Key topics for reaching the EU 2020 Biodiversity Target in Flanders, Belgium
Site Protection The approach taken in Flanders is to first set up national goals, which afterwards are translated into site specific goals and later on into measures. This is very transparent for all stakeholders and is based on best available scientific data. However, this process focuses at present only on SACs and overlapping (parts of) SPAs. A similar approach and effort is urgently needed for the remaining (parts of) SPAs. Furthermore, the present process is limited to setting goals only for the habitats and appendix-species inside Natura 2000. Yet, to reach favourable conservation status (FCS) for these habitats and species additional objectives and measures are needed outside Natura 2000. In order to prevent further loss of biodiversity, a similar process is urgently needed for all non-appendix species which are under threat.
It is estimated that about half of the Natura 2000 priorities can be realised on state owned land, managed by the governmental administrations and local authorities. Furthermore, a lot of nature areas and forests are already managed by NGOs and forestry groups and the remainder of the conservation objectives have to be implemented by all stakeholders: ngo’s, governments, private landowners, farmers, industries, …Existing instruments for the latter are mostly on a voluntary basis and limited in time.
The environmental quality that is needed for FCS of fragile habitats cannot be reached without extra site-specific measures in addition to existing generic environmental measures/policies. Agriculture for instance has a huge negative impact (nitrogen deposition) on the environmental quality that is needed to maintain/restore FCS of many habitats and species. At present environmental targets to decrease environmental impact by farmers are not linked to critical levels of fragile habitats, and the instruments to reach these targets are mostly voluntary. The budget for implementing the Rural Development Plan in Flanders is not yet oriented on Natura 2000, and resistance by agricultural lobby to do so in the future is huge. Recently the Flemish environment minister decided to set up a taskforce (with the Netherlands for example) to study how the impact of NOx can be lowered to meet FCS-levels. Similar exercises are being made for other major environmental threats, such as eutrofication and water stress.