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Natural habitats (Natura 2000)

The European Union (EU) is seeking to ensure biodiversity by conserving natural habitats and wild fauna and flora in the territory of the Member States. An ecological network of special protected areas, known as "Natura 2000", is being set up for this purpose. The network is given coherence by other activities involving monitoring and surveillance, reintroduction of native species, introduction of non-native species, research and education.

ACT

Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora [See amending act(s)].

SUMMARY

The continuing deterioration of natural habitats and the threats posed to certain species are one of the main concerns of European Union (EU) environment policy. This Directive, known as the Habitats Directive, is intended to help maintain biodiversity in the Member States by defining a common framework for the conservation of wild plants and animals and habitats of Community interest.

The Habitats Directive established the "Natura 2000" network. This network is the largest ecological network in the world. It comprises special areas of conservation designated by Member States under the current Directive. Furthermore, it also includes special protection areas classified pursuant to the "Wild birds" Directive 2009/147/EC.

Annexes I and II to the Directive contain the types of habitats and species whose conservation requires the designation of special areas of conservation. Some of them are defined as "priority" habitats or species (in danger of disappearing). Annex IV lists animal and plant species in need of particularly strict protection.

Special areas of conservation are designated in three stages. Following the criteria set out in the annexes, each Member State must draw up a list of sites hosting natural habitats and wild fauna and flora. On the basis of the national lists and by agreement with the Member States, the Commission will then adopt a list of sites of Community importance for each of the nine EU biogeographical regions (the Alpine region, the Atlantic region, the Black Sea region, the Boreal region, the Continental region, the Macronesian region, the Mediterranean region, the Pannonian region and the Steppic region). No later than six years after the selection of a site of Community importance, the Member State concerned must designate it as a special area of conservation.

Where the Commission considers that a site which hosts a priority natural habitat type or a priority species has been omitted from a national list, the Directive provides for a bilateral consultation procedure to be initiated between that Member State and the Commission. If the result of the consultation is unsatisfactory, the Commission must forward a proposal to the Council relating to the selection of the site as a site of Community importance.

Member States must take all necessary measures to guarantee the conservation of habitats in special areas of conservation, and to avoid their deterioration and the significant disturbance of species. The Directive provides for co-financing of conservation measures by the Community.

Member States must also:

  • encourage the management of features of the landscape which are essential for the migration, dispersal and genetic exchange of wild species;
  • establish systems of strict protection for those animal and plant species which are particularly threatened (Annex IV) and study the desirability of reintroducing those species in their territory;
  • prohibit the use of non-selective methods of taking, capturing or killing certain animal and plant species (Annex V).

Every six years, Member States must report on the measures they have taken pursuant to the Directive. The Commission must draw up a summary report on the basis thereof.

The annexes to the Directive were amended to take account of the biodiversity of the countries who acceded to the EU in 2004 and 2007. The enlargement brought new challenges for biodiversity, as well as new elements, including three new biogeographical regions (the Black Sea region, the Pannonian region and the Steppic region).

The Natura 2000 network now represents around 18 % of the EU’s terrestrial territory.

REFERENCES

ActEntry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal

Directive 92/43/EEC

10.6.1992

10.6.1992

OJ L 206 of 22.7.1992

Amending act(s)Entry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal

Directive 97/62/EC

29.11.1997

31.12.1997

OJ L 305 of 8.11.1997

Regulation (EC) No 1882/2003

20.11.2003

-

OJ L 284 of 31.10.2003

Directive 2006/105/EC

1.1.2007

1.1.2007

OJ L 363 of 20.12.2006

The successive amendments and corrections successive to Directive 92/43/EEC have been incorporated in the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.

RELATED ACTS

Report from the Commission of 13 July 2009 - Report on the Conservation Status of Habitat Types and Species as required under Article 17 of the Habitats Directive [COM(2009) 358 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
This report enabled the implementation of the Habitats Directive for the period 2001-2006 in the 25 Member States to be assessed. The report provides an overview of the biodiversity situation in the EU. It also constitutes a clear point of reference for assessing future trends in the status of its most vulnerable species and habitats.
The results show that favourable conservation status has not been achieved for many habitats and species listed under the Habitats Directive. Certain habitat types (in particular, grassland, wetland and coastal zones) have an overall poor status. Signs of recovery have been observed for certain species (for example, the wolf, Eurasian lynx, beaver and otter). However, further efforts are required to establish healthy and sustainable populations.
The Natura 2000 network must continue to develop; restoration measures for certain sites must be provided. The network and sites will then need to be managed effectively and properly resourced.
Lastly, a large number of Member States do not invest sufficient resources in monitoring the status of species and habitats within their territories. In the absence of reliable data it will be impossible to assess the impact of conservation measures.

Biogeographical regions

In line with the "Habitats Directive", the Commission must, in agreement with the Member States concerned, draw up a list of sites of European importance for each of the nine biogeographical regions.

List of the Alpine region sites
Decision 2011/62/EU [Official Journal L 33 of 8.2.2011].

List of the Atlantic region sites
Decision 2011/63/EU [Official Journal L 33 of 8.2.2011].

List of the Black Sea region sites
Decision 2009/92/EC [Official Journal L 43 of 13.2.2009].

List of the Boreal region sites
Decision 2011/84/EU [Official Journal L 40 of 12.2.2011].

List of the Continental region sites
Decision 2011/64/EU [Official Journal L 33 of 8.2.2011].

List of the Macronesian region sites
Decision 2009/1001/EC [Official Journal L 344 of 23.12.2009].

List of the Mediterranean region sites
Decision 2011/85/EU [Official Journal L 40 of 12.2.2011].

List of the Pannonian region sites
Decision 2011/86/EU [Official Journal L 40 of 12.2.2011].

List of the Steppic region sites
Decision 2008/966/EC [Official Journal L 344 of 20.12.2008].

Financing Natura 2000

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 15 July 2004 – Financing Natura 2000 [COM(2004) 431– Not published in the Official Journal].
With completion of the Natura 2000 network, the management of designated sites will become the priority measure for protecting biodiversity in the EU. Sufficient funding will be required to ensure that the Natura 2000 network fulfils the objectives that have been set and is adapted to specific local requirements. The Commission considers that the network can bring considerable benefits, both economic (the development of ecosystem services, provision of food and wood products, activities related to the site such as tourism, etc.) and social (more diverse employment opportunities, increased social stability, improved living conditions, safeguarding heritage, etc.). A new Communication on financing Natura 2000 should be adopted by the end of 2011.

Last updated: 01.09.2011
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