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Landscapes and rewilding in Europe

On 19 July 2000, the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers adopted the European Landscape Convention and decided to open it for signature to the 41 Member States of the Council of Europe.

The European Landscape Convention, also known as the Florence Convention, was the first international treaty to be exclusively devoted to all aspects of European landscape. It aims to fill the legal vacuum caused by the absence, at European level, of a specific, comprehensive reference text devoted entirely to the conservation, management and improvement of European landscapes in the international legal instruments on the environment, regional planning and the cultural heritage.

It applies to the entire territory of the signatories and covers natural, rural, urban and peri-urban areas. It concerns landscapes that might be considered outstanding as well as everyday or degraded landscapes. The Convention is aimed at: the protection, management and planning of all landscapes and raising awareness of the value of a living landscape.

The European Landscape Convention introduced a Europe-wide concept centring on the quality of landscape protection, management and planning and covering the entire territory, not just outstanding landscapes. Through its ground-breaking approach and its broader scope, it complements other work done by the Council of Europe and the UNESCO World Heritage Convention.

Council of Europe Heritage Priorities

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World Heritage Convention timeline

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Recent research by Quintera-Uribe and others (2022) suggests that large-scale ecological restoration of the multiple dimensions of landscape is crucial for effective biodiversity conservation and combating climate change. They analyse the main characteristics of participatory scenarios in Europe and suggest going beyond existing participatory activities centred on developing exploratory or target-seeking scenarios. They consider future-seeking scenarios related to ‘Nature for Society’ and ‘Nature as Culture’ and identify gaps for further work. Rewilding landscapes was an important theme in this research.

rewilding europe imageAccording to Harris (2021), rewilding was first discussed in the 1980s as a continental-scale vision to protect large tracts of wilderness and connect these areas with migration corridors. It is now considered to be a shift from human-centred, intensively managed landscapes to humans sharing their lands with the rest of nature.  In Europe rewilding is commonly connected with returning abandoned agricultural land to nature or allowing natural processes, like the coastal erosion of cliffs to take place with protecting them from the waves. Find out more about Rewilding European Landscapes

New initiatives like the Endangered Landscapes Programme are being developed restoring landscapes across Europe. Find out more by playing the video.