LinkPas – Linking Networks of Protected Areas to Territorial Development

Theme: Networks of protected areas; sustainable territorial development


This targeted analysis addresses mountain territories where high degrees of biodiversity and natural capital hotspots are localised, and experiences on their preservation, management and monitoring were gathered. Mountains cover 41% of the territory in the ESPON space and are home to 17% of its population with 16 massifs (ESPON GEOSPECS 2013). Mountains can be seen as “inner peripheries”, “marginal” areas from a socio-economic perspective (ESPON, “Inner Peripheries”, 2016), where the issue of accessibility to services should also include ecosystemic ones (MiSE, “Inner areas”, 2015). Mountain issues assume relevance in key themes for sustainable territorial development such as ecological connectivity and natural resources management (e.g. water, forests, soil). The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals mention mountains with reference to water management, efficient use of natural resources, ecosystem and biodiversity, ensuring mountain ecosystems conservation and enhancing their ability to provide benefits that are essential for sustainable development. In this sense NPAs contribute to defining common visions and scenarios for sustainable development of homogeneous areas. Endogenous natural capital can thus contribute to sustainable regional economic cycles and provide inputs for a green economy that NPAs should be able to promote. The ecological conditions and vulnerability of the territory require also strategic and integrated policies for both natural and urban areas.

According to IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) a protected area is a clearly defined geographical space, recognised, dedicated and managed through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values. Europe’s Natura 2000 and the Emerald network under development are international European networks of protected areas that catalyse biodiversity conservation.

The topic deserves being tackled with a wider territorial and spatial planning perspective, embracing core natural areas and related buffer zones and urban areas. At EU level, valuable experiences are the specific Protocols of the Alpine and Carpathian Conventions recalling the necessity for NPAs and the integration of the objective of conservation and sustainable use of natural assets into sectoral policies. In this sense, NPAs contribute to achieve EU and international objectives. The EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 encourages cooperation and dialogue with key sectors and stakeholders, as well as the development of mechanisms for biodiversity (e.g. [email protected] Platform; The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity initiative), ensuring that these issues are reflected in decision-making at all levels.

A territorial development approach based on NPAs could also be transferred to other types of territories, whether they are mountainous (Pyrenees, Dinaric Alps) or not (e.g. coast-maritime areas as with the Adriatic Protected Areas Network, DANUBEPARKS, the network of protected areas along the Danube River). It represents a perspective for both ESPON countries with no experience in NPAs and non-ESPON countries (e.g. Bosnia Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania) seeking to integrate natural capital into territorial strategies and meet EU targets. 

Policy questions

  • Which different types of NPAs exist across European mountain regions in general and in the stakeholder territories (i.e. Abruzzo Region, European Park Alpi Marittime Mercantour, ALPARC territory, Razlog Municipality, Maritime Alps) in particular?
  • How and to what extent do NPAs contribute to developing and implementing territorial development strategies? Which policy sectors do they mainly impact on (e.g. sustainable tourism, environmental protection, climate change adaptation, urban and spatial planning)? What kind of actions and/or policies are needed to ensure a sustainable and integrated management of natural resources in mountain areas?
  • Are NPAs able to support local business development? Which are the main economic sectors affected? Which schemes (e.g. financial and legal framework, policy dialogue and cross-sectoral approaches, stakeholder involvement methods, policy cycle assessment) can be used to involve local actors, particularly SMEs, and mobilize private sector investment? Do NPAs support green jobs and business creation at the local level?
  • How can framework conditions be created in mountain regions for strengthening the relationship between protected areas and citizens of those regions and the surroundings?
  • How do citizens benefit from cross-sectoral strategies developed within NPAs for a sustainable use of natural resources? Which opportunities exist to increase the awareness of civil society for the role of NPAs in the management of natural resources and how can their quality of life be improved by fostering the development of NPAs?


  • Abruzzo Region, IT (lead stakeholder)
  • European Park Alpi Marittime Mercantour, FR
  • ALPARC – Alpine Network of Protected Areas, FR
  • Razlog Municipality, BG
  • Administrative body for the management of protected areas of Maritime Alps, IT


  • University of Tor Vergata, IT (lead contractor)
  • University of Camerino, IT
  • European Academy of Bozen-Bolzano – Eurac Research, IT
  • C.O. Institute of Ecology, AT
  • UMR Espace CNRS, FR
  • Forest Research Institute, BG

Budget: € 186.733,44 EUR

Lifetime: June 2017 – June 2018


  • Inception delivery, 30 August 2017
  • Interim delivery, 29 November 2017
  • Draft Final delivery, 28 March 2018
  • Final delivery, 27 June 2018

Contact: Michaela Gensheimer (Senior Project Expert) [email protected], Akos Szabo (Financial Expert) [email protected]


Linkpas ExecutiveSummary.pdf

  • Acrobat Document | 832KB


  • Acrobat Document | 3.08MB

LinkPAs_ Final Scientific Report.pdf

  • Acrobat Document | 7.82MB

Linkpas SynthesisReport.pdf

  • Acrobat Document | 835KB