NATURA 2000 sites in EU

At the heart of the two Directives is the creation of a Europe-wide ecological network of nature conservation areas – the NATURA 2000 Network. This network is designed to conserve over a thousand rare, threatened and endemic species of wild animals and plants and some 230 natural and semi-natural habitats listed in the annexes of the two EU Directives. The Birds Directive and the Habitats Directive are the cornerstones of EU nature conservation policy.
Around 25,000 sites have been included in the NATURA 2000 Network so far making this the largest network of nature conservation areas anywhere in the world.

Birds Directive

The Birds Directive was adopted in 1979 and aims to protect all wild birds and their most important habitats across their entire natural range within the EU. The Directive puts an end to certain practices, such as the keeping or sale of native wild birds, and introduces a legal mechanism for regulating other activities, such as hunting, to ensure that they are sustainable.
It also requires all EU Member States to protect the most important sites as Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for over 190 threatened species and all migratory birds, paying particular attention to wetlands of international importance.

Habitats Directive

The Habitats Directive was adopted in 1992. This introduces similar measures to the Birds Directive but extends its coverage to a further 1000 species (plants, mammals, invertebrates etc…) and for the first time also protects certain types of natural and semi-natural habitats in their own right. These are habitats that are characteristic or unique to Europe such as flower-rich mountain hay meadows, virgin beech forest or underwater reefs.