The BEST initiative: an opportunity to strengthen the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in the European overseas entities
Context and background :
The European Union comprise 34 Outermost Regions (ORs) and Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) located in 7 regions and 3 oceans : Caribbean, Indian Ocean, Pacific, Macaronesia, Polar and Sub-polar, Amazon and South Atlantic.
Those territories belong or are politically attached to six EU countries (Denmark, France, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, UK), even though they are in some cases geographically very distant from continental Europe.
Those entities are very rich in biodiversity and natural resources. They host a high number of endemic species and are home to several Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs), globally important for the biodiversity worldwide.
This natural heritage is instrumental for the economic, social and cultural potential of the inhabitants of those entities. Serious threats are being faced by biodiversity there, such as the destruction of habitats, spreading of invasive alien species, or pollutions to the natural habitats. This, combined with their isolation and their insular nature (except for French Guyana), makes most of them very vulnerable, especially to the effects of climate change.
For these reasons it is vital for the European Union to ensure the conservation and a sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystem services in these overseas entities. Due to their particular political status, EU Overseas do not rely today on a sustainable and long-lasting funding european scheme to protect their biodiversity and natural resources on the long-term.
The BEST initiative – which stands for Voluntary scheme for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Territories of EU Overseas – has been launched in 2010 by the European Parliament to promote conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystem services in EU ORs and OCTs. The first two years of the BEST preparatory action, BEST 2011 and BEST 2012, have been implemented through two open calls and have attracted 84 eligible proposals – with a total of 16 projects financed in the end plus 2 reserve list projects funded through the Agence française de Développement given their interest.
Website of the European Commission - BEST Initiative: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/biodiversity/best/about/index_en.htm
Réserve Naturelle Nationale of Saint Martin: http://reservenaturelle-saint-martin.com