Consultations on the draft local strategy for the Magura region

On 9th December 2021 the representatives of local municipality authorities and Magura National Park administration, other relevant local stakeholders, and Centralparks experts on sustainable tourism met again at the national park education and visitor centre in Krempna (Poland).

The objective of this additional meeting (not originally planned, but possible due to budget savings made during the previous project implementation phases) was to consult the first draft of the “Strategy for the sustainable development of tourism based on the natural and cultural wealth of Magura National Park and its surroundings” with the members of the local partnership formed under the Centralparks project, involving seven municipalities sharing the national park external buffer zone.

The first draft of this community strategy already accommodates feedback and inputs gathered during the series of 4 thematic workshops, carried out in the Magura region in October 2021. This local strategy shall duly include selected activities recommended under all three dimensions (environmental, economic, and social) and corresponding three strategic objectives (further divided into nine operational objectives) of the draft “Strategy for local sustainable tourism development based on natural and cultural heritage of the Carpathians”, elaborated in 2019-2020 under the Centralparks project (in support for the implementation of the 2011 Protocol on Sustainable Tourism), submitted on 10th June 2021 for its official endorsement to the Parties of the Carpathian Convention. 
The local strategy for the Magura region shall be finalized by the end of January 2022, which will allow its integration with the new local development strategies for the period 2022-2030, to be elaborated and adopted next year by the 7 municipalities surrounding the national park.

Consultations in Krempna were jointly organized by the Ekopsychology Society* and the administration of Magura National Park, in the frame of the pilot action aimed at testing the above Centralparks draft strategy at the local and regional level, according to one of the priorities of the current Polish Presidency of the Carpathian Convention.

* Centralparks project partner, leader of the thematic work package No 1 “Integration of biodiversity conservation and sustainable development in the Carpathian Region”.

Workshop on the newly developed Carpathian Ecosystem Services Toolkit

On the 10th of November 2021, the State Nature Conservancy of the Slovak Republic, in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment of the Slovak Republic and PRONATUR NGO jointly organised a workshop focusing on the Carpathian Ecosystem Services Toolkit, developed within Centralparks. The workshop was hosted in hybrid format, with participants attending on-site in Bratislava as well as online.

Successful knowledge exchange

The experts of the PRONATUR, the Ministry of Environment and the State Nature Conservancy introduced participants to the theme of ecosystem services, and informed about development of the ES assessment in EU and Slovakia. J. Kadlečík presented in short the Centralparks project and the preparation of one of the project´s most important outputs, the Carpathian Ecosystem Services Toolkit (CEST) elaborated in 2020-2021 by a designated transnational thematic task force. One of the main authors of the CEST Mr. J. Černecký of the State Nature Conservancy of the Slovak Republic presented the CEST itself, its content and main chapters. Mr. P. Mederly (Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra and PRONATUR NGO) provided an explanation of the step-by-step approach in the ecosystem services assessment process recommended in the CEST and some examples of ecosystem services assessment in Slovakia.

During the discussion (moderated by P. Semjanová) participants expressed the need for urgent ecosystem services assessment and data availability for the integrated evaluation of the benefits of ecosystem services, especially in national parks and other protected areas related to the planned transformation of nature conservation and administration in Slovakia. Moreover, participants urged the Ministry of Environment and other authorities to continue in the process of mapping and assessment of ecosystem services and speed up these activities. Generally the workshop received a positive feedback and participants expressed their interest in the theme and the CEST itself.

Background

What are ecosystem services?

Ecosystem Services are considered to contribute to ecosystems (natural or semi-natural) and human prosperity (quality of life). Ecosystem services are dependent on natural resources such as soil, air, water, biodiversity and fauna, which are generally described as natural capital. Therefore, simply put, ecosystem services are the “benefits of nature directly or indirectly used by humans“. Through nature and its services, people meet a large part of their needs, in particular:

  • Basic resources needed for survival (food, water, raw materials …)
  • Adequate quality of the environment and its components (air, water, soil, biota and biodiversity …)
  • Socio-cultural superstructure (relaxation, education, spiritual values…)

What is the Carpathian Ecosystem Services Toolkit?

The Carpathian Ecosystem Services Toolkit in an interdisciplinary toolkit developed for managers and analysts, to support the effective assessment of ecosystem services in the Carpathians.

Within the Centralparks project, numerous experts from the Carpathian countries have worked on the Carpathian Ecosystem Services Toolkit (CEST) which is intended to serve as both a guide and a valuable resource for the evidence-based decision-making as well as for the similar management practices not only in the Carpathian region but also in other European countries. It provides a practical set of procedures for understanding what might be gained or lost from a given management choice and the human dimensions of such effects. It can help managers to better comprehend and address potential issues and reduce conflict. As a separate deliverable developed within Centralparks, a step-by-step guidance document to complete a comprehensive ecosystem services assessment has been developed within the Toolkit. This includes guidance about the information, analysis, and process needed, using experience from similar ecosystem services assessments and will depend on what is required to address. 

The Carpathian Ecosystem Services Toolkit will soon be published on the project website, stay tuned!

12th Meeting of the Carpathian Convention Implementation Committee and CNPA SC meeting

From 18th to 19th of November 2021, the Carpathian Convention Implementation Committee and the Secretariat of the Carpathian Convention organized the 12th Carpathian Convention Implementation Committee meeting in Krakow, Poland.

The first day sessions focused on the Carpathian Convention ongoing and planned activities, included reports by the Carpathian Network of Protected Areas (CNPA) Steering Committee Chair and a presentation of the Centralparks project main results and progress in the CNPA revitalization process. In order to seek synergies and potential for further networks, Centralparks project’s outputs, developed solutions and best practices were presented, together with other similar local initiatives and projects, during the joint session of the Carpathian Convention and the Centrum GRID/Warsaw.

The second day sessions focused on the updates on the Carpathian Strategy development process and on the strengthen of networks within the Carpathian Convention discussed during a workshop supported by the project “Strengthening the ESD network in the Carpathian Convention via science-policy-practice interface”.

The event hosted a CNPA Steering Committee meeting, with the aim to discuss and agree on the recommendations elaborated during the 3rd CNPA Conference in Visegrad, September 2021. It also offered a platform to present best practices of protected areas management and facilitate a dialogue on further enhancement of cooperation between and within the protected areas in the Carpathians and other regions. Conference attendees heard about the valuable outputs of Centralparks, received inputs from the Steering Committee Members of the CNPA and discuss about CNPA next steps planned by the Secretariat of the Carpathian Convention. One of them is the preparation of the next CNPA event, that will be held in the framework of the Centralparks project final conference, in Wieliczka (PL) on the 23rd and 24th of March 2022. 

Workshop on the nature- and culture-based tourism in the region of Gemer, Slovakia

The epidemiological situation has been affecting the lives of each of us in and is forcing us to change our way of working and lifestyle to varying degrees. The usual forms of spending free time and holidays have been shaken to their foundations, and instead of exotic destinations, the undiscovered attractions on our doorstep are are gaining a momentum.

Gems of Gemer – how to use the opportunities of local sustainable tourism? This question and many more were discussed at the workshop in Veľké Teriakovce on 27th October 2021. The workshop was organized by the State Nature Conservancy of the Slovak Republic, the Administration of the Protected Landscape Area Cerová vrchovina and the NGO PRONATUR within the Interreg CE Centralparks project. 

Representatives from different sectors such as local and regional authorities, local action groups, destination management organizations, administrations of protected areas and caves as well as other stakeholders came together to learn about the Centralparks project outputs, possibilities for networking and cooperation, as well as about future plans for the development of the nature- and culture-based local tourism in the Gemer region, located in the Western Carpathians. Participants discussed the resent outcomes of the qualitative visitor satisfaction survey carried out in the Protected Landscape Area Cerová vrchovina. The Education and Information Centre Bílé Karpaty, Centralparks project partner from Czechia, gave an enthusiastic interactive presentation of their experience with local guiding in the Bílé Karpaty, sparked a constructive discussion which brought up many stimulating ideas, questions and challenges of how to work together to create sustainable nature tourism in the Carpathians and specifically in Gemer. The participants expressed their interest in the next steps of implementation of the Local Sustainable Tourism Development Strategy in the Carpathians.

What does monitoring the needs of the customer in the field of nature tourism look like?

Customer care, satisfaction and needs monitoring are common activities that we encounter in commercial practice. Even in the case of monitoring the customer’s needs in the field of nature tourism, it is about the quality of the experience. However, in this case the end result is not a high-turnover consumer product, but an “entity” that sensitively responds to the way and amount of use. The difference compared to commercial marketing frameworks is that in the case of nature, we must take into account certain limits, the so-called carrying capacity of the territory. Knowing and respecting the carrying capacity is an essential part of the nature tourism management process so that we can preserve natural values. Natural resources are often not renewable and their damage or destruction can have an impact on the functioning of the ecosystems present and thus on us humans.

For the sustainable development of nature tourism it is therefore necessary to monitor the number of visitors, but at the same time it is very important to know the views and needs of visitors (qualitative survey) so that the offer in nature tourism can meet the expectations and needs of both sides.

In the framework of the Centralparks project, the Administration of the Protected Landscape Area Cerová vrchovina, in cooperation with the NGO PRONATUR, carried out a qualitative survey of the opinions of visitors to the PLA Cerová vrchovina in the summer months. The questionnaire consisted of 16 questions, which took about eight minutes to answer. 162 visitors took part in the survey, of which 36 questionnaires were conducted in Hungarian with visitors from Hungary. The majority of the survey was carried out in the locality of the Šomoška nature trail, a smaller part in Gemerské Dechtáry and Fiľakovo, in the Gemer region of Slovakia. The results of the survey provided us with valuable information about the perception of the protected area, about the satisfaction of visitors with the existing infrastructure, information and services such as accommodation and meals in the region, and also about what should be improved in the area.

The individual conclusions of the survey are available directly on the website of the Protected Landscape Area Administration Cerová vrchovina.

Slovak workshop on the Carpathian Ecosystem Services Toolkit

On the 10th of November, the Ministry of the Environment of the Slovak Republic, the State Nature Conservancy of the Slovak Republic and OZ Pronatur are jointly hosting the first Slovak workshop on the Carpathian Ecosystem Services Toolkit (CEST), which will be presented to directly by Slovak experts involved in its creation. The workshop will cover the practical use of the CEST in the activities of bodies and organizations for nature protection, biodiversity, landscape and environmental creation.

The workshop will take place from 10:00 to 13:45 in hybrid form, in person at the Ministry of the Environment of the Slovak Republic in Bratislava as well as online.

The event is aimed at a wide range of stakeholders, with the aim of introducing the potential of implementing Ecosystem Services and natural capital assessments into decisions, policies, documentation, processes and procedures in various sectors and areas that have a major impact on natural resources and their use.

If you are interested to join, please register by 9th of November here (meeting language is Slovak):

Centralparks partners met in Visegrád

On 30th of September, after a long-awaited time filled with online discussions, Zoom presentations and workshops in the virtual realm, Centralparks partners were able to meet again physically in Visegrád, Hungary.

The partner meeting provided the possibility to revisit the past months of work, celebrate the successes and plan the last 6 months of the project.

The Centralparks team has shortly before been actively involved in the ConnectGREEN final conference, thanks to the strong and fruitful relations with the ConnectGREEN project and the Secretariat for the Carpathian Convention. The project team has looked back on the successful CNPA event organised one dy earlier, which has been a great meeting with a large number of presentations, as this event created the opportunity to have on board all the countries represented.

Partners reviewed the state of the art of the thematic work packages. In the previous months, Centralparks reached several milestones:

  • The Strategy for Enhancing Biodiversity and Landscape Conservation and the Strategy for LSTD have been submitted by SCC to CC Parties and presented by LP to the relevant CC Working Group.
  • Two pilot actions foreseen under the implementation activities of the aforementioned strategies were carried out in Poland. As well as the training for Polish PA managers on communication with local communities.
  • The LiDAR pilot action, the habitat mapping of Börzsöny Mountain and part of the forest fauna evaluation have been fully implemented thanks to the long research and field work carried out by Duna-Ipoly National Park.
  • The 2nd official round table of the CNPA SC has been organized and held online. A further CNPA conference has been organized in the framework of the ConnectGREEN final conference.
  • Centralparks main achievements have been presented during several online meetings and events in order to bring the contents of the project among its planned target groups.
  • The Carpathian Ecosystem Services Toolkit has been developed and being layouted in the upcoming months in English as well as Polish, Slovak, Czech and Hungarian.
  • A workshop for 50 stakeholders in Nová Lhota in Czechia took place, focusing on the Ecosystem Services Assessment and the Carpathian Ecosystem Services Toolkit
  • Centralparks has established a close cooperation with several other EU-funded projects, such as ConnectGREEN, SaveGREEN and BEECH POWER

The meeting was attended by Henk Zingstra from Eurosite, who expressed its interest in cooperating with Centralparks and the Carpathian Network of Protected Areas.

The Centralparks team is looking ahead to the last phase of the project with dedication and excitement, working side by side to contribute to the sustainable future of the Carpathian region.

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”

Henry Ford

Successful conclusion of the 3rd CNPA conference

From 28-30 September 2021, the Secretariat of the Carpathian Convention, the Carpathian Network of Protected Areas (CNPA) Steering Committee, the ConnectGREEN project consortium, supported by the Centralparks consortium organised the International Conference on “Protected Areas – Cornerstones of Ecological Connectivity in the Carpathians and Beyond“ in Visegrád, Hungary, and virtually. The three-day event also hosted the 3rd Conference of the Carpathian Network of the Protected Areas organised by the Centralparks project and the Secretariat of the Carpathian Convention.

ConnectGREEN final conference

The conference shed light on the recent environmental developments in the Carpathians and highlighted the importance of cross-sectoral collaboration for the identification, conservation and restoration of ecological connectivity in one of Europe’s largest mountain ranges and beyond. Key stakeholders working in and around protected areas, came together to share knowledge, exchange experience and discuss new tools to improve and safeguard ecological connectivity.  

The Conference in Visegrad also witnessed the closing the project ConnectGREEN – Restoring and managing ecological corridors in mountains as the green infrastructure in the Danube basin (Interreg Danube Transnational Programme). Various successful project results and outputs were presented, as well as other projects and international cooperations that contribute to the restoration of natural habitat connectivity and biodiversity conservation, such as the Centralparks project.

The closing act of the Conference was the adoption of a joint Conference Declaration: the participants agreed to call on the European Commission, the European Parliament and the national governments of the Danube-Carpathian region to drive the efficient management of ecological corridors to avoid further deterioration, restore their functionality and reverse habitat fragmentation.  

A new age for the CNPA network

The event hosted 3rd Conference of the Carpathian Network of the Protected Areas, which offered a platform to present best practices of protected areas management and facilitate a dialogue on further strengthening cooperation between and within the protected areas in the Carpathians and other regions. Conference attendees heard about the valuable outputs of Centralparks, received inputs from the Steering Committee Members of the Carpathian Network of Protected Areas (CNPA) and learnt about best practices in protected areas management from protected areas representatives. This was followed by an interactive exercise, facilitated by the Secretariat of the Carpathian Convention, to identify relevant future focuses for the Carpathian Protected Areas Network.

More information about the speakers and agenda, as well as a detailed report from the 3rd CNPA Conference can be found here:

Meeting between Centralparks and BEECH POWER to discuss possible synergies

On Monday 6th of September 2021, an exciting online meeting between the Interreg projects Centralparks and BEECH POWER took place online, with the objective to discuss possible synergies between the two projects.

After a brief presentation of the background, goals, deliverables and outputs of each project, it became clear that both Interreg projects have many similarities and can support each other during and beyond the duration of the projects.

Centralparks aims to improve the management capacities of protected areas in the Carpathians through transnational cooperation to support nature protection and local sustainable development. Similarly, BEECH POWER project works to improve integrated environmental management capacities for the protection and sustainable use of UNESCO Natural World Heritage beech forests, also aiming to support sustainable regional development. In addition, transnational cooperation is a key aspect in both projects, where multiple component parts, local authorities, and stakeholders from different countries are involved.

During the meeting, representatives of both projects agreed on developing mutual collaborations to help each other reach planned targets through promotion activities. Further, both projects will share relevant documents and outputs, like the BEECH POWER Code of Quality Management for UNESCO WH Beech Forests, as well as the Centralparks strategies and the Carpathian Ecosystem Services Toolkit via the Knowledge exchange platform developed by BEECH POWER. Such documents and strategies may be relevant and applicable in the Carpathians, UNESCO WH Beech forest site and beyond.

Finally, Centralparks invited BEECH POWER to a brief meeting between representatives of the two projects during the next Carpathian Network of Protected Areas (CNPA) meeting, scheduled on the 29th of September 2021. Furthermore, in the final conferences of both projects, there will be some space dedicated to promote synergies in the future work, exceeding the project lifetimes!

Centralparks Czech Carpathians-32371.JPG

Meeting of Stakeholders of the Carpathian Convention

On the 16th of September, the Czech partners of the Centralparks project are organising an important event – the Meeting of Stakeholders of the Carpathian Convention 2021. The gathering will take place from 16th to 17th September in Nová Lhota in the White Carpathians, Czechia. The event is held regularly every year under the auspices of the Ministry of the Environment, it is co-organised by the Education and Information Centre Bílé Karpaty and co-financed by the Interreg Centralparks project. Many stakeholders from ministries, regional and local authorities, academia, NGOs as well as active citizens from the region will participate in the meeting.

The programme includes lectures, discussions and sharing of experience and best practices. The participants are updated about recent developments of the Carpathian Convention and ongoing projects and activities at both international and national level. The main topics of this year will be biodiversity, ecosystem services, tourism, and nature and landscape protection. An excursion to an organic farm in Blatnička will be organised on the second day.

During the meeting, two important deliverables, elaborated within the Centraparks project, will be presented. First, Jan Kadlečík (State Nature Conservancy of the Slovak Republic) will present the usage of the Carpathian Ecosystem Services Toolkit, developed within the project. Second, Barbora Duží (White Carpathians Education and Information Centre) will present the Strategy for local sustainable tourism development.

Meeting agenda (in CZ):