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Natural Resource Exploitation

Some GEOSPECS areas offer an abundance of natural resources, and therefore specialize in their exploitation. For example, one particularity of coastal areas is the possibility to extract marine aggregates. This type of resource exploitation is growing in the waters off the Belgium coast, where the aggregates are utilised in the construction industry and as materials for land reclamation and the re-nourishment of eroding beaches. In both coastal case study areas and the islands of the Outer Hebrides, fish are cited as important natural resources, though overfishing is a problem. In the coastal case study areas, expansion of the aquaculture sector is noted as an opportunity to partly compensate for the declining fishing industry.

SPAs are often associated with resource exploitation - this is not only because resources occur there (which is more of a coincidence), but also because their exploitation does not conflict with human settlements, and is therefore easier. In Teruel and Soria, SPAs in Central Spain, the extraction of ornamental rocks (e.g., alabaster) and construction materials (e.g., clay) plays a role, but it is the exploitation of coal that has had the largest economic and physical effect on the region. Around 65% of Spain's coal production originates in Teruel, and its exploitation is integral to the national energy supply. In the Torne valley (on the border between Finland and Sweden), mining is also important as well, as is forestry, as the region contains some of Europe's most extensive forests.

However, what all GEOSPECS areas (apart from borders) have in common is that they are associated with high levels of renewable energy resources. Hydropower is an important opportunity in mountain areas; offshore wind, wave and tidal energies can be exploited from coasts and islands; SPAs often offer resources for biomass energy generation (and enough space for large-scale wind power installations); solar energy can be exploited in ORs due to their proximity to the equator (but seeing that most of them are islands, marine energies are an opportunity there as well). Nevertheless, while the development of these various types of resources can be beneficial for the development of local/regional economies, their distance to major areas of demand and underdeveloped grid capacity are often key constraints to their development.

These findings are just some samples from the extensive quantitative analysis that was undertaken for GEOSPECS. The entire analysis can be found in the Draft Final Scientific Report, downloadable on the ESPON website.

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