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Designated areas

Indicator Specification Created 07 Oct 2004 Published 01 Apr 2005 Last modified 04 Sep 2015, 07:00 PM
Indicator codes: CSI 008


Justification for indicator selection

Worldwide, designation of protected areas has been and remains a cornerstone for conservation of biodiversity components (genes, species, habitats, ecosystems), each country applying its own selection of criteria and objectives. The aims of designation vary greatly, ranging from strict protection of a natural area (national parks, nature reserves) to the regulation of human activities (hunting reserves, landscape protection, and regulated forest management).

Measures to conserve or restore biodiversity are taken at different geographical and policy levels (international, European and national). These measures may have different criteria and objectives but can be complementary. Thus the indicator concentrates on the trends of designated areas according to these different policy instruments (EC Birds and Habitats Directives and national instruments) and how effective they are in reaching objectives (sufficiency index).

As a unique process in the world, the EU NATURA 2000 network of designated sites is based on a legal framework which is common to all EU countries: the Birds Directive (1979) and the Habitats Directive (1992) and within an interactive process which involves the Member States and the European Commission, as well as the European Environment Agency, NGOs and representatives of various stakeholder groups. EU Member States have to propose/designate sites on their own territory to ensure the conservation of species and habitats which have been recognised of European concern.

The Sufficiency Index answers to the specific policy question "Are these measures effective in reaching the objectives?" by telling us if species and habitats listed by the EC Habitats directive are sufficiently represented in the sites presented by the Member States as sites of Community Importance.

Scientific references

Indicator definition

The indicator shows different trends of surface area (in km2) designated under national legislation, under EU Directives and under  international conventions and initiatives:

  • Changes over time in cumulative surface area of sites designated nationally;
  • Changes over time in cumulative surface area of sites designated under EC Birds and Habitats Directives;
  • Changes over time in cumulative surface area of sites designated under international conventions and initiatives.

The indicator also shows the current status of implementation of the Habitats Directive by EU-25 Member-States expressed as a:

  • Sufficiency Index (distance to target), which provides a measure of progress in the implementation of the Habitats Directive.

The indicator shows the proportion of a country designated total area that is protected under either the EC Birds and/or Habitats Directives, or by national instruments, or by both.

  • Share of surface areas designated only under the EC Birds and Habitats Directives, protected only by national instruments, and covered by both


Km2, %, Number of species and habitats listed by the Habitats Directive.

Policy context and targets

Context description

Halting the loss of biodiversity  by 2010 is one target expressed by the 6EAP and the European Council at Gothenburg and re-expressed by the Environment Council in Brussels by June 2004.


This Council also "urges the Commission and Member States to implement the new Programmes of Work adopted at COP 7 on Protected Areas". This programme includes the need "to update information on status and trends of, and threats to, protected areas".


In addition to national policies, countries have made international commitments to protect nature through signing up to a series of conventions (Ramsar Convention, Helsinki Convention, Barcelona Convention). Most of these instruments involve the designation by Contracting parties of sites for conservation of species and/or ecosystems of special concern.

At EU level, policy on nature conservation is essentially made up of two pieces of legislation, the Birds Directive and the Habitats Directive. Together, they establish a legislative framework for protecting and conserving the European Union's wildlife and habitats.

Even if the implementation and the specific objectives of the legal measures at the three levels (international, European and national) are different (strict measures, management measures), they all have in common to designate sites in order to ensure the conservation of biodiversity. This indicator helps to analyse how these different instruments complement each other.

The Sufficiency indicator has been used for the 2003 Annual Environment Policy Review by the Commission. It will contribute to the Sustainable Development Indicators of level II (Eurostat 2004).
The designation of protected sites process for the Habitats Directive includes biogeographical seminars organised by the European Commission during which each Member State's proposals for sites are assessed against common agreed criteria (Annex III of the Directive). The conclusions from these seminars are published on the Commission Natura 2000 website. The sites proposed and subsequently designated under the Habitats Directive constitute part of the Natura 2000 network. The sites designated under the Birds Directive constitute the other part of the Natura 2000 network.



There are no quantitative targets for this indicator.

At the international level, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) target is "the establishment and maintenance by 2010 for terrestrial and by 2012 for marine areas of comprehensive, effectively managed, and ecologically representative national and regional systems of protected areas that collectively, inter alia through a global network/ contribute to achieving the three objectives of the Convention and the 2010 target to significantly reduce the current rate of biodiversity loss;" In addition, the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation has  one of the global targets as "at least 10 per cent of each of the world's ecological regions effectively conserved".

At EU level, the target is to have "a Natura 2000 network completed on land by 2005, marine sites by 2008 and management objectives for all sites agreed and instigated by 2010."

The Habitats Directive Article 3 paragraph 2 gives the following objective for the Natura 2000 network: "Each Member State shall contribute to the creation of Natura 2000 in proportion to the representation within its territory of the natural habitat types and the habitats of species referred to in paragraph 1; To that effect each Member State shall designate, in accordance with Article 4, sites as special areas of conservation taking into account of the objectives set out in paragraph 1."
In addition related to the Birds directive, it is detailed that " Whereas all the areas designated, including those classified now or in the future as special protection areas pursuant to Council Directive 79/409/EEC of 2 April 1979 on the conservation of wild birds(5), will have to be incorporated into the coherent European ecological network", meaning incorporated in the Natura 2000 network.

Member States shall every six years report on the implementation of the measures taken under the Habitats Directive (Article 17).

Related policy documents

  • CBD COP7 Decision 28 Protected Areas
    Decision 28 on Protected Areas from the 7th Conference of the Parties (COP7) to the Convention on Biological Diversity.
  • COM (1998) 42
    Communication of the European Commission to the Council and to the European Parliament on a European Community Biodiversity Strategy. COM (1998) 42
  • COM (2001) 31 final. Environment 2010.
    Environment 2010: Our future, our choice, 6th Environmental Action Programme, Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. COM (2001) 31 final.
  • Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992
    Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora.
  • EU Council Conclusion 10997/04 Halting the loss of biodiversity
    EU council conclusion of 28 June 2004 on Halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010 (10997/04)
  • Message from Malahide
    'Message from Malahide'. Outcome of the EU Presidency stakeholder conference 'Biodiversity and the EU - Sustaining life, sustaining livelihoods', 25-27 May 2004, Malahide, Ireland.
  • Sixth Environment Action Programme
    DECISION No 1600/2002/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 22 July 2002 laying down the Sixth Community Environment Action Programme

Key policy question

What measures are being taken to ensure the in situ conservation of biodiversity components?

Specific policy question

What measures are being taken to conserve or restore biodiversity at the EU level and are they effective?


Methodology for indicator calculation

 Below are described the methodologies helping to produce the different graphs relevant for this indicator.


Cumulated area of nationally designated areas over time in European countries for the period YYYY-YYYY in km2

  • Selection of countries providers of data through the EEA priority data flow
  • Check if the size and year fields are filled-in and calculate percentage of sites where this information is missing
  • Sum of size of each site described in the database per year


Cumulative surface area of sites designated for EC Birds and Habitats Directives over time

  • Sum of size of each site registered in the yearly versions of Natura 2000 database and grouped per year

NB: formely, the Natura 2000 database registers sites proposed by the member states which are not yet designated. But by October 2006, six Community lists have been adopted for the EU15 and covered the Macaronesia, Alpine, Atlantic, Continental, Boreal and Mediterranean regions. Therefore the 2006 figure reflects the situation for the designated sites from EU15 and the proposed sites from EU10

Sufficiency Index (progress in the implementation of Habitats Directive)

For each biogeographical region, seminars are organised by the European Commission and the European Topic Centre for Nature Protection and Biodiversity gathering Member States representatives of the region and scientific experts. The goal of the seminar is to assess if each habitat and each species of Annexes I and II occurring in the region are sufficiently represented in the pSCIs proposed by the Member States. The conclusions from the biogeographical seminars provide data for development of this indicator. The submission of proposals for protected sites is a continuous process until all countries reach sufficiency.

The sum by biogeographical region per country of the proportion of Annex I habitats and Annex II species that are sufficiently represented in the pSCIs in relation to the number of species and habitats on the Commission's Reference lists of habitat types and species for each biogeographic region. The sufficiency of a Member State is weighted by the proportion of the biogeographical region's area within the Member State. The weighting compensates for the relatively higher burden of a large biogeographical area in the country. This is because it is harder to propose sufficient sites for a large biogeographical area than for a smaller biogeographical area in the same country.

For each MS:
SUFFMS = SUM(i=1 to i=n) ((habi/ HABi + spi/SPi)/2)(Area(Bi)/Area(MS))

SUFFMS : Sufficiency index for a Member State by summing up SUFF for each biogeographic region.

n = number of biogeographical regions within Member States

habi = number of Annex I habitats sufficiently represented for the biogeographical region i

HABi = Number of Annex I habitats listed in the Commission's Reference List

spi = number of Annex II species sufficiently represented for the biogeographical region i

SPi = Number of Annex II species listed in the Commission's Reference List

Area(Bi) = Surface area of biogeographical region i within a Member State (km2).

Methodology for gap filling

No gap filling applied

Methodology references

No methodology references available.

Data specifications

EEA data references

  • No datasets have been specified here.

Data sources in latest figures


Methodology uncertainty

Fig 5 and 6
For the moment, some discrepancy may exist between the database on Natura 2000 and the database on nationally designated areas (CDDA) due to different processes of update but the common information must be equivalent relying on the same national sources.

Data sets uncertainty

  • In data sets;
    • Geographical and time coverage on EU level

CDDA National:


Some improvement in the update of the CDDA



In 2007 number of countries providing update the:

same year


year - 1


year - 2


year > 3


Natura 2000: the reliability and accuracy of the data is high.
CDDA International: gaps do exist; data collection must be improved


  • Representativeness of data on national level

CDDA National: overlap exists between different sites of a same country because different national instruments can fully or partly cover a same site. In the future, the digitized boundaries will help to calculate this overlap.
Natura 2000: t
he strength of the data set is the common data form filled in by all countries for each pSCI. On the basis of these standard data a common methodology is applied for assessing sufficiency across Member States and biogeographic regions.


  • Comparability

CDDA National: the comparability is good due to a specific format requested through the process of data flow priority established by the EEA.

Natura 2000 : the comparability is good due to the Standard Data Form filled by all Member States.

Rationale uncertainty


Further work

Short term work

Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.

Long term work

Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.

Work description

Recent changes (after the latest MB review): Planned changes: o         Short-Term Plans (year): 1. Update the indicator according to new entries in the CDDA and the Natura 2000 database. 2. Develop indicator on pressure on Natura 2000 sites 3. Develop indicator on land cover changes inside and around Natura 2000 sites.   o         Medium-Term Plans (by 2008): 1. When georeferenced and digitized boundaries becomes available for CDDA then improve the indicator using GIS   techniques. 2. Development of pressure indicator for CDDA using spatial land cover information, when available, to analyse pressures in and around designated areas. 3. Develop state indicator on the favorable conservation status of species and habitats in the Natura 2000 sites per Member State.

Resource needs



In progress


2099/01/01 00:00:00 GMT+1

General metadata

Responsibility and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Katarzyna Biala


European Environment Agency (EEA)


Indicator code
CSI 008
Version id: 1
Primary theme: Biodiversity Biodiversity


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DPSIR: Response
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)

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