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Green Infrastructure in Czechia
1. POLICY SETTING
- The responsibility for environmental laws and policies lies with the Ministry of Environment or Regional Authorities (e.g. environmental departments of regional authorities). There is no specific legislation on green infrastructure, but several that mention landscape protection and restoration of ecosystems.
- Legal support for adequate conservation and reclamation of ecosystems is the responsibility of the Nature Conservation Agency of the Czech Republic. The Agency´s main focus is implementation while the Ministry of Environment and Regional Authorities has the responsibility and creates the basic framework for the conservation of ecosystems through the instruments of a general and specific nature and landscape protection, in particular through the conservation and creation of the territorial system of ecological stability, protection of important landscape components, large-and small-scale specially protected areas or the protection of Natura 2000 sites.
- The National Biodiversity Strategy of the Czech Republic (2016) defines priorities for conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and reflects international commitments as well as national measures that span across sectors.
- The Act on Nature Conservation and Landscape Protection adopted in 1992 distinguishes between general site and species protection, and special site and species protection. The protection is mostly aimed at conservation or improvement of the preserved state of a site, or leaving the site or its parts to spontaneous development (Ministry of Environment of the Czech Republic, n.d.). In 1994, the Landscape Management Programme was set up, not only for conservation management but also for restoration activities mainly in nature reserves for €6–8 million/year (Society for Ecological Restoration, 2012).
- The Territorial System of Ecological Stability of the Landscape (TSES) is included in the Nature and Landscape Protection Act and is one of the main tools for landscape protection. Its main purpose is to support ecological stability in the landscape by conservation or restoration of ecosystems and their connectivity. Main aims are: maintaining and restoring the national natural heritage; reinforcing ecosystem resilience in degraded landscapes and maintaining intact areas; and delivering favourable impacts in surrounding, degraded parts of the landscape.
- The Interreg project TRANSGREEN - Integrated Transport and Green Infrastructure Planning in the Danube-Carpathian Region for the Benefit of People and Nature aims to better connect the Carpathian region with transport infrastructure that takes nature conservation into account. The project will run from 2017 to 2019 lead by WWF and with 9 associated partners in 3 countries for a value of EUR 2.5 million, of which EUR 2.1 million ERDF Funds.
- Military LIFE for Nature - Improvement of conservation status of habitat types and species of European importance at abandoned military areas (09/2016 – 03/2022) – aims to provide the suitable management of exceptionally valuable natural sites formed in the past by military training. The aim is to create the optimum conditions for ensuring a favourable conservation status for the rare and endangered habitat types and species found therein.
- The project "Active conservation of sites of European significance with thermophilous species in Lounské středohoří hills"(2011-2017) focuses on preservation and expansion of prioritized areas of narrow-leaved and wide-leaved dry grass, commonly known as meadow or rock feather grass steppes.
- LIFE MORAVKA - Preservation of alluvial forest habitats in the Morávka river Basin (01/2007 – 12/2010) - focused on the proposed site of Community Interest Morávka river basin. Project actions were to concentrate on eight habitats and establish a plan for combating the invasive plants in a way which would also revitalise the habitats’ biodiversity.
- Creation of wetland communities in the Opava district – this project was co-financed by SEF – Operational Programme Environment, Priority Axis 6, Areas of Support 6.4, and consisted of optimisation of the landscape water regime. The project budget was CZK 5.4 million. NET4GAS, a major Central European gas Transmission System Operator, financed over CZK4 million, in particular, for the purchase of land and the designing of the project, tenders and the application process.
- Restoration of drained mires in the Šumava National Park – this project was financed by the Landscape management programmes, Šumava National Park and Parks and Landscape Authority. 19 sites were restored for a cost of approximately € 510,000 and monitored since 2005. The objectives of the mire restoration programme were: (i) restoration of natural (or near-natural) mire hydrology; (ii) enhancement of peat-forming vegetation and processes, (iii) conservation of natural mire biodiversity; and (iv) involvement of the public in local mire conservation (Society for Ecological Restoration, 2012).
- Assessment of landscape migration permeability for large mammals and proposal of protective and optimization measures (2008-2010) - this project was dedicated to the identification of large mammal migration corridors (ecological network allowing dispersal through the landscape) on the whole Czech territory. Large carnivores (Lynx, Bear and Wolf) and large ungulates (Moose and Red deer) were selected as umbrella species for forest habitats (ecosystems). First, migration corridors were modelled using GIS software (anthropogenic as well as environmental characteristics were included such as barriers - roads, railways, settlement, and large water bodies, as well as species occurrence data, slope, vertical heterogeneity etc.). Consequently, the migration corridors were checked in the field, especially in critical barrier sites for migration (where the corridor was in conflict with some impermeable or hardly passable barrier). Eventually, corridors were proposed in a different and more suitable direction without any barriers. This resulted in GIS layers of significant migration areas, migration corridors and their critical barrier sites, which are provided as non-obligatory information material for spatial planning purposes.
- Complex Approach to the Protection of Fauna of Terrestrial Ecosystems from Landscape Fragmentation in the Czech Republic (2015-2017). This project built on knowledge gained in the previously mentioned project and was supported by grants from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. It aimed at identification of biotopes of selected specially protected large mammal species (the Lynx, the Bear, the Wolf and the Moose). The biotopes consist of core areas, migration biotopes and critical barrier sites. The main output is one polygone layer (divided into the three previously mentioned parts), which is planned to be incorporated into obligatory urban planning processes. The legal protection should in the future be applied according to the Act no. 114/1992 Coll. on Nature and landscape protection and its respective amendments, in which the biotope protection of specially protected species is anchored.
- Prague participates in the Horizon 2020 project Urban Nature Labs (UNaLab) which aims to develop a robust evidence base and European framework of innovative, replicable, and locally-attuned nature-based solutions (NBS) to enhance the climate and water resilience of cities. UNaLab focuses on urban ecological water management, accompanied by greening measures and innovative and inclusive urban design.
2. IMPLEMENTATION OF GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE
3. MAINSTREAMING GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE
The EU Natura 2000 network is at the core of the EU's Green Infrastructure. By early 2016, 14% of the national area of Czech Republic was covered by Natura 2000 (EU average 18.1%), with the Birds Directive SPAs covering 8.9% (EU average 12.3%) and Habitats Directive SCIs covering 9.9% (EU average 13.8%). There are 1116 Natura 2000 sites, including 41 SPAs and 1075 SCIs (European Commission, 2017).
Approximately 50% of the Czech Republic is covered by farmland while 30% is forests. One of the measures for which the Ministry of Agriculture is responsible is to increase biodiversity in agricultural landscapes and provide subsidy programmes for a higher number of landscape features and ecologically used area (Biodiversity Strategy, 2016). In practice, the uptake of these measures depends on willingness of farmers and they have not been developing well in terms of impact on the environment (IUCN Member, personal communication).
Forest areas account for around 34% of the total area of the Czech Republic, which is below the EU average (42%). Afforested area is steadily growing. 15% of the forest area benefits from a protection regime. Almost 60% of the forest area belongs to the state. Forests are managed by the forest authorities, in accordance with the Forest Management Plans focusing on the production function of the forest (representing 75% of the total forest area). As regards the health of forest, though the trend has stabilised over the last years, the forest ecosystems suffer from a high level of defoliation compared to other European countries (EC, 2017).
The Czech Environment Ministry launched a new comprehensive programme to fund ‘green savings’ in the construction sector. The funds are available from January 2017. As part of the programme, green roofs are eligible for funding and implementation of green roofs in the Czech Republic should get a significant boost. Prior to this grant, the Czech Green Roof Association created a Green Roof Code of Practice. As a consequence of this, it is likely the Ministry had the confidence that the Czech national green roof industry was mature and able to deliver.
The territorial system of ecological stability is an obligatory requirement as part of the urban planning process and has to be incorporated into plans at all levels (local, regional, supra-regional).
Significant migration areas and migration corridors for large mammals are optional materials provided for urban planning via an online application available at uap.nature.cz
As a result of the Act on water activities that reduce forest areas, draining forest and agricultural parcels or exploiting peat are not allowed.
There are a number of programmes that support the revitalisation of watercourses, water retention in the landscape and the recovery of landscape structures that enhance the water regime: previously the Revitalisation Programme and now Restoration Programme of the Natural Features of the Landscape and, in particular, the Operational Programme Environment. Nationally unified priorities are set out in the river basin district plans, in most cases, but they are not sufficiently implemented.
The creation and approval of the national strategy of revitalisation and re-naturalisation of waterways, including the definition of significant water flows from the perspective of nature conservation is due in 2020. Indicator for the Biodiversity Strategy: Reclamation of watercourses (target value: min. 300 km) (and additional indicators NČI 46301 and 46505) in 2025.
Water management is projected to be the most vulnerable sector in relation to climate change and is a key adaptation element in response to extreme meteorological and hydrological situations causing draughts or floods. The River Basin Management Plans present important policy measures and focus on management of precipitation water. The implementation of adaptation measures is carried out mainly by regions and/or municipal governments. Measures supported via the Landscape programme and Programme for Renewal of the Natural Function of the Landscape have a special focus on nature and landscape protection and are financed through national resources. The Operational Programme Environment and the Rural Development Programme (both supported through EU funds) should continue to finance adaptation activities and measures in the next financial period (2014 – 2020) (Nachmany et al., 2015).
Disaster risk reduction
Flood risk areas have started to be identified and mapped in the Czech Republic in the context of Flood Risk Management Plans which were prepared together with Second River Basin Management Plans as outstanding conceptual documents based on FD 2007/60/EC requirements. The Czech Republic was hit by flooding incidents with serious economic damage in 2010 and 2013.
Management and prevention of floods is an area where potentially more economical nature-based solutions could improve resource efficiency through reducing costs and delivering multiple benefits. In its 2014-20 operational programmes, namely the Operational Programme Environment, the Czech Republic is planning to invest also in nature-based solutions (EC, 2017).
The Nature Conservation Agency of the Czech Republic is participating in the ongoing international project Transgreen: Integrated Transport and Green Infrastructure Planning in the Danube-Carpathian Region for the Benefit of People and Nature (2017-2019). The Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic is an associated strategic partner. The main aim of the project is to propose standards for planning mitigation measures (structures) for safe animal species crossings in relation to transport infrastructure (Guidelines on integrated transport infrastructure), to draft a Handbook for establishing a monitoring system for transport infrastructure, as part of the Guidelines for integrated transport infrastructure, and to perform a complete inventory of underpassess and overpassess for the highways, main roads and railways in selected pilot areas (Western Carpathians – CZ/SVK transboundary area).
There is little awareness of the risks and economic consequences of biodiversity loss in the country (Biodiversity Strategy of the Czech Republic, 2016).
Problematic aspects of implementation of the national and EU legislation are usually connected with general nature protection issues. These are conflicts between nature conservation and other socioeconomic interests such as river navigation or forest management in the national parks and Natura 2000 (EC 2017).
4. FINANCING GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE
To ensure sufficient funding intended for the Nature and Landscape Care, there are multiple sources, all under the responsibility of the Ministry of Environment: the creation of an interdepartmental concept of multi-source financing of nature and landscape care; EU Funding Instruments; National Subsidy Programmes.
As part of the EU LIFE programme, 19 projects have been co-financed in the Czech Republic (EC, EASME, 2016). The LIFE Nature and Biodiversity component has co-financed eight projects in the Czech Republic. These represent a total investment of €17 million, of which the EU contributed €10 million. The two completed LIFE Nature projects in the Czech Republic have targeted thermophilous habitats in the Moravian Karst alluvial forest habitats in the Morávka river basin.
There are currently several ongoing LIFE projects in the Czech Republic (EC, 2016). One project, coordinated by the Nature Conservation Agency of the Czech Republic, aims to contribute to the maintenance of the unique thermophilous habitats and species in the Lounské Středohoří hills and their restoration to favourable conservation status.
The EU Operational Programme Environment has financed a range of structures supporting the continuity of watercourses. The current focus of this programme is on: improvement of quality of water and reduction of flood risks, improving the quality of air in towns and cities, protection and care of natural environment and landscape. This includes the near-natural adaptation of beds located within currently developed areas in communities; the construction of polders; planting and regeneration of isolating green covers to separate residential built-up areas from industrial buildings or commercial premises or busy traffic corridors; and measures to generally preserve and improve the natural conditions in forests and specially protected areas, support of natural spills in plain areas, the construction and renewal of retention areas, revitalisation of watercourses and wetlands, the construction of polders; establishing and revitalising significant residential green areas, individual management and renewal of parks, tree stands, cemeteries, urban and community forested parks.
5. CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR GI DEVELOPMENT
5.1 Best practice/points of excellence
The assessment of landscape migration permeability for large mammals and proposal of protective and optimization measures (2008-2010) and the Complex Approach to the Protection of Fauna of Terrestrial Ecosystems from Landscape Fragmentation in the Czech Republic (2015-2017) as referred to above to identify large mammal´s migration corridors in the Czech Republic and linking this to spatial planning processes is a good way forward to protect species and habitats and reduce fragmentation of the landscape.
The Nature Conservation Agency, with support of the Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic, successfully implemented two projects which aimed at mitigating the process of landscape fragmentation via ecological network proposal on the Czech territory, allowing the migration of large carnivores between core areas of their stable distribution.
The Czech Republic is active in planning for green infrastructure at the national level, as reflected in the Territorial System of Ecological Stability of the Landscape. By setting up the TSES, the Czech Republic was a pioneer in having a legal tool for building an ecological network/green infrastructure, in Europe as well as worldwide (Birklen and Kusova, 2014).
In the past three decades, more active approaches utilising methods of ecological restoration have been adopted. These are applied to both existing ecosystems, such as meadows, and newly developing ones, for example sites disturbed by mining or developed on former arable land. Some attempts have been made to restore complete landscapes (Society for Ecological Restoration, 2012). Another favourable development is the collaboration of academics with practical restoration professionals, NGOs, and state authorities in various restoration projects. Although green roofs have been installed for a number years, the new financial support programme should have a positive effect on the market.
According to the Biodiversity Strategy the Czech Republic (2016), Key threats for natural habitats are:
- Homogenisation of landscapes and intensification of farming;
- Eutrophication of the environment;
- Urbanisation and excessive development - the need to create green infrastructure, which would increase the potential development of biodiversity in urban areas is not taken into account when planning in most cases;
- Expansion of areas for the cultivation of energy crops;
- Continued reduction of green areas, including in urban areas;
- Decline of wetlands in the landscape.
As described above, the National Biodiversity Strategy of the Czech Republic defines priorities and national measures that span across sectors, however, in practice it is not used at policy level and in implementation across sectors, and there is no coordinating body (IUCN Member, personal communication).
It should be noted that there is misunderstanding in the meaning of green infrastructure, as described at the EU level, across sectors and there are gaps in its implementation (IUCN Member, April 2017). The main challenges are that green infrastructure needs to be implemented outside of protected areas with limited funds, the valuation of ecosystem services is lacking and TSES is not used in a coordinated way in spatial planning (Hosek, 2017).
The TSES has been one of the valuable and respected tools in nature conservation and landscape protection in the country. Unfortunately, insufficient control, supervision and coordination of the system as a whole result in different understandings of the TSES and in incorrect interpretation (Birklen and Kusova, 2014).
A national integrated evaluation of ecosystems, including ecosystem services, is due in 2020 and their inclusion in strategic planning by 2022 (Biodiversity Strategy, 2016).
6. KNOWLEDGE BASE
The Czech Republic has completed ecosystem mapping by field survey complemented with remote sensing data. A scientific study on ecosystem services was completed in 2013 but its results have not been integrated into policy-making. Habitat mapping has been developed for each biotope on a scale of 1:10.000, which is a good base for mapping ecosystems and is aimed at monitoring conservation status. Data on biodiversity is available, what is required is good understanding and strategic review of the data (IUCN Member, personal communication).
7. FURTHER RESOURCES AND PUBLICATIONS
Ministry of Environment of the Czech Republic (n.d.). Nature and landscape. http://www.mzp.cz/en/nature_and_landscape
8. LIST OF CONSULTED REFERENCES
Anděl, P., Andreas, M., Bláhová, A., Gorčicová, I., Hlaváč, V., Mináriková, T., Romportl, D. and Strnad, M. (2010). Protection of Landscape Connectivity for large Mammals, The Silva Tarouca Research Institute for Landscape and Ornamental Gardening EVERNIA s.r.o., Liberec http://www.ochranaprirody.cz/res/archive/245/030715.pdf?seek=1440425289
Birklen, P. and Kůsová, P. (2014). The Territorial System of Ecological Stability of the Landscape (TSES) in Policies in the Czech Republic, Ochrana
European Commission (2013). Green Infrastructure (GI) – Enhancing Europe’s Natural Capital. COM(2013) 249 final.
European Commission (2016). LIFE Programme factsheet Czech Republic, 2016. http://ec.europa.eu/environment/life/countries/documents/czech_en_nov16.pdf
European Commission (2017). The EU Environmental Implementation Review Country Report – Czech Republic. http://ec.europa.eu/environment/eir/pdf/report_cz_en.pdf
Hosek, M. (2017). Zelená infrastruktura: co a proč se ztratilo v překladu? http://www.casopis.ochranaprirody.cz/pravo-v-ochrane-prirody/zelena-infrastruktura-co-a-proc-se-ztratilo-v-prekladu/
Jongepierová, I., Pešout, P., Jongepier, J.W. and Prach, K. (2012). Ecological restoration in the Czech Republic – Society for Ecological Restoration. http://chapter.ser.org/europe/files/2012/12/Ecological-Restoration-in-the-Czech-Republic1.pdf
LIFE Project Database (n.d.)." Military LIFE for Nature - Improvement of conservation status of habitat types and species of European importance at abandoned military areas" Accessed 05.12.2016: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/life/project/Projects/index.cfm?fuseaction=search.dspPage&n_proj_id=5838
LIFE Project Database (n.d.)." MORAVKA - Preservation of alluvial forest habitats in the Morávka river Basin" Accessed 06.12.2016: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/life/project/Projects/index.cfm?fuseaction=search.dspPage&n_proj_id=3144
Ministry of Environment of the Czech Republic (n.d.). Nature and landscape. http://www.mzp.cz/en/nature_and_landscape
Ministry of the Environment, the Czech Republic (2016), National Biodiversity Strategy of the Czech Republic – 2016-2025 https://www.cbd.int/doc/world/cz/cz-nbsap-v2-en.pdf
Nachmany, M. et al. (2015). Climate Change Legislation in the Czech Republic. An excerpt from the 2015 Global Climate Legislation Study. www.lse.ac.uk/GranthamInstitute/legislation/
Plesnik, J. (2014). The Pan‐European Ecological Network and the Green Infrastructure, Ochrane
Report of the Czech Republic to the Convention on Biological Diversity (2014)
Transgreen Interreg project http://www.interreg-danube.eu/approved-projects/transgreen