Protection of primary (natural) ecosystems

Protection of primary (natural) ecosystems,
semi-natural habitats and protected areas


Conserving ecosystems contributes to the protection of habitats and thereby biodiversity. Ecosystems provide food, breathable air and clean water. Disrupting the balance between the organism in an ecosystem and their interaction with the environment can result in significant and irreversible damages.

In Europe, the landscape mosaic pattern is changing due to two opposing landscape processes that are driven by either anthropogenic or natural factors. Such changes have an impact on the supply of ecosystem functions and services such as habitat provision, species dispersal, pollination, pest control or climate mitigation. Anthropogenic driven fragmentation factors are mainly the expansion of agricultural areas, transport infrastructures, settlements and the occurrence of fires. Defragmentation processes occur mainly due to natural factors like the increase of woody vegetation, which follows land abandonment. Spatially explicit information on the pattern of natural/semi-natural lands is also relevant to help to build a green infrastructure for Europe, which aims, amongst others, to develop networks of green, natural features, address impacts of urban sprawl and fragmentation, increase connectivity and improve landscape permeability.

Further reading



With their publication IUCN provides "A global standard for the identification of Key Biodiversity Areas (2016)" and consolidates the criteria and methodology.

With Over 80 illustrated design guidelines for conservation buffers the book “Conservation Buffers: Design Guidelines for Buffers, Corridors, and Greenways (2008)” by Bentrup, facilitate the planning and designing of conservation buffers in rural and urban landscapes.

Conservation Corridor Planning at the Landscape Level: Managing for Wildlife Habitat (2004)” by United States Department of Agriculture provides a comprehensive discussion of corridors as tools for conservation in agricultural or otherwise-disturbed landscapes.

In their book “Ecoagriculture: Strategies to Feed the World and Save Wild Biodiversity (4th ed. edition) (2002)" Jeffrey A. McNeely and Sara Scherr examine the idea that agricultural landscapes can be designed more creatively to protecting and enhancing biodiversity.

The document “EU 2010 Biodiversity Baseline Compendium“ summarises in tabular form the information from the EEA Technical report No 12/2010 - EU 2010 biodiversity baseline.


The DOPA Explorer, a web based information system on the world's protected areas, helps users to assess the state of and the pressure on protected areas at multiple scales.

The HCV Resource Network promotes the use of High Conservarion Value, a tool created to identify, manage and monitor critically important environmental and social values in production landscapes.

The World Database of Key Biodiversity Areas shows internationally significant KBAs, including global KBAs, regional KBAs and those whose global/regional status is not yet determined.

The Website by IUCN gives an overview of the six Protected Area Management Categories.


The LIFE bioDEHESA project aims to promote sustainable, integrated management of
dehesas by demonstrating and disseminating action plans.

The objectives of the LIFE IGIC (biodiversity) project are to develop a green infrastructure network in agro-ecosystems and to demonstrate its potential at regional, national and EU level.