Natura 2000

With a growing awareness amongst the countries of the European Union a common legislation was needed to protect European natural heritage. The Habitats Directive was adopted in 1992 and combined with the earlier Birds Directive from 1979.

Together these so called Nature Directives create a network of sites designated by the individual countries, based on scientific criteria, to provide a network for effective nature protection across Europe:

Today, Special Areas of Conservation, Special Protection Areas and Marine Protected Areas make us the Natura 2000 network.

Key Facts in a Nutshell

The purpose of each designated site, is to improve the conservation status, of the protected species or habitats:

  • Countries are expected to monitor and report on this to the European Commission.
  • Currently around 18% of land in the EU countries (787.767 km² in 2013) is protected as part of the N2000 network.
  • These are on both publically managed and privately owned land.
  • 251.564 km² had been designated as Natura 2000 in the marine environment in 2013. The network in marine areas needs particular attention as it is still incomplete and considered a “key challenge for EU biodiversity policy in the coming years”.

EUROPARC & Natura 2000

Much work and effort has gone into the identification and designation of vulnerable sites. Now the focus has moved towards the management, the improvement of condition and the awareness about these Protected Areas. In achieving this, EUROPARC members have a key role to play:

  • EUROPARC Federation members in the Natura 2000 network have a great deal of experience to share with other managers of publicly and privately owned Natura 2000 sites.
  • EUROPARC member Protected Areas have close contact with millions of Europeans who live, work and visit these areas. Thus, having an indispensable potential to raise awareness about the network and biodiversity in general throughout the wider public. That way supporting one relevant goal the EU Commission is committed to in the context of the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy.

Where national, nature and regional parks may be very well known, according to the Eurobarometer 2013, only 11% of European citizens knew about the Natura 2000.

EUROPARC commissioned research demonstrates the significant role played by member Protected Areas

Research by the European Documentation Centre on Nature Park Planning (CED PPN), DIST, Polytechnic of Turin sought to quantify the amount of N2000 management undertaken by those Protected Areas who are members of the EUROPARC Federation.

It was found that EUROPARC members manage at least 10% of the total European N2000 sites. These are N2000 sites that are found within a pre-existing Protected Area. As a consequence, Natura 2000 sites cover 37% of the overall EUROPARC members’ surface.

  • If we consider the overall area of Natura 2000 sites overlapping EUROPARC members areas (i.e. where a N2000 lies partially within an existing Protected Area), then percentage with respect to the total terrestrial and marine Natura 2000 sites area increases from 7% to 11%, that is in fact 14% of the total terrestrial Natura 2000 site areas managed by EUROPARC members.
  • As far as the Natura 2000 site management is concerned, it is interesting to note that – starting from the available data from the N2000 database, 42% of the total number of Natura 2000 sites overlapping EUROPARC members (565 out of 1361) and 43% of their total area (6.668.250 ha out of 15.520.084 ha) – 56%, in terms of number (319), and 59%, in terms of surface (3.911.026 ha), of Natura 2000 sites overlapping EUROPARC members areas are managed by EUROPARC agency or authority members.
  • The EUROPARC agencies – mostly national/regional governmental agencies – are directly responsible for the management of over 30 million hectares of Natura 2000 sites (this area is calculated without deducing the spatial overlap between Natura 2000 sites), meaning 21% of the total terrestrial and marine Natura 2000 site area (27% of the total terrestrial Natura 2000 site area).
  • We also have to take into account that when EUROPARC members are not directly responsible for the Natura 2000 site management, in many cases they are indirectly involved in their management, e.g. working at strategic and political level for the Natura 2000 Network, or coordinating the development of management plans.


An inquiry on the relationship between EUROPARC members and NATURA 2000 sites. A research developed by the European Documentation Centre on Nature Park Planning (CED PPN), DIST, Polytechnic of Turin, on behalf of EUROPARC Federation (CED PPN research group: Angioletta Voghera, Gabriella Negrini, Emma Salizzoni, Sergio Bongiovanni)