Reflections on Green Week 2006 in Brussels
What is Green Week?
The Environment Directorate-General (DG Environment) is the European Union’s (EU) department for the protecting, preserving and enhancing of the environment within the EU. Each year DG Environment hosts a conference in Brussels called Green Week. Its purpose is to bring together the key conservation organisations and researchers operating in Europe with the aims of celebrating European nature and providing a forum for lectures and discussion concerning the challenging issues that wildlife in Europe faces.
Green Week 2006: Biodiversity for life - Every Green Week conference has a different theme and in 2006 biodiversity was chosen as the focal topic. Europe has a wide diversity of habitats supporting a myriad of different plants and animals. However, despite the EU’s various pieces of environmental legislation, such as Natura 2000, Europe’s biodiversity is in decline and species like the Iberian Lynx are amongst the most threatened in the world.
A Rocha’s involvement: Through A Rocha’s European officer Janice Weatherley, who has a joint position with The World Conservation Union (IUCN) and A Rocha in Brussels, our material was displayed alongside the IUCN stand. In addition two members of A Rocha’s staff were present throughout the conference, attending lectures, liaising with other conservation organisations and promoting A Rocha’s work.
Summary of lectures: The conference comprised lectures on different aspects of the threats to European biodiversity. A Rocha representatives attended four lectures that were most applicable to the work of A Rocha within Europe.
Opening talk – "Finding the balance." 30/05/06
Shrinking space for nature. 30/05/06
Dr Mar Cabeza of the University of Helsinki followed on by reporting on the impact of fragmented habitats on biodiversity. The conclusion reached from various research projects is that smaller habitat areas equate to smaller numbers of species. The implications of the research was that if the erosion of EU biodiversity is to be halted then existing wildlife areas must be increasingly connected to one another and that this must become one of the key considerations within spatial planning procedurers.
A potential system for increasing habitat connectivity was presented by Dr Tiiu Kull, whose research demonstrated the vastly increased levels of biodiversity within wooded meadows and extensively managed farmland. As farmland is one of the dominant land use types within Europe an extensively managed farmland system including wooded meadows could provide vital wildlife links.
The lecture was concluded by Tony Long of the WWF who commented that currently 60% of EU habitats and species have a poor conservation status and the EU needs more tools to prevent further biodiversity loss. He concluded that for improvements to the implementation of EU legislation and planning for wildlife to take place then biodiversity must be communicated to non-environmental groups in the language of economics.
Creating a European nature network: The challenge of Natura 2000 and beyond. 31/05/06
Passing the message: biodiversity for the man on the street. 01/06/06
Picking up from this theme, Jim Burt passed on the lessons that his team learnt from making the successful Springwatch programme for BBC 2. Their key findings were that initially people need to be engaged with nature rather than educated about it. One of the strengths of Springwatch was that it helped people realise that biodiversity exists on their doorstep and that therefore they can do something to prevent its loss. It also brought back biodiversity into the everyday lives of people. The team also discovered that once a person was connected to their own biodiversity, they were more likely to be concerned about larger scale environmental issues.
Summary action points for engaging the public:
For more information on future Green Week conferences go to the DG Environment Green Week home page.