PROTECTED AREAS – A SOURCE OF LIFE
Establishment and conservation of protected areas – including national parks, nature parks and other protected area categories – are crucial for the conservation of biodiversity. Effective management of these areas is important in order to preserve the quality of life in local communities surrounding the protected areas. Furthermore, by conserving biodiversity, the wider community ensures multiple benefits stemming from ecosystems, such as healthy food, clean water, medicines and protection against a number of impacts of natural disasters and climate change.
Despite the fact that financial and non-financial values of protected areas are being increasingly recognized among scientists and experts for nature protection, their importance continues to be undervalued and insufficiently understood. One result of that is the fact that many protected areas (in particular nature parks) do not have sufficient funds available for their fundamental activity – nature protection and conservation. Due to insufficient financial support, coupled with a number of other difficulties, protected area management remains a major challenge.
CROATIA – A COUNTRY OF EXTRAORDINARY BIODIVERSITY
When looking at the level of biodiversity, Croatia belongs to the richest European countries, with over 38,265 species, 1,089 of them endemic. Croatia is the third country in Europe in terms of the ratio of surface and number of flora species, and eighth country in Europe when it comes to the diversity of mammal species. Out of five large carnivore species living in the area of Europe, three species can be found in Croatia - wolf (Canis lupus), lynx (Lynx lynx) and brown bear (Ursus arctos).
Croatia currently has a well-developed system that includes 420 protected areas in total, divided into nine protected area categories: special and strict reserves, national parks, nature parks, regional parks, nature monuments, significant landscapes/seascapes, forest parks and horticultural monuments. Collectively, these protected areas cover a total area of 717,921 hectares, encompassing approximately 11.61% of the terrestrial and inland water ecosystems of Croatia and 1.97% of the country’s marine territorial waters.
CHALLENGE: HOW TO ENSURE SUSTAINABLE PROTECTED AREA MANAGEMENT
A strengthened system of protected area management and ensured favorable conservation status of species and habitats are the key goals of the national strategy for the protection of biological diversity of the Republic of Croatia. In order for the strategy and vision to be implemented, it is important to diminish/remove the existing barriers and key threats.
Some of the biggest threats to biodiversity include loss and degradation of natural habitats, poor management of water resources, unsustainable fishing practices, pollution, illegal hunting and climate change impact.
Adding to these threats, there are also certain significant institutional weaknesses that complicate the establishment of an effective and sustainable protected area management system:
- Systematic weaknesses in the institutional framework for national protected areas, including insufficient level of controls, such as: poor coordination across individual institutions; unclear responsibilities; overlaps between various tasks; financial inefficiency.
- Inefficiency in use and inequality in the distribution of funding in national protected areas.
27 MILLION HRK TO BE INVESTED IN IMPROVED PROTECTED AREA MANAGEMENT
Aiming to ensure a more efficient protected area management, the PARCS Project is being implemented by the Ministry of Environmental and Nature Protection and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for a four-year period (2014-2017), in partnership with public institutions (national parks and nature parks), with funding provided by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) in the amount of 27 million HRK.
The PARCS Project will assist in the elimination of key institutional weaknesses, while simultaneously strengthening the financial management capacities of public institutions, in order to mitigate cost ineffectiveness, increase revenue from user fees and develop a mechanism of fee sharing across parks. By helping to conserve Croatian natural values and protect biodiversity, the Project will also assist in raising the quality of life and awareness on the importance of protected areas, thus contributing to sustainable development in general.