The project is comprised of three project components which mutually support and reinforce each other: Ecological Network Investments, Ecological Network Data Systems, and Ecological Network Capacity Building.
Ecological Network Investments
Includes investments in protected areas and national ecological sites to help demonstrate and strengthen the integration of Natura 2000 objectives, consultant services for nature interpretation design and engineering services. Priority technical equipment will be provided for park rangers, the State Institute for Nature Protection and the Ministry as well as fire protection equipment for four selected coastal National and Nature Parks. Ecological Network Investments are organized in two phases in line with different levels of readiness and nature institution capacities. They will be used to actively engage nature institutions in learning to design and implement investments using requirements similar to those demanded by future EU Structural Funds. A key outcome targeted is a more explicit demonstration of how investments, including educational and interpretive materials, can support the goal of maintaining favorable conservation status at Natura 2000 sites. Beneficiaries in parallel will be supported through consultant services to use newly acquired skills to develop next stage investments for the future Structural Funds pipeline. Procurement of forest fire protection equipment responds to a gap analysis revealing vulnerability of certain Nature Parks in the dry Mediterranean coastal region to forest fire risk.
Ecological Network Data Systems
Includes consulting and technical services to help plan, prioritize, and organize biological inventory and populate data systems to fulfill EU reporting requirements; field work to perform biological inventory of species and habitat mapping and monitoring services; consultant services to harmonize data systems with a central geo-portal to meet EU INSPIRE Directive requirements, and computer hardware and software upgrades. The State Institute for Nature Protection (SINP) is tasked with the primary responsibility for consolidating nature protection data, organizing biological monitoring and inventory work which responds to EU reporting requirements under the Birds and Habitats Directives. Investments will help SINP strengthen their capacity to better manage, organize, generate habitat maps and report from common data collection protocols and standards aligned with the European Environment Agency requirements so that a wide group of researchers and scientists can participate in data collection. As Natural Resource Data is one of the 17 spatial data themes under the EU Inspire Directive, the project will support data system compliance with EU INSPIRE Directive requirements.
Ecological Network Capacity Building
Includes consultant services to help promote inter-sectoral cooperation; and pilot programs to (i) develop a proposal for agri-environment measures for Natura 2000 sites, (ii) improve protected areas boundary delineation, (iii) introduce a park volunteer program, and (iv) help improve systems to track and diversify protected area financing. It will also support training on access to EU grant programs for nature protection and tools to improve park management; learning through study tours and seminars; design of nature interpretation and project and operating costs management. The project will support a variety of needs to: help build capacity for better cohesion and integration of the protected areas and ecological network system; help attract additional resources and improve the financial sustainability of investments in protected areas; and education on the need for and purpose of protected areas and the ecological network; help improve public awareness, involvement and better integrate the local community in the management of the ecological network by promoting agri-environment incentive programs and introducing volunteer programs.