Indicator Specification

Sites designated under the EU Habitats and Birds Directives

Indicator Specification
  Indicator codes: SEBI 008
Published 09 Apr 2015 Last modified 29 May 2018
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This indicator shows the current status of implementation of the Habitats (92/43/EEC) and Birds Directives (79/409/EEC) by EU Member States. It does this by showing (a) trends in spatial coverage of proposals of sites and (b) by calculating a sufficiency index based on these proposals.

Assessment versions

Published (reviewed and quality assured)
  • No published assessments


Justification for indicator selection


  • Policy relevance: this indicator provides direct evidence of the implementation of the Habitats and Birds Directives. Therefore, it is highly relevant for Member States and EU nature conservation policy.
  • Established mechanism and methodology: within EU Member States there are already processes in place for the compilation of information on Natura 2000 sites at both national and regional levels. This indicator is clear and shows growth in total area and sufficiency of designation per country over time.

Scientific references

  • No rationale references available

Indicator definition

This indicator shows the current status of implementation of the Habitats (92/43/EEC) and Birds Directives (79/409/EEC) by EU Member States. It does this by showing (a) trends in spatial coverage of proposals of sites and (b) by calculating a sufficiency index based on these proposals.


square kilometre


Policy context and targets

Context description

The establishment of designated sites under the Habitats and Birds Directives is a direct response to concerns over biodiversity loss. An indicator on the increase in coverage of these sites is a valuable indication of commitment to conserving biodiversity and reducing its loss.

It is, however, essential that coverage indicators are also combined with indicators demonstrating the extent to which these protected areas adequately cover components of biodiversity.

The EC Habitats and Birds Directives aim to conserve natural habitats and wild fauna and flora within the European Union. Member States must propose sites for protection of the habitats and species listed in the Annexes to the Directive. The indicator shows the trends in total area covered by Sites of Community Importance (SCIs) and in Special Protected Areas (SPAs).

Relation of the indicator to the focal area

EU action relevant to the expansion of network of protected areas began under the 1979 Birds Directive and was followed by the 1992 Habitats Directive. The 1998 EU biodiversity strategy was designed in accordance with the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD). Commitments made under the CBD have been carried forward into the EU's Sixth Environment Action Programme, and maintain the aim of a gradual and constant strengthening of in-situ conservation in Europe.

Member States have been given six years following the adoption of the list of Sites of Community Importance (SCIs) to develop and enforce the necessary measures to protect and manage identified sites and, in doing so, designate them as special areas for conservation or protected areas.

Upon the adoption of the 2020 EU Biodiversity Strategy, with its six targets, the indicator is particularly relevant to EU Target 1 on Nature.


2020 EU biodiversity targets - Target 1

Related policy documents

  • EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy
    in the Communication: Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020 (COM(2011) 244) the European Commission has adopted a new strategy to halt the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the EU by 2020. There are six main targets, and 20 actions to help Europe reach its goal. The six targets cover: - Full implementation of EU nature legislation to protect biodiversity - Better protection for ecosystems, and more use of green infrastructure - More sustainable agriculture and forestry - Better management of fish stocks - Tighter controls on invasive alien species - A bigger EU contribution to averting global biodiversity loss

Key policy question

What progress has there been in the implementation of the Habitats and Birds Directives?



Methodology for indicator calculation

Trends in proposals for sites designated under the EU Habitats and Birds Directives

The sum of the area (km2) of each site is registered in the annual versions of the Natura 2000 database and grouped per year of proposal/designation.

Information is collected from national authorities by DG Environment and processed by the European Topic Centre on Biological Diversity (EEA-ETC/BD). Further improvements on data flows are under discussion.

Sufficiency Index

For each biogeographical region, seminars, which gather Member State representatives of the region and scientific experts, are organised by the European Commission and the EEA European Topic Centre on Biological Diversity. The goal of the seminars is to assess whether each of the Annexe I and II habitats and species occurring in the region are sufficiently represented in the sites proposed as being of Community interest on the national list presented by a Member State (pSCIs). The conclusions of 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 indicator calculates the sum, by biogeographical region and 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 biogeographical 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 more demanding to propose sufficient sites for a large biogeographical area than for a smaller biogeographical area in the same country.

Sufficiency is then calculated as follows for each Member State:

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 biogeographical region
n = number of biogeographical regions within a Member State
habi = number of Annex I habitats sufficiently represented for 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


Methodology references

No methodology references available.


Data specifications

EEA data references

External data references

Data sources in latest figures



Methodology uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Data sets uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Rationale uncertainty


  • Only covers EU Member States.
  • The process for the Sufficiency Index is not fully automated at present, i.e. national agencies cannot provide data through an automated procedure. Instead, the process depends on the outcomes of the biogeographical seminars mentioned earlier.



Initially, eight possible indicators were proposed under the Headline Indicator:

1. Trends in national establishment of protected areas;

2. Trends in proposals for protected sites under the EU Habitats Directive;

3. Trends in nomination of wetlands of international importance (Ramsar sites);

4. Coverage of Important Bird Areas by protected areas;

5. EU Habitats Directive: sufficiency of Member State proposals for protected sites;

6. Indicator on infra-structural support for designated areas in Europe;

7. Status of species and habitats in protected sites under the EU Habitats Directive; and

8. Indicator on private protected areas in Europe.

In the end, two indicators are proposed: Nationally designated protected areas and designated sites under the EU Habitats and Birds Directives (a combination of numbers 2 and 5 above). The other indicators proposed were either not ready (e.g. 6 and 8), not nationally recognised (e.g. 4) or are being covered under other Headline Indicators (e.g. 7).

Further work

Short term work

Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.

Long term work

Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.

General metadata

Responsibility and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Katarzyna Biala


European Environment Agency (EEA)


Indicator code
SEBI 008
Version id: 2

Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled once per year


DPSIR: Response
Typology: Policy-effectiveness indicator (Type D)


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