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Designated areas (CSI 008) - Assessment published Mar 2009

Indicator Assessment Created 23 Jul 2008 Published 11 Mar 2009 Last modified 07 Jul 2011, 02:42 PM

Generic metadata


Biodiversity Biodiversity (Primary topic)

Natural resources Natural resources

Policy instruments Policy instruments

biodiversity | csi
DPSIR: Response
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
Indicator codes
  • CSI 008
Temporal coverage:
Geographic coverage:
Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom

Key policy question: What measures are being taken to ensure the in situ conservation of biodiversity components?

Key messages

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 39 European countries was around 100 million hectares in 2008.
  • There has also been an increase in the total area of Natura 2000 sites over the past two years with 52 million hectares designated as Special Protected Areas and 65 million as Sites of Community Importance.
  • At least 45 % of SCIs surface is also covered by one national designation.
  • The level of sufficiency in designating Natura 2000 sites for the Habitats Directive is high for most EU-27 countries (21 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 phase of proposals is still going on.
  • There are increasing pressures on biodiversity outside of protected areas, and an assessment of the effectiveness of designated sites in protecting and conserving biodiversity is needed in a broader scale and with the climate change perspective.
  • Assessments of conservation status of species and habitats of Community interest are available and will help to get this qualitative view.

Cumulated area of nationally designated areas over time in 39 European countries

Note: Overlap may exist due to multiple designations for a same site but the overestimation can be masked by an underestimation of the inventory (some national datasets are not complete).

Data source:
Downloads and more info

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)

Data source:
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Cumulative surface area of sites designated for EC Habitats Directive over time (Sites of Community Importance - SCIs)

Note: The figure shows the share of designated areas per country in the following categories: only under national designation, only under EU Habitats Directive designation and both at national and EU Habitats Directive designation

Data source:
Downloads and more info

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).

Data source:
Downloads and more info

Key assessment

Measures at Member State level

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. SPAs increased from approximately 41 million hectares to 52 million hectares (Figure 2) and SCIs increased in coverage from 56 to more than 65 million hectares (Figure 3).

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 June 2008, eight Member States had designated more than 15 % of their territory as SCIs: Slovenia (31.4 %); Bulgaria (29.6%); Spain (23.4 %); Portugal (17.4 %); Greece (16.4 %); Estonia (16.8 %); Luxemburg (15.4 %) and Hungary (15.0 %). It must be noted the percentage of country territory can vary according to the characterisitics of each country and there is no quantitative target for this figure.

Are Natura 2000 objectives being met?

Progress in fulfilling the objectives of the Natura 2000 network is 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 step of proposal  is still going on for sites for the protection of marine habitats and species.

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

Specific assessment

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 June 2008, two Member States (Denmark and the Netherlands) had proposed sufficient sites. Five Member States (Italy, Belgium, Finland, Germany and Greece) have achieved more than 99 % sufficiency in proposing sites and seven have more than 90% (Sweden, Luxembourg, Spain, United Kingdom, Bulgaria, Malta, and France).

A first assessment of conservation status for species and habitats of Community interest has been done by the MS. The reporting for EU levelas requested by the article 17 will be published by 2009. It is a first step to assess the efficiency of Natura 2000 network.

Data sources

More information about this indicator

See this indicator specification for more details.

Contacts and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Katarzyna Biala


EEA Management Plan

2010 (note: EEA internal system)


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European Environment Agency (EEA)
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