Natura 2000

Natura 2000

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Natura 2000 is an ecological network
Ecological network
An ecological network is a representation of the biotic interactions in an ecosystem, in which species are connected by pairwise interactions . These interactions can be trophic or symbiotic...

 of protected areas in the territory of the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

.

Origins


In May 1992, the governments of the European Communities adopted legislation designed to protect the most seriously threatened habitat
Habitat
* Habitat , a place where a species lives and grows*Human habitat, a place where humans live, work or play** Space habitat, a space station intended as a permanent settlement...

s and species across Europe. This legislation is called the Habitats Directive and complements the Birds Directive
Birds Directive
The Birds Directive is a European Union directive adopted in 2009. It replaces Council Directive 79/409/EEC of 2 April 1979 on the conservation of wild birds which was modified several times and had become very unclear...

 adopted in 1979. These two directives are the basis of the creation of the Natura 2000 network of protected areas.

The construction of Natura 2000


The Birds Directive requires the establishment of Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for birds. The Habitats Directive similarly requires Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) to be designated for species other than birds, and for habitats. Together, SPAs and SACs make up the Natura 2000 network of protected areas.

Furthermore, the Natura 2000 network is the EU contribution to the "Emerald network
Emerald network
The Emerald network is an ecological network to conserve wild flora and fauna and their natural habitats of Europe, which was launched in 1998 by the Council of Europe as part of its work under the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats or Bern Convention that came...

" of Areas of Special Conservation Interest (ASCIs) set up under the Bern Convention on the conservation of European wildlife and natural habitats
Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats
The Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats 1979, also known as the Bern Convention , came into force on June 1, 1982....

. Natura 2000 is also a key contribution to the Program of Work of Protected Areas of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

The SPAs are designated directly by each EU Member State, while the SACs follow a more elaborated process: each EU Member State must compile a list of the best wildlife areas containing the habitats and species listed in the Habitats Directive; this list must then be submitted to the European Commission
European Commission
The European Commission is the executive body of the European Union. The body is responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, upholding the Union's treaties and the general day-to-day running of the Union....

, after which an evaluation and selection process on European level will take place in order to become a Natura 2000 site.

Current status of the Natura 2000 network of Protected Areas


Natura 2000 protects around 18% of land in the 27 EU countries, and it can be considered almost completed in the EU terrestrial environment. In any case, there are still some issues which should be solved, but in general the process to construct Natura 2000 has been very positive. During the process, the European Commission has warned several EU member states over non-compliance with the EU nature directives (Habitats and Birds Directives), in particular in relation with the insufficiency of the Natura 2000 network, e.g. the European Commission started an "infringement procedure" against Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 in April 2006.

Natura 2000 is currently being also enlarged in the marine off-shore environment. The process is currently ongoing, and is expected to be close to completion by 2012.

In respect to wilderness and wild land areas, the European Commission is currently developing guidelines on the relation between Natura 2000 and these areas. Members of the European Parliament
Member of the European Parliament
A Member of the European Parliament is a person who has been elected to the European Parliament. The name of MEPs differ in different languages, with terms such as europarliamentarian or eurodeputy being common in Romance language-speaking areas.When the European Parliament was first established,...

 in the plenary session
Plenary session
Plenary session is a term often used in conferences to define the part of the conference when all members of all parties are to attend.These sessions may contain a broad range of content from keynotes to panel discussions and are not necessarily related to a specific style of delivery.The term has...

of backed a report calling for further protection of Europe's wilderness. "The report also calls for more European funding to protect existing sites and "re-wild" ones that are currently being used by humans or agriculture. At present 13% of the forest zone of the 27-member EU is designated as Natura 2000 sites under the existing Birds and Habitats directive."

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