts.
Development of a capacity-building programme for public authorities and key stakeholders on how to integrate Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA), Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA), and cost-benefit analysis into the project planning processes.
Development of cross-sectoral operational plans to safeguard the functionality of ecological corridors in the pilot areas engaging relevant stakeholders of the specific pilot areas and the national level.
Implementation of selected actions of the local cross-sectoral operational plans.
Support the mainstreaming of ecological connectivity into EU and global policies through cooperation among macro-regional strategies (i.e. EUSDR and the Carpathian Convention).
Development of recommendations towards the integration of mitigation measures/GI into sectoral policy and decision making.
Strengthening of cross-sectoral cooperation among key players, promotion of project results in the Danube basin and beyond, and capacity building at the national level.
Main expected results
The local cross-sectoral operational plans developed with stakeholder groups — for at least seven locations across seven countries in the Danube region — will present innovative and integrated solutions for increasing ecological functionality in the respective areas.
The developed monitoring method applied in the pilot areas will create knowledge and lessons learnt for the improvement of the management of crossing structures and their surrounding land use.
The participatory approach for the development of cross-sectoral operational plans will create ownership by those who have the power to implement the plans. Moreover, stakeholder groups in the pilot areas will benefit from the uptake of lessons learnt from other pilot areas with complementary foci (e.g. agriculture, forestry, water management) and results of the ConnectGREEN and TRANSGREEN projects at the transnational level.
At the policy level, the recommendations formulated as part of SaveGREEN will influence decision-making bodies to include financial allocations for environmental measures in the new national disbursement programmes for EU funds and mainstream ecological connectivity in European and regional policy-making fora.
Title: Safeguarding the functionality of transnationally important ecological corridors in the Danube basin
Duration: 1 July 2020 – 31 December 2022
Funding: € 2 756 617.57
Donor: Interreg Danube Transnational Programme
Project Coordinator: WWF Central and Eastern Europe
Austria: Environment Agency Austria.
Bulgaria: Black Sea NGO Network; Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation.
Czech Republic: Friends of the Earth, Olomouc branch; Transport Research Centre.
Hungary: CEEweb for Biodiversity; Szent Istvan University.
Romania: Zarand Association; EPC Environmental Consulting Ltd.; WWF Romania.
Slovakia: WWF Slovakia; Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava – SPECTRA Centre of Excellence of EU.
Austria: Austrian Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation, and Technology.
Bulgaria: Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry- Executive Forest Agency; Southwestern State Enterprise SE – Blagoevgrad.
Czech Republic: Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic; Nature Conservation Agency of the Czech Republic.
France: Infrastructure and Ecology Network Europe (IENE).
Germany: Bavarian State Ministry of the Environment and Consumer Protection.
Greece: EGNATIA ODOS S.A.
Hungary: NIF National Infrastructure Developing Private Company Limited; Ministry of Agriculture; Danube-Ipoly National Park Directorate.
Romania: Ministry of Environment, Waters and Forests; Ministry of Public Works, Development and Administration; Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure and Communications.
Slovakia: State Nature Conservancy of the Slovak Republic; Ministry of Environment of the Slovak Republic; Ministry of Transport and Construction of the Slovak Republic; National Motorway Company
Ukraine: M.P. Shulgin State Road Research Institute State Enterprise – DerzhdorNDI SE; Department of Ecology and Nature Resources of Zakarpattia Oblast Administration.