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Contribution of social science to large scale biodiversity conservation: A review of research about the Natura 2000 network


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Successful conservation needs to be informed by social science because it is closely linked to socio-economic processes and human behaviour. Limited knowledge about ecosystems' interactions with these processes currently undermines conservation efforts. This review provides a comprehensive synthesis of social science concerning the world's largest multinationally-coordinated conservation infrastructure: the European Ecological Network - ‘Natura 2000’. Based on a review of 149 publications, we analyse and discuss the main findings and outline key social-science research gaps with regard to the Natura 2000 network. The review shows that human dimension of the Natura 2000 network is complex and varies among EU Member States. In general, low level and quality of public participation in implementation of the Natura 2000 network and its management, negative public perceptions of the network, lack of flexibility of responsible authorities and insufficient consideration of the local context pose the greatest challenges to the network's functioning. Important but hitherto little studied research topics include: evaluation of participation; effects of education on potential to raise public awareness; effects of potential financing mechanisms for compensating private land-owners; economic studies on cost-effectiveness; and benefits from conservation and ecosystem services. These knowledge gaps will need to be filled for the Natura 2000 network to reach its goals.
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Contribution of social science to large scale biodiversity conservation: A
review of research about the Natura 2000 network
Malgorzata Blicharska
, Ewa H. Orlikowska
, Jean-Michel Roberge
, Malgorzata Grodzinska-Jurczak
Swedish Biodiversity Centre, Box 7016, 750 07 Uppsala, Sweden
Department of Earth Sciences, Uppsala University, Villavägen 16, 75 236 Uppsala, Sweden
School for Forest Management, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Box 43, 739 21 Skinnskatteberg, Sweden
Department of Wildlife, Fish and Environmental Studies, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), 901 83 Umeå, Sweden
Department of Forest Resource Management, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), 901 83 Umeå, Sweden
Institute of Environmental Sciences, Jagiellonian University, Gronostajowa 7, 30-387 Kraków, Poland
abstractarticle info
Article history:
Received 24 November 2015
Received in revised form 8 May 2016
Accepted 11 May 2016
Available online xxxx
Successful conservation needsto be informed by social science because it isclosely linked to socio-economic pro-
cesses and human behaviour. Limited knowledge about ecosystems' interactions with these processes currently
undermines conservation efforts. This review provides a comprehensive synthesis of social science concerning
the world's largest multinationally-coordinated conservation infrastructure: the European Ecological Network
-Natura 2000. Based on a review of 149 publications, we analyse and discuss the main ndings and outline
key social-science research gaps with regard to the Natura 2000 network. The review shows that human dimen-
sion of the Natura2000 network is complexand varies among EU MemberStates. In general,low level and quality
of public participation in implementation of the Natura 2000 network and its management, negative public per-
ceptions of the network, lack of exibility of responsible authorities and insufcient consideration of the local
context pose the greatest challenges to the network's functioning.Important but hitherto little studied research
topics include: evaluation of participation; effects of education on potential to raise public awareness; effects of
potential nancing mechanisms for compensating private land-owners; economic studies on cost-effectiveness;
and benets from conservation and ecosystem services. These knowledge gaps will need to be lled for the
Natura 2000 network to reach its goals.
© 2016 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. Thisis an open access article under the CC BY license
Biodiversity conservation
Human dimension
Natura 2000
Research gaps
Social science
1. Introduction.............................................................. 111
2. Methods................................................................ 111
3. Results................................................................. 113
3.1. Focusofthepublications..................................................... 113
3.2. Synthesis of the main ndings................................................... 113
3.2.1. Conservation conictsandimplementationchallenges/solutions............................... 113
3.2.2. Management ...................................................... 116
3.2.3. Perceptions,attitudesandvalues.............................................. 116
3.2.4. Valuationandeconomics................................................. 116
3.2.5. Legalissues....................................................... 117
3.2.6. Governance....................................................... 117
3.2.7. Policyintegration..................................................... 117
3.2.8. Conservationprioritysetting ............................................... 117
3.2.9. Participationevaluation.................................................. 118
4. Discussion............................................................... 118
4.1. Main ndingsandtheirimplications................................................ 118
Biological Conservation 199 (2016) 110122
Corresponding author at: Department of Earth Sciences, Uppsala University, Villavägen 16, 75 236 Uppsala, Sweden.
E-mail address: (M. Blicharska).
0006-3207/© 2016 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Biological Conservation
journal homepage:
4.2. Researchgaps.......................................................... 119
Acknowledgements............................................................. 120
AppendixA. Supplementarydata...................................................... 120
References................................................................. 120
1. Introduction
Conservation science is characterised by a tight coupling of social
and natural systems(Kareiva and Marvier, 2012). Successful conserva-
tion is not solely contingent on ecological knowledge, but should also
incorporate human behaviour and the resulting social processes which
eventually inuence the status of biodiversity (Ban et al., 2013; Fox et
al., 2006). It is vital for conservation professionals to understand the fac-
tors shaping human-environment interactions, particularly human
choices concerning the use or conservation of natural resources
(Mascia et al., 2003). For example, the human-induced global water cri-
sis endangers not only human societies, but also affects freshwater bio-
diversity (Vörösmarty et al., 2010). Anthropogenic global climate
change is not only posing challenges to humans, but is also perceived
as one of the most serious threats to the planet's biodiversity
(Malcolm et al., 2006). Moreover, it has become obvious that conserva-
tion measures cannot be fully successfulif poverty issues are not tackled
(Adams et al., 2004). Therefore successful conservation requires recog-
nition and understanding of the value of social science research, i.e. re-
search that uses conceptual and theoretical underpinnings of social
sciences, such as sociology, human geography, social policy, social psy-
chology, political sciences, economy, public communication and man-
agement to investigate human behaviour and associated social
processes (Bryman and Teevan, 2005).
However, there is an increasingly recognised gap in understanding
and tradition of co-operation between natural and social scientists,
and particularly a lack of appreciation of social science knowledge in
practical operation of conservation policy (Liu et al., 2007). This prob-
lem needs to be addressed if we want to produce knowledge that
truly contributes to solving today's conservation challenges (Fox et al.,
2006; Nyhus et al., 2002). Comprehensive syntheses of social science re-
search concerning major conservation initiatives may contribute to
building that knowledge.
One key conservation action worldwide is the development of large-
scale networks of protected areas (Rodrigues et al., 2004). In spite of the
fact that over 200,000 protected areas cover ~14% of the world's land
area (Deguignet et al., 2014), there are very few coordinated networks
of protected areas aiming at continental-scale conservation. Examples
of such networks stretching across national borders include the Yellow-
stone-to-Yukon Conservation Initiative in North America and the Euro-
pean Ecological Network –‘Natura 2000. Thelatter is the world's largest
multinationally coordinated conservation infrastructure.
As the centrepiece of the European Union's (EU) biodiversity conser-
vation policy, the Natura 2000 network was created based on the Article
3 of the EU's Habitats Directive (CEC, 1992). It aims at protecting habi-
tats and species of EU interest, listed both in the Habitats Directive
and Birds Directive (CEC, 1979, 1992). The Natura 2000 network plays
a key role in protection of biodiversity in the EU territory by assuring
the long-term survival of Europe's most valuable andthreatened species
and habitats(EC, 2015a). The network consists of Special Protection
Areas SPA (for protecting species included in Birds Directive), Special
Areas of Conservation SAC (species and habitats included in Habitats
Directive), and also includes marine environments (EC, 2015a). Natura
2000 has been implemented gradually, starting in 1992 in the 12 EU
countries, followed by other countries joining the European Union after-
wards. This initiative is considered critical for the implementation of in-
ternational conservation policies such as the Convention on Biological
Diversity (UN, 1992) and the European Strategy for Biological Diversity
(EC, 2011). The Natura 2000 network considerably differs fromprevious
conservation systems in Europe as it goes beyond a direct ban on dam-
aging plants or killing animals and focuses on socially sustainable con-
servation harmonising the maintenance of species and habitats with
economic, social and cultural human needs (Grodzińska-Jurczak,
2008). Because of that the meaningful involvement of affected stake-
holders is seen as necessary for the network's success (EC, 2000).
The entire implementation process, starting from the selection of the
protected sites till development of management plans, met opposition
from various stakeholder groups in almost all EU Member States
(Alphandéry and Fortier, 2001; Hiedanpää, 2002; Krott et al., 2000;
Pietrzyk-Kaszyńska et al., 2012; Visser et al., 2007). The problems in im-
plementation called for a proper assessment and monitoring of the net-
work, and eventually led to the development of more effective
implementation recommendations (Bouwma et al., 2008; Kati et al.,
2015). In 2015, the European Commission initiated a process of tness
check on the implementation of the Birds and Habitats Directives. The
tness check aims at scrutinising the effectiveness, efciency, relevance
and coherence (EC, 2015b) of all stages of the network implementation,
from the designation through inventory and monitoring to the develop-
ment of management plans for particular sites.
Considering its importance for European nature conservation Natura
2000 has also been the subject of an increasing research interest, partic-
ularly from conservation scientists (Popescu et al., 2014). To achieve a
good functionality of the network, there is a need for knowledge not
only on the ecological conservation and management issues relevant
to the Natura 2000 (e.g. status ofspecies and habitats, ways of managing
the sites), but also on key social, economic, political and managerial re-
alities potentially inuencing its effectiveness. In a recent revie w of pub-
lished research on Natura 2000, Popescu et al. (2014) concluded that
ecological research prevails, while social, economic and policy research
on the network is underrepresented. Still, there isa non-negligible body
of research focusingon the social aspects of the Natura 2000. However,
perhaps as a consequence of its broad scope, there have been so far no
attempts to comprehensively review this research. In this paper, we
present a review of thepublished scientic literature focusing on the so-
cial aspects of the Natura 2000 network, expanding Popescu's et al.
(2014) work by analysing in depth the ndings of the existing social sci-
ence studies. The aims are to (1) synthesise the existing social scientic
knowledge on Natura 2000 and identify future research needs, and (2)
inform conservation professionals and other relevant actors about the
broad spectrum of challenges and solutions relevant to the implementa-
tion and functioning of the Natura 2000 network.
2. Methods
We performed an in-depth review and analyses of published En-
glish-language scientic papers applying a social science perspective
in conservation research focused on Natura 2000. We are aware of the
fact that some social aspects of Natura 2000 may be addressed in the
grey literatureor local manuscripts or reports. However, here we fo-
cused on the peer-reviewed literature only because (1) we wanted to
concentrate on scientic knowledge, with a reliable level of scientic
rigour, (2) it would have been logistically impossible to directly cover
the diversity of grey literaturecharacterised by a multiplicity of lan-
guages, and (3) the peer-reviewed literature builds to a large extent
on analyses of various types of non-scientic texts (reports, legal texts,
articles, etc.) published in different languages, and hence our approach
111M. Blicharska et al. / Biological Conservation 199 (2016) 110122
does indirectly capture substantial parts of the information contained in
these publications.
We collected the data through desk research. The main unit of our
analysis was an individual article. We applied a mixed-mode social sci-
ence research methodology (qualitative and quantitative) that allowed
for a broader perspective of gathering and analysing of the data. We
used the Webof ScienceCore Collection database for searching the lit-
erature. We searched for the phrase Natura 2000in the topiceld of
the database for the period 19982014. From the initial set of publica-
tions, we only retained studies that were either primary original re-
search or reviews; thus, we removed publications categorised as
correspondences, letters, responses, commentaries, policy perspectives,
etc. Conference proceedings were only included if published in a peer-
reviewed journal. We also removed publications in other languages
than English, even if they had an English abstract. After this selection
we ended up with 664 publications (as of January 1st, 2015).
We performed an initial scanning of selected publications to retain
only articles that addressed social science or included a social analysis
component (e.g. inter, multi or transdisciplinary studies combining so-
cial sciences with other disciplines). After that preliminarily scanning,
248 publications were classied as belonging to the social sciences or
as having a social-science component. A review of theecological litera-
ture about Natura 2000 will be published elsewhere (Orlikowska et al.
unpublished results). Out of the 248 publications retained for the pres-
ent review, we further removed 46 after in-depth examination, either
because they were not research/review papers or because they did not
address Natura 2000. For example, if a paper had Natura 2000merely
in the abstract but did not focus at all on any aspect of Natura 2000, we
removed it from the analysis. We removed another 39 publications be-
cause in-depth examination revealed that they did not include any so-
cial-science analysis. Finally, we removed 14 publications due to
unavailability of the full-text versions. Thus, 149 publications were left
for in-depth analysis, 112 classied as social science and 37 including
some social-science analysis. The Results section below is based exclu-
sively on these publications. However, in the Discussion section we
also refer to some relevant studies not identied by our search, e.g.
studies published after the closing date of our literature search.
Note that 91 of the 149 publications retained for the present study
were included in the recent review by Popescu et al. (2014).Ourre-
view includes 58 papers not analysed by these authors, while 29 of
the papers they included were not retained for the present study.
These differences are most likely due to the different inclusion
criteria used in the two studies.
The rst step of the analysis consisted in distinguishing eleven core
categories of papers (Table 1) based on their main focus, identied
through reading the title and abstract of each publication. We then
used a qualitative content analysis method (Bryman and Teevan,
2005) for analysing all the papers. We utilised an open coding approach
without pre-dened codes. Thus, the codes emerged in the course of
analysis and involved identication of the most important issues and
the key ndings of the papers. We analysed each of the eleven catego-
ries of papers separately using specic codes for each particular catego-
ry of papers. Because some of the initial categories were of a relatively
broad scope, the analysis led to the identication of a set of sub-catego-
ries within ve of the main categories of papers (see Table 1 for expla-
nation). In the next step of the analysis, we used memos (Glaser and
Strauss, 2008) for summing up information on the identied issues
and key ndings. Using the memos and building on the issues identied
in them, we created summaries of the results by categories and
discussed their determinants in the context of the main socio-economic
ndings for each category (see Results section). At the same time, we
created a short summary of each paper (see online Appendix). We
also recorded the country (or countries) investigated by each of the pa-
pers. Finally, we scrutinised the scope of all papers(based on their cat-
egories and sub-categories) to identify the most commonly addressed
topics and the main research gaps.
Table 1
Categories and sub-categories used to structure the review process.
Category Contents of the papers Sub-categories
Includes studies that analyse
conservation conicts, e.g. actual or
potential conicts between N2000 site
protection and resource use, human
well-being or tourism, potential
problems in industrial/infrastructure
development within or in the vicinity of
N2000 sites, threats to N2000.
Conservation vs.
Conservation vs.
Threats to N2000
tourism and
challenges and
Includes studies that address different
challenges faced during at least one
stage of the N2000 policy
implementation (including site
designation, development of
management plans, monitoring, etc.),
and/or presents potential solutions to
these challenges.
Management Includes assessment of the human
dimension of management practices,
adaptive measures or need for
appropriate management plans to
maintain species in favourable status,
methodological studies on the
development of management plans for
N2000 sites or planning conservation
action, studies proposing tools,
approaches and frameworks for
development of management plans and
conservation strategies, etc.
Tools, methods,
Management and
N2000 impact on
Need for
attitudes and
Includes studies that investigates
attitudes towards and perceptions of
various aspects of the N2000 network,
attitudes towards particular N2000
sites or their management, people's
awareness of the N2000, etc.
Local attitudes
Perceptions of
Recreation and
Other (see Online
Valuation and
Includes studies that investigate costs
or benets of the N2000 establishment,
management measures or restrictions,
effectiveness of N2000 conservation
funding, valuation (both use and
non-use values) of the N2000 site,
incentive mechanisms, etc.
Preferences and
Benets from
Costs of N2000
Legal issues Includes studies on legal aspects of
N2000, e.g. analysis of legal acts and
their consequences, or of some specic
topic related to N2000 in relation to
legal requirements.
National level
CC in N2000
ES in N2000
Governance Includes studies on different aspects of
governance related to N2000, e.g.
governance shifts due to
implementation of the N2000, changes
in possibilities of different actors to
inuence governance.
Policy integration Includes studies that analyse N2000
policies that have been formulated and
used during the designation and
management processes, and potential
problems connected with their relation
to policies belonging to other sectors,
e.g. potential overlaps, possibilities or
barriers for integration of different
priority setting
Includes studies that focus on
determining conservation priorities or
utilise systematic conservation
planning with regard to N2000 which
include socio-economic indices or
Includes studies that focus on
evaluation of participatory processes in
(continued on next page)
112 M. Blicharska et al. / Biological Conservation 199 (2016) 110122
We are aware that the division into particular categories and sub-cate-
gories is to some extent subjective and arbitrary, as many papers ad-
dress more than one issue and thus one paper could theoretically be
included into two or more categories simultaneously. However, to
allow a structured analysis we needed a clear division into categories.
Thus, in cases where a particular paper tted more than one category,
we assigned the paper to the category which represented the main
focus of the paper.
Even though some of the papers had a wider scope than Natura
2000, in the present review we only consider the information
concerning this network. Thus, if a paper was about different kinds of
protected areas including Natura 2000 sites, we only considered the
contents which specically concerned Natura 2000.
3. Results
3.1. Focus of the publications
Most of the publications belonged to the category of Conservation
conicts(23 publications), Implementation challenges and solutions
(21), Management(20), Perceptions, attitudes and values(17), Valu-
ation and economics(16), Legal issues(11), Governance(8), Policy
integration(5), Conservation priority setting(4), and Participation
evaluation(4). The remaining 20 publications were classied as
Others(Fig. 1).
The Conservation conictscategory focused mainly on local land
use or infrastructure development in potential conict with conserva-
tion in particular locations (Fig. 2). Many papers focused on particular
challenges faced by Natura 2000 and possible solutions (papers from
Implementation challenges and solutionscategory) or tools and
methods for practical work with Natura 2000 (11 out of 20 papers in
the Managementcategory) both groups studying the factors
inuencing the practical implementation of the network. Within the
category Perceptions, attitudes and values, the largest topic was the at-
titudes of local communities (10 out of 17 studies) (Fig. 2). Valuation/
economic studies in most cases investigated preferences and willing-
ness to pay for Natura 2000 conservation or management (5 out of 16
studies) or cost-effectiveness of conservation (5 out of 16 studies).
Twenty-ve publications presented studies encompassing the entire
EU. In terms of particular countries, Greece had the highest level of rep-
resentation in the publications, followed by the Netherlands, UK, Ger-
many, Poland, Romania and Italy (Fig. 3). In general, the EU-15
countries (i.e. countries that had joined the EU prior to 1st May 2004)
had more (altogether 117, mean 11 per country) publications than the
countries that joined the EU in and after 2004 (altogether 40, mean 4).
Important exceptions were Belgium and Sweden, two EU-15 countries
with only one publication each, as well as Poland and Romania, two
late-accession countries with relatively large numbers of publications
(Fig. 3). At the level of the whole EU, most of the publications concerned
either legal issues (4 papers), followed by valuation, governance and
implementation challenges and solution studies (3 papers in each of
these categories). Most publications about management were conduct-
ed in Italy (5papers), followed by Greece andthe Netherlands (4 papers
each), while Romanian studiesfocused on conservation conicts (6 pa-
pers) (Fig. 4).
3.2. Synthesis of the main ndings
In this section, we synthesise the ndings of the reviewed articles for
the different main categories (Table 1). We do not include the category
Otherbecause it represents studies that lack common ndings. A short
summary of all the reviewed publications (including those in category
Others) is included in the online Appendix.
3.2.1. Conservation conicts and implementation challenges/solutions
Conservation conictsand Implementation challenges and solu-
tionscategories are related and therefore we address them together.
The potential conicts in implementation and functioning of thenet-
work were those between conservation under Natura 2000 and differ-
ent kinds of land and water use, such as forestry (Hiedanpää, 2002;
Pecurul-Botines et al., 2014), farming (Gonzales et al., 2009; Oana,
2006; Visser et al., 2007), shing (Pedersen et al., 2009; Zaharia et al.,
2014; Zaharia et al., 2012), ship navigation (Freitag et al., 2008), as
well as industry and infrastructure development (Andrulewicz et al.,
2010; Bielecka and Różyński, 2014; Wszołek et al., 2014). Some studies
Table 1 (continued)
Category Contents of the papers Sub-categories
relation to N2000 implementation and
operation, e.g. participatory aspects of
the designation processes of particular
sites or the whole network, or related to
the N2000 network.
Other Studies that do not t in any of the
categories above.
See Online
Note: CC = climate change; ES = ecosystem services; N2000 = Natura 2000; WTP =
willingness to pay.
n/a not applicable; small category including fewpapers, no need to have sub-categories.
The category Implementationchallenges and solutionsis a broadcategory including
studies that analyse challenges and solutions from very different perspectives and at dif-
ferent stages of Natura 2000implementation.Because of that inherent diversityat the lev-
el of individual papers, it was not possible to dene distinct sub-categories that would
include meaningful numbers of papers.
Fig. 1. Number of publications belonging to the main categories.
113M. Blicharska et al. / Biological Conservation 199 (2016) 110122
Fig. 2. Numberof articles belonging to the different sub-categories within maincategories. Only ve categories are included, as other categorieswere not divided into sub-categories (for
explanation see Table 1). A: conservation conicts; B: management; C: perceptions attitudes and values; D: valuation and economics; E: legal issues.
Fig. 3. Number of articles presenting research pertaining to individual EU countries. Note that in some articles more than one country was included, and thus one article could be listed
under more than one country. Both social-science articles and articles with a social-science componentare included.
114 M. Blicharska et al. / Biological Conservation 199 (2016) 110122
in the Conservation conictscategory investigated the impacts of dif-
ferent anthropogenic activities on Natura 2000 areas (Muntean et al.,
2013; Pîrvu and Petrovici, 2013), with a particular focus on agro-tour-
ism (Ciapala et al., 2014; de Noronha Vaz et al., 2012). According to
Hiedanpää (2002),the administrative environmental actions disturb
localities in intended good ways, but also in many unintended and sur-
prising wayswhich can be perceived by local people as harmful and
immoral. However, whether the conict will arise depends on the
local institutional context (Pecurul-Botines et al., 2014).
As key approaches for addressing existing conicts, mitigating
threats, and improving implementation and functioning of the network,
differentauthors suggested cooperation and improved communication
with the resource users, as well as development of management plans
for each site using participatory approaches (Pedersen et al., 2009;
Pîrvu and Petrovici, 2013; Visser et al., 2007; Zaharia et al., 2014). In-
deed, increased social support of formal rules was considered a key to
successful implementation (Beunen et al., 2013). Such cooperation can
elicit valuable local knowledge helpful to conservation (Pedersen et
al., 2009), but requires meaningful involvement of a wide spectrum of
stakeholders (Ferranti et al., 2010). Hiedanpää (2005) described such
involvement in terms of a transactive approach,i.e.aparticipatory,
discursive, engagingly organised, sensitively operated, and decisively
powerful approach. Participatory approaches should operate within
and be sensitive to the local and regional economic context
(Hiedanpää, 2002), address conicting issues across different sectors
(Andrulewicz et al., 2010) and enable land users to understand theben-
ets from particular Natura 2000 sites (Oana, 2006). This is particularly
important with regard to farming: to avoid the ongoing in the EU land
abandonment, there is a need to win the minds and hearts of future
farmers(Visser et al., 2007). The latter need to be convinced about
the benets of conservation (Kamal and Grodzinska-Jurczak, 2014;
Prazan et al., 2005) as they may fear potential limitations imposed by
Natura 2000, including compromises linked to their place identity
(Welch-Devine, 2012). This can only be accomplished when both
sides (conservation and food production) acknowledge the impor-
tance of each other's priorities (Visser et al., 2007). Also, as conserva-
tion may imply signicant costs for the landowners, there may be a
need for nancial instruments such as public funding or tax reduc-
tions (Rojas-Briales, 2000). The need for sufcient funding was
underlined in several studies (Ferranti et al., 2010; Hochkirch et al.,
2013; Iojăet al., 2010), for example as regards nancial compensa-
tion schemes for landowners (Stancioiu et al., 2010) and activities
that would increase general conservation awareness (Hochkirch et
al., 2013). Similarly, Ciapala et al. (2014) suggested that tourism
and recreation are inherent element of human inuence on biodi-
verse areas, and that such activities need to be considered when
planning for and managing Natura 2000 sites. To address that,
Parolo et al. (2009) proposed an optimisation model for allocating
tourism infrastructure.
Regarding the key challenges of the Natura 2000 implementation,
the studies identied problems pertaining to legitimacy of the imple-
mentation process (Alphandéry and Fortier, 2001), low capacity of the
state in implementation (Apostolopoulou and Pantis, 2009) or weak-
nesses in the scienticwork(Alphandéry and Fortier, 2001). A lack of
proper participatory approaches implemented at the local level
(Alphandéry and Fortier, 2001; Apostolopoulou and Pantis, 2009; Iojă
et al., 2010) was also frequently mentioned. Even in cases where partic-
ipation took place, emphasis on legal procedures could reduce the qual-
ity of deliberation (Beunen et al., 2013). On the other hand, some
studies underlined that EU accession and associated implementation
of EU policies provided new opportunities for participation of local ac-
tors and better cooperation among governmental institutions rarely
used so far, especially in post communistic countries (Prazan et al.,
Lack of clearimplementation goals and discrepancy between stated
and actual goals can also compromise the national-level implementa-
tion of the Habitats Directive (Apostolopoulou and Pantis, 2009). In ad-
dition, superimposing the Natura 2000 sites onto existing (e.g. national)
systems of protected areas may lead to duplication of administration
and legislation, as well as overly complex protection systems
(Papageorgiou and Vogiatzakis, 2006). For example, in Romania the
Natura 2000 network overlapped at ~96% with existing protected
areas, with some sites having up to three different protection forms
(Iojăet al., 2010).
Alphandery and Fortier (2010) emphasised thatthe implementation
of the Habitats Directive is a non-linear, at times chaotic process that oc-
curs at different scales from thelocal to the Europeanlevel. In relation to
this complex process, some authors highlighted the crucial role of local
actors (Borrass, 2014). Ferranti et al. (2010) suggested education and
training of local authorities to improve the practical implementation
and Louette et al. (2011) proposed the development of regional conser-
vation objectivesas a means to bridge thegap between localand nation-
al interests. Several authors underlined the needfor better cooperation
among national-level authorities (Prazan et al., 2005) and the impor-
tance of inter-sectoral cooperation (Papageorgiou and Vogiatzakis,
2006; Sarvasova et al., 2013). Alphandery and Fortier (2010) argued
that proliferation of procedures and provisionality in implementation
are natural elements of the Natura 2000 implementation, and that
they do not necessarily imply inefciency of the government. Beunen
et al. (2013) underlined the need to take into account the particular
context and interests in the implementation process. Beunen and van
Assche (2013) cautioned against the blindness of legalismand
Fig. 4. Number of publications in each category for individual countries with 10 papers. Both social-science articles and articles with a social-science component are included.
115M. Blicharska et al. / Biological Conservation 199 (2016) 110122
suggested exible local planning as the best means of enabling space for
deliberation of different interests when implementing Natura 2000.
Once we recognize that formal rules can never be sustained without
public support and we understand that public narrative determines
their success, we can nolonger ignore this dimension of nature conser-
vation in research and practice(Beunen et al., 2013), as the battle for
biodiversity will be won or lost at local levels(Bryan, 2012).
3.2.2. Management
A large proportion of the papers in this category (11 out of 20) pro-
posed or examined different methods to facilitate the planning of man-
agement activities in Natura 2000 sites and support the development of
management plans for these sites. These studies most commonly pro-
posed participatory approaches to knowledge production, scenario de-
velopment and planning of management activities (Bots et al., 2011;
Gil et al., 2011; Graziano et al., 2008; Oikonomouet al., 2011). For exam-
ple, Ernoul et al. (2011) and Teoli and Battisti (2011) proposed the use
of Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation, adapted to the local
specics of each site, that promote participatory processes for adaptive
management. Other approaches took into account the human dimen-
sion by using indices of human activities in management planning
(Cortina and Boggia, 2014) or adopting an ecosystem services perspec-
tive (Scolozzi et al., 2014). The remaining studies were of a very diverse
character. They focused, for example, on evaluating the management
(Ganatsas et al., 2013; Morris et al., 2014; Winter et al., 2014)orimpli-
cations of particular policies for the Natura 2000 network (Fock, 2011).
A number of recommendations have been made for the design of
participatory process in management planning. For example, Bots et
al. (2011) proposed that the process should be set up to favour open-
ness, protection of the actors' core values, use of relevant knowledge
and possibility to acknowledge uncertainties; Oikonomou et al. (2011)
emphasised the necessity of considering the social value judgements
of different actors; and Gil et al. (2011) underlined the need for partic-
ipation and co-responsibility of all relevant stakeholders. Also,
Malatinszky et al. (2014) emphasised the necessity to set a priority
order of conservation aims at an early stage of management planning,
based both on science and the needs and interests of relevant stake-
holders. The issues identied in this set of papers included the lack of
time, resources and qualied facilitators that could serve the participa-
tory process (Ernoul et al., 2011) and lack of exibility of authorities
due to strict regulations (Malatinszky et al., 2014). According to
Malatinszky et al. (2014),management planning should be based on
current, exact, relevant ecological and social circumstances, and histor-
ical land uses. Therefore, this process cannotbe simplied into following
a planning scheme. It was also underlined that, to improve effective-
ness of management schemes, legal provisions concerning manage-
ment need to be matched with local capacity (Morris et al., 2014).
According to Cortina and Boggia (2014), a multi-criteria approach
that incorporates both the ecological and the human dimension is par-
ticularly useful for Natura 2000 management planning, as it enables ad-
dressinga multidimensionaldecision process andthe complex nature of
biodiversity itself. Also Soane et al. (2012) underlined the multidimen-
sional anddynamic nature of many Natura2000 sites. These authors ap-
plied resilience theory to describe the complex socio-ecological systems
of managed alpine grasslands. They proposed that this theory can sup-
port adaptive management of Natura 2000 sites, as it offers useful in-
sights into resource management and in particular for nature
conservation interest sites, by focusing more on dynamics than on an
optimal state of species assemblages.
3.2.3. Perceptions, attitudes and values
Most of the publications in this category (10 out of 17) aimed at in-
vestigating the attitudes of various (predominantly local) stakeholders
towards Natura 2000. They revealed both positive and negative atti-
tudes towards the network. It was generally considered as a good tool
for conservation (Dimitrakopoulos et al., 2010; Grodzinska-Jurczak
and Cent, 2011; Mouro and Castro, 2009; Pietrzyk-Kaszyńska et al.,
2012; Sumares and Fidelis, 2009), but also as an impediment to
economic sustainability, whereby it was often perceived as being asso-
ciated with a ban on development at practically all levels (from local
to regional) (Grodzinska-Jurczak and Cent, 2011; Sumares and Fidelis,
2009). Moreover, in some cases, the perceived dictatorship-style,
top-down implementation contributed to a low level of trust towards
the network and associated authorities (Sumares and Fidelis, 2009).
For example, many landowners in Poland viewed top-down manage-
ment of private land as questioning their capability and rights to man-
age the land. As a consequence, these landowners tended to distrust
the authorities (Kamal and Grodzinska-Jurczak, 2014). A study from
Greece (Andrea et al., 2013) showed low satisfaction of the local people
with the work of local authorities implementing the network. This case
pointed to staff deciencies and irregular funding as main obstacles for
effective management. On the contrary, a study from another Greek re-
gion (Dimitrakopoulos et al., 2010) showed greater acceptance towards
local implementing actors, but high distrust towards higher-level gov-
ernmental actors, indicating that the local perceptions may be context
dependent. In a study from Latvia (Pavasars, 2013) the problem of mis-
trust towards authorities was described in terms of existence of paral-
lel realities,i.e.thatofofcial environmentalismand that of the
everyday life of people in the countryside.
Insufcient communication (Grodzinska-Jurczak and Cent, 2011;
Tonder and Jurvelius, 2004) and weak, if any, traditions of participation
(Grodzinska-Jurczak and Cent, 2011; Sumares and Fidelis, 2009)were
underlined as factors contributing to low trust. Well organised and
more meaningful participation, stronger collaboration with local stake-
holders (Dimitrakopoulos et al., 2010; Kamal and Grodzinska-Jurczak,
2014) and better cooperation between administrative bodies (Andrea
et al., 2013) were proposed as means to improve acceptance towards
Natura 2000. The need to increase awareness towards N2000 through
proper information campaigns was also underlined (Kafyri et al.,
2012; Marmureanu and Geamana, 2012).
Numerous individual-level factors were foundto inuence attitudes
towards conservation in general and Natura 2000 in particular. These
were, for example, education, the fact of moving to the area affected
by Natura 2000 designation in adulthood, ownership of a business
(Pietrzyk-Kaszyńska et al., 2012), vested interests, institutional trust,
place identication (Mouro and Castro, 2009), socio-economic position,
culture and social backgrounds (Tonder and Jurvelius, 2004), as well as
the degree of satisfaction with the recreational experience (Torbidoni,
3.2.4. Valuation and economics
Most publications in this category encompassed studies about
people's preferences and their willingness to pay (WTP) for particular
protection measures or management plans in Natura 2000 sites
(Grammatikopoulou and Olsen, 2013; Hoyos et al., 2012; Jones et al.,
2011; Li et al., 2004; Rekola et al., 2000; Strange et al., 2007). Moreover,
some studies investigated the costs of particular measures and activities
in the sites (Jacobsen et al., 2013; Lee, 2001), services and benets from
Natura 2000 (Cruz et al., 2011) and cost-effectiveness or efciency of
Natura 2000 (Jantke et al., 2010; Wätzold et al., 2010; Wätzold and
Schwerdtner, 2005), particularly with regard to conservation funding
(Lung et al., 2014; Santana et al., 2014).
Even though people often had positive attitudes towards proposed
conservation measures (Grammatikopoulou and Olsen, 2013; Pouta et
al., 2000), their WTP depended on different factors, such as the ability
of the conservation programme to take into account the rights of land-
owners, the respondents' opinion about the importance of preserving
species and biotopes (Pouta et al., 2000), their level of knowledge
about species to be protected (Strange et al., 2007), and the level of
trust towards particular options (Jones et al., 2011). Also socio-demo-
graphics were important predictors of the WTP, as young, high-income
and urban populations show stronger support for conservation (Pouta
116 M. Blicharska et al. / Biological Conservation 199 (2016) 110122
et al., 2000).Moreover, respondents with lexicographic preferences for
nature rights were willing to pay much more for conservation than
those with preferences for property rights (Rekola et al., 2000).
Relatively few studies (3 out of 16) focused on the benets from
Natura 2000. Cruz et al. (2011) outlined ecosystem services provided
by a Special Protected Area in the Azores Islands, such as those related
to water provision, quality and regulation, and also underlined the
role of Natura 2000 in job provision. Other studies showed that the
non-use values of the protected areas can exceed the use values
(Hoyos et al., 2012; Strange et al., 2007).
Studies that focused on cost-effectiveness of Natura 2000's imple-
mentation and functioning were scarce (Wätzold and Schwerdtner,
2005). Wätzold et al. (2010) pointed to lack of long-term funding,
wrong allocation of funds between different tasks when designing and
implementing management plans, and costly EU requirements on mon-
itoring as key problems. Lung et al. (2014) concluded that the distribu-
tion of EU biodiversity funding was generally well aligned with the
existing Natura 2000 network, but not with the future needs linked to
climate change. Jantke et al. (2010) showed that the current Natura
2000 network does not cover well all endangered wetland vertebrate
species. They estimated that additional 3 million ha of protected areas
would be required to achieve coverage of all important species, at an es-
timated cost of 107 million Euros per year.
We identied only one study on economic incentives supporting
Natura 2000 implementation(Anthon et al., 2010). The paper presented
theoretical justication for using contracts when implementing the net-
work in forest areas and discussed different mechanism of payment
used in Natura 2000 contracts.
3.2.5. Legal issues
Publications about legal issues mostly investigated national-level
enforcement of Natura2000 legislation, particularly with regard to En-
vironmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The general view was that
Natura 2000legislation was still not fully incorporated into national leg-
islations (Vaiškūnaitėet al., 2012) although clear improvements could
be observed (Christensen, 2006). It was proposed that specic socio-
legal conditions must be fullled for a better implementation and func-
tioning of the Natura 2000 legislation, such as e.g. capacity of the public
interest groups and their access to national courts or the way in which
European provisions are interpreted by national courts (Slepcevic,
2009). A study by Marandi et al. (2014) suggested that protection
should be actually commenced as soon as a specic area is proposed
for inclusion in the Natura 2000 network.
Other studies investigated the effectiveness of the Natura 2000 leg-
islation. For example, Leone and Lovreglio (2004) described it as one
of the most important building blocks contributing to conservation,
and Mallard and François (2013) concluded that the Natura 2000 net-
work is the most effective instrument for conservation in relation to
road planning in France. However, they criticised the fact that the road
construction permits can be issuedfor imperative reason of major pub-
lic interest, which limits the power of the Natura 2000 legal require-
ments in practice. Weaknesses of the national Natura 2000 legislation
could be also observed in Lithuanian road planning, where EIA proce-
dures and principles did not comply with EU requirements regarding
the biodiversity impact assessment of roads (Vaiškūnaitėet al., 2012).
Two studies considered legal issues related to marine conservation
within Natura 2000. While Metcalfe et al. (2013) highlighted criticisms
against the Habitats Directive as being ill-suited for marine conserva-
tion, Rees et al. (2013) claimed that site integrityand favourable con-
servation statusare powerful legal terms that can facilitate effective
marine conservation if fully transposed into the legislation of the EU
Member States.
The remaining studies investigated the extent to which legal re-
quirements regarding Natura 2000 incorporate considerations for
some particular issues, such as climate change (Cliquet, 2014; Jackson,
2011) or the provision of ecosystem services (Kistenkas, 2014).
According to Cliquet (2014), although the Natura 2000 legislation
does not explicitly mention climate change, it contain[s] sufcient
tools to deal with the effects of climate change. Still, Cliquet (2014) ar-
gued that these tools have been insufciently implemented so far and
provided recommendations for improvement (see Table in online Ap-
pendix). On the contrary, Jackson (2011) suggested that legislation
linked to Natura 2000 may potentially undermine climate change miti-
gation efforts by challenging many renewable energy projects. The au-
thor proposed to broaden the range of acceptable alternatives, and
saw much potential in combining lower-impact renewable energy pro-
jects with Natura 2000 protection. Kistenkas (2014) advocated incorpo-
ration of the ecosystem services concept into EU's nature conservation
law, emphasising that the present legislation is too rigid to enable prop-
er assessment of these services.
3.2.6. Governance
The main focus of the papers in this category was on the effects of
the implementation of Natura 2000 and, particularly, on the accompa-
nying governance shifts. They described the general shift towards in-
creased inclusion of more relevant stakeholders (Ferranti et al., 2014),
the emergence of multilevel governance and an associated increase in
implementation legitimacy (Niedziałkowski et al., 2012; Rauschmayer,
2009) with important input from environmental non-governmental or-
ganisations (NGOs) (Börzel and Buzogány, 2010; Cent et al., 2013;
Weber and Christophersen, 2002). For example, both in Poland and
Hungary, NGOs contributed strongly to the selection of Natura 2000
sites (Cent et al., 2013). In the course of action, the agendas and actions
may change, which cancontribute to increase in professionalization and
institutionalisation of civil society groups (Börzel and Buzogány, 2010).
However, this does not always result in sustainable cooperative state-
society relations, particularly when both state actors and civil society
are weak (Börzel and Buzogány, 2010). For example, CentralEastern Eu-
ropean countries (CEE) are still characterised bytop-down policy mak-
ing. Here, conict is still the main driver of the implementation of
participatory processes (Rauschmayer, 2009), although there has been
a recent shift to more multilevel governance in decision making
(Niedziałkowskiet al., 2012) and growing importance of NGOs in biodi-
versity conservation (Cent et al., 2013).
In Romania, Stringer and Paavola (2013) observed a lack of NGO in-
volvement in the implementation of Natura 2000 and generally limited
experience in public participation. They suggested that this is due to his-
torical legacies of low participation and government reluctance towards
more inclusive governance. Even in cases where governance shifts can
be observed, there can be a gap between the rhetoric and practice of in-
clusive governance (Rauschmayer, 2009). Nevertheless, Börzel and
Buzogány(2010) argued that an effective implementation of EU policies
requires departure from top-down centralised steering, and that it de-
mands meaningful inclusion of non-state stakeholders. Such shift can
also address the existing problem of low acceptance of EU conservation
policies, particularly among landowners (Weber and Christophersen,
3.2.7. Policy integration
This relatively small category included ve papers that looked into
integration of nature conservation policies concerning Natura 2000
with policies from other sectors. It was shown that policies and debates
on issues other than conservation, e.g. agricultural land use (Koutseris,
2006), climate change (de Koning et al., 2014; Roggema, 2009), or
noise protection (Votsi et al., 2014b) can affect conservation and man-
agement under Natura 2000 network. Thus better integration of differ-
ent policies and Natura 2000 was advocated (Roggema, 2009; Votsi et
al., 2014b).
3.2.8. Conservation priority setting
Several (4) papers discussed Natura 2000 implementation from the
perspective of prioritization or systematic conservation planning. It was
117M. Blicharska et al. / Biological Conservation 199 (2016) 110122
argued that implementation of the network should make better use of
systematic conservation planning (Gaston et al., 2008) incorporating
socio-economic indices or human related criteria (Giakoumi et al.,
2011; Tsianou et al., 2013) to facilitate the achievement of conservation
goals. Thismay lead to very different outcomes on the ground compared
to less systematic approaches. For example, by using spatial prioritiza-
tion software including innovative socio-economic cost indices in the
eastern Mediterranean Sea, Giakoumi et al. (2011) showed that only a
few of the sites selected through the systematic approach overlapped
with those previously identied in an unsystematic way.
3.2.9. Participation evaluation
Four studies directly evaluated the participation processes related to
Natura 2000 either during the designation of the network
(Apostolopoulouet al., 2012; Cent et al., 2014), or development and im-
plementation of management plans (Enengel et al., 2014; Young et al.,
2013). The general picture was one of relatively low prevalence of par-
ticipatory practices in Natura 2000. These were commonly rather super-
cial, operating mostly on paper (Apostolopoulou et al., 2012), and did
not enable all relevant stakeholders to exert meaningful participation
(Cent et al., 2014). The process of participation was usually steered in
a top-down manner, with highly asymmetric power distribution
among the involved actors. The governmental actors were the ones de-
ciding who may participate and in what form (Apostolopoulou et al.,
2012; Cent et al., 2014), aiming at fullling legal requirements or the
needs of the organisers rather than empowering the participants
(Cent et al., 2014). Even when theparticipation process was in principle
open to everyone, a need for broader involvement of local people was
expressed (Enengel et al., 2014). In addition, in some cases there was
a lack of formal governance structures that would require procedures
ofparticipationindecisionmaking(Apostolopoulou et al., 2012). Over-
lapping responsibilities of management agencies, governance fragmen-
tation and heavy bureaucracy led to many parallel co-decision
procedures for a specic site, causing problems in terms of accountabil-
ity and legitimacy of the process (Apostolopoulou et al., 2012). More-
over, lack of precise information and trust was identied as a barrier
to a more effective participation process (Enengel et al., 2014; Young
et al., 2013).
Notwithstanding the above mentioned shortcomings, in three of the
four studies in this category theparticipation process was deemed pos-
itive at least to some extent by the relevant stakeholders, as it increased
their knowledge about and overall satisfaction with the Natura 2000
network (Cent et al., 2014), contributing to attitude changes towards
the network (Young et al., 2013), and allowed the participants to con-
tribute with their own knowledge and experiences (Enengel et al.,
4. Discussion
4.1. Main ndings and their implications
The reviewed literature showed a very wide scopeof topics,indicat-
ing that the social dimension of Natura 2000 is complex and multidi-
mensional, and varies among EU countries. The introduction of Natura
2000 met the opposition of various stakeholder groups in almost all
Member States. Thus, an implementation of Natura 2000 policy may re-
quire a denite shift towards recognition of a wide range of social as-
pects relevant to the particular contexts of individual countries. One of
the most conspicuous aspects identied by our review was the question
of public participation or, broadly, stakeholder involvement. There were
relatively few papers that focused mostly on public participation and its
role (included in Participation evaluationcategory). Still, in several cat-
egories of papers such as e.g. Conservation conicts,Managementor
Perceptions, this issue was mentioned. The reviewed papers indicated
a general trend towards more inclusive approaches in implementation
and management of Natura 2000, practically at all stages. However,
stakeholder involvement, especially at the local level, was reported to
be still of relatively small magnitude and low quality, and numerous
challenges were identied.Evenifnewmodesofgovernanceemerged
during the implementation and more power was given to non-state
stakeholders such as NGOs or private landowners (Cent et al., 2013;
Niedziałkowski et al., 2012) the effect was not always enduring.
Sotirov et al. (2015) called such effect symbolic transformation,
where informal institution and practical behaviour did not change in
line with formal domestic policy and institutions. This was particularly
evident for the CEE countries that still bear some legacies of their com-
munist past, characterised by top-down governance and practically no
tradition of a broad stakeholder inclusion, especially those from non-
public sector (Cherp, 2001; Kluvánková-Oravská et al., 2009). Yet,
many studies underlined that meaningful participation is a key to suc-
cessful Natura 2000 implementation and functioning and a necessary
ingredient for efcient management of the sites. This is particularly im-
portant inthe case of private land (e.g. farmland),as private landowners
seem to be the most reluctant group in regard to the implementation of
Natura 2000 requirements, due to potential limitations on land use
(Geitzenauer et al., 2016). On the other hand, local governments seem
to be a crucial group in the network's implementation and functioning,
because Natura 2000 is in practice governed at the municipality level.
Our review revealed that although Natura 2000 was generally per-
ceived as a useful conservation approach, there were also many nega-
tive perceptions of the network. The network was seen by many as an
impediment to economic development. However, recent research
from Poland (including all municipalities with at least one site of Natura
2000) did not support the assertion that the network was a signicant
negative barrier to economic development (Gutowska et al., unpub-
lished). Indeed, a majority of municipalities were able to overcome
the potential economic barriers, in most cases thanks to an operative
local government. Our analysis showed, however, that the overall low
representativeness and quality of stakeholder involvement could have
greatly contributed to negative perceptions of Natura 2000, resulting
in challenges in the network's implementation and functioning.
Another important obstacle reported in several studies was the low
exibility of the Natura 2000 regulations and their implementing au-
thorities. It was emphasised that the local context matters, and hence
that decisions based solely on strict rules and templates may not always
be appropriate. This is particularly important with regard to the devel-
opment of management plans for particular sites. Again, a participatory
approach to management planning, with meaningful involvement of all
relevant stakeholders, was suggested as a key component. A wide range
of socio-cultural, institutional and discursive factors may inuence the
probability of success or failure of policy implementation, and thus tak-
ing them into considerations is essential (Hilding-Rydevik and
Bjarnadottir, 2007; Runhaar, 2009). Implementation and functioning
of Natura 2000 in various Member States is linked to multiple processes
at differentpolicy levels and depends on case-specic interplay (Borrass
et al., 2015). A large diversity of approaches to implementation can be
seen as a strength, as it can enable learning for improved future func-
tioning of Natura 2000 (Winkel et al., 2015). However, to utilise this po-
tential, there is a need for improved platforms and mechanisms of
learning across the Member States (Winkel et al., 2015).
Some studies underlined the temporal aspects of Natura 2000 im-
plementation. As Natura 2000 was implemented very quickly in many
countries, it was not surprising that the process was not ideal (Kati et
al., 2015). However, as Europe currently faces the next step of the
network's implementation, i.e. creation and implementation of man-
agement plans for specic sites, the process could be improved by tak-
ing better consideration of the local context. Guidelines concerning
organisation of the stakeholder involvement process (e.g. Bots et al.,
2011; Hiedanpää, 2002) could be helpful in that respect.
Finally, the reviewhas shown many implementation problems relat-
ed to the low capacity of local actors. This suggests that a better ow of
know-how from the EU to the local level, a larger number of better
118 M. Blicharska et al. / Biological Conservation 199 (2016) 110122
qualied staff and adequate funding are necessary components of suc-
cessful implementation and functioning of the network. Intheir survey
of conservation scientists on the functioning of Natura 2000 implemen-
tation, Kati et al. (2015) also underlined the low political will of both na-
tional and local authorities to full the goals of Natura 2000. They
underlined the need for mechanisms strengthening the linkages be-
tween EU policy and national, regional and local administration levels.
4.2. Research gaps
Our analysis has shown unequal distribution of social-science re-
search about Natura 2000 among the different EU countries. In general,
there were fewer studies addressing the countries that entered the EU
in 2004 or later (i.e. the non-EU-15 countries). Obviously, this could
be a result of a later implementation of Natura 2000 in these countries,
leading to a delay in associated research. However, as discussed by
Popescu et al. (2014), this issue is more complex. According to these au-
thors, the newEU countries only lagged behind EU-15 by a relatively
short time (3 to 5 years) in the designation of Natura 2000 sites. Never-
theless, even this short time lag could have contributed to the observed
differences in research effort. An additional contributing factor could be
the relatively lower levels of research funding in the countries in eco-
nomic transition compared to the EU-15 countries. However, there
were also exceptions, where some of the late-accession countries (e.g.
Poland) were represented in more papers than some of theEU-15 coun-
tries, which possibly could be explained by the higher importance of
particular social issues in these countries (e.g. linked to more conictual
situations), or the presence of particularlyproductive research groups in
some countries. Moreover, it must be keptin mind that our review only
includes peer-reviewed scientic articles in English. This could have led
to some bias, as some issues may have been covered in the grey litera-
ture or in references published in other languages. Particularly, this
could have led to underrepresentation of ndings of practical relevance,
such as e.g. local-specic challenges faced by various stakeholders
groups (e.g. the site managers) or best-practice solutions to particular
cases on the ground. Still, our review presents a reliable overview of
the body of knowledge which is broadly available to the international
scientic community. As such, it could contribute to the EU tness
check and to the recommendations for improving Natura 2000 imple-
mentation and functioning; however, one should keep in mind the lim-
itations of such review, and whenever possible complement our
ndings with existing local recommendations and guidelines.
Several additional gaps could be identied in the body of social-sci-
ence research concerning Natura 2000. First of all, in spite of the widely
recognised importance of the participation of various stakeholders in
the implementation and operation of the network, relatively few stud-
ies have evaluated in detail theparticipation processes linked to Natura
2000. It is possible that such information could be found in grey litera-
ture for the local studies but such literature was not a focus of our re-
view. Particularly, there is a need for more research on the importance
of participation for actual conservation outcomes, i.e. the extent to
which participation affects biodiversity on the ground. Rauschmayer
et al. (2009) suggested that both the process and outcomes of natural
resources governance need tobe investigated if weare to judge its effec-
tiveness. In the case of participation, some studies evaluated the process
itself (e.g. in terms of good or deliberative participation), but its effects
on biodiversity were rarely scrutinised (Reed, 2008). Young et al.
(2013) have investigated the correlation between the quality of stake-
holders' involvement and the future biodiversity outcomes as perceived
by the stakeholders, but they could nd clear relationship between the
process quality andthe perceived outcome only in some cases.Although
it was conrmed that in general a better quality of participation had a
positive impact on social outcomes and particularly trust and justice,
more studies are needed to conrm if the improved participation also
leads to improved ecological outcomes. As public participation is still
rather undeveloped in the majority of the EU countries, insights from
such studies could provide useful knowledge for improving the further
steps of Natura 2000 implementation and functioning. However, one
needs to keep in mind that not only the participation process, but also
different external factors may inuence the ultimate conservation out-
comes. Nevertheless, participatory approaches could beuseful in the de-
velopment of management plans for Natura 2000 (Hochkirch et al.,
2013), as they increase trust among stakeholders and enable better in-
tegration of their differentvalues, potentially allowing for better conser-
vation outcomes (Williams, 2011; Young et al., 2013).
Better participation may practically lead to improved engagement in
conservation and increased awareness of the conservation needs. Also,
participatory process may contribute to Natura 2000 managers' under-
standing of the potential reasons for the resistance towards the net-
work. At the same time, there is a need for studies investigating the
potential effects of education and increasing awareness on people's per-
ceptionsof Natura 2000 and potential attitudechanges. Although cogni-
tive approaches alone proved not to be sufcient in furthering attitude
change (Heberlein, 2012), they are an important component of strate-
gies for dealing with environmental issues (Gardner and Stern, 1996).
The importance of increasing the public awareness on Natura 2000,es-
pecially at the local level, was also underlined in a large survey of con-
servation scientists recently carried out by Kati et al. (2015).Our
review has shown that there is still low acceptance of the Natura 2000
network in society, and a lack of knowledge on the network operation
can be a factor contributing to it. As social acceptance is an important
prerequisite for the implementation of conservation policies, there is a
need for increased efforts, e.g. in terms of education and information,
aiming at raising this acceptance (Kati et al., 2015). Still, although edu-
cation and information are important, they are not sufcient for facili-
tating social acceptance. There is thus a need to also explore what
other factors (in addition to low awareness) contribute to the resistance
against the network in many places.
In addition, the low acceptance of the network by landowners may
suggest that there is a need for compensatory measures, such as reim-
bursement of the conservation costs incurred by the private land
owners (Kamal and Grodzinska-Jurczak, 2014; Schröter-Schlaack et
al., 2014). For example, Stancioiu et al. (2010) suggested the need for
compensatory nancial mechanisms to cover the costs of Natura 2000
for the land owners. Also, conservation scientists surveyed by Kati et
al. (2015) highlighted the need for an independent funding mechanism
entirely devoted to supporting implementation of Natura 2000 goals.
Also Winkel et al. (2015) suggested the need for development of a coher-
ent funding strategy for Natura 2000 based on comprehensive assess-
ment of both current spending and nancial needs for the network. This
may be particularly important for the CEE countries with extensive rural
areas, large coverage of Natura 2000 sites and lower level of economic de-
velopment compared to the EU-15 countries (Pavasars, 2013; Stancioiu et
al., 2010). To design effective nancing mechanisms that support the net-
work, we see a need for more studies analysing the effects of alternative
compensatory approaches in a range of socio-economic settings, on e.g.
acceptance of conservation or biodiversity outcomes; however our re-
view have revealed that such studies are still rare.
The issue of effectiveness has been largely neglected in the social re-
search about Natura 2000. Very few studies looked at the costs or the
benets of the network, and comprehensive economic analyses were
entirely missing in the reviewed publications. Surprisingly, the concept
of ecosystem services was very rarely utilised in social-science research
about Natura 2000, although it may seem particularly well tted to
analysing the complex socio-ecological systems of Natura 2000 sites
(Primmer et al., 2015; Soane et al., 2012). Ecosystem service research
could, for example, aim to identify and quantify potential benets
from the protection of the Natura 2000 sites, which in term could con-
tribute to wider acceptance of the network (Cruz et al., 2011). Research
on the effectiveness of the Natura 2000 network should also involve
studies developing and testing indicators of effectiveness, including
both ecological indicators as well as indicators of the social dimension
119M. Blicharska et al. / Biological Conservation 199 (2016) 110122
encompassing human actions, institutions, organisations and networks
(Salafsky et al., 2002). Such indicators are urgently needed to evaluate
the success (or failure) of the network.
Conservation does not operate in an emptyspace. Rather, it is an in-
tegral part of complex socio-ecological systems. Consequently, insuf-
cient consideration of social aspects risks undermining conservation
effectiveness, while integrating local human context in the protected
areas facilitates achieving biological conservation and socioeconomic
development outcomes (Oldekop et al., 2016). Although Natura 2000
is generally seen as a successful conservation endeavour (Kati et al.,
2015), our review points to different shortcomings affecting practically
all EU Member States. Social science research has a great potential to
contribute to the knowledge basenecessary for improving the situation.
Particularly, the knowledge derived from the social science investiga-
tions could contribute to the ongoing Natura 2000 tness check (EC,
2015b), by pointing to the areas in the network's implementation and
functioning that need to be improved.
This work was made possible thanks to nancial support from the
Kempe Foundations (grant number SMK-1339) to JMR. We would like
to thank three anonymous reviewers whose comments greatly contrib-
uted to the improvement of this paper.
Appendix A. Supplementary data
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122 M. Blicharska et al. / Biological Conservation 199 (2016) 110122
... Conservation social science is a recent discipline and uses social science to improve conservation practice, from individual to community, and at local-to-international levels [15,17,18]. This concept combines sociology, psychology, and communication, to provide a human dimension for natural resource management [17]. ...
... If provided with the right conservation message, the community and private sector could become actively involved during the planning, decision making, and evaluation stages, and raise their moral beliefs and values toward pro-conservation behavior [52][53][54]. Voicing opinions for conservation practices in line with social-economic needs, and built on local knowledge, would gain traction for supporting conservation [18,55]. ...
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... The rationale for studying scientific works that focus on climatic or hydrological changes is that these elements influence human-induced landscape dynamics. Additionally, the literature review included papers on the regulations specific to Natura 2000 (Blicharska et al., 2016;Louette et al., 2011;Tsiafouli et al., 2013) and Ramsar sites (Bridgewater & Kim, 2021;Hamman et al., 2019;Kingsford et al., 2021), as well as landscape and land use changes that may be traced back to the associated close to nature management (RIS, 2020). ...
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Wetlands are at the top of the list in terms of valuable ecosystem services, at the same time being one of the most sensitive ecosystems that are subject to human-induced changes. The delicate balance between their ever-changing waterlogged and dry areas, together with the associated rich flora and fauna, are easily disturbed by human drivers, which are also responsible for long-term land use conversions. This paper aims to 1) document the spatial dynamics of the wetland areas and lakes in the Jijia-Iași Wetlands Ramsar Site, using historical cartographic materials and modern land use data, and 2) pinpoint the anthropic drivers that shaped these dynamics, via a literature review. This Ramsar Site constitutes an eloquent example of a wetland landscape that was mainly shaped by human intervention. A timeline is used to put into perspective the resulting maps and synthesised findings, and several inferences regarding the past, present, and future sensitivity of the wetlands in the study area are formulated. In 1935–2018, the two analysed elements followed opposite trends: while the wetland areas decreased from 10.61% of the study area to 4.79%, the lake features increased in size, from 0.68% of the Jijia-Iași Wetlands to 10.84%. In order to explain these changes, anthropogenic interventions were divided into three types of management (detrimental high human pressure, beneficial high human pressure, and beneficial low human pressure). In the long term scientific works, the unbalanced dynamics proved to be beneficial to the environment, as the construction of water collections determined a biodiversity boost and the designation of the study area as a Ramsar Site. This paper complements the scientific work focusing on “the Delta of Moldavia”, highlighting the practical implications of the management strategies applied during the reference period.
... We are inspired by those advancing the social sciences in marine and working landscapes , landscape conservation efforts in Europe (Blicharska et al 2016), and marine protected areas (Gruby et al 2016). We echo calls to governments and organizations alike to increase engagement with, and funding of, conservation social science research and, by way of such, the pursuit of interdisciplinary science and knowledge in landscape conservation initiatives and mountain regions. ...
... Boletín de la Asociación de Geógrafos Españoles, (98) Los beneficios de usar herramientas PPGIS incluyen la comprensión de las dinámicas espaciales y temporales, beneficiarse del conocimiento del usuario, incorporar los valores de la población local, aumentar el compromiso social y superar los enfoques de arriba hacia abajo (Palacio Buendía et al., 2021;Plieninger et al., 2013;Blicharska et al., 2016). Para la presente investigación, el mapeo participativo se llevó a cabo mediante el uso de la herramienta Survey 123 ArcGIS online dentro de la plataforma ArcGIS de ESRI® (Vavrouchová et al., 2021). ...
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Las ciudades latinoamericanas crecen hacia las periferias, fragmentando el conector con su contexto natural. Un caso representativo es el área metropolitana de Mendoza (Argentina), con más del 60 % de la población provincial. Su piedemonte, entre el límite oeste del conglomerado metropolitano y los Andes, es uno de los ecosistemas más estudiados: por su fragilidad y amenaza; y la importancia funcional, ambiental y paisajística. Esta investigación incorpora el paisaje como elemento transversal en el ordenamiento del piedemonte, cartografiando los valores intangibles del paisaje, generalmente excluidos de las variables para la gestión territorial.
... And instrumentally, positive fair judgments among local residents are frequently linked with higher local acceptance and compliance with conservation (Lind and Tom, 1988;Davenport et al., 2007;Suiseeya, 2014). By contrast, negative perceptions can potentially lead to social conflicts and resistance (Schlosberg, 2007;Hirsch et al., 2011;Blicharska et al., 2016), which may decrease conservation effectiveness as a consequence (Martin, 2017;Hamann et al., 2018;Leach et al., 2018;Strzelecka et al., 2022). To prevent such social deficiencies, concerted efforts have been formed among researchers and practitioners to strive for more equitably managed conservation areas. ...
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Social equity is essential in the governance of protected areas (PAs), as ignoring such consideration can lead to resistance and jeopardize conservation objectives. However, more research is required to understand the spatial heterogeneity of perceived social equity and its underlying spatial factors. Using a survey of 361 respondents, we presented spatial distribution patterns of perceived equity by kernel density estimation (KDE) in Giant Panda National Park, China. The regression analysis showed that local residents who live closer to the PA boundary are more likely to develop negative responses and those who with easy access to tourism spots have more positive procedural and distributional perceptions. Notably, the proximity to the PA authority decreases locals' perceptions of fairness in all aspects, which is potentially due to the opaque participative channels provided by the PA authority. We argue that those spatial differentials in fairness perceptions are driven by the intrinsic discrepancy of biodiversity protection requirements and the unevenly distributed consequences of management policies. Key steps to advance social equity considerations include multi-industry guidance, extending participative channels, and co-producing better compensation plans. Herein, this study appeals to a greater focus on the spatial aspect of social equity issues in PAs.
... This suggests that the influence of educative level on residents' perspectives is not just related to the impact of education on employment prospects and income, but that cultural and social aspects of educative level may be more important, such as personal values and awareness of environmental issues. The influence of formal and informal education, and of prior knowledge and awareness on public support for protected areas and perception of their social impacts is complex and multifaceted [65][66][67]. Further research should investigate the extent to which educational level affects perception of impacts as a personal factor that affects how people evaluate their environment and local landscape, or to what extent it is a contextual factor that affects their positionality in society, and so their ability to access the benefits and avoid the costs. ...
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Protected Areas are a cornerstone of biodiversity conservation policies, providing significant benefits both for nature and people. This study investigates the diversity, extent, and social and spatial distribution of the social outcomes of the Eifel National Park in Germany and how these are linked with the level of public support for the park, as well as the effect of COVID-19 on these social impacts. Structured questionnaires were distributed to local residents living inside or near the national park. According to our study the national park is rated positively by the majority of respondents, and provides a range of benefits, but also costs, to local communities. There are also variations in how these impacts are distributed across different sub-communities, between residents and visitors, and across geographical locations in and around the park, and there is a significant relationship between local people’s perceptions of some social impacts and their level of support for the national park’s existence. Evidence from the COVID-19 pandemic suggests that, whilst living in close proximity to the park enhances the quality of life of local residents, any future increases in tourism may need careful planning and management if they are not to erode local people’s quality of life.
... The main threats to biodiversity are deforestation, agricultural pollution, the reduction of pastures and increasing areas of monocultures [44,[69][70][71]. To preserve and restore ecosystems and biodiversity, the expansion of the Natura 2000 network is the most important tool, which mainly focuses on the conservation and restoration of biodiversity [102][103][104]. Furthermore, reducing the use of pesticides and fertilisers in agriculture is also essential to preserve the biodiversity and ecosystems that are polluted by agriculture. ...
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The Green Deal is an ambitious European development strategy that aims to create a carbon-neutral and environmentally friendly economy. This strategy encompasses key environmental policies such as climate change, circular economy, and sustainable development. Due to its broad and comprehensive definition and sectoral coverage, the European Union’s Bioeconomy Strategy, which is linked to the supply and demand of natural resources, is also crucial to the implementation of the Green Deal. However, there has been very little evaluation of the role of bioeconomy development in the European Green Deal. Therefore, by comparing the documents of these policies, the aim of this paper is to identify the main roles of the bioeconomy in the European Green Deal and overlaps, highlighting the opportunities and challenges of the implementation of these policies. The bioeconomy goals overlap with the European Green Deal targets. Looking at the eight main goals of the European Green Deal, all of them are related to the implementation of the bioeconomy. Preserving biodiversity and Farm to Fork actions are directly linked to the development of the bioeconomy, while the residual actions are partly linked to this development. In order to implement the Bioeconomy Strategy and the European Green Deal policy, it is essential to evaluate the vulnerability of biomass to the effects of climate change and the growing food crisis caused by the war in Ukraine. Furthermore, the sustainable use of biomass and the promotion of biomass consumption in the energy, building, and transport sectors need to be examined.
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The Natura 2000 Network, as the European Union's ecological network, aims to ensure the long‐term conservation of Europe's most threatened species and habitats, helping to stop the loss of biodiversity. Based on this assumption, the changes in land cover in the Special Area of Conservation (SAC) of Monchique between 1995 and 2018 are analysed and related to identify favourable and unfavourable policies concerning the habitats and respective species conservation. The most important land covers are compared with the habitats and species legally protected at the National and European level, as well as the Red List of Vascular Flora of Mainland Portugal. As main results can be highlighted the increase in the forest area occupied by species such as Eucalyptus globulus and Pinus pinaster , and a reduction in the areas of grazing and shrub species. Can also be noted an increase in the areas covered by invasive species, which may be associated with the abandonment of rural areas. We identified 21 taxa with high heritage interest in the Monchique SAC, occurring mainly in forest habitats, namely 91E0, 92A0, 9240, 9330 and 9340, which should be considered in the elaboration of future Territorial Management Plans. Thus, it can be concluded that the objectives initially stipulated by the Natura 2000 Network were not fully achieved within the Monchique SAC. Alternative management methods must be studied to allow conservation in a territory with a high land consolidation and low population density.