Unified nature protection classification to evaluate the Barents protected area network

The level of nature conservation areas in the Barents Region varies significantly. In strictly protected areas biodiversity is safeguarded. However, in loosely protected areas forest loggings and mining industry may threaten unique habitats and species.

In the Barents Protected Area Network (BPAN) project, the conservation level and objectives of the northern protected areas are being assessed. Each Barents country, Finland, Russia, Norway and Sweden, has national classification systems for protected areas, and they differ from each other.

A common classification is needed for transboundary evaluation. For this use, unified classification basing on the level of protection provided by the national law and protected area regimes is developed in the BPAN project. Protected area classification of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), basing on the objectives of the protection, provides another point of view to compare protected areas in the Barents Region.

“Using unified and comparable information improves discussion in decision making for developing the protected area network”, points out Tapio Lindholm, leading expert in the Finnish Environment Institute SYKE.

International experts assessed protected areas of the Barents Region in the framework of the IUCN classification

IUCN has drawn up a classification of protected areas that assesses the objectives of protection, while the approach of the BPAN classification is the level of protection provided by the national law and protected area regimes. Experts from the Barents countries, representing environmental administration, research institutes and environmental NGOs, gathered on November 15th in Helsinki to discuss the implementation of the IUCN classification in the protected areas of the Barents region.

Nature conservation  experts from Finland, Sweden, Norway and Russia participated in the IUCN classification meeting in Helsinki.

Nature conservation experts from Finland, Sweden, Norway and Russia participated in the IUCN classification meeting in Helsinki. (Photo: Noora Lehtimäki / SYKE)

”The IUCN categories system is a voluntary approach that provides a common language to describe the wide variety of protected area networks in different countries. BPAN is taking an important initiative that will help build collaboration between the four countries of the region”, says Nigel Dudley, editor of the IUCN Guidelines for Applying Protected Area Management Categories.

Urgent need to protect the Barents nature

The unique nature in the Barents Region belongs to one of the largest remaining intact forest and tundra areas in the world. However, also untouched nature is threatened by the climate change as well as the accelerating exploitation of natural resources. “Safeguarding the ecological values of the Barents Region should be urgently carried out to prevent the complete loss of the natural northern environment”, says Anna Kuhmonen, senior coordinator of the BPAN project.

Puljutunturi wilderness area (Photo: Imagebank of Finland’s Environmental Administration / Ilkka Heikkinen)

The countries of the Barents Region have committed to the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which aims to halt the loss of biodiversity by the year 2020. One of the objectives of the Programme of Work on Protected Areas under the CBD is to establish a representative and effectively managed protected area network, covering at least 17% of the world’s terrestrial areas and inland waters. The BPAN project aims to support the implementation of this objective in the Barents Region.

Co-operation on the IUCN classification will continue

As each Barents country has conducted the IUCN classification in national level, the meeting aimed to open the transboundary cooperation. Resolution of the meeting in Helsinki noted that IUCN classification is currently not comparable between the countries, and agreed on continuing the co-operation to harmonize the classification. Also a need to update the classification according to the IUCN guidelines 2008 was stated. The meeting highlighted the importance to involve relevant stakeholders in classification of protected areas in addition to the environment administrations.

National protected area classifications were presented by regional experts and discussed with IUCN classification expert Nigel Dudley. From left: Oleg Sutkaitis Russia, Anna Kuhmonen, Aimo Saano (chair) and Sanna-Kaisa Juvonen Finland, Nigel Dudley Equilibrium Research UK, Tore Opdahl Norway, Olle Höjer Sweden. (Photo: Noora Lehtimäki / SYKE)

Updated maps of classified protected areas of the Barents Region will be published in 2013 also in these websites.

Presentations about the IUCN classification of protected areas in the Barents Region countries:

IUCN categories for protected areas by Nigel Dudley (pdf)

IUCN categories in Finland (pdf)

IUCN categories in Sweden (pdf)

IUCN categories in Norway (pdf)

IUCN categories in Russia (pdf)

Resolution of the IUCN seminar (pdf)