Natura 2000 Sites as an Asset for Rural Development: The German-Czech Ore Mountains Green Network Project
Environmental quality and attractive landscapes are becoming ever more important as factors for the quality of life and the economy. Valuable ecosystems, often designated as protected areas, can be a precondition for sustainable rural development by providing the basis of various forms of economic activity. This applies also to the Ore Mountains which are characterized by outstanding natural assets and a typical cultural landscape on both sides of the border between the German state of Saxony and the Czech region of Northern Bohemia. They contain many NATURA 2000 sites, some of them extensive complexes which in some case straddle the border.
Starting from a SWOT analysis, which shows the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the region, the assessment of the main economic, ecological and socio-cultural functions and potentials of the NATURA 2000 ascertained a wide variety of ecosystem services which such protected areas provide. In many cases, there are various hitherto unused potentials, which offer opportunities for further development, e.g. for sampling medicinal plants, or for eco-tourism. There are also cases of overexploitation, e.g. by tourism: the trampling of sensitive vegetation, or disturbance of such animals as the black grouse (Tetrao tetrix). On the other hand, some valuable areas, such as mountain meadows, suffer from land abandonment and deficits in landscape management.
On the basis of these results, the opportunities and risks for enhancing synergies between nature conservation and rural development are discussed. Favorable product-marketing, eco-tourism, and environmental education can improve acceptance for sustainable landscape management, especially among land users.