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You are here: Home / Environmental topics / Biodiversity / An overview of Europe's protected areas / Facts and figures / Progress in the designation of sites

Progress in the proposal and designation of sites

Protected areas have taken many forms historically, from medieval hunting reserves, to more modern national parks and nature reserves. These different forms reflected the different needs that protected areas were created to serve, whether it was protecting the resource of wild game, preserving natural beauty or, more recently, safeguarding biodiversity. The last century has seen a great increase in both the number of protected areas and the total surface area that has received protected designation.

At the global scale, more than 80 % of the world's protected areas have been established since 1962, when the first World Parks Congress was held. In Europe, both the number of nationally designated protected areas as well as their total size has been growing exponentially ever since.

Cumulative number and surface area of nationally protected areas in the 39 EEA countries

Cumulative number and surface area of protected areas in the 39 EEA countries - eps file

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Progress in the designation of sites for the two components of Natura 2000: the Special Protection Areas (SPAs) under the Birds Directive, and the Sites of Community Importance (SCIs) under the Habitats Directive.

Overall, the Natura 2000 network is largely complete as far as the terrestrial environment is concerned. However, its marine component is still very incomplete in most countries, and most of the designations are in inshore waters leaving the offshore waters with poor protection levels.

Year

SCIs cumulative surface (ha)

SPAs cumulative surface (ha)

1996

1 446 802

8 038 582

1997

14 590 722

11 383 879

1998

23 792 885

15 082 450

1999

33 598 019

15 567 101

2000

33 795 616

16 952 042

2001

38 179 398

17 319 979

2002

44 742 395

17 653 321

2003

45 784 279

24 533 193

2004

45 861 545

28 824 913

2005

55 219 328

41 256 430

2006

56 044 537

44 436 843

2007

64 844 105

50 128 568

2008

66 150 089

53 065 514

2009

68 197 514

56 060 470

2010

71 901 500

59 348 600

2011

73 362 000

62 756 000

Cumulative surface area of sites designated under the Habitats (SCIs) and classified under the Birds (SPAs) Directives

Cumulative surface area of sites designated under the Habitats (SCIs) and classified under the Birds (SPAs) Directives - eps file

More information on the progress of the Natura 2000 network is available from the Natura 2000 Barometer.

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European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Denmark
Phone: +45 3336 7100