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Nature protection in forest management: mandatory and voluntary tools in Europe

Nature is the diversity of living organisms on Earth. It constitutes an essential element for human well-being and for ecosystems services (such as food production, water cycles, soil fertility).
In Europe several studies have demonstrated a steady loss of animal and plant species related to forest, caused for example by intensive land use, invasive alien species introduction, pollution and global warming (EEA short report on Biodiversity, 2008). Maintenance of biodiversity in forests will support its resilience to natural and human pressures. It contributes for example to the mitigation of raising temperatures and to food security.
I have recently been working on several mandatory and voluntary tools supporting nature conservation in forests, and I would like to introduce some of the most important here.

Nowadays, the integration of nature protection measures into forest management planning results as an essential pattern, alike policy developments worldwide. The meaning of safeguarding nature includes the legal establishment of protected areas. This means a site with defined geographical boundaries, in terrestrial and aquatic territories. Besides, these territories have to be managed in a sustainable way to guarantee the  maintenance of environmental functions, economic and cultural aspects for present and future generations.
The synergy of these factors aim to tackle species and habitat loss and to conserve biodiversity, ecosystem services and landscapes values in the long term perspective. Thus, National Parks, Natural Reserves, Special Area of Conservation and so on are established, set up and assessed due to binding national and international agreements for biodiversity conservation.
Furthermore, voluntary tools such as regional and national practical guidelines, and international standards for sustainable forest management are accomplished (e.g. FSC and PEFC), answering the need for local/bottom-up approaches. These tool-kits help foresters, local communities, park managers, owners and policy makers to integrate forest protection concepts into their strategies, supporting the development of a best practice to proceed.
In the European Union, Natura 2000 is the biggest framework for protected areas. A policy tool connecting different Member States; which intents to enhance biodiversity protection, assessing the status of species and habitats, and guarantees the presence of natural ecosystems. The enhancement of harmonized communication across countries, knowledge exchange and capacity building would contribute to effective management across regions. (EEA, 2008)
 To remind yourself the importance of facing sometimes complex environmental polices, challenging decision making and process I suggest to take a minute and “Listen to the trees, to the forest and to the people in the forest; they are dancing” (Jeffrey Campbell, FAO).


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