European biodiversity and ecosystem service decline is still ongoing , caused mainly by habitat loss and fragmentation. Despite many conservation activities, valuable ecological networks are being lost. To enhance connectivity in order to preserve ecological as well as socio-cultural values the status quo of such transnational networks has to be evaluated. Therefore, the project TransEcoNet aimed at assessing the actual goods and services that landscapes provide for sustaining life. Within the project we developed an integrated approach for mapping and assessing landscape services based on spatial information as well as field data. In order to accomplish a comprehensive analysis, different levels of service assessment in the investigation area and spatial scale are distinguished. Whereas the case studies in the project regions North and Central North based their assessment solely on the use of a capacity matrix, those in the project region Central South extended their assessments by semi-quantitative data gained from field work. We successfully mapped and quantified five landscape service groups including a range of individual services within the investigation areas: regulation, habitat, provision, information and carrier. While the main service distributions were visualized as spider-web graphs for each investigation area, the individual services were displayed on maps. These final landscape service maps may provide regional stakeholders with valuable information on the service provision of transnational ecological networks and can therefore be used as a decision tool in landscape planning processes.
This chapter presents the results of the ecological stability and landscape functionality assessment in several case studies that represent three landscape types from Moravia, Czech Republic. These landscape types (LT) are alluvial forested, hilly agricultural and upland meadow forested. Ecological stability was attributed to individual landscape elements according to six levels of significance. Mean functionality was calculated based on the structural indices of the landscape elements and then categorized into five functional levels. The results show that landscapes with higher ecological stability as well as mean functionality occur mainly in the upland meadow forested LT. Alluvial forested LT have a higher ecological stability but a lower mean functionality than hilly agricultural LT. Landscape elements with very high and high landscape functionality cover large parts of both forested LT. In hilly agricultural LT landscape elements with a very low functionality dominate spatially. In terms of the six functional groups, namely connecting and dissecting corridors, valuable, disturbed and artificial matrix and stepping stones, the highest values of mean functionality were typical for valuable matrix in both hilly agricultural and upland meadow forested LT where ecological stability was usually of a medium degree. The lowest mean functionality was calculated for stepping stones and disturbed matrix. The ecological stability of these functional groups had a low degree. In the case of alluvial forested LT the highest mean functionality was found in connecting corridors with a low to medium ecological stability. Landscape elements with a high to very high mean functionality belonging to valuable matrix in both forested LT dominate spatially. In the case of hilly agricultural LT, the largest area is covered by landscape elements from disturbed matrix with a very low mean functionality.
One of the tasks within the project TransEcoNet has been to analyse the historical development of ecological networks. Given that hardly any historical data is available on the development of ecological networks over time the GUIDOS software (Graphical User Interface for the Description of image Objects and their Shapes) is used as a tool for identifying possible historical ecological networks. Here the method and the results for the region of the Saxon Switzerland region in south eastern Germany are presented. Six different years (1780, 1880, 1900, 1940, 1992 and 2010) are analysed using a specialist approach. The assumption is that certain species, the so called specialists, are using the more or less disturbed and semi-natural parts of a landscape as home ranges like forests, natural grasslands, hedges, old fallow land and orchards. The land use types of the different time periods are classified into suitable and unsuitable habitat for these specialists. Because agricultural areas around 1780 and 1880 were far less intensively used than after the industrialisation around 1900 they can therefore be considered as suitable habitat for specialists. Thus, this approach gives the opportunity to identify land use change in time, space and quality and is therefore a useful tool for showing the historical development of ecological networks.
This chapter deals with the identification of gaps in transnational ecological networks. First, the methodology is introduced, followed by results from the overall transnational assessment and by two case studies from Saxony (Germany) and Moravia (Czech Republic). The analyses are based on spatial data and are performed in a Geographical Information System (GIS). After collecting and harmonising national as well as European data sets of protected areas, all areas were classified according to the international standard provided by the categories of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Following these basic data preparation steps, a gap analysis was performed, where the gaps were defined as unprotected areas with high natural value. The methodology is based on an unspecified species approach and on the detection of potential habitat corridors. The aim was to include valuable areas into the ecological network through the enlargement of protected areas and the protection of stepping stones and therefore to improve the connectivity of protected sites to each other. The performed analysis illustrates a method of how to connect protected areas across borders with each other. Often protected areas are too small to allow for the persistence of viable populations of species and connecting networks of protected sites may increase species’ persistence. The need to recover endangered species and rare habitat types has driven the demand for habitat connectivity. One of the solutions is to maintain and restore habitats that will provide connections between protected areas. For that reason the gap analysis focuses on connecting protected areas via potential suitable habitat corridors and potential corridors of protected areas.