INSPIRE – Integrated spatial planning for biodiversity conservation and human development

Lake Neusiedl, Naturepark Seewinkel
Lake Neusiedl, Naturepark Seewinkel, Austria. Photo: Gregor Reiter /

In recent decades, the EU and its Member States have made major steps towards environmental conservation, including establishment of the world’s largest network of protected areas, Natura 2000. Despite this progress, however, dramatic biodiversity loss has continued at the continental level.

Indeed, the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 readily acknowledges that the current conservation network is not sufficient to safeguard biodiversity. In response, policymakers have proposed to increase its coverage to encompass 30% of the EU’s land and sea areas – including one third under strict protection – and to establish ecological corridors to improve its spatial coherence.

Capitalizing on new conservation insights

Drawing on recent innovations in understanding, the Biodiversa+ INSPIRE project aims at creating a unified decision-support framework to tackle the diverse challenges that have hampered EU biodiversity-protection efforts to date. The proposed framework will provide science-based guidance for conservation action maps that span multiple “realms” – land, freshwater bodies, and sea – as well as sectoral aims and dynamic conditions.

Building an effective framework and network

Overall, the main objectives of the INSPIRE project are:

  1. to develop, test, and operationalize a conceptual framework for prioritizing area-based conservation and effective management across realms (land, freshwater, sea)
  2. to help define coherent, well-connected networks of managed areas for biodiversity that go beyond protected areas
  3. to reconcile biodiversity conservation with sustainable resource use, including identification of trade-offs and synergies between biodiversity conservation and sectors like agriculture, fisheries, and energy
  4. to help design networks of protected areas that are resilient to dynamic changes by forecasting and planning for future distributions of species, habitats, and climate refugia
  5. and to integrate the interests of key stakeholders (e.g. national and regional governments, sectoral leaders, NGOs) in the decision-making process.

Role of CDE

The INSPIRE project unites experts from Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Austria, UK, and Switzerland in its mission to improve the protection of ecosystems and biodiversity across Europe and beyond. CDE is leading project efforts to integrate realm- and sector-based nature protection policies. In addition, CDE is supervising the monetary valuation of ecosystem services across study sites. This will help to put a fair “price tag” on the economic contribution of protected ecosystems. Finally, CDE’s experience leading processes of stakeholder participation is guiding INSPIRE’s stakeholder engagement efforts.