The designation of protected areas is a cornerstone for the conservation of biodiversity worldwide, from genes to species, habitats and ecosystems. In June 2006, the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) re-affirmed the role of protected areas as cornerstones of biodiversity conservation, but also highlighted that many are "beset with managerial and financial difficulties that impede their effective management".
- At the European level, there has been an increase in the total area of nationally-designated protected areas over time, indicating a positive commitment by European countries to biodiversity conservation. The total area of nationally designated sites in 37 European countries was more than 95.5 million hectares in 2005.
- There has also been an increase in the total area of Natura 2000 sites over the past two years. This has been a result of ten new Member States joining the EU in 2004, as well the designation of new Natura 2000 sites in other Member States under the Birds and Habitats Directives.
- The level of sufficiency in designating Natura 2000 sites for the Habitats Directive is high for most EU-25 countries (18 countries have sufficiency above 80%) and the new Member States are doing well.
In addition to quantitative signals it is important to also keep in mind the crucial need to have a qualitative view on the efficiency of the network of designated areas.
- Marine areas are not yet represented as Natura 2000 sites as the EU is still developing selection criteria.
- There are increasing pressures on biodiversity outside of protected areas, and in the future, an assessment of the effectiveness of designated sites in protecting and conserving biodiversity will be needed.
What measures are being taken to ensure the in situ conservation of biodiversity components?
Cumulated area of nationally designated areas over time in 37 European countries up to 2005
Note: Overlap may exist due to multiple designations for a same site but the overestimation can be masked by an &amp;quot;underestimation&amp;quot; of the inventory (some national datasets are not complete).
- Nationally designated areas (CDDA) provided by European Environment Agency (EEA)
Cumulative surface area of sites designated for EC birds directive over time (special protection areas - SPAs)
Note: The figure shows the cumulative surface area of sites designated for EC birds directive over time (special protection areas - SPAs)
- Nationally designated areas (CDDA) provided by European Environment Agency (EEA)
Cumulative surface area of sites designated for EC Habitats Directive over time (Sites of Community Importance - SCIs)
Note: The figure shows the cumulative surface area of sites designated for EC Habitats Directive over time (Sites of Community Importance - SCIs)
- Natura 2000 data provided by Directorate-General for Environment (DG ENV)
Sufficiency Index (State of progress by Member States in reaching sufficiency for the Habitat Directive Annex I habitats and Annex II species)
Note: Bars show the degree to which Member States have proposed sites that are considered sufficient to protect the habitats and species mentioned in Habitats Directive Annex I and II (situation January 2007) (marine species and habitats are not considered).
- Conclusions of the Natura 2000 biogeographic seminars provided by Directorate-General for Environment (DG ENV)
Measures at Member State level - What areas are protected under national legislation?
Member States have national legislation that enables them to establish various types of protected areas. For nationally-designated protected areas, the total area protected in Europe continues to increase (Figure 1).
However, an increase in total area of protected sites may be correlated to increasing pressures on biodiversity outside those areas, for instance through growing urbanisation and transport infrastructures. Therefore, the expansion of protected areas and their role in protecting biodiversity has to be considered and assessed within the wider environment.
Measures at EU level
There was a steady increase in the cumulative area of the Natura 2000 network over the past two years. SCIs increased in coverage from 45 to more than 56 million hectares (Figure 2) and SPAs increased from approximately 29 million hectares to 45 million hectares (Figure 3). These increases are mainly due to the 10 new countries who joined the EU in 2004, but also due to new designations of protected areas by Member States particularly under the Birds Directive. The area designated by France increased significantly, by 170 % over the last two years.
The percentage of terrestrial area covered by SCIs and SPAs per country indicates progress in establishing these areas and the European Commission publishes this in the 'EU Barometer'. As of December 2006, six Member States had designated more than 15 % of their territory as SCIs: Slovenia (31.4 %); Spain (22.6 %); Portugal (17.4 %); Greece (16.4 %); Estonia (15.9 %); and Hungary (15.0 %).
Are Natura 2000 objectives being met?
Progress in fulfilling the objectives of the Natura 2000 network will be assessed in two ways for the Habitats Directive:
- the proposal and designation by EU Member States of sufficient Natura 2000 sites that are home to species and habitats of European concern; and
- the extent to which the designation of such sites is effective in achieving favourable conservation status for those species and habitats.
The sufficiency index shows the progress of individual EU countries in proposing sites that contribute to the Habitats Directive. This is measured against a threshold that is considered sufficient to achieve a favourable conservation status for those species and habitats of concern (Figure 4). Comparison between countries is complicated by the heterogeneous distribution and abundance of species and habitats, and as a result some countries have a heavier burden than others in implementing the Directives (Figures 2 and 3).
Marine areas are not included in the sufficiency index, because the European Commission and Member States are still developing selection criteria for sites for the protection of marine habitats and species.
Contribution of Natura 2000 sites to total area under protection
The sites of the Natura 2000 network provide added-value to the existing national designations of Member States in the EU. The net contribution of the Natura 2000 network to in situ conservation is shown in Figures 5 and 6, indicating both the SPAs of the Birds Directive and in the SCIs of the Habitats Directive, respectively.
What measures are being taken to conserve or restore biodiversity at the EU level and are they effective?
Each country has its own policy and legislation for establishing protected areas at national level. The implementation of the Natura 2000 network has made full or partial use of these existing national instruments, when they fulfilled the criteria of the Habitats and Birds Directives. In many cases however, the implementation of the Natura 2000 has led to significant additional designations.
Although much slower than originally expected, the progress in proposing Natura 2000 sites has now accelerated and is good. For most countries, the sites they have proposed are considered nearly sufficient to achieve favourable conservation status for species and habitats covered by the Directive.
In January 2007, two Member States (
Whether or not the sites designated as national protected areas and Natura 2000 sites are effective in achieving favourable conservation status for species and habitats of concern - the second stage in assessing whether Natura 2000 objectives - needs to be critically assessed in the future.
Indicator specification and metadata
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
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
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
No methodology references available.
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
Some improvement in the update of the CDDA
In 2007 number of countries providing update the:
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: the 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.
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.
Nationally designated areas (CDDA)
provided by European Environment Agency (EEA)
Common Database on Designated Areas (CDDA International)
provided by United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre
Biodiversity (Primary topic)
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
- CSI 008
Contacts and ownership
EEA Contact InfoKatarzyna Biala
EEA Management Plan2010 (note: EEA internal system)
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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