In addition to affecting people's lives and health, the COVID-19 pandemic also brought many social and economic challenges. On Earth Day, the World Conservation Organization (WWF) and the Parks Dinarides - network of protected areas in the Dinarides, conducted research that confirmed that there are already many indicators of the direct impact of the pandemic on protected areas management and the need for systematic investment in this natural pearls.
"The pandemic has confirmed to us how vulnerable we are, as well as the connection between humans and the natural world, and the fact that our negative impact on the natural world significantly increases the risk of health crises like the one we are currently experiencing. With a responsible attitude towards nature, with concrete and systematic protection measures, we reduce the risk of new pandemics and the consequences they bring ", points out Goran Sekulić from WWF Adria , commenting on the results of today's study " Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on protected areas in the Dinarides region " .
The effects of the pandemic and its permanence soon caused the need for budget adaptations and directing funds to the health and protection of citizens. Given the previously modest state support for protected areas, austerity measures were expected to put protected area managers in an even more difficult position.
Zoran Mrdak, President of the Dinarides Parks, points out that the management of protected areas is also very challenging in regular situations, and requires constant improvements and highly professional, but also creative capacities of their managers. "The pandemic has revealed to us all the weaknesses of existing management systems and the need for additional support. The common goal of all actors in nature protection should be to prevent the negative impact of the pandemic on natural resources, to prevent intensive and unsustainable use of protected areas for short-term remediation of the economic deficit, as well as to develop specific knowledge and skills to respond to many challenges. activities ", Mrdak points out.
Protected areas in our region are attractive tourist destinations for both domestic and foreign tourists and greatly contribute to the development of the local economy. Due to the negative economic and tourism trends caused by the pandemic, WWF and the Dinarides Parks warn that unsustainable exploitation of other natural resources in protected areas could occur. Over the past year, many protected areas have had a significantly increased number of domestic tourist visits. This only confirmed the great tourist potential of these areas but also showed that a large number of our protected areas are not ready to respond to these pressures because they do not have adequate capacity to manage visitors and develop and implement promotion and education programs.
On the other hand, protected areas, ie preserved nature, are a possible solution for future potential pandemics. Governments should recognize this as a priority and show greater proactivity in assessing the situation and exchanging information with protected areas, as well as greater flexibility in the application of mechanisms for financing and ensuring stable support to protected areas, which will enable the further realization of all their functions.