Ecopotential Protected Areas

ECOPOTENTIAL focuses its activities and pilot actions on a targeted set of internationally recognised Protected Areas in Europe, European Territories and beyond. These Protected Areas include mountain, arid and semi-arid, and coastal and marine ecosystems, blending Earth Observations from remote sensing and field measurements, data analysis and modelling of current and future ecosystem conditions and services.

General description of Ecopotential protected areas


This protected area is located at the ecotones between the boreal forest and the subarctic tundra. The park was established as early as in 1909. In this year, the first nature conservation law in Sweden was created. The mountainous park has a surface of 77 km2 and covers an altitudinal gradient between 341 and 1191 m asl. The limits of the park are defined by mountain ranges and by the Tornetraesk lake. Since 2007, the Natura 2000 site Nissuntjårro is connected to Abisko National Park in the Southeast. This reserve covers additional 250 km2.

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Austrian Limestone Alps

The pilot study region covers the major part of the national park “Northern Limestone Alps” in the province Upper Austria. The region was chosen since it covers a representative variation of environmental conditions of the montane forest belt on limestone bedrock of the European Alps. Annual air temperature is approx. 7-10°C and annual rainfall is between 1500-2000 mm. Snowfall occurs between October and May with an average duration of snow cover of about four months.

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Bavarian Forest

The Bavarian Forest National Park (Nationalpark Bayerischer Wald) was the first one to be established in Germany already in 1970. It covers an area of 24,250 ha. The most important peaks are Lusen (1373 m a.s.l.) and Großer Rachel (1453 m a.s.l.). The major land cover is by forest ecosystems either natural or previously managed. Around settlements, extensively managed grasslands occur that are rich in species.

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The Tour du Valat (TdV) is a private research centre located on a 2 600 ha estate (of which 1 800 ha are classified in natural reserve) in the Camargue (Rhône delta), south of France. Created in 1954 and legally recognised as a non-profit-making association, it has set itself the mission to halt and reverse the destruction and degradation of Mediterranean wetlands and their natural resources, and promote their wise use.

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Caribbean LME

The boundaries of the CLME Project encompass the Caribbean Sea LME and the North Brazil Shelf LME and include 26 countries and 19 dependent territories of France, the Netherlands, United Kingdom and United States. These countries range from among the largest (e.g. Brazil, USA) to among the smallest (e.g. Barbados, St. Kitts and Nevis), and from the most developed to the least developed.

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Curonian Lagoon

The Curonian Lagoon – the largest European lagoon – is a shallow water body (total area 1584 km2, mean depth 3.8 m; maximum depth 5 m). Situated in the southern part of the Baltic Sea, the lagoon receives water from the River Nemunas, the third-largest contributor (after the Vistula and Oder) of total nitrogen and phosphorus to the Baltic Sea). The salinity of the water in the northern part of the lagoon fluctuates between 0.1 and 7 PSU; marine, brackish and freshwater species inhabit the lagoon.

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Danube Delta

Before reaching Black Sea, the Danube river forms a delta covering a surface of 5,165 km² shared between Romania (86%) and Ukraine (14%). The Danube Delta is the second largest in Europe, after that of the Volga River. The geomorphology of the area formed by the dynamics of the river arms, low altitudes and the presence of the sea, creates a complex landscape made by freshwater ecosystems (canals, shallow lakes, and wetlands), flood plains, alluvial forests, reed-beds, lagoons and coastal area (Fig. 1).

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The Doñana National Park (537 km2) in Spain, is a protected area since 1969. Currently it is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve (since1980), a Ramsar Site (1982), a Natural World Heritage Site (1984) and it is integrated in the Natura 2000 network, which also includes the surrounding Natural Park with a similar extent. It contains one of the the largest wetland in Western Europe (García and Marín 2005), an intricate matrix of marshes (270 km2), phreatic lagoons, and a 25 km-long coastal dune ecosystem with its shoreline and representative Mediterranean terrestrial plant communities (around 100 km2; Diaz-Delgado 2010).

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Gran Paradiso

The Gran Paradiso National Park (GPNP) is a protected area instituted in 1922; it is the oldest National Park in Italy. It borders with the Vanoise National Park in France. These two parks form a huge system of high-elevation protected areas in the Alps, characterized by the presence of significant glaciers and high-altitude environments, and host the original surviving population of Alpine ibex (Capra ibex).

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Har Negev

Har Negev Reserve (HNR) is a part of the central Negev Highlands, and has an annual rainfall of 80-100 mm, about 200 nights of dew and a mean annual temperature of 17°-19°C. HNR is characterized by high degree of geo-diversity induced by geological and geomorphological long term processes. Vegetation is mostly in a diffused spot pattern on the slopes and at higher cover in riverbeds. HNR cover an area of about 1700 km2 that is colonized by 500 documented species of plants and an additional of 150 undocumented species are estimated to live in the area.

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The National Park was established in 1981, and about half of the land is private and the rest is governmental. Hardangervidda is the largest mountain plateau in Europe, and the inner core of Hardangervidda is the largest National Park in Scandinavia (excluding Svalbard).  The park is 3422 km2 large, and intercept three counties (Hordaland, Buskerud and Telemark) and eight municipalities. The protection regime is National Park (IUCN Category II) and it also includes some Landscape Protected Areas (IUCN Category V), see map.

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Kruger National Park (KNP) is a fenced National Park located in the north-eastern part of South Africa. KNP is one of Great Limpopo Transfontier Park, including Limpopo National Park in Mozambique and Gonarezhou in Zimbabwe. KNP is located in the dry savanna biome, and was established in 1898 to protect wildlife. Savanna means is characterized by the co-dominance of grasses and trees. It is nearly 2 million hactares with impressive number of species: 336 trees, 49 fish, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 507 birds and 147 mammals. It is a habitat of many species including the big 5 i.e. elephant, lion, buffalo, rhinoceros and leopard.

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