Biological diversity is of enormous importance not just because of its intrinsic value but because plants, animals and micro-organisms provide us with food, raw materials and technologies. Nevertheless, species are disappearing worldwide at an alarming and ever-increasing rate. More than two decades ago, the European Union (EU) established Natura 2000, a Europe-wide network of protected areas. As a part of the Birds and Habitats Directives, the network aims to protect habitats and species in areas where they are particularly widespread and to safeguard biodiversity and ecosystem services for future generations. It consists of a huge variety of sites across the EU now covering 18 per cent of the European landmass (an area of 750,000 square kilometres) and currently about 4 per cent of the EU marine territory.
Despite its size and its successes, many people remain unaware of the Natura 2000 network. According to a recent Europe-wide survey, only 27 per cent of respondents had heard of Natura 2000, and even fewer (11 per cent) really knew what it was. However, biodiversity is considered important and roughly three-quarters of Europeans totally agree that the EU should better inform citizens about the importance of biodiversity. In order to carry out this task and sensitise the general public, the Environment Directorate-General of the European Commission is running the European Natura 2000 Award for the first time in 2014. Prizes will be awarded to people directly involved in Natura 2000 such as agencies, associations and nature protection organisations. Altogether prizes will cover five categories including achievements in protecting threatened species and habitats or leading communication campaigns showing the worth of biodiversity. The prizes will be distributed at a high level ceremony in Brussels, Belgium in May 2014.
adelphi is responsible for the concept, organisation and establishment of the competition. Together with two partners, adelphi things is putting in place communications material and a website, and overseeing the evaluation, applications and organisation of the awards ceremony amongst other things.