Indicator Assessment

Designated areas

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-142-en
  Also known as: CSI 008 , SEBI 007
Published 01 Jul 2010 Last modified 11 May 2021
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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 reached 102 million hectares in 2009.
  • There has also been an increase in the total area of Natura 2000 sites over the past three years with 56 million hectares designated as Special Protected Areas and 68 million as Sites of Community Importance.
  • 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  (data from 2008, updated expected by March 2010).

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 assessments 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 now available and show that only a small proportion of the vulnerable habitats and species have achieved good conservation status.

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:

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:

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:

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:
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 three years. SPAs increased from 44 million hectares to 56 million hectares (Figure 2) and SCIs increased in coverage from 56 to more than 68 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 July 2009, 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 %); Estonia (16.8 %); Greece (16.4 %); 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 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.

The results from the Article 17 report published in July 2009 show that only a small proportion of the vulnerable habitats and species have achieved good conservation status, and Member States will need to strengthen their efforts.

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). (updated expected by March 2010)

Supporting information

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



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.



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


Data sources

Other info

DPSIR: Response
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
Indicator codes
  • CSI 008
  • SEBI 007
Frequency of updates
Updates are scheduled once per year
EEA Contact Info


Geographic coverage

Temporal coverage




Filed under:
Filed under: biodiversity, csi
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