Representatives of AlpES project team participated in the AlpGov project workshop: »Networking for Ecological Connectivity and Green Infrastructure«. It took place on the 19th of September 2017 in the nature reserve Škocjanski zatok near Koper, as part of the Mediterranean Coast and Macroregional Strategies Week. It was organised by the Institute of the Republic of Slovenia for Nature Conservation, EUSALP Action Group 7 (co-lead), in cooperation with the Slovenian Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning. A networking event was organised to enter into dialogue with strategic implementation partners, according to the EUSALP working plan and the AlpGov project. The workshop was one of several dialogue events planned within the AlpGov project, that aims at addressing in a strategic way relevant target groups and stakeholders and involve them in developing concrete activities and strategic initiatives for implementation of EUSALP AG7 goals.

Caption 1: Welcoming speech.
 

The workshop was divided into two parts. The morning session was devoted to speakers from different government organisations, expert and research institutions, development agencies and others. They presented the implementations of ecological connectivity into their work:

- Taja Florjančič Lakota from the Permanent Secretariat of the Alpine Convention talked about Nature conservation, protected areas & ecological connectivity and the network of all protected areas within the Alpine Convention area (ALPARC).

- Blanka Bartol from the Ministry for the environment and Spatial Planning, Slovenia presented concepts of ecological connectivity and green infrastructure in the context of strategic spatial planning.

- Nadja Penko Seidl from the Biotechnical Faculty, University of Ljubljana, Department of Landscape architecture talked about Green Infrastructure within a strategic spatial plan.

- Pierpaolo Zanchetta from the Autonomous Region of Friuli Venezia Giulia, Central Directorate for infrastructure and territory – Landscape and biodiversity Division; University of Udine presented Connecting valleys (urban and peri-urban areas) to the mountains – Italian experiences.

- Klemen Jerina from the University of Ljubljana, Faculty for Forestry presented Spatial connectivity analysis – DINALP BEAR Project.

- Aleš Bizjak from the Slovenian Water Agency presented Cross-sectoral planning of Green Infrastructure – River Corridor Development Concept.

- Gundi Habenicht from Land of Salzburg, Department of Nature and Environment Protection presented Implementing ecological connectivity in spatial planning as a long-lasting process – experiences of Salzburg.

Afterwards followed an interesting discussion and some things worth further thinking were pointed out, such as how to work with stakeholders, with different sectors and especially who will take the lead, we need understanding and trust and point out common/public interest (people have forgotten about this), we have to tackle the responsibility feeling, learn something new and each of us should be aware that the more we put in the more we get out of it! We need to feel safe or we need to make others feel safe. People need to know what the benefits are of some actions for them.

After lunch, we had a two-part workshop session where we were divided into four groups. During the first part called I’m In Market we focused on implementation initiatives. We tried to identify ecological connectivity problems, ideas for solutions and potential partners. In the second part, we worked in four groups on thematic issues:

A: Concepts of Ecological Connectivity and Green Infrastructure  
B: Ecological Connectivity in the Alps/ Alpine region
C: Cross-sectorial cooperation & Stakeholder involvement
D: Ecosystem Services & Ecological Connectivity

The participating member of the AlpES team facilitated Group D. Ecosystem services (ES) and ecological connectivity are in some aspects similar concepts that address a multi-level and cross-sectorial approach. The workshop tackled questions about interaction between the concepts based on a concrete example and helped us simplify these sometimes complex and wide-ranging concepts.

Caption 2: Work in Group D.
 

After a brief introduction of the AlpES project and the concept of ES we divided into three groups. Each group had a task to identify ES on a selected area according to the CICES classification. The selected area was presented on an A3 paper. It was an area of Tolmin in Slovenia where two alpine rivers meet and make this alpine valley into a diverse landscape of different habitats. Each group had its own colour marker and a list of ES according to three classes: provisioning, regulating of cultural services. They had to write down the ES they defined and map them on wrapped pictures of the selected area.

Then we covered all three plastic wrappers and talked about the identified and mapped ES. The discussion started with provisioning services, where participants first identified ecosystems (grasslands and fields, water and forests) and then marked ES from CICES that they identified. We continued with regulating services where they used a similar approach. It was easier to identify water/river that regulates quantity and quality, forest (for erosion), grassland (for pollination) and hedges (protection against wind). The discussion got more intense with cultural services. We found out that these services differ in terms of our perception of nature and surroundings. They are clearly anthropogenic so we need to define what people want/need. We pointed out traditional use of grasslands in this part of Slovenia (pasture) and cheese making as a heritage service. Also, the Soča River is seen as a symbol for identification.

For the conclusion, we tried to identify hotspots, i.e. areas where all these ES overlay. We did not focus on problems or trade-offs, we just wanted to see which areas have the highest ES density (Caption 3). We marked the areas around the rivers Soča and Tolminka and hedges with surrounding fields and grasslands. The participants were asked if they remember the invitation they got and the link to a website that on the upper side showed this area but with yellow arrows. They did not remember, so the facilitator showed them the picture and asked them to compare their results to that picture with the arrows that actually showed areas of ecological connectivity. They realised that they had selected two of the same areas around rivers and quite a larger area around hedges. They did not choose a smaller green “island” in the city of Tolmin that was marked on the picture from the invitation (Caption 4). 

Caption 3: Overlaid identified ES on selected area.

     
Caption 4 and 5: Marked hotspots in selected area (left) and ecological connectivity areas from the invitation (right).
 

If we sum up this 50 minute group work, we can say that this topic is so complex and wide-ranging that we would need more time to discuss all open issues to reach a common consensus. This short exercise gave them a glimpse of the concept and hopefully also the interest needed to include this way of thinking in their fields of work.

 

photos and written by Suzana Vurunić