Natura 2000 is the EU-wide network of nature conservation areas set up to ensure the survival of Europe’s most valuable species and habitats. It is not restricted to nature reserves, but based on a much broader principle of conservation and sustainable use, where people and wildlife can live together in harmony. By the end of 2008, the network will comprise more than 25 000 sites, covering around 20 % of the total land area of the EU — around 800 000 km2 — plus 100 000 km2 of marine environment.
Natura 2000 is at the heart of EU nature policy and is a remarkable demonstration of Europe’s commitment to act to preserve its rich native biodiversity for future generations. Europe’s wildlife and ecosystems are under threat. The EU has pledged to halt the decline in biodiversity by 2010, and is part of a global agreement to signifi cantly reduce biodiversity loss by that date.
Natura 2000 is key to achieving this goal. The network is founded on two pioneering pieces of EU legislation: the 1979 Birds Directive and the 1992 Habitats Directive. Natura 2000 is still under development, covering an ever richer range of European fl ora and fauna. It already off ers protection to over 1 000 rare and threatened animal and plant species and 200 habitat types across the 27 Member States.