Indicator Assessment

Sites designated under the EU Habitats and Birds Directives

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-147-en
  Also known as: SEBI 008
Published 21 May 2010 Last modified 11 May 2021
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By mid-2008, most EU Member States were close to reaching the target levels for designation of Natura 2000 sites thought necessary to protect habitats and species targeted by the Habitats Directive. Twentyone countries had a sufficiency of above 80 % and the new Member States (EU-10+2) were doing well given their recent accession. This is measured against a threshold that is considered adequate to achieve a favourable conservation status for the species and habitats of concern.

State of progress by biogeographical region in reaching sufficiency as stipulated by the Habitats Directive (Annex I – Habitats and Annex II – Species)

Note: Marine areas are excluded

Data source:

DG ENV, 2008.

State of progress by Member States in designating sufficient protected areas to provide for Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) Annex I habitats and Annex II species

Note: The figure shows the state of progress by Member States in designating sufficient protected areas to provide for Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) Annex I habitats and Annex II species Marine areas are excluded

Data source:

Under the Habitats Directive, each Member State shall contribute to the creation of Natura 2000 by designating sites in proportion to the representation within its territory of the natural habitat types and the habitats of species of European interest.

At EU level, around 10 % of the terrestrial territory is designated under the Birds Directive and around 13 % under the Habitats Directive. Many sites are designated under both directives.

The evaluation of sufficiency is based on the range of each species and habitat in the full territory of each Member State and within the sites proposed by the Member States. The representativeness is assessed by experts during scientific seminars led by the European Commission. Only terrestrial habitats and species are evaluated because marine areas are still under consideration. If the assessment concludes that designations are insufficient, proposed sites must be enlarged or new sites must be proposed that include a larger proportion of species population or habitat area.

At a biogeographical level, proposals for the Macaronesian and Black Sea regions are complete but additional proposals are needed for other regions.

In recent years there has been a steady increase in the cumulative area of the Natura 2000 network. Sites of Community Importance (SCIs) increased in coverage from 45 to more than 65 million hectares and Special Protected Areas (SPAs) increased from approximately 29 to 50 million hectares. These increases occurred mainly due to the fact that 10 new countries joined the EU in 2004, followed by Bulgaria and Romania in 2007. Another factor was new designations of protected areas made by the Member States, particularly under the Birds

As of June 2008, eight Member States had designated more than 15 % of their territory as
SCIs: Slovenia (31.4 %); Bulgaria (26.5 %); Spain (23.6 %); Portugal (17.4 %); Estonia (16.8 %); Greece (16.4 %); Luxembourg (15.4 %) and Hungary (15.0 %). As concerns SPAs, only four Member States had designated more than 15 % of their territory: Slovakia (25.1 %); Slovenia (23 %), Bulgaria (20.4 %) and Spain (19.1 %). there are no quantitative targets on the area to be designated and cover generally also depends on the ecological and other characteristics of a specific Member State.

The process of designating marine areas is still under way.



Supporting information

Indicator definition

The 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 those proposals.


% of sites


Policy context and targets

Context description

Establishment of sites designated under the Habitats and Birds Directives is a direct response to concerns over biodiversity loss, so an indicator on increase in coverage is a valuable indication of commitment to conserving biodiversity and reducing its loss.

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

The EC Habitats Directive and Birds Directive 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 first sub-indicator 'Trends in spatial coverage of proposals for sites designated under the EU Habitats and Birds Directives' presents the change in area coverage of sites proposed by Member States in km2.

The objective of the second sub-indicator 'sufficiency index' is to show how close Member States are to the target of having proposed sufficient sites. Member States with a 100 percent sufficiency have proposed sufficient sites according to the European Commission for all Annex I terrestrial habitat types and Annex II terrestrial species of Community interest occurring in their territory as assessed according to the specifications of the relevant Directive.

Relation of the indicator to the focal area

EU action relevant to protected areas network expansion 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) and the commitments taken under the CBD have been carried forward into the EU Sixth Environment Action Programme, maintaining 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 measures necessary to protect and manage identified sites and in doing so designate them as special areas for conservation or protected areas.


2010 biodiversity target

Related policy documents

No related policy documents have been specified



Methodology for indicator calculation

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

Sum of area in km2 of each site registered in the annual versions of Natura 2000 database and grouped per year ofproposal/designation.

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

Sufficiency Index

For each biogeographical region, seminars are organised by the European Commission and the EEA European Topic Centre on Biological Diversity, gathering Member State representatives of the region and scientific experts. The goal of the seminars is to  assess if each habitat and each species of Annexes I and II occurring in the region is 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 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 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 biogeographic region.
n = number of biogeographical regions within a Member State
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


Methodology references

No methodology references available.



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 biogeographic seminars mentioned earlier.


Initially, 8 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

8. Indicator on private protected areas in Europe

Eventually, two indicators are being proposed (Nationally designated protected areas and Sites designated sites under the EU Habitats and Birds Directives (a combination of 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 indicators under other Headline Indicators (e.g. 7).

Data sources

Other info

DPSIR: Response
Typology: N/A
Indicator codes
  • SEBI 008
Frequency of updates
Updates are scheduled every 5 years
EEA Contact Info


Geographic coverage

Temporal coverage


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