INSPIRE Knowledge Base


Geo-Information in Protected Areas and Nature Conservation
Mission and Objectives: 
1. Public access to Geographical Information for Protected Areas and Nature Conservation: to support the capacity of Protected Areas stakeholders in improving and rationalising the geo-information flow and communication, coherently with the INSPIRE strategic view for coherent sources of information and services. In the current context in fact the trend is not to collect new data sets, but to optimise the exploitation of already available data by requiring documentation of spatial data and implement services aimed at rendering spatial data. That is the INSPIRE approach and the Nature-GIS interest community aims to support this trend. 2. GIS-oriented approach: the use of GIS technology is often restricted because of a lack of understanding and communication between GIS experts and end users. Moreover, problems are often only tackled at a local or regional level, and links with overall European policy and with relevant operators in other countries or regions are poor. This lack can be fulfilled by gathering and rationalising all efforts made by operators and organisations and by better identifying specific needs of authorities in charge of environmental protection, that are often in difficulties in balancing spatial planning, rural development and nature conservation. In such a frame, access to high quality Geographical Information has to be pursued in order to assure a more effective intervention plan to the operators at all levels: a dedicated Community can help for that reaching both geo-information producers and users and better matching them. 3. Interdisciplinary method: to promote the collaboration among experts in different disciplines and to offer to the final users a support in exploiting the GIS potentiality in the specific field of Protected Areas. The aim is also to operate as a cluster of projects and initiatives related to the NATURE-GIS issues in order to exchange experiences and create synergies among these projects/initiatives.
Formal Mandate: 
The already existing network NATURE-GIS is a community of organisations operating in the field of GI for Protected Areas and Nature Conservation born on the basis of the NATURE-GIS Consortium (Project IST-2001-34641, The members of the project established a multidisciplinary team with complementary skills, aiming to co-operate for the actual and operational integration of the relevant components in nature conservation issues, exploiting the potentialities of GIS tools. These Members agreed, by approving a Memorandum of Understanding, the creation of a thematic SDIC about Geographical Information for Protected Areas and Nature Conservation, focused in particular on the public access to Geographical Information for Protected Areas at European level. The present Nature-GIS network, gathering at the moment more than 160 registered Nature-GIS stakeholders, intended as “actual or potential users and producers of GI technology in Protected Areas”, represents already by itself a valuable Community for contributing to the INSPIRE implementation rules in the specific field. Other than the members of NATURE-GIS , many stakeholders already registered to the network already supported the call for SDIC of INSPIRE, providing specific contributions for the proposal. The list of these organisations is included under the "Comments" session.
The exploitation of this network has a great potentiality and various activities are proposed. 1. NATURE-GIS portal: the Nature-GIS Community intends to share the acquired experience in the field of webGIS applied to Protected Areas at European level, with the aim to keep operational the working technical tool provided by the Nature-GIS Thematic Portal as an example of key element for any future infrastructure to access information about protected areas at a European level, including the presentation of various use-cases by several stakeholders in different areas. The Nature-GIS Network can offer for a SDIC its GI Portal that may become the entry point to the federation for members and non-members of the Network who want to demonstrate a web-GIS use to locate pertinent information about protected areas, also promoting the adhesion of new technical nodes according to the NATURE-GIS Technical Specifications (i.e. OGC standards, interoperability). 2. Identification of user requirements and needs: During the NATURE-GIS project a survey on “User Needs”, “Data Requirements” and “Functional Requirements” was performed. The results (also included in the summary of the Guidelines) will be made available. Moreover, a revision of the process will be carried out according to the INSPIRE requirements. 3. Provision of reference material and project-cases: the NATURE-GIS Guidelines (see Step 3) and technical specifications of the use-cases developed within NATURE-GIS will be made available and widely distributed, also in view fo favour the implementation of new use cases. 4. User validation: to participate in the INSPIRE Review Process through the involvement of the NATURE-GIS Community and by providing feedback and validation. 5. Training and Awareness: The NATURE-GIS web technical features are at the cutting edge of GI technology and already skilled people are quite difficult to find out; this calls for strong and continuous activity and initiatives devoted to awareness and training that the Community will pursue through the organisation of training courses and the support to stakeholders who intend to build-up their own use-cases and/or wish to build their capacity and technical expertise in the field of “web access” according to the INSPIRE principles. 6. INSPIRE test-bedding: to assess the applicability of the INSPIRE principles to the available Geographical Information in the field of protected areas and nature conservation. As per the above point some projects could be used as test cases or best practices in order to tune up the Implementing Rules for nature-related issues. This activity will be strictly connected with the identification of user needs and the participation in the review process. 7. Collaboration with other Networks: The activity of the SDIC will be also supported by the already established connections with other related networks, some of which gave already their adhesion to the SDIC, such as the EUROPARC Federation, the Alpine Network of Protected Areas, the European Centre for Nature Conservation, the networks promoted within the environment programme of the Council of Europe and the links established with the UNEP/MAP for the aspects related to the Marine Protected Areas.
The IST Nature-GIS project partnership has identified as stakeholders for the project all the actual or potential users and producers of GI technology in protected areas. Such a very large audience constitutes the SDIC eligible partnership, covering a very large spectrum of scientific competence, technical skills and needs of use. Then, among the NATURE-GIS members there are: 1. protected areas expert groups, who offer specific experience in the analysis of problems and in the implementation of GIS applications; 2. users/representatives from regional authorities and protected areas management authorities who ensure that different sectoral requirements are comprehensively taken into account; 3. GIS/IT expert groups and Companies who manage the different technological aspects: their expertise ensures a user-friendly, state-of-the-art approach. The audience is then composed by both technical (GIS/IT) and non-technical people who deal with the protection of the natural and semi-natural environment. The commitment ranges from environmental management and planning at the different levels (local, national, European), to scientific assessment and evaluation, to technical work in the field of geo-data sharing for protected areas as well as to people of non-governmental organisations and to environmental associations and individuals. It is a very wide range of persons in numerous different organisations with diverse cultural or technical backgrounds. The individuated audience will be able to give inputs and to receive valuable feedbacks and that will contribute to the definition process of INSPIRE Implementing Rules. The list of organisation that already confirmed their participation in the SDIC are provided below in the “Comments” session.
The existing NATURE-GIS Thematic Network has the right potential to act as Spatial Data Interest Community and to play an active role in its development, by identifying and describing user requirements and developing activities of training and awareness. Several INSPIRE data themes match with the Nature-GIS area of influence: protected sites, area management/restriction, bio-geographical regions, habitats and biotopes, species distribution … NATURE-GIS will be also able to facilitate awareness raising and provide a basis for developing pilot implementations. Because of the many different typologies of natural environment, the different and often conflicting interests, and the heterogeneity of the skills involved in an environmental protection programme, to get together the stakeholders is an essential step. At this purpose, it is necessary to operate in two main directions: on one hand to improve the communication and the co-operation among the scientists and planners involved in the elaboration and implementation of the programme, on the other hand, to increase the awareness of local communities, in order to encourage their proactive participation to the management interventions. Hence the meaning of a SDIC that contributes to the harmonisation of the involved elements, as well as the related spatial information. List of participants in the NATURE-GIS SDIC: a. NATURE-GIS project partners (original members): 1. GISIG – Geographical Information Systems International Group (IT); 2. University of Aberdeen (UK); 3. University of Evora (PT); 4. Cemagref (FR); 5. Regione Piemonte (IT); 6. Tarnium Sarl (FR); 7. University Joseph Fourier (FR); 8. Euronatur (DE); 9.University of Girona (ES); 10.Lulea University of Technology (SE); 11.URSIT Ltd (BG); 12.University of Cyprus (CY); 13.VUGTK - Research Institute of Geodesy, Topography and Cartography (CZ); 14.Estonian Environment Information Center (EE); 15.University of West Hungary (HU); 16.Jagiellonian University (PL); 17.University of Zilina (SK); b. Other NATURE-GIS members which supported the call for SDIC: 18. GEOTER SAS (FR) 19.United Nations Environment Programme – Mediterranean Action Plan UNEP/MAP; 20.Regione Liguria (IT); 21.FEEM – Eni Enrico Mattei Foundation (IT); 22.Maritime Alps Natural Park (IT); 23.SADL KULeuven R&D (BE); 24.Eurimage Spa (IT); 25.Emilia-Romagna Regional Government (IT); 26.EPSILON INTERNATIONAL SA (GR); 27.German Aerospace Center (DLR)/German Remote Sensing Data Center (DFD) (DE); 28.Hanseatic Nature Development Company (DE); 29.Institute of Spatial and Cadastral Systems (PL); 30.Federal Environment Agency (AT); 31.Piemonte Orientale University (IT); 32.Forest Reserve Sihlwald (CH); 33.Swiss National Park (CH); 34.CRA - Istituto di Sperimentazione per la Pioppicoltura (IT); 35.Autonomous Province of Trento (IT); 36.ICRAM –Central Institute for Scientific and Technological Marine Research (IT); 37.M. Benedetti Cartografia&SIT (IT); 38.University of Molise (IT); 39.Province of Bologna (IT); 40.Salzburg University (AT); Moreover, the link established with the Council of Europe will guarantee the provision of Reference Material and Documents as well as information on their activities and initiatives.

Which role(s) do you foresee for the SDIC in INSPIRE development

  • submit reference material as input to the Drafting Teams
  • yes
  • allocate experts to Drafting Teams
  • yes
  • participate in the review process
  • yes
  • collect and describe user requirements related to Environmental policies
  • yes
  • register a project to test/revise/develop the draft Implementing Rules
  • yes
  • contribute to awareness raising and training
  • yes
  • be kept informed
  • yes
    Geographic Domain
    NATURE-GIS focuses on European Protected Areas
    Societal Sector
    NATURE-GIS Community gathers people involved and operating in the field of Protected Areas, Nature Conservation and Geographical Information. More in detail, the NATURE-GIS stakeholders and operators are people dealing with Geographical Information applied to the management of Protected Areas and information to citizens for cultural, environmental and landscape management purposes. In such a framework, the Community covers several fields, ranging from the most technological, as the ones linked to software development and GIS functions and applications, to the most “nature-oriented” as for example habitats identification and protection, species conservation, geological and environmental aspects. To this purpose, the NATURE-GIS Community members, already registered in the NATURE-GIS network, come from different sectors and domain of GI application, complementary among them and all acting under the common umbrella of natural and environmental protection. The NATURE-GIS Community gathers Regional and Local Governments, Private Companies, Research Institutions, Universities as well as Foundations and Associations. Taking into account the wide range and the great field of activities, already assured by the NATURE-GIS project partnership and further enlarged with the establishment of the NATURE-GIS Network, the Community is in the position to investigate issues under several aspects of GI application to Protected Areas management and offer a consistent contribution to the INSPIRE implementation in the specific field. In particular the Community aims at giving an important contribution to the data and information sharing for Protected Areas, harmonising and optimising data exploitation and assuring the access to reliable information by users at different scales. In such an enlarged view, the Community can range from end user requirements investigation to specific problems in Protected Area management, to technical aspects linked to data sharing and harmonisation.
    Specific Expertise
    Previous Experience relevant for INSPIRE development
    NATURE-GIS Community is established upon the basis of NATURE-GIS project (IST project) and the related Thematic Network. For that, the Community intends to carry on the specific experience already started with NATURE-GIS project and to improve it thanks to the involvement of other partners known during the project development. In particular the work accomplished in building up an INSPIRE compliant data service, in analysing the final user requirements and in assisting the technical nodes in implementing their use cases is considered important for the INSPIRE principles implementation process. Other relevant experiences by the various members of the NATURE-GIS SDIC, related to the INSPIRE area of interest, are mainly connected to the establishment of Natura 2000 Network and the management of the great amount of data needed to individuate and characterise the special protection sites. More in detail, the previous experiences carried out by the NATURE-GIS Community in the specific field range from remote sensing and GIS development and application, to land cover investigation (e.g. CORINE project), data quality and use of GIS for the mapping and management of habitats and protected sites. NATURE-GIS members got also large experience in training and awareness related to the specific fields. In particular it is important to quote important projects and activities carried out by the NATURE-GIS Community, outlined by them for the SDIC proposal: 1.Preparation of land use DB for Regional Government; 2.Mapping of Natura 2000 sites, planning of Protected Areas and development of GIS for Natura 2000; 3.Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) activities in the scope of habitat mapping and monitoring; 4.Synthesis and the evaluation of available models and integrate remote sensing technologies; 5.GIS development based on Internet Spatial Data Server (ISDS); 6.Use of OGC data in mobile services;
    Environmental application domains
    NATURE-GIS environmental application domain is indeed Protected Area management, within the framework of public information and data integration at European level. The entering in force of European directives (Bird and Habitat Directives) and the consequent institution of protection zones (SPA=Special Protection Area and SCI=Site of Community Importance) aimed at assuring the preservation of valuable species and habitats across the Europe through the establishment of the Natura 2000 Network, contributed to increase the awareness and the need of harmonizing Geographical Information and environmental data. Even more recently, the issue of the EU Directive 2003/04/EC about Public Access to Environmental Data increased the need of data sharing at European level and the definition of common standards. The NATURE-GIS Community intends to operate in this application domain of INSPIRE, where the trans-national aspects and problems related to a common Spatial Data Infrastructure are very important and relevant. In the philosophical and physical concept of “Nature knows no boundaries”, it often happens that Protected Areas or Wildlife Corridors span over two or more countries. Hence, to set standard for Geographical Information and data is very important to avoid disparity and improve communication, management and planning. All this aspects were taken into account by the NATURE-GIS project partners in setting the Protected Areas web portal, that represents the prototype of a remote application that should allow the integration of data coming from different servers and Data Bases on Protected Areas. The portal is a successful example of application of INSPIRE principles to environmental domains, and for that the partners and some representatives of the NATURE-GIS Network are willing to cooperate for sharing this experience with the INSPIRE Implementation Rules Drafting Team
    Primary Business
    NATURE-GIS primary business is supporting the use of GI for Protected Areas management and Nature Conservation. This will be accomplished by sharing experience and resources already acquired during the NATURE-GIS project and by extending the partnership in order to assure the involvement of a larger part of actors operating in the specific field, ranging from Regional and Local Governments to Private Companies to Associations in charge of the dissemination and the promotion of new initiatives. In such a view, the line of activities that the NATURE-GIS Community intends to promote is aimed at gathering reliable and valuable contribution by the participating organisations, and create a pole where exchanging information, knowledge, expertise and needs. As INSPIRE, which is aimed at data harmonisation, the NATURE-GIS Community aims at harmonising experience previously acquired by the partners and provide a clear and comprehensive overview of the European status of the access to GI for Protected Areas. All this will be accomplished by collecting reference material, project outputs and results, and investigating about end users requirements, upon the basis of the previous experience of NATURE-GIS Project. The involvement in the SDIC of a relevant number of final users, such us Natural Parks and Public Administrations, will confer reliability to the outcomes and will facilitate the achievement of objectives. This general aim is pursued through the co-ordinate work of the partners of the SDIC and tanks to the availability of the NATURE-GIS portal and web site that will be maintained and updated and will make easier the communication among the partners, the exchange of information and the involvement of other networks operating in the field. Concerning specific issues to be dealt, taken from the activity of each organisation participating in the SDIC, they will rely with GIS applications and project development, analysis of problems and user needs related to the use of GI in Protected Area management, assessing the application of INSPIRE principles to the available Geographical Information aimed at tuning the Implementing Rules for nature-oriented issues. Another important business for NATURE-GIS is the training and awareness, finalised in diffusing INSPIRE principles and guidelines for applications and making stakeholders aware about the need to have an harmonised and interoperable Geographical Information platform. Even if training is considered operationally oriented, and therefore requiring to all the partners an active role, the Universities that participate in the SDIC would be able to ensure that the given training is included into a recognised educational system.