Some 50 post graduate students, young researchers and protected areas managers from 15 EuroMediterranean countries had the opportunity to participate in a Summer University held at the Protected Area of Parnon, Moustos, Mainalon and Monemvasia in Greece, from the 8th to the 15th of July 2018. The summer university provided a platform for concrete and dynamic exchanges on protected areas management issues.

The aforementioned Protected Area belongs to the Natura 2000 network, the largest network of protected areas in the world, and a testament to the importance that EU citizens attach to biodiversity. A common assumption is that a favorable conservation status of habitats and species is achieved. However, data show that the majority (83%) of habitats and species at the EU-biogeographical level is in an unfavorable-inadequate or unfavorable-bad state. Reflecting on target 1 of the EU Biodiversity Strategy, MIO-ECSDE dynamically advocates for the completion of the Natura 2000 Network and the establishment of a considerable number of new protected areas (core protected areas, buffers, corridors, marine protected areas), especially in the Mediterranean countries, as well as for a better management of the existing ones.

Wetland of Moustos © Thomais Vlachogianni

The summer university focused on the value of Natura 2000 sites, Biosphere Reserves and other Protected Areas as a tool for sustainable development, something that is often neglected. Biodiversity and the services it provides have significant economic value that is seldom captured in markets. Thus, there is an imperative need to fully value protected sites not only for the sake of environmental protection but also for the economic and social development they can offer to local communities.

Central to the summer university were the themes of designation and functioning of Biosphere Reserves within the Man and the Biosphere programme of UNESCO. What are Biosphere Reserves? Simply put, these are regions that follow innovative sustainable development approaches based on the three-fold Man-Environment-Sustainable Development. Biosphere reserves are not just protected areas but combine the protection of natural and man-made elements with human presence and economic and social development. Today there are more than 650 such areas in the world, recognized by the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Program, while Greece has already recognized the areas of Olympus and Samaria.

The summer university was held in preparation of the area’s candidacy to join the World Network of Biosphere Reserves. The work focused on issues of management, education, alternative tourism and the promotion of local products. The intensive week-long program included theoretical presentations, targeted visits, and interviews with the locals. Moreover participants worked in groups to shape proposals for the region, based on their own personal experiences.

This Summer University followed the successful Summer Universities held by MIO-ECSDE in Amfissa (2014), Samothraki (2016) and Sardinia (2017). This one of 2018 was organized by:

  • The UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe
  • The Greek National Committee of Man and the Biosphere Program of UNESCO
  • The UNESCO Chair and Network on Sustainable Development Management and Education in the Mediterranean of the University of Athens
  • The Mediterranean Information Office for Environment, Culture and Sustainable Development through its education initiative MEdIES
  • OIKOM Environmental Studies Ltd
  • Regional Development Company of Parnonas (PARNONAS S.A.)
  • The Management Body of Parnon, Moustos, Mainalon and Monemvasia