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Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2022-07-01 - 2026-06-30

NaturaConnect aims to support the development of a truly coherent Trans-European Nature Network (TEN-N), through a combination of stakeholder engagement across scales and interdisciplinary research to develop spatial planning and other policy support tools. Stakeholder engagement both at the European scale, and in a set six of case studies at transborder, national and sub-national scales, will elicit preferences from decision-makers about conservation targets, harness best protected area management practices and funding mechanisms, and test the TEN-N spatial prioritization analysis and tools produced by NaturaConnect. This will address two of the major obstacles identified by the Fitness Check of the EU Nature Legislation: lack of stakeholder awareness and cooperation, and insufficient knowledge and access to existing funding mechanisms. Interdisciplinary research in NaturaConnect will develop state-of-the-art models on the distribution of biodiversity and ecosystem services across Europe and how it may change under future climate and land-use scenarios, in order to identify gaps in the current protected area coverage and to establish ecological corridors to restore connectivity and promote rewilding. Such spatial analysis benefits tremendously from an European level analysis as many important areas for biodiversity occur in border areas, species move regularly across countries, sometimes over great distances as in the case of birds, and EU level priorities are better identified at the continental scale. The biodiversity and ecosystem service datasets and the tools to explore spatial priorities and connectivity restoration will be made publicly available in an interactive FAIR and open science compliant web platform, as a contribution to the European Knowledge Centre for Biodiversity (KCBD). This addresses a third major obstacle identified by the Nature Fitness Check: limited availability of knowledge. The NaturaConnect consortium brings together an interdisciplinary team of scientists working on biodiversity modelling, ecosystem service modelling, scenario development, spatial prioritization, connectivity, rewilding and conservation management, several of them recognized as being international leaders in their fields. Complementarily, the NaturaConnect consortium involves a range of non-governmental conservation organizations that have been involved in protected area management with multiple stakeholders and in the development of biodiversity policies at the European or regional level, including the largest federation of protected areas in Europe and some of the most influential conservation organizations.

Recreational uses of urban recreation areas are of enormous importance in our society. In the Covid-19 pandemic, this importance led to changed recovery patterns of humans and thus increased pressure on ecosystems, as human activities are also a major contributor to the ongoing rapid global loss of biodiversity. The current management approaches for urban recreation areas, which take into account ecological, recreational but also economic aspects are inadequately linked and harmonized. A better understanding of the interactions between humans and nature is therefore crucial for the conservation and management of ecosystems, but collecting relevant data remains a challenge. In modern times, however, more and more data sets are freely available, which represent an important basis for intrusive questions. In the #WienerErholungsgebiete project, social media data in the area of ​​Vienna and around are analyzed jointly with data about the status of ecosystems. By bringing together novel research approaches and data sources, we are trying to better understand how leisure activities, freshwater- and terrestrial ecosystems and their use are interrelated. The results of these analyzes provide important information which can help to make leisure activities in the city of Vienna and its surroundings more sustainable and enable further protection of ecosystems.

Accelerating climate change, increasing growth of urban populations and changes in the demographic composition put cities under considerable pressure, demanding multifunctional and cost-effective solutions for the retention of high living standards. In this light, the implementation of nature-based solutions (NBS) has gained much attention in urban planning and policy-making in recent years. Among the solutions discussed, urban areas where nature is given space to develop spontaneously, such as urban wildscapes or less managed lawns in urban parks, offer particular vantage points in terms of climate change adaptation and communal costs. From the point of view of distributive justice, however, little is known about urban dwellers’ preferences towards such “spontaneous greenspaces” and the distribution of their benefits and costs across social groups. Against this background, this project aims to develop a better understanding of the conditions under which spontaneous greenspaces, in their various shapes, are able to contribute to just cities that reconcile the need for climate change mitigation and adaptation with social inclusion (SDG 11). To this end, a photograph-based questionnaire survey with Viennese residents will be conducted and combined with a GIS-based approach to localise different types of spontaneous greenspaces across the city and assess their proximity to sites of residence of different social groups. By examining how preferences for spontaneous greenspaces vary across social groups and comparing these preferences with their (un)even distribution in the city of Vienna, it becomes possible to generate a comprehensive picture of the distribution of benefits and costs of spontaneous greenspaces in a concrete urban context. Furthermore, in taking perceptions of a wide range of benefits and costs as well as variations across spontaneous greenspaces into consideration, the analysis provides detailed insights about the linkages between their characteristics and contributions to well-being, enabling a context-sensitive approach to the implementation and design of such spaces.

Supervised Theses and Dissertations