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You are here: Home / Environmental topics / Biodiversity / An overview of Europe's protected areas / Facts and figures / Number and size of protected areas

Number and size of protected areas

About 1 096 800 km2 or 25 % of the EU 27 terrestrial land are protected under Natura 2000 or national designations or some combination of the two.

Sites in the Natura 2000 network now account for 18 % of the EU's land territory, providing invaluable protection for vulnerable wildlife and habitats. Protected areas
more generally (including nationally and locally designated sites) now cover 21 % of the land territory of the European Environment Agency's member countries and collaborating countries, in total 39 countries.

At the end of 2011, the Natura 2000 network accounted for over 26 400 sites with a total surface area of about 986 000 km2, comprising nearly 768 000 km2 of land, and close to 218 000 km2 of sea. The terrestrial component of the network represents 18 % of the EU‑27 land territory, whereas the sea component covers only a small part of the marine waters under the jurisdiction of EU Member States (about 4 %).

In 2011 well over 97 000 sites were reported by the 39 EEA member countries and collaborating countries for the Nationally designated areas (CDDA). The nationally designated areas covered a surface of nearly 1 200 000 km2, including both land and sea.

While the number of protected areas in Europe is very high, their average size is quite low as compared to other regions of the world. This largely reflects the high degree of fragmentation of the land in Europe due to urbanisation, transport infrastructure and general intensification of land use. For the vast majority of nationally protected areas (90 %) the area is less than 1 000 ha and 65 % range between 1 and 100 ha (see Table below). The average size of the Natura 2000 sites is larger: two thirds (68 %) are less than 1 000 ha and almost a third of the sites are bigger than 1 000 ha.

Area sizeNationally protected areas
(CDDA)
Natura 2000 sites
<1 12% 2%
1 - 100 ha 65% 33%
100 - 1 000 ha 16% 33%
1 000 - 10 000 ha 5% 23%
>10 000 ha 2% 9%

Source: CDDA version 9, June 2011 and Natura 2000 data base: December 2011

For the complementary of nationally designated areas (CDDA) and the Natura 2000 network see here

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European Environment Agency (EEA)
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