What is the Natura 2000 Networking Programme?

The Natura 2000 Networking Programme builds on the solid achievements of the Natura Network Initiative, a successful project which was implemented during 2004-2006. It specifies an integrated approach, recognising the essential contributions of different stakeholders responsible for and interacting with Europe's rich diversity of Natura 2000 sites and surrounding areas. Focusing on communication, capacity building and the value of working in partnership to achieve nature conservation objectives, the Natura 2000 Networking Programme will create a series of training events, themed workshops and practical tools to promote Natura 2000, good practice in site management and the benefits of networking, across Europe. The Natura 2000 Networking Programme is funded by the European Commission and managed on their behalf by Eurosite, the European Landowners Organization and the EUROPARC Federation.

List of Programme participants


What is Natura 2000?

In May 1992 European Union governments adopted legislation designed to protect the most seriously threatened habitats and species across Europe. This legislation is called the Habitats Directive and complements the Birds Directive adopted in 1979. At the heart of both these Directives is the creation of a network of sites called 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 other species, and for habitats. Together, SPAs and SACs make up the Natura 2000 series. All EU Member States contribute to the network of sites in a Europe-wide partnership from the Canaries to Crete and from Sicily to Finnish Lapland.

Special Protection Areas (SPAs) are classified under the Birds Directive to help protect and manage areas which are important for rare and vulnerable birds because they use them for breeding, feeding, wintering or migration.

Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) are classified under the Habitats Directive and provide rare and vulnerable animals, plants and habitats with increased protection and management.

See also:

European information source links

Member State level information source links


What makes these sites special?

These sites protect vulnerable habitats such as wetlands, which in turn helps to safeguard the animals and plants which need these places to survive. Across the EU a diverse range of habitats are protected, from flower-rich meadows to vast expanses of estuaries, even cave systems, and a huge variety of animals throughout the EU benefit from this, such as golden eagles, flamingos, otters and lynx. It is not only natural habitat types which are covered, but also semi-natural ones, which depend on management of humans (e.g. certain types of grasslands).


How are they designated?

Each Member State must compile a list of the best wildlife areas containing the habitats and species listed in the Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive. The lists are then submitted to the European Commission. In the case of sites according to the Habitats Directive, an evaluation and selection process is taking place at European level, under the Birds Directive no such process is foreseen. For both types of sites it is the task of the Member State to put the necessary protection provisions/designations in place.


Where are they?

The network of Natura 2000 sites is spread throughout Europe, from Finland in the north to the Canary Islands in the south. Today, sites, cover about 20% of the European territory, so most European citizens will not live far from a Natura 2000 site!


Are there any marine sites?

Natura 2000 sites can be designated on both land and water. Marine Special Areas of Conservation might include reefs or lagoons, intertidal areas, areas which are always covered by the sea or perhaps land near the sea which is used by marine wildlife. Marine Natura 2000 areas are protected by innovative conservation measures to ensure they are not over-fished, or affected by pollutants from sewage or shipping traffic.


Who looks after the sites?

Member States are responsible for ensuring that all Natura 2000 sites are appropriately managed by conservation authorities in each country. These organisations often work in partnership with other authorities, voluntary bodies, local or national charities and private landowners.


Where does the money come from?

Member States are expected to pay for the management of the sites in their country, but to help countries to pay for urgent or innovative conservation work, the European Union has set aside money under a fund called LIFE-Nature, which is managed by the Environment Directorate of the European Commission. There are also a number of other Community funds which can be used for Natura 2000 sites, such as structural funds and agri-environment measures.


How does Natura 2000 designation effect onsite activities?

Sometimes certain activities have to be restricted or stopped where they are a significant threat to the species or habitat types for which the site is being designated as a Natura 2000 site. These are always addressed on a case by case basis. Keeping species and habitats in good condition is not necessarily incompatible with human activities, in fact many areas are dependant upon certain human activities for their management and survival, such as agriculture.