What makes it difficult to expand the boundaries of protected areas? How can ecosystem services help to raise public awareness of the importance of protected areas? At a greenAlps workshop, organized by Julian Prealps Nature Park on 27 May 2014 in Resiutta, Italy, participants from Tourism Bohinj, the Triglav National Park, the Swiss National Park, the Julian Prealps Nature Park, Alparc and EURAC discussed obstacles to ecological connectivity and ways towards more acceptance and cooperation.
The GIS-based visualization tool JECAMI, which was developed by the Econnect project, can be used to show the main obstacles to the establishment of an ecological network in a given area. The tool still has to be sharpened to ensure accuracy of results, as some participants expressed doubts on the selection of indicators, as for example areas of low urbanization was been considered best. Some argued that human presence is essential to maintain the diversity of ecosystems in certain areas, for example to mow meadows and to limit unwanted natural succession of forest in abandoned former pasture land.
It was discussed how services provided by a protected area can be better valued. All participants agreed that the population of protected areas feels that they are providing services used by others, such as clean water, and they want to be recognized for this effort. A possible solution could be for example to allocate a portion of the water bill to the Park.
It is very difficult to expand the boundaries of the Julian Prealps Nature Park, in particular due to the complete lack of cooperation between neighbouring municipalities. Interference from politically powerful interests on the Park’s management is considered a major problem. For instance, the hunters´ lobby has a strong influence on public opinion and exerts heavy pressure on political decisions in the Julian Prealps region.
To ensure connectivity it is crucial that policy makers initiate farsighted decision-making processes, bringing together scientists, politicians, practitioners and stakeholders to develop workable, integrated solutions. The idea of creating a “continuum” in the form of a Biosphere Reserve between the existing Triglav National Park and Julian Prealps Nature Park was very much welcomed. First steps towards this project have already been taken.