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European Wilderness Definition

European Wilderness Definition

European Wilderness Definition

Wilderness areas represent a vital element of Europe’s natural and cultural heritage. In addition to their intrinsic value, they offer the opportunity for people to experience the spiritual quality of nature in the widest experiential sense – beyond mere physical and visual attributes, and in particular its psychological impact. They also provide important economic, social and environmental benefits, including ecosystem services, for local communities, landholders and society at large.

All Wilderness and Wild Areas undergo a detailed audit to verify their compliance with the European Wilderness Quality Standard and Audit System. Wilderness is for the purpose of the European Wilderness Quality Standard and Audit System defined as:


Natural processes govern Wilderness meeting the European Wilderness Quality Standard and Audit System “Gold- or Platinum Standard”. They are composed of native habitats and species, and large enough for the effective ecological functioning of natural processes. They are unmodified or only slightly modified and without intrusive or extractive human activity, settlements, infrastructure or visual disturbance.

Wild Area

Wilderness meeting the European Wilderness Quality Standard and Audit System “Bronze- or Silver Standard” are Wild Areas that have a high level of predominance of natural processes and natural habitat. They tend to be individually smaller and more fragmented than the “Gold- or Platinum Standard” Wilderness areas, although they often cover extensive tracts. The condition of their natural habitat, processes and relevant species is however often partially or substantially modified by past human activities such as livestock herding, hunting, fishing, and collecting berries and mushrooms.

Wilderness thus means:

  • No Human extraction e.g.
    • No hunting
    • No logging
    • No mineral collections
    • No mining
    • No grazing
    • No commercial berry and mushroom picking
    • No deadwood collection
  • No Human intervention e.g.
    • No disease or alien species control
    • No restoration measures
    • No fire control
    • No game management
    • No active restoration
  • Open ended undefined natural dynamic processes

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