Culture, Heritage and Diversity

Ecological Networks and Emerald Network

The pace of biodiversity decline is quickening worldwide. Habitat break-up, pollution, over-use of natural areas and the creation of artificial landscapes increase the rate of erosion, while reducing species' opportunity for migration, dispersion and exchange. How and by what means can this situation be put right?

In 1995, the European Ministers of the Environment meeting in Sofia, launched the Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy (PEBLDS), so as to strengthen environment and biodiversity conservation policies. They called “for the promotion of nature protection, both inside and outside protected areas, by implementing the European Ecological Network, a physical network of core areas and other appropriate measures, linked by corridors and supported by buffer zones, thus facilitating the dispersal and migration of species” (PEBLDS).

The setting up of a Pan-European Ecological Network covering Eurasia was one of the key steps taken under the Strategy. Work has continued on this project, and it is now based on the numerous national, regional and trans-regional ecological networks being set up throughout Europe.

Ecological networks can positively influence the conditions for the survival of species populations in the fragmented natural areas and human dominated landscapes in Europe. In addition, they allow a suitable and sustainable use of natural resources through the interconnectivity of their physical elements with the landscape and existing social/institutional structures. Their contribution to successfully fight against the adverse impact of climate change are fully recognised today.

The preservation and ecological restoration of the green heart of Europe is contemplated by the Council of Europe as a contribution to the setting-up of a coherent spatial structure and the maintenance of ecological processes and services. The good management of ecological services and biodiversity is essential to economic prosperity, social justice, security, health and other aspects of our daily life.

Emerald Network
The Emerald Network is an ecological network made up of Areas of Special Conservation Interest. Its implementation was launched by the Council of Europe as part of its work under the Bern Convention, with the adoption of Recommendation No. 16 (1989) of the Standing Committee to the Bern Convention. Setting-up the Emerald Network at national level is considered as one of the main tools for the Contracting Parties to comply with their obligations under the Bern Convention.

Before being officially adopted as Emerald sites, all sites proposed to joint the Network are thoroughly assessed at biogeographical level for their sufficiency to achieve the ultimate objective of the Network. This objective is the long term survival of the species and habitats of the Bern Convention requiring specific protection measures. These habitats and species are listed respectively in Resolution 4 (1996) and Resolution 6 (1998) of the Standing Committee to the Bern Convention. Once the areas proposed are officially adopted as Emerald Network sites, they have to be designated and managed at national level. The national designation and management measures are decided and put in place to contribute to the main objective of the Network and their efficiency will be regularly monitored.

The Network is to be set up in each Contracting Party or observer state to the Convention. It thus involves all the European Union states, some non-Community states and a number of African states (Tunisia, Morocco, Senegal and Burkina Faso are Contracting Parties; Algeria, Cape Verde, and Mauritania have been invited to accede). The European Union, as such, is also a Contracting Party to the Bern Convention. In order to fulfil its obligations arising from the Convention, particularly in respect of habitat protection, it produced the Habitats Directive in 1992, and subsequently set up the Natura 2000 network. The Natura 2000 sites are therefore considered as the contribution from the EU member states to the Emerald Network. In practice, the setting-up of the Emerald Network is based on the same principles as Natura 2000, and represents its de facto extension to non-Community countries.

More information on the Emerald Network constitution process and activities can be found here.

For all reference documents on the practical setting-up of the Emerald Network, please visit the Emerald Network Reference Portal.

Group of Experts on Protected Areas and Ecological Networks
At its 28th meeting, the Standing Committee to the Bern Convention decided to enlarge the mandate of the Group of Experts for the setting up of the Emerald Network by including in its terms of reference all the activities of the Convention related to protected areas and ecological networks. The newly established Group of Experts on Protected Areas and Ecological Networks has therefore held its first meeting in 2009. The inclusion of protected areas in the mandate of the Group aims to reinforce the contribution of the Council of Europe to the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Programme of Work on the topic.

Today, the Group of Experts on Protected Areas and Ecological Networks continues to do the necessary work to implement Recommendation No. 16 (1989) of the Standing Committee on Areas of Special Conservation Interest (ASCI), by providing guidance on the setting-up of the Emerald Network (see below). In addition, the Group follows closely, debates and makes proposals on the implementation at national level of the Pan-European Ecological Network (PEEN). The final aim of the Group is to present to the Standing Committee specific proposals and/or Recommendations to help Parties progress further in the implementation of both the Emerald Network and PEEN, as well as improve their contribution to the conservation of threatened species and habits from the Bern Conventions lists.

The Group will hold its 6th meeting on 11-12 September 2014.

Report of the 5th meeting of the Group of Experts - T-PVS/PA(2013)14E
Report of the 4th meeting of the Group of Experts - T-PVS/PA(2012)17E
Report of the 3rd meeting of the Group of Experts - T-PVS/PA(2011)13E
Report of the 2nd meeting of the Group of Experts - T-PVS/PA(2010)11E
Report of the 1st meeting of the Group of Experts - T-PVS/PA(2009)15E

Pan-European Ecological Network (PEEN)
In the framework of the Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy, the Pan-European Ecological Network (PEEN) aims to ensure that a full range of ecosystems, habitats, species and landscapes of European importance is conserved; habitats are large enough to place species in a favourable conservation status; there are sufficient opportunities for the dispersal and migration of species; damaged parts of the key environmental systems are restored; the key environmental systems are buffered from potential threats. The originality of this network is that it intends to link core areas physically through the restoration or preservation of corridors.

Co-operation with other international partners
Natura 2000 : EU Network of protected areas

EEA : European Environment Agency

IUCN : International Union for Conservation of Nature

Ramsar : Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (1971)

UNESCO World Heritage  : World Heritage Convention (1972)

UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves : Man and Biosphere (MAB) Programme (1971)

Europarc Federation

Aichi Target 12
Joint EU/CoE Projects

34th Standing Committee meeting to the Bern Convention - 2 - 5 December 2014 - Strasbourg (France)
2nd Steering Committee of the Emerald Network - 1st December 2014, Strasbourg (France)

Useful links
Leaflet on the Emerald network EU/CoE Joint Project:
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