The European Union’s Habitats Directive is now 20 years old, and its network of protected areas, known as Natura 2000, is nearing completion. After a slow start, the network now includes some 26 000 protected sites and covers approximately 18% of the EU’s land surface as well as significant areas of sea. It is widely considered to be the world’s largest network of protected areas based on agreed site selection criteria. The review has been published in the newly launched open-access journal Nature Conservation.
Douglas Evans, seconded to the Paris-based European Topic Centre on Biological Diversity (ETC/BD) from Scottish Natural Heritage, has been closely involved in the development of the network since 1993. His review in Nature Conservation describes how the network has evolved during a period when the EU itself has increased from 12 to 27 Member States.
Based largely on personnel experience, the author provides detailed information on the series of seminars which started in the 1990s, usually known as biogeographical seminars. These seminars, which involve both governments and Non-governmental Organisations, together with the European Commission, the ETC/BD and invited independent scientists, have been held to ensure that the network adequately covers the relevant species and habitats.
“The review of Dr Evans sheds light on the long and complicated process, that resulted in the first ever cross-border network of protected areas established in the European Union. The unique experience of the Natura 2000 builders should serve as valuable source of information and inspiration for the future conservation projects at international and continental scale”, commented the Editor-in-Chief of Nature Conservation, Dr. Klaus Henle from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ in Leipzig, Germany.