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A network of protected areas for the Carpathians


Since 2006, a new international organisation – the Carpathian Network of Protected Areas (CNPA) – has been working to conserve national resources in the Carpathians. The CNPA will coordinate joint projects designed to: improve cooperation between the seven Carpathian countries; facilitate exchanges between the Carpathian protected areas; raise awareness of the fragile ecosystems in the massif, and work to realise practical measures, such as the creation of an ecological network to ensure the survival of endangered species. There is a strong emphasis on cooperation with our Alpine neighbours.

The CNPA – background and history

The Carpathians cover an area of about 200,000 km2 and have a population of approximately 17 million people in seven countries who speak seven different languages. Different categories of protected areas extend over some 36 000 km2, and make up around 18% of the area covered by the Carpathian Convention: an international treaty on conservation and sustainable development in the whole massif. The protected areas in the network are made up of: 36 national parks

  • 36 national parks
  • 51 nature parks and protected landscape areas
  • 19 biosphere reserves
  • and around 200 other protected areas

The level of protection within each category varies considerably, ranging from very strict protected areas to areas that focus mainly on rural development. The variety of conservation policies and different cultures makes the Carpathians a very diverse area even though the whole range is situated in the same biogeographical region with comparable levels of natural and ecological diversity. The region is home to one of the biggest populations of large carnivores and one of the most extensive forest regions in Europe. Since 1990, the number of protected areas has been constantly growing. For example, in 2003, 29 national parks were registered, and 36 in 2007. The CNPA's creation has received official support from the Alpine Network of Protected Areas (ALPARC), Germany and the Principality of Monaco since 2003, and joint activities began in 1999. After several years of negotiations between the Carpathian countries on how to organise a network of protected areas in the Carpathians, the Kiev Conference of the Contracting Parties of the Carpathian Convention officially founded the CNPA in 2006 as a practical means of implementing the Convention's provisions on conservation. A coordination unit will be responsible for managing the projects involving protected areas in the massif.

The CNPA – contributing to the implementation of the Carpathian Convention

Conservation and sustainable development in the Carpathians are the CNPA's main priorities. Active cooperation between the Carpathian protected areas together with cooperation between protected areas in the Carpathians and other mountain ranges is vital to this task. The CNPA is a tool for implementing the Carpathian Convention, and represents the interests and needs of the Carpathian protected areas to national and international authorities and organisations. By implementing the decisions and recommendations of different Carpathian Convention bodies and other relevant international programs or directives (Habitats Directive, Birds Directive, NATURA 2000 network, Water Framework Directive, etc), and by working to promote sustainable livelihood, the CNPA is directly involved in guaranteeing conservation and sustainable use of the Carpathians' natural and cultural resources.

The CNPA – thematic exchange, ecological network and awareness-raising

The principal function of the CNPA is to provide a network that facilitates the different activities and exchanges between protected area managers: seeking to develop skills through discussions on management techniques, how to monitor effectiveness and how to implement new approaches to conservation policies. The three main fields for cooperation will be:

  • Thematic network – organising events on different management issues, establishing tools for international cooperation, preparing and leading special projects, and, further down the line, organising staff exchanges between protected areas.
  • Ecological network – establishing an ecological continuum within the Carpathian mountain range to improve the potential for species migrations and for conserving habitats.
  • Cooperation and support for awareness-raising activities – information and educational activities relating to conservation.

The CNPA's coordination unit will be responsible for coordinating activities in these fields and will produce reports and recommendations to be submitted to the Conference of the Parties of the Carpathian Convention and all its relevant bodies – particularly the Working Group on Biodiversity.

The CNPA – working on practical issues

Nature knows no borders and since environmental policies vary greatly from one country to another, it is useful to coordinate conservation activities within a biogeographical region. A number of topics have been already identified for a closer cooperation between the Carpathian protected areas, including monitoring large carnivores, forest management, developing sustainable tourism and habitat conservation. The Carpathians contain a wealth of biodiversity but centuries of human activities have resulted in widespread fragmentation of the natural habitat. Animal and plant migrations, which are vital for their survival in the long term, are under threat. An ecological continuum needs to be created to allow these migrations to continue. This will link up the protected areas and other sites of great ecological importance so as to develop a more dynamic form of conservation. The protected areas can also assess the impact of climate change on natural habitats and species. Special monitoring activities will be organised within the protected areas to learn more about this threat.

The CNPA – what next?

"New challenges in a constantly changing world" would be a fitting strapline for the CNPA network. The protected areas have a vital role to play in conservation within the Carpathians and in working to establish sustainable European environmental policies. The ongoing cooperation between the CNPA and its Alpine counterpart ALPARC is an ideal way of realising this vision. With its foundations in the Carpathian Convention, the CNPA is already the largest international organisation for cooperation between Carpathian protected areas and will improve cooperation with all other major stakeholders in the fields of conservation and sustainable development at a local, regional, national and international level.