From research to implementation: Nature conservation in the Eastern Rhodopes mountains (Greece and Bulgaria), European Green Belt
Nikolov, Stoyan C.
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Nature conservation should ideally build on the scientific recommendations that are concluded from applied conservation research, as well as on monitoring schemes that evaluate the effectiveness of recommendations. We considered as a case study a system of six protected areas located in the Eastern Rhodopes mountains in the southern part of the European Green Belt (EGB). To investigate nature conservation effectiveness, we reviewed 196 articles from scientific journals and books, eight doctoral and master theses, and 39 scientific reports regarding the Greek (one protected area, 428 km2) and the Bulgarian (five protected areas, 904 km2) part of the study area. We extracted 743 conservation recommendations, and through questionnaires completed by 10 local experts, we found that 74% of the recommendations were familiar for the experts. In the Greek (GR) and the Bulgarian part (BG) only 52% and 16%, respectively, of the recommendations were implemented, and only 15% (GR) and 3.1% (BG) were implemented and evaluated regarding their effectiveness. According to the experts, the main reasons for non-implementation and non-evaluation were absence or incompetence of the responsible authorities. Some recommendations obtained a remarkable low rate of implementation, such as those regarding agriculture and livestock rearing practices (GR: 29%, BG: 16%) or mammal conservation (GR: 0%, BG: 16%). Some other recommendations obtained rather high rates at least for Greece, such as tourism and environmental education (GR: 57%, BG: 42%) and bird conservation (GR: 57%, BG: 11%). We found that researchers and conservation managers at both sides of the Greek-Bulgarian border face similar implementation problems, related often to the lack of political will for nature conservation and establishment of competent authorities. The role of the EGB is crucial in enhancing the established cross-border collaborations between stakeholders involved in nature conservation.
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