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Natura 2000

Natura 2000 is an EU network of areas of high biodiversity value. It comprises special protection areas (SPAs) established under the ‘birds directive’ (1979) and special areas of conservation (SACs) established under the ‘habitats directive’ (1992).

EU countries designate SPAs for rare and migratory bird species under the birds directive. They also propose sites for protection under the habitats directive for species of fauna and flora and habitats that are of special interest because of their rarity or vulnerability, or risk of extinction. On the basis of these proposals and within the framework nine bio-geographical regions of the EU (Alpine, Atlantic, Black Sea, Boreal, Continental, Macaronesian, Mediterranean, Pannonian and Steppic), the European Commission adopts sites of community importance. EU countries then have 6 years to designate these areas as SACs.

Natura 2000 is the largest co-ordinated network of protected areas globally and accounts for almost one fifth of the EU’s land area and more than 250 000 km2 of marine area.