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Europe’s surprising wildlife comeback- what does it mean for Romania?

Luke Dale-Harris octombrie 5, 2013 Advocacy, Sinteze, Societate/Life
7 comentarii 681 Vizualizari

Last week the unusual happened. Europe received positive news about the environment. Not just a claim that maybe things aren’t quite as bad as we previously thought, but the release of a report which shows, quite clearly, that for many species across large swathes of Europe, things haven’t better for decades.

Commissioned by the Netherland’s based Rewilding Europe and based on over fifty years of monitoring from across the EU, the Wildlife Comeback report details the populations of 38 bird and mammal species, from the imperial eagle to the common crane, the brown bear to the Eurasian beaver. Without exception, the overall European population of all has risen, sometimes as dramatically as by 3000%. And there are more, claims Frans Scheper, manager of Rewilding Europe. ‘At least a hundred species would show similar trends, but the limits of time and resources meant that, for the moment, these (38 species) are all we could focus on.’

In the west of Europe, the report was met with almost unanimous approval from both the press and the public; unsurprising, perhaps, given the relentless negativity that we have come to expect from environmental news. But its significance goes further than this. Rewilding as a concept has been growing rapidly in popularity among environmentalists in recent years. It is based on the idea that, given the right ingredients and then left to its own devices, the ecosystem will restore itself to its natural equilibrium; something far richer and more diverse than anything we consider as ‘wild’ today. The report has been held up as proof that not only is the idea possible, but even without heavy handed human intervention, nature is prone to this course anyway. If we let it, a mass restoration of ecosystems is indeed plausible and, as George Monbiot puts it, ‘offers hope where there was little hope before.’

On the other side of the continent however, the reaction to the report was more muted, being largely ignored by the press and greeted with suspicion by many environmentalists. This may have something to do with the fact that, while species populations increased when taken as an average across the whole of Europe, in Eastern and south Eastern Europe, the populations were invariably reported as in decline. But this is only part of a bigger picture. The report, and the concept of rewilding as a whole, takes a very western centric view of nature conservation. The focus is on wildlife reserves – pockets of biodiversity on the fragments of land deemed unprofitable by a system of intensive agriculture. The animals studied are those that live best in these conditions; large, rare species who benefit enormously from conservation in small areas and capture the public imagination so well.

This is an approach that takes as its starting point the assumption that the majority of the landscape is, and must be, dominated by the barren monocultures of intensive agriculture and that wildlife is condemned to thrive only in its fringes. But for much of Eastern Europe, this reality doesn’t apply, or at least not yet. In Romania and Bulgaria, as well as large parts of their neighbouring countries, the countryside is still composed largely of mosaics of small farms, managed with the traditional methods that have long allowed them to exist side by side with high levels of biodiversity. In the hills and forests, not yet ravaged by forestry and development to the same extent as seen in much of Europe, there live in relative abundance many of the same animals that are now being reintroduced in the west. Even with the populations in decline, the majority of species mentioned in the report still live in far greater numbers in the Carpathian region than they do west of it. Of the thousands of more common species which require larger habitats than national parks, the population disparities are even greater.

Yet the landscape is changing. Propelled by CAP subsidies which reward productivity over else, the small farms are giving way under pressure from international agri-business and the large landowners who comprise only 0.9% of Romanian farmers yet receive over 50% of CAP payouts (the figures are similar in Bulgaria). Unable to compete, young farmers are fleeing to the city or west for work, while the land they leave is either swallowed up by larger farms or left abandoned. Next year, under pressure from Brussels, a reform will open up the land market so foreign industry can buy directly from local owners in the new member states, something that is currently possible but difficult. It is feared this will speed up the process of agricultural intensification dramatically. Naturally, declines in biodiversity will follow.

As consolation, the new member states are granted the same, or similar, wildlife conservation subsidies and infrastructure as the rest of Europe, of which the Natura 2000 network of protected sites is perhaps most important. But evidently this is not enough to prevent the inevitable wildlife loss that comes with blindly following the open market through the countryside.

When an approach to nature conservation is most beneficial to the countries with the least wildlife, it has to be wondered whether this is the best path to be following for all. While the Wildlife Comeback report may be cause for celebration in Western Europe, in the east it is reason for concern. As with the CAP, one size does not fit all. Rather than building from the baseline of the assumed ecological aridity of the future, here we should be looking at retaining and building on what we already have.

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Currently there are "7 comments" on this Article:

  1. Virgil Iordache Virgil Iordache spune:

    Thanks, you offered a very useful perspective on our environmental realities. Unless a payment systems for ecosystem services from West to the East would be enforced I see no incentives for preserving biodiversity here more or in a different style the in the West. This is just a special case of the global problem, but with perhaps more chances to be solved. Are you or your peers in the position to lobby for an Ecosystem Services Market Directive, one regulating the trans-boundary aspects and providing the framework for the transfer of money for ecosystem services between regions of development within the same country? Without a top-down approach, withour a directive linking biodiversity management with water framework directive, EIA, SEA and others like this any hope that at national level in Romania will arise institutions for an environmental management more effective than in the West is wishful thinking. With best regards,

    • Please consider as the revised comment the text below:

      This article offers a very useful perspective on our environmental realities starting from a recent report on species diversity, and suggests that in Romania the management of biodiversity should be approached differently than in the West, in order to preserve the much richer species and ecosystem diversity. However, unless a payments system for ecosystem services from West to the East would be enforced I see no incentives for preserving biodiversity here more or in a different style than in the West. This is just a special case of the global problem, but with perhaps more chances to be solved. May be the author or its peers are in the position to lobby for an Ecosystem Services Market Directive, one regulating the trans-boundary aspects and providing the framework for the transfer of money for ecosystem services between regions of development within the same country. Without a top-down approach, without a directive linking biodiversity management with water framework directive, EIA, SEA and others like these by the money value of ecosystem services any hope that at national level in Romania will arise institutions for an environmental management more effective than in the West is wishful thinking.

      • Barbara spune:

        What do you mean by: “payment systems for ecosystem services from West to the East would be enforced” or “lobby for an Ecosystem Services Market Directive, one regulating the trans-boundary aspects and providing the framework for the transfer of money for ecosystem services”? Are you talking about redistribution of wealth or “taking from the have and giving it to the have nots”? In Das Capital this is called “the expropriation of expropriators”.
        It’s so refreshing to see an environmentalist, inadvertently making the connection between environmentalism and left wing extremism.

        • Virgil Iordache Virgil Iordache spune:

          Thanks for your answer and provocation :)

          I don’t mean what you mean in the above comment, for sure. I am a moderate libertarian with Christian values as a political option, lived in communism time and refuse and resist any come back :)

          I mean payments for what in the Water Framework Directive are implicitly assumed when speaking about environmental costs. This is what Constanza et al. in the journal Nature computed when pricing the nature. Not to say that their way of computing was all ok.

          If some money will not come for preserving the biodiversity based on the values produced by the preserved biodiversity be sure that in four decades Romania, and any other country, will look like a German, Belgian or Dutch landscape. If Europe’s gives them by Life projects and Natura 2000 management projects or gives them by the ecosystem services approach is an institutional option. The point is that those keeping nature untouched should live from money produced by this nature.

          One alternative to a monetary valuation of nature and payment for its services is some kind of ecological anarchysm, protesting against the development of those in areas not yet developed. This kind of approach may be a way of life for some people, but cannot change institutions for the environmental management, because most of the people do not believe in the intrinsic value of nature and whant to live to better standards, as those in the country of the authos of this article.

          So my position is to rely on the relational value of nature (it’s value to people), not on the intrinsic value of nature (it’s value for its own sake). I don’t believe in the reality of the intrinsic value of nature, and I have doubts on its use as a tool for o new kind of moral. As I said, I am Christian.

          Your reaction seems typical for the perception of the monetary approach to the value of nature, and for the rhetoric of development without including the price of nature’s values in the production costs. Then be sure then that nature in its wild state will disappear, and what will not it will be because someones has some costs, direct or as opportunity costs. To put all opporutnity costs in the pockets of the people living in areas with wild nature is a policy they will not accept.

          Take my position as descriptive, not as normative.

          with best regards,

          • Barbara spune:

            It doesn’t matter at all what we think about ourselves but what we say and what we do, and in my neck of the wood it’s called character.
            I’m this, I’m not that or this is not who I am is called small talk…like most of your comment I may ad.

  2. Barbara spune:

    Another piece of evidence to refute left’s political assertion that global warming or: “climate change” is real;….. to be tamper with and ignored by left wing whackos; just as with other facts and data.
    First it was “Global Warming” disproved by evidence of Global Cooling when it became Climate Change (also called seasons or “winter is not like summer”), melting the ice cap when in fact it was gaining ice, false reporting on depletion of polar bear population and not to mention all those embarrassing emails between top climate scientists engaging more in political activism than in science (basically admitting that lack of positive evidence is not a reason to cease the higher moral ground and ease on left wing propaganda.



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Luke Dale-Harris


Luke Dale-Harris

Luke Dale-Harris is a freelance journalist and media editor for Milvus Group, a Romanian ornithological and nature protection organisation Citeste mai departe


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