Category Archives: Natura2000

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Data acquisition for landscape monitoring and assessment

Landscape monitoring and assessment involves many different disciplines from the ecological to the social and cultural.Copernicus web site

Innovative methods for data acquisition on landscape and land management have been established due to significant advances in remote sensing and geospatial information science, for example from the EU Copernicus programme.

These include sensor data acquisition, cloud computing and rapid high quality image processing capabilities using tools such as uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs or ‘drones’), satellite and airborne-based sensors, as well as Lidar with high spatial, spectral, radiometric and temporal resolutions.

Automatic image orientation, surface reconstruction, scene analysis, change detection, classification and automatic feature extraction with the help of artificial intelligence, spatial statistics and machine learning are also being developed for use with the management of land developments and land use planning.olive trees photo

EU satellites reveal how bio-fertiliser can protect the olive groves of southern Italy

The bacterium Xylella fastidiosa (Xfp) has attacked olive trees in Italy since 2013, with severe impacts. Researchers have used Sentinel-2 satellite data to show that bio-fertiliser is proving effective in restoring the agro-ecosystem where since 2013 the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa (Xfp) has attacked olive trees in Italy,

Sentinel-2 data is part of the European Union’s Copernicus Earth Observation programme, which monitors land and marine environments, atmosphere, climate change, emergency response and security to support EU policy. Find out more 

Non-native species assessment 

Remote sensing can help monitor the colonisation of natural habitats by non-native species. These cause substantial ecological and economic damage. Research in Spain suggests monitoring and response efforts need to be prioritised as the removal of established alien species populations is costly and rarely successful.

The EU’s Invasive Alien Species (IAS) Regulation includes measures to manage established invasive alien species and to reduce the number of Red List species that they threaten by 50% by 2030. Find out more

Using satellite remote sensing to monitor biodiversity richnessforest photo

The presence and abundance of European aspen is a useful indicator of boreal forest biodiversity. The species richness and community composition of epiphytic lichens provide information about the influencing factors in their environment (humidity, tree density and age, light availability and more).

However, intensive forestry practices are causing aspen populations to decline, leading to a subsequent loss of lichen habitat. Find out more

The use of remote sensing methods is increasingly being used to reliably detect patterns and trends in biodiversity, with ‘light detection and ranging’ (LiDAR) and hyperspectral imaging to explore diversity in habitats, plant species and plant characteristics.

Remote sensing was more effective at predicting lichen communities than traditional field methods characterising the suitability of individual trees for lichen growth in Europe’s protected areas and to provide a more efficient way to map possible biodiversity hotspots. Natura 2000 sites map


Monitoring landscapes is a crucial action especially in times when the impacts of climate change are so significant.

There is a need for expertise in landscape monitoring which is derived from a range of disciplines including geology, ecology, environment, geography, economics, sociology, psychology and history.

These interconnections should be considered essential for monitoring the progress towards achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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Research shows species diversity around nature reserves relies on landscape features

Species that rely on freshwater habitat are declining in Europe.birds directive picture

Research shows that biodiversity within smaller sites in the European Natura 2000 network is highly impacted by the land use of surrounding areas.

The Birds and Habitats Directives are fundamental to Europe’s nature conservation policy, with the Natura 2000 reserves covering 18% of the EU’s land area and more than 8% of its marine territory.

The network of Natura 2000 reserves aims to protect wild bird species, natural habitats and related rare, threatened or endemic species. However, despite ambitious targets and long-term efforts, biodiversity continues to decline, with 60% of the species protected under the directives continuing to be in an unfavourable conservation status, and 80–90% of floodplains degraded.

mapResearch indicates that river biota and river-related species are impacted by stressors at a larger scale – with catchment and upstream river-bank land use having a bigger impact than conditions within a protected area. However, the importance of the surrounding land outside Natura 2000 sites, and freshwater-related species richness inside the sites, has not yet been widely examined.

The methods applied in this research provide a good example on how to approach designing areas for species conservation, knowing that the wider area is an important consideration. Focusing on habitat conditions outside – as well as inside – existing protected areas, will aid effective conservation of freshwater-related species.

The findings of this study could help inform the identification of areas with a high potential for conservation and restoration, given the surrounding landscape setting. This research is pertinent, as a large number of additional protected areas will be designated under the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, and the upcoming Nature restoration law.restoration initiative logo

The researchers selected 648 special areas of conservation (SACs) in Germany and containing at least 15% of freshwater-related habitat group types – i.e. running water, standing water, wet forest and grass wetland. Habitat conditions within the site were assessed: firstly, by calculating the area of freshwater habitat groups in the sites, secondly the average quality of all the river sections within each site, and lastly the average lake quality for each site – based on habitat surrounding the lake.

Finally, the researchers examined a 0.1-km and 1-km buffer of land surrounding each site, as well as a 5-km upstream area including 0.1 km on either side of the upstream river network. Seven land-use classes were distinguished: urban, cropland, pasture, forest, open (semi-) natural vegetation such as natural grasslands or ‘ruderal’ areas, and wetlands and waterbodies. The researchers calculated the percentage cover, diversity and patchiness in the different buffers for all seven land-use classes.

The conditions inside and outside the sites were statistically analysed alongside the occurrence of the selected species in these sites to establish any features that predicted biodiversity richness.

Freshwater-related species richness in this study was found to depend on land use in the area around each Natura 2000 site.biodiversity

The results showed that biodiversity (particularly birds) was higher in small Natura 2000 sites (less than 151.2 hectares) if the locations were embedded in a wet, diverse, and patchy landscape – due to the provision of additional habitats outside the sites. Given that most Natura 2000 sites in Europe are small, the surrounding habitat conditions and land use potentially influences and affects freshwater-related species in many Natura sites across Member States.

The researchers suggest that additional conservation and restoration areas, which may need to be designated in more intensively used landscapes to meet EU biodiversity targets, should be either large enough or surrounded by areas that are only extensively used, to ensure they efficiently protect freshwater-related species.

Source: Kail, J., Januschke, K., and Hering, D. (2023) Freshwater-related species richness in Natura 2000 sites strongly depends on the surrounding land use besides local habitat conditions. Journal of Environmental Management 340: 118025

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Landscape highlighted in Bulgarian event

ruse imageA recent project event, part of a series of successful seminars, was held on Wednesday October 13, 2023 in Ruse, Bulgaria by GEOLAND partners from Ruse Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The GEOLAND project was celebrated with e dedicated seminar about “The role of technology in the protection of the Bulgarian landscape, in line with the mission of the project. Educators, teachers, students and citizens had the opportunity to learn more about how it is possible to implement GIS technology in education, services, conservation of our nature and cultural heritage and influence policy developments.

Ruse workshop imageMr. Ayri Memishev, coordinator of the GEOLAND project for on behalf of RCCI, kicked-off the event by presenting the project and the products developed so far. The participants were informed about the specialised handbook for the protection of the landscape and objects of Natura 2000, through GIS technologies and the available e-platform for collecting geographic (and not only) data for the exploitation of various spatial objects.

Distinguished guest speakers also joined the event to talk facilitate the discussion on how technology contributes to many areas of landscape preservation:

• Mr. Nikolay Kutinchev, Head of the IT Department in Ruse Municipality, who presented the new and innovative GIS portal service and the currently available services for citizens. Mr. Kutinchev informed that soon there is active work on the implementation of numerous data from the presence of waste containers and their location, to pollutants and even abandoned cars within the municipality.IS image

• Mr. Georgi Vladov, from Esri Bulgaria, who talked about the countless possibilities of using ArcGIS and the educational initiatives available for Bulgarian schools and universities. Mr. Vladov expressed his readiness to support the schools in Ruse to use the available (and free) Esri products, as well as their inclusion in the national competition “We study the world with GIS“, supported by the Bulgarian Ministry of Education and Science of Bulgaria.

• Prof. Georgi Hristov, from “Angel Kanchev” University of Ruse, who demonstrated how thanks to modern technologies such as drones, digital twins and photogrammetry, existing objects of culture can be preserved, including objects and places are yet to be discovered during infrastructural changes and planning.Ruse workshop image

• Mrs. Reni Petrova, chief expert at the Regional Environmental and Water Inspection -Ruse, who showed the sites of Natura2000 in the Ruse region requiring attention, as well as some of the educational initiatives in which students and teachers can be involved. Mrs. Petrova informed the participants that soon we can expect to have a specialised unit that will deal only with issues related to the directive and future educational programs in this regard.

The event was attended by 25 participants, who rated it of high interest and quality, while recognising the wider application of GIS technologies and the importance of landscape preservation.


Student gallery highlights landscape monitoring results

salt pan photoThe GEOLAND Project has created an online gallery of students’ work on landscape monitoring in NATURA 2000 sites.

This virtual gallery acts  as an educational tool for promoting the training of higher education students in applying the European Landscape Convention and learning about managing effectively the European Landscape.

The gallery also acts as a dissemination tool to showcase efforts in geo-sciences, with the specific objective on forming students competent in decision-making for landscape management, planning and protection of NATURA 2000 sites.satellite image

The outcomes of the students’ work in using GIS in environmental education showcases examples of  relevant studies at partner universities.

The core idea of GEOLAND is to develop experience and expertise in landscape monitoring to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by Cloud-based GIS technology to explore, monitor and evaluate physical, social and cultural landscape attributes..

Undertaking field surveys has been developed using the methodology established and published in GEOLAND Handbook and Technical Annex.

Students gather information, leading to a better understanding of the processes in the area under study. These results allow them to engage in policy aspects adding value to the strategic planning taking place.

In completing these activities, the students learn how to undertake scientific research activities, present their findings, self-evaluate, self-act and self-decide.

Visit the online gallery of student Storymaps

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NATURA 2000 site burnt in Greece

Huge environmental destruction took place in August 2023 due to forest fires which ravaged many parts of Greece,  

The National Park of Dadia – Lefkimi – Soufli is located in northern Greece, was on fire for 15 consecutive days leading to the loss of a valuable part of its natural wealth. In total almost 58% of the protected area was burned down.

Sadly, a year earlier the area had already been on fire burning for more than a week.

The National Park of Dadia – Lefkimi – Soufli was one of the first areas in Greece to be established with protected status; being declared as a protected area in 1980 and as a national park in 2006.

The National Park is home to a great number of rare species of birds. It is notable that 3 out of 4 vulture species of Europe are found there; Aegypius monachus, Neophron percnopterus and Gyps fulvus.

The area is in the crossroads of Asia, Europe and Africa close to the migration route of many bird species, thus gaining a unique geographical place on a national level.

satellite imageThe park stretches to 42.800ha and 360-400 plant species, 104 butterfly species, 12-13 amphibia species, 29 reptile species and 60-65 mammal species have also been recorded.

What is more, the particularly aesthetic landscapes with rock formations, streams and rivers, the endemic plants and the points of geological interest of the area are of high ecological value.

Scientists express fears that the forest has been destroyed forever and it will not be possible to return it to its former state as some of the trees need 100-150 years to grow.

It is also claimed that climate change played a major role in the fierocity of the fires, since summers have been getting drier and the drought is likely to have contributed to the increasing numbers of fires.

Satellite image credentials: Copernicus EMS Twitter


Landscape Policies : Greek Case Study

The European Landscape Convention seeks to encourage citizens and public authoritieslandscape convention logo to implement policies and measures at local, regional, national and international level for protecting, managing and planning landscapes throughout Europe.

GEOLAND aims to provide resources for to Higher Education students to study how European Landscape Convention (ELC) is implemented and adopted in different EU countries.

This case study examines the national, regional and local issues concerning landscape policy in Greece.

Find out more about the Greek Awards from the European Landscape Convention

A report on European policy has been produced. Download the Policy Report

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Landscape Policies : Bulgarian Case Study

The European Landscape Convention seeks to encourage citizens and public authoritieslandscape convention logo to implement policies and measures at local, regional, national and international level for protecting, managing and planning landscapes throughout Europe.

GEOLAND aims to provide resources for to Higher Education students to study how European Landscape Convention (ELC) is implemented and adopted in different EU countries.

This case study examines the national, regional and local issues concerning landscape policy in Bulgaria.

Find out more about the Bulgarian Landscape Award of the Council of Europe

A report on European policy has been produced. Find out about the European Policy Report

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Piloting the landscape app and GIS platform in Zaragossa, Spain

In October 2022 a two-day Transnational Partner Meeting was held in Zaragoza, Spain. Participants spent one day in meetings, discussing the progress of the project with special attention to testing a landscape survey app. geoland-app

The aim of the landscape survey app is to enable the nature of the landscape to be evaluated in situ by students and by the general public. Its use proved to be very straightforward. By opening the app, GPS locations could be saved, together with responses to a short landscape survey and digital photographs of the location could be gathered and shared.

This app thus permits data gathering of landscape character assessment (LCA) results in the field, linked to a GIS platform where the data gathered is presented.platform-satellite

Landscape character assessment is the process of identifying and describing the variation in character of the landscape.

This helps identify and explain the unique combination of elements and features that make landscapes distinctive.

The character, types and areas can be described and mapped to  show how the landscape is perceived, experienced and valued by people. It also allows changes in landscape to be  monitored, for example due to climate change or human impact, and policies to protect distinctive areas to be put in place.

Either follow the link or scan the QR code to visit the Landscape Character Assessment online survey app to add your own data to the GIS platform..QR for Survey 123

On the second day, a field visit to a NATURA 2000 site close to Zaragossa was organised in order to beta test the app and platform. Find out more about Natura 2000 in Aragon

.During the visit five different important locations of landscape value were visited

The first location was a local landfill which serves almost 800.000 habitants of the Zaragoza region for waste deposits. On the other hand it offers a food source for numerous animals and birds, such as vultures, storks and seagulls. The landfill is located on the border of the NATURA 2000 protected area.

The visit continued to the Saltlake of Mediana (La Salada de Mediana) which has huge ecological, historical and scientific value because of the salt extraction activity during the past centuries.

Codo municipality was the next stop, in particular in ornithological reservation El Planerón, where the guide form SEO BirdLife organisation, responsible for the reservation, explained the project, the relationships with other agents in the landscape management and presented to the participants some results of the work done in the reservation.

Then the group stopped in Fuendetodos, birthplace of Francisco Goya, great Spanish painter, where windmill parks with massive energy potential have been installed. The purpose was to evaluate their impact on the landscape and compare it with the benefits that it can bring.

Finally, the viewpoint on Las Planas, next to Cadrete, was visited. From this spot, participants could appreciate the views over the Ebro river depression, the plateau, Zaragoza city, the dry steppe landscape, wind parks and the Moncayo massive in the background.

Explore the Storymap to see the location and results of the field visit

The field visit confirmed the  survey app and GIS platform developed for landscape evaluation showed great functionality and produced very relevant results, so in following months it will be used in different European locations with students and the public.

Try out the GEOLAND survey app  –  Visit the GIS platform

Contact the project of you wish to be involved or find out more.

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Partner meeting tests GEOLAND app

geoland meeting During two days of October 2022, the GEOLAND Transnational Partner Meeting was held in Zaragoza, Spain. All the participants spent one whole day meeting, discussing the latest progress of the project with special attention on the mapping app developed by University of Ghent.

This app permits data gathering in the field and its aim is to allow the landscape to be evaluated in situ by students or even by the public. The use is very simple, everyone just has to open the app, save the GPS location, respond to a short survey and make a photo, which completes the collected information.

Next day, a field visit and app beta testing was scheduled. Five places with important landscape value were visited.

The app developed for the landscape evaluation was shown to present great functionality and very relevant results, so in following months it will be used with students and the general public.

Explore the Storymap to find out more.



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GEOLAND Handbook and Technical Annex available in 6 languages

The GEOLAND project seeks to improve and promote the engagement of Higher Education (HE) institutions, professors and students, in monitoring actions leading to effective decision-making for the implementation of the European Landscape Convention (ELC).handbook cover image

With this in mind the project has published an Educational Handbook and Technical Annex in English, Bulgarian, Dutch, Greek, Italian and Spanish.

These are available for download from

The Handbook includes state-of-the-art information and materials on learning and teaching perspectives, methodologies including citizen science, and Landscape Character Assessment related to the European Landscape Convention.

The Technical Annex complements the Handbook in order to provide details of the five methodological stages important for Landscape Character Assessment (LCA) by using GIS and public participation.

The five stages offer information, advice, resources and tools to carry out a Landscape Character Assessment for Natura 2000 or other sites of interest, are:
i) Purpose definition
ii) Desk-based data collection
iii) Field-based data collection
iv) Classification and
v) Overall evaluation

Training resources are now being developed to support university teachers and academics to implement the approach with their students.