Environmental conservation, protection and improvement, natural habitats and wildlife included, is one of the priorities of the European Union. Natura 2000 is developed for this purpose, to protect and manage the priority areas allowing their sustainable development.
Natura 2000 Networking Programme, which has areas from Spain to Poland, is now in its 24th successful years and there was a global celebration on 21th May, the European Natura 2000 Day and Natura 2000 Award Ceremony.
WHAT IS NATURA 2000?
Natura 2000 was established by Habitats Directive 92/43/CEE (its aim is to protect the habitats and wildlife) to ensure the biodiversity and reduce the impact of human activities. The program promotes the conservation of the most important species of fauna and flora. To this end, it is established a European ecological network of sites under the Habitats Directive.
This network is necessary because of the destruction and fragmentation of natural habitats for decades. The European Environment Agency confirmed the reduction of some European populations: over 64 endemic species (native to or limited to a certain region) have become extinct, 38% of birds and 45% of butterflies are endangered. In addition, ecosystems are under unprecedented pressure (changes in land uses, fires, infrastructures, urbanisation increasing, increased tourism, among other things): in the last decades, approximately 60 percent of the wetlands have been destroyed.
From this environmental protection standpoint, there are two categories of protected areas:
- Sites of Community Importance (SCIs): sites which natural habitats or important species under the Habitats Directive. Once the lists of Sites of Community Importance have been adopted, Member States must designate them as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs).
- Special Protection Areas (SPAs): Areas which have birds species listed under the Birds Directive.
In addition, it should be taken in consideration that habitats can be terrestrial or marine in Natura 2000.
LOCATION OF PROTECTED AREAS
The European Union is a rather diverse and varied territory. From the Arctic Polar Circle to Mediterranean, from the Danube Delta to the Canary Islands, it is 4,000,000 km2 with a wide variety of ecosystems and natural landscapes.
Natura 2000 is composed of over 27,000 natural areas of high ecological value in Europe. Sites Natura 2000 and projects in this areas may be consulted on a special website.
NATURA 2000 NETWORK AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN RURAL AREAS
At the beginning, a list of potential areas were presented by members to create the network, but raised several disputes with farmers and landowners to achieve the proposed goals. This slows down the process of developing in Natura 2000 but was demonstrated it is possible to do it without interfering with agricultural and livestock economy.
Natura 2000 Network promotes than nature conservation should be developed with the benefits for people and economy. For this reason, it is not a natural reserve where the human activities are excludes, otherwise new opportunities for compatibles activities with conservation.
Environmental and economic benefits of the protected areas consist, for example, water availability and the sustanaible agricultural production (supply services), as well as the process which regulate and improve the quality of our air and water, preventing floods and erosion of soils, and mitigate climate change and carbon capture (regulating services).
Natura 2000 offers raw material for many business in relation with the agriculture, farms and craftwork.
Also, the protected areas give cultural services when they do leisure and tourist activities.
WHAT ABOUT THE FUTURE?
Fortunately, Natura 2000 grew and the connection between Natura 2000 areas have benefits. According to agreements made in the Rio de Janeiro Summit (United Nations conference declaration on Environment and Development to strike a balance both, Río 1992), the European Union develops instruments to increase the environmental and social responsibility of all sectors of society: integrating the environment into the common agricultural policy, eco-labels and impact studies. Moreover, the Union is increasing the international cooperation for sustainable development.
Natura 2000 Day is celebrated on 21th of May… for many years of cooperation to preserve the biodiversity! A SIMPLE BUTTERFLY, CAN BE CHANGE THE WORLD.
- Prioritary actions Natura 2000 Network in Spain – Ministry of Agriculture and Environment of Spain. Biodiversity Foundation. LIFE.
- Documentary “Natura 2000 Network”. RTVE.
- Cover photo: SEOBirdlife