WWF launches Green Heart of Europe to protect nature across 12 countries



Posted on 10 October 2013  | 
Brown bear (Ursus arctos) running near Zarnesti in the Central Carpathian Mountains, Romania.
© Michel Gunther / WWF-CanonEnlarge
Salamanca/Vienna: WWF launched a new initiative to save and protect nature across 12 countries in Central and Eastern Europe.

The Green Heart of Europe aims to protect the five natural riches of the region: forests, wilderness, large carnivores, rivers and wetlands, and the Danube sturgeon.

WWF launched the Green Heart of Europe at WILD 10, the World Wilderness Congress in Salamanca, Spain, which gathers governments, businesses, conservation and development NGOs, as well as community representatives from around the world to discuss the protection and sustainable development of natural habitats on our planet.

“From the Danube basin to the Carpathian Mountains, our region, the Green Heart of Europe, includes many of the continent’s greatest natural treasures. WWF has been working since the 1990s to save it for the benefit of local people and humanity,” says Andreas Beckmann, Director of WWF’s Danube-Carpathian Programme.

The new WWF initiative covers the largest remaining area of virgin and natural forests in Europe outside of northern Scandinavia and Russia (with the primeval beech forests of Ukraine and Slovakia) and Europe’s most spectacular remaining wilderness areas outside of Russia (including the southern Carpathians and the Danube Delta).

The initiative will see better collaboration among partners such as government, NGOs and local communities as well as ensuring the full implementation of existing tools like regional and international protection frameworks, strong legislation and government commitments to ensure the protection of this diverse region.

The region shelters two-thirds of the European populations of large carnivores such as bears, lynx and wolves.

The Green Heart of Europe also includes most of Europe’s last remaining intact rivers and wetlands, including the globally important Lower Danube Green Corridor and the Mura-Drava-Danube corridor, also known as “Europe’s Amazon.” These waters are home to the Beluga sturgeon, a 7-meter fish that has survived since the time of the dinosaurs, but now teeters on the edge of extinction.

“The people of this region depend on these natural treasures. They provide us with essential goods and services, from timber and fish to clean water and climate regulation, and the essential ‘green infrastructure’ that secures our livelihoods and well-being,” said WWF’s Conservation Director for Central and Eastern Europe, Orieta Hulea.

Unsustainable resource use and poorly planned infrastructure are causing the loss and fragmentation of forests, wetlands and wilderness.

The treasures of the Green Heart of Europe are threatened by illegal and unsustainable logging of virgin and other high conservation value Forests, construction of roads, ski areas and other infrastructure, some of it illegal and much of it poorly planned.

The rampant building of hundreds of large and small hydro and wind-power stations – many with limited benefits in terms of clean energy, but with massive impacts for streams, rivers and wildlife – and unsustainable agricultural practices are also threats.

“We already have many of the tools needed to save the Green Heart of Europe. We have strong legislation, regional and international protection frameworks, government commitments, economic incentives and strong partnerships,” says Beckmann. “Now we need to bring these together and ensure they are fully implemented to achieve their intended purpose.”
Brown bear (Ursus arctos) running near Zarnesti in the Central Carpathian Mountains, Romania.
© Michel Gunther / WWF-Canon Enlarge
Map of The Green Heart of Europe, WWF's initiative across 12 countries in Central and Eastern Europe (with areas shown in numbers)
Map of The Green Heart of Europe, WWF's initiative across 12 countries in Central and Eastern Europe
© WWF Enlarge
River through fir forest, Retezat National Park, Carpathian Mountains, South-West Romania
© Michel Gunther / WWF-Canon Enlarge

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