All posts by Karl Donert

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Ghent University students test a new landscape assessment observation sheet

As part of the GeoLand project students of Ghent University geography department went beginning May 2022 on a terrain study at the Damvallei, an area near Ghent with a variety of values and land uses, but also registered as Natura 2000 sites.

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The area is an old meander of the Scheldt river near Ghent, cut into four by two motorways and because of its proximity to the city with a multitude of space users.

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Nevertheless, a large part is still very valuable biologically (green to dark green), so that parts of it became a Natura 2000 area (orange areas on the map).

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The GeoLand project wants to involve higher education students in the study and appreciation of these landscapes. As a first step, the students did a reconnaissance by investigating different cells within the area grid.

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They used a research sheet developed by Prof. Van Eetvelde (UGent).
Download the Observation Sheet

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The next step will be to map all the collected information on a GIS platform.

Find out more about the GeoLand project 

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European Natura 2000 day

Did you know that in 2017, 21st May was declared as the “European Natura 2000 day”?

The GeoLand Project seeks to establish a learning path for Higher Education students and their professors so that they are able to apply their geospatial analysis and knowledge in decision-making for landscape management, planning and protection of NATURA 2000 sites across Europe.

30 years ago, in 1992, the European Union adopted the EU Habitats Directive and the LIFE programme. This pioneering piece of legislation gave birth to the EU wide Natura 2000 Network, the world’s largest coordinated network of protected areas.

natura 2000 logoThe Natura 2000 network consists of Special Areas of Conservation, Special Protection Areas and Marine Protected Areas around Europe. Today, Natura 2000 consists of more than 27,800 sites across the EU‘s land and seas. The Network stretches over 18% of the EU’s land area and more than 9% of its marine territory and protects our unique natural heritage.

The European Commission, the European Parliament, the Council Presidency and the Committee of the Regions made the decision to establish Nature 2000 Day in order to highlight how significant it is to raise public awareness and realise that it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure a well-preserved natural heritage.

Natura 2000 Day aims to make European citizens more aware of the natural riches the Natura 2000 network holds, of the conservation work they carry out and of the benefits brought by the protected nature to people and to our planet.

Download the eNatura2000 mobile AppeNatura app image

If you cannot join the Natura 2000 Day celebrations in person this year, don’t worry. Learning about Natura 2000 and connecting with the sites managers and other nature professionals has never been so easy! With the eNatura2000 mobile app, all that is just a click away.

Get timely updates from the Natura 2000 world, read inspiring case studies, network and discuss with land managers across Europe. You can download the app on Google Play and the App Store!

Follow the link to find out about the events which are organised throughout Europe to celebrate and promote the Natura 2000 Network. https://www.life-25.eu/

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GEOLAND Handbook presented at EUROGEO 2022

GEOLAND was presented at EUROGEO 2022, a conference held on Lesvos island, Island, Greece on 5-6 May 2022 nd the first output – GEOLAND Handbook on Digital Educational Geoinformatic Methodologies for Monitoring Landscape was launched. output 1

The event attracted more than 120 educators and researchers from over 35 countries. Over 90 presentations, 5 workshops and 15 posters were presented.

EUROGEO conference Lesvos 2022 took the theme “RE-VISIONING GEOGRAPHY FOR SUSTAINABILITY IN THE POST-COVID ERA”. The following were the Conference Strands:
– How do geographers, universities, companies and education respond to Sustainable Development Goals and complex challenges in the context of the COVID pandemic?presentation image
– What is the role of Geography in the landscape of spatial technologies and open data and how can these assist in achieving SDGs?
– How new eco-social challenges are positioned in the face of a post-pandemic Global Change?
– How can we explore novel educational contexts and resources to transform towards sustainability of socio-ecological systems?
– What conceptual frameworks and strategies can contribute to the construction of societies based on human welfare and the care of nature?
– What are the interactions between Sustainable Development Goals, international migrations and refugees?

See the Full conference programme

Download the Handbook in English
Download the Handbook in Dutch

View the presentation below

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The importance of satellite images

Satellite images are images of Earth collected by imaging satellites that are operated either by governments or companies. Satellite images are one of the most powerful and important tools we have for monitoring the earth. They track the physical environment (water, air, land, vegetation) and the changing human footprint across the globe. Satellite imagery is used to measure, identify and track human activity.

Satellite images have many applications for instance in meteorology and weather forecasting,  fishing, oceanography, agriculture, conservation, forestry, landscape analysis, geology, mapping, regional planning, environmental assessment, intelligence, warfare and education.  In education, satellite images are present in textbooks and online as support for maps, graphs and text.

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Currently, improvements in Earth Observation programs are opening the door for the educational community to increasingly use satellite image products. You can access them from the following links.

European Space Agency (ESA) :Using infra-red imagery
Edusat: Aprendre a observar la Terra
European Space Agency (ESA): Education resources 
NASA visible earth: image catalogue
NASA Earth Data Learn:  learning about image sensors 
Landsat Outreach: education resources
USGS: tracking change over time
Sentinel Hub: learn about satellite imagery

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What is the Landscape Convention?

The Council of Europe Landscape Convention promotes the protection, management and planning of the landscapes. It organises international co-operation on landscape issues. It was the first international treaty devoted exclusively to all dimensions of the landscape.convention logo

The Convention is administered by the Council of Europe to address the major challenges in the field of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, with a view to sustainable development.  It has been signed by States who have declared themselves “concerned to achieve sustainable development based on a balanced and harmonious relationship between social needs, economic activity and the environment”, considering the cultural dimension of the landscape.

In October 2021 the 25th Council of Europe Meeting for the implementation of the Landscape Convention was held in Palma, Majorca, with the theme “Landscape policies! Strategies, action plans and policy documents for landscape quality” (Palma de Mallorca, Spain, 6-8 October 2021). Public authorities were invited there to adopt landscape policies, at national, regional and local level, in accordance with the provisions of the Convention.

Latest news on the Convention can be found at https://www.coe.int/en/web/landscape/news

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Second GeoLand meeting, Ghent Belgium

meeting pictureThe second full meeting of the GeoLand consortium took place in Ghent, Belgium on 7-8 March 2022. Due to Covid restrictions a hybrid meeting was arranged as not all partners were able to travel.

The two main goals of the GEOLAND project are to develop:

1. an Educational Handbook for monitoring European Landscape
2. a Web based GIS platform where numerous geospatial data may be uploaded and analysed and students’ opinion about landscape will be obtained through questionnaires and crowdsourcing.

In the context of the Handbook, the meeting addressed, in a context related to higher education courses, the challenges in identifying and gathering landscape data, analysing the information and relating the results and areas surveyed to policy arrangements in different partner countries.

Landscape assessments were presented and discussed, for example Landscape Character Assessment used in the United Kingdom. The types of existing data were reviewed, like Corrine land cover data as an inventory of land cover in 44 classes. Citizen Science research and methodologies were introduced and some general principles of citizen science discussed.Corine land maps

There are four common features of citizen science practice:
1) anyone can participate,
2) participants use the same protocol so data can be combined and be high quality,
3) data can help real scientists come to real conclusions and
4) a wide community of scientists and volunteers work together and share data to which the public, as well as scientists, have access.

Citizen Science can increasingly be enabled by web-based technologies, in which relatively large-scale data-collection tasks can be assigned to students. The purpose is to gather and collate useful scientific information from many individuals / groups.

 

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NATURA 2000 and cultural heritage

The NATURA 2000 network is a European ecological network of sites which are home to significant natural habitats and species at a European level. It is the largest coordinated network of protected areas in the world and its aim is to ensure the long-term survival of Europe’s most valuable and threatened species and habitats .

There has been an increasing acknowledgement of the links between the natural and built cultural heritage. As a result, a number of case studies have been created by the European Commission in order to point out the successful integrated management of natural and cultural heritage at Natura 2000 sites. Examples of the use of farmland

Moreover, it has become obvious that these links need to be strengthened and common threats and challenges explored as well as opportunities for joint initiatives. Visit the Commission Web pagenatura seminar image

It is often difficult to make the distinction between nature and culture, particularly as we look to the past. Nature and culture tend to be tightly interconnected in forms such as storytelling with the oral tradition being an important means of conveying this relationship.

Community engagement is necessary to ensure that heritage is well aligned with community needs, identify and perceptions. This is particularly important for less tangible aspects of heritage.

Explore the European Commission presentation on integrated management 

Subscribe to the Natura 2000 newsletter to stay up-to-date on relevant events and initiatives.

Getting familiar with NATURA 2000 in Bulgaria

Natura 2000 is described as a pan-European network of protected areas aimed at ensuring the long-term survival of Europe’s most valuable and endangered species and habitats in accordance with national and international agreements in the field of environmental protection and biodiversity. This suggests that indeed this network should spread all across the old continent. This news article examines those in Bulgaria.

Natura 2000 has become so important that it has been an official prerequisite for future member states who wish to join the European union. For Bulgaria, the process of creating the Natura 2000 ecological network began in 2002 (5 years prior Bulgaria’s accession in the EU) with the adoption of the National Biodiversity Act (BDA), which introduces the norms of the two European directives related to NATURA 2000: The Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora and the 2009/147/EC Directive on the conservation of wild birds.

Following the BDA, Bulgaria managed to list the protected areas and have them declared in the country as part of the National Ecological Network: places on land and water, that meet the requirements for the presence of important for biodiversity plants and animal species, and types of natural habitats included in the EU directives mentioned earlier.

The Natura 2000 Protected zones in Bulgaria are estimated to be 34.8% of its territory, twice the EU average, making Bulgaria the third in EU when it comes to protected areas share. Currently, the network of protected areas includes:

  • 120 protected areas for protection of wild birds, covering 23.1% of the territory of Bulgaria;
  • 233 protected areas for protection of natural habitats, covering 30.3% of the territory of Bulgaria

The Natura 2000 network database for Bulgaria is publicly available online. The website allows you to filter a search by name, site code, type of protected species, habitats, place (e.g. a specific city or municipality). Here are some of the most well-known Bulgarian Natura 2000 sites we wanted to share with you.

Atanasovsko lake – the lake is known for its habitat of protected species: out of the 400 bird species which can be seen all over Bulgaria, 316 species are found here and 14 of them are globally endangered. In addition, 83 bird species are included in the Red Book of Bulgaria, and 170 species are of European natural protection significance. The lake is located north-east of the city of Burgas and in the past it was exploited for salt extraction. The salterns had existed since 1906. What’s intriguing about the Atanasovsko Lake is that it does not freeze during the winter, which turns the lake into a center of the hibernating water birds. If you are interested in learning more about the Atansovsko lake, you may do so by reading the official NATURA 2000 data form available in English and check out the following video tour for a more interactive experience.

– Rila – the highest mountain range in Bulgaria with an area of 2629 km² where 779.27 km² are included within the Natura 2000 network. It includes 24 types of habitats. Rila National Park is the most significant territory in presence in the country of high-mountain glacial lakes and lake biota of glacial type. The total importance of natural resource and the richness of the habitats is 11% of the European ones. The habitats include 192 vertebrates species and 2934 species and sub-species invertebrate fauna, 312 out which are rare. The Rila mountains are the highest in the Balkan peninsula with its highest peak Musala reaching 2925 m. The Rila is also home to a number of tourist attractions of high interest like The 7 Rila lakes, The Rila Monastery (also part of the UNESCO heritage), the Rilska Skakavitza waterfall and many other.

Rila lake imagesource: Bulgaria Travel

To find out more about the Rila mountains, read the official NATURA 2000 data form available in English here or by reading the information available at this specialised eco-tourism web site.

Kompleks Kaliakra -Kaliakra is one of the most well-known Bulgarian Black sea nature and archaeological reserve. It expands over 687.5 decares with wild steppes and beautiful coastal rocks. Within the territory of Kaliakra,  can be found more than 400 plant species, while 310 kinds of birds live on the territory of Kaliakra and 100 of them require special measures for preservation of their habitats. 106 of these bird species are protected at European level. The marine area east of Cape Kaliakra – Tulenovo is a fish habitat including a migratory corridor to spawning grounds in the Danube River and a region for the nurturing and growth of juvenile fish and spawning stock after the breeding. The region is the richest of lime steppe habitats as well as coastal cliffs habitats and coastal cave habitats in Bulgaria. Kaliakra is also a place of historical significance (first settlements are estimated at around 4th century B.C.) and a very popular tourist destination. If you are interested in learning more about Kompleks Kaliakra, you may do so by reading the official NATURA 2000 data form available in English here or reading the following article about the area.

Kaliakra aerial photosource: Bulgaria Travel

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The value of landscape stewardship

Landscapes are a a heterogeneous pattern of natural and human sites supporting natural and social processes. In europe, landscapes are also a serious concern for many members of the public, as the campaigns around many land-use conflicts, for example around mining, quarries, water, construction or renewable energies show.wilderness

Landscape stewardship is a place-based concept considered to be the active shaping of pathways of social and ecological change for the benefits of ecosystems and society. It combines public participation and values into environmental governance. Landscape stewardship is thus based on the actions of people, related to their appreciation of the landscape values that are perceived as crucial. Landscape stewardship implies an interest in monitoring and actively maintaining and developing the cultural ecosystem services of a particular landscape region and includes actions such as such as nature conservation, agricultural and forestry practice, or cultural heritage. Land managers tend to be involved in landscape stewardship, with some focusing more on environmental, others on production.

To meet the need of establishing or enhancing the functionality of green infrastructures, the integrated analysis of 16 pan-European case study landscapes provides insights on current trends, challenges and opportunities for strengthening social capital among rural landscape stakeholders. Read the European Commission Science for Environment briefing.

Rural landscape stewardship must be an inclusive societal process based on collaborative governance. Horizon scanning was carried out to identify current knowledge and trends regarding the factors that can underpin this. The study emphasises a need for more regionally and culturally adapted approaches to landscape stewardship in Europe.

For Europe, it is important that rural development policies foster landscape stewardship through tailoring policy targets to the varied and specific land-use systems and their landscape attributes. A big challenge for the future, is the design and implementation of rural development policies will be to realign such features with the need for administrative simplification of funding schemes. Read more about landscape stewardship

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First GEOLAND Project Newsletter Published

Partners in the GEOLAND Project have published their first newsletter. GEOLAND focuses on Digital Educational Geoinformatic Methodologies for Monitoring Landscape. The newsletter contains stories about  the presentation of the GEOLAND project in the Technology Forum of Thessaloniki (Greece), the Manifesto on the future of European landscape, introducing the NATURA 2000 sites, the first project meeting in Crete and the use of GIS in schools in Bulgaria.

Read and subscribe to the newsletter

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