A major challenge in the Danube region is finding the right balance between conservation, protection and improvement of ecosystems and – at the same time – their sustainable use and economic development. ECOKARST addresses seven protected karst areas in seven different countries with common biological and geomorphological features and similar challenges and problems (forest management, water exploitation, pollution, etc.). The limited capacity to deal with the impacts of ecosystem degradation is exacerbated by the lack of adequate knowledge and action on the tangible and intangible benefits of ecosystem services (ESS).
Against this background, a main objective of the project is to contribute to the protection and sustainable development of karst bio-regions in the Danube basin based on their valued ESS. The ECOKARST project builds on the opportunity to use the natural heritage of seven protected areas as an economic development factor, based on a sustainable management, which is aware of the vulnerability of karst ecosystems, the importance of their ESS and real pro-biodiversity business (PBB) opportunities. ECOKARST will involve public and private actors who will – through capacity building, networking and know-how transfer – perform local participatory ESS valorisation and jointly develop local action plans and a common strategy that will upgrade nature conservation and facilitate starting PBB in the Danube region. Result will be improved management and sustainable development of karst bio-regions driven by raised awareness about ESS and increased number of committed PBB entrepreneurs.
ECOKARST will introduce PBB as realistic, promising new business model for entrepreneurs in the pilot areas (the best PBB ideas will be widely promoted). Project partners, key stakeholders and target groups will establish & increase their cooperation and form new local and transnational networks for experience sharing and promotion. Resulting guidance on how to introduce ESS and PBB will serve as a toolkit for the entire Danube and Dinaric region.
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