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Natura 2000

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What is NATURA 2000


NATURA 2000 is a network of sites that can be found all over Europe. They protect the most seriously threatened habitats, plants and animals in Europe.

In May 1992 European Union governments adopted legislation designed to protect the most seriously threatened habitats and species across Europe. The legislation is called the Habitats Directive and complements the Bird Directive adopted in 1979.

The Habitats Directive requires countries to designate specially protected areas. It requires Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) to be designated which provide rare and vulnerable animals, plants and habitats with increased protection and management.

The Birds Directive requires the establishment of Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for birds, to help protect and manage areas which are important for rare and vulnerable birds because they use them for breeding, feeding, wintering or migration.

Together, SPAs and SACs make up the NATURA 2000 series. The network of NATURA 2000 sites is spread over 15 countries thoroughout Europe. The Habitats Directive lists 230 animal and 483 plant species and a total of 198 types of natural habitats which are to be protected by the SACs. SPAs have to be designated for 181 birds species as well as migratory birds.

Members States are responsible for ensuring that all Natura 2000 sites are appropriately managed by conservation authorities in each country. These organisations often work in partnership with other authorities, voluntary bodies, local or national charities and private landowners.

Member States are expected to pay for the management of the sites in their country, but to help countries to pay for urgent or innovative conservation work, the European Union has set aside money in a fund called LIFE-Nature, which is managed by the Directorate of the European Commission.

To improve understanding and acceptance of NATURA 2000, Green Days are being organised. They are special events promoted by the European Commission and happen all over Europe. For more information visit Eurosite.

Natura 2000 Frequently Asked Questions

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