The Natura 2000 network has no equal: it is the largest network of protected areas in the world, being the primal instrument of environmental conservation in the European Union.
With over than 26,000 sites covering 18% of EU land area and almost 9,5% of ocean area, it represents a fifth of the European territory and it generates a number between €200 and €300 billion per year (or 2% to 3% of the EU’s Gross Domestic Product).
It is the offspring of two European legislative initiatives:
— the Birds Directive, from 1979, which created the Special Protection Areas (SPAs);
— the Habitats Directive, from 1992, which created the Sites of Community Importance (SCI’s) and the possibility of them being Special Areas of Conservation (SAC’s).
The Natura 2000 network in Portugal
The Natura 2000 network in Europe
To secure long-term conservation for the most threatened habitats and wildlife in Europe.
The Birds Directive aims at protecting all wild birds in European territory covering some 500 species.
So far, about 5,300 Special Protection Areas were created.
The Habitats Directive was designed to protect wild animals and plants, endangered or endemic (meaning that they can only be found in a determined geographical area and nowhere else in the world).
This measure has allowed the protection of around 230 different habitats and some 1,500 threatened plants and animals, with special attention to 200 unique habitats.
The measures for nature and biodiversity conservation designed for the Natura 2000 network include human communities and their social, economic and cultural activities. This is an integrated view of the relation between Man and Nature.
The main goal is that the Natura 2000 network becomes a sphere of symbiosis and even interdependence between Man and Nature.
The values that form the base for this network wish to promote a future of sustainability, appealing to an understanding of Nature as once again a home to which Man belongs and not merely a set of resources subject to exploitation.