The Balkan region is a cradle of very rich biodiversity both in terms of flora and fauna. One of the main environmental challenges is the loss of biodiversity which takes place in all Balkan countries and around them. Balkan forests maintain countless possibilities for the development of high value products, since forest nature can be valued as capital and as a source of knowledge. Natural forests and Protected Areas (PAs) can provide significant recreational opportunities and contribute to sustainable growth and employment. The genetic biodiversity and services found in protected areas can benefit sectors as tourism (ecotourism, accommodation), agriculture (water supplies, water quality, genetic stocks) forestry (non-timber products) and industry (pharmaceutical products). The estimation of the value of forests’ biodiversity and services can provide powerful and much-needed arguments to leverage additional protection for natural ecosystems which are important for sustainable development. Demonstrating the total economic value of PAs can make a convincing case for the conservation of wild species and ecosystems.
According to the European Parliamentary Research Service (2015), large remaining knowledge gaps about biodiversity mean that public authorities and businesses may not have the full picture when taking decisions, especially with regards to social, economic and environmental benefits and costs.
Towards this direction the ‘’EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020” sets the EU 2050 vision. In this context, the biodiversity of the European Union as well as the ecosystem services it provides – which constitute its natural capital – are protected, valued and appropriately restored. This approach contributes to the biodiversity’s intrinsic value and underlines the essential contribution of the ecosystem services to human wellbeing and economic prosperity.
More specifically according to ‘’Action 5: Improve knowledge of ecosystems and their services in the EU’’ of the Strategy, Member States, with the assistance of the Commission, should map the state of the ecosystems and their services in their national territory, assess the economic value of such services and promote the integration of these values into accounting and reporting systems on EU and national level by 2020.
The BIOPROSPECT project aims at sharing scientific knowledge, forest management practices, best policies and regulations from different countries. Specifically, it aims at establishing a knowledge exchange network, developing shared tools for the economic valuation and sustainable capitalization of biodiversity-ecosystem services, translating theory into practice, mapping the cross-border genetic pool and bioprospect and finally establishing a roadmap for bioprospect based governance.