Natura 2000

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Natura 2000 is a coherent network of protected areas within the European Union , which has been established since 1992 in accordance with the provisions of the Fauna-Flora-Habitat Directive (Directive 92/43 / EEC, or Habitats Directive for short). Its purpose is the transnational protection of endangered wild native plant and animal species and their natural habitats. The areas designated in accordance with the Birds Directive (Directive 79/409 / EEC) are also integrated into the network of protected areas.

The Natura 2000 network comprised 2013, more than 18% of the land area and more than 7% of the sea area of the European Union.


Signs of the European protected area (Natura 2000) and protected part of the landscape

The Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive , with its network of protected areas Natura 2000 and its species protection provisions provide for the conservation a comprehensive legal instrument for habitat and species protection in the European territory of the European Union, not, however, in the belonging also to the European Union French and Dutch overseas territories . They serve the aim of implementing the protection of biological diversity of species and habitats decided by both the European Union and the member states in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD, Rio 1992). At the European Council in Gothenburg in 2001, the EU member states also decided to stop further biodiversity loss by 2010 (2010 target) .

For the system, an ecological-geographical zone model of Europe and neighboring regions was developed, the biogeographical regions of the European Union . It includes 11 regions and 5 marine areas.

Procedure of the procedure and designation

The Roháče Mountain in the Western Tatras
Moor eye on the moor nature trail in the Black Moor in the Hochrhön
The Zirbitzkogel is in the Seetal Alps in Styria .
Lagoa do Fogo is a lake in Portugal on the Azores island of São Miguel .
The Big Lake in the Mljet National Park

Natura 2000 is not a simple further development of the existing stock of protected areas of national or international categories, but is built up independently. The procedure to be used is laid down in detail in the Habitats Directive, shown here in a very simplified manner:

  • The member states select the areas in question, guided by the criteria in Annex III of the Habitats Directive. These include:
    • Areas that include natural habitat types in accordance with Annex I of the Habitats Directive (habitats of community interest)
    • Areas that contain habitats of species according to Annex II of the Habitats Directive (species of community interest)
  • The selected areas are proposed to the European Commission (proposed sites of community importance, pSCI). For this purpose, standard data sheets are created for all areas.
  • After an evaluation process and coordination with the member states, the commission defines a list of areas of Community importance (abbreviated GGB, English Site of Community Importance , abbreviated SCI). This list was first published in the Official Journal of the EU in 2004.
  • The Member States are then obliged, however, these areas as soon as possible and at the latest within six years as Special Protection Areas (SPAs) , Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) to provide permanently protected.

In contrast, areas that have been selected by the Member States in accordance with the provisions of the Birds Directive ( Special Protection Areas, SPA) acquire the status of a special protection area directly through their notification to the Commission, i. H. without evaluation procedure.

It should be noted that the German translation of “Special Protection Area” is used both for the “Special Area of ​​Conservation” of the Habitats Directive and for the “Special protection area” of the Bird Protection Directive, and that the expression “Special protection area” is not in the Birds Directive itself, but only a few years later in the Habitats Directive. Since the two types of areas may also overlap in the area, the terms FFH area and European bird sanctuary have been established in Germany to distinguish them . The ambiguous abbreviation “bird sanctuary” is often used for the areas of the Birds Directive.

In most of the federal states of Austria, Natura 2000 areas are consistently prescribed under the designation of European protection areas , in some places especially when they are areas with protection according to both directives. The European protected area is anchored in the more modern state nature conservation laws as a national protection class.

Schedule and development status

The Habitats Directive defines a precise schedule for the establishment of Natura 2000. According to this, the Member States should propose sites within three years of the notification of the Directive (i.e. by 1995). The list of sites of Community importance by the European Commission should be drawn up from this within six years of the publication of the directive (until 1998). Subsequently, the defined areas should be designated as special protection areas by the Member State concerned as soon as possible, but no later than within a further six years (by 2004 at the latest).

This schedule was not followed. Initially there were delays. a. due to a lack of standards with regard to the scope or completeness of the area reports. Corresponding criteria were only developed from 2000 onwards at expert meetings called by the Commission. The continued delays caused the Commission to threaten sanctions and to take legal action against individual member states. Various non-governmental nature conservation associations exerted additional pressure by creating numerous area reports from their own competence (so-called shadow lists), thereby highlighting the reporting deficits of the member states. The lists of the Important Bird Areas , which are kept by BirdLife International , are of particular importance .

In 2004, a still provisional list of sites of Community importance was published, giving the Member States an initial solid foundation for implementation. In addition, the Member States continuously reported further areas to the Commission. Even without taking into account the states that only became EU members after 1992, the late registration process was not yet completed in 2008.

The Natura 2000 barometer published by the European Commission provides periodically updated information on the state of development . According to this, at the end of 2009 a total of 23,810 areas (marine and terrestrial) with a total area of ​​716,992 km², of which 585,533 km² land area (13.5% of the land area of ​​the EU) and 131,459 km² sea area, were designated as Natura 2000 areas of European importance; of which in Germany a total of 4675 areas with 54,342 km² total area, of which 34,574 km² land area (9.7% of the land area) and 19,768 km² sea area, in Austria 168 areas with 8978 km² land area (10.7% of the land area). In total, as of 2010, around 11.6% of the territory of the EU will be in areas of Community interest. By January 2011, almost 27,000 km² had been added in fifteen EU member states.

Practical implementation

The member states are obliged to ensure a "favorable conservation status" of the relevant species occurrences and habitats as defined in the Habitats Directive in the designated areas and to report to the commission every six years.

It is up to the Member States to choose the appropriate protective instruments. These can be of a legal, administrative or contractual nature, whereby protection according to existing national categories is also possible and customary - ad hoc inclusion in the Natura 2000 network is not yet a protection, but a representation of the community importance of the area. Existing national protected areas or parts of them that met the selection criteria have often been reported as European protected areas. This results in manifold overlaps and combinations of protected areas according to national protection categories and specially created protected areas of the Natura 2000 network.

Each Natura 2000 area is given a Europe-wide unique number, known as the EU code, for identification. In addition, however, z. B. the states in Germany and partly the federal states in Austria also have internal numbering. In addition, they have a letter code (A – K) that shows their position in relation to other areas of the Natura 2000 network.

Implementation deficits in Germany

2015, the EU Commission initiated against Germany infringement proceedings one because in spite of the deadline in 2010 for 2,784 of the 4,606 areas, the protected status still missing. In a press release from the EU Commission on January 24, 2019, she accuses Germany:

Germany failed to designate 787 out of 4606 areas of Community importance as special protection areas within the prescribed deadlines. In addition, Germany has generally and continuously failed to set sufficiently detailed targets for all Natura 2000 areas. The Commission also takes the view that Germany has failed to ensure that the authorities in six Länder actively and systematically disseminate management plans to the public.


The EU provides the member states with financial aid for the designation of fauna and flora habitats , or FFH areas for short . The Commission and the member states argued for a long time about the real costs of the measures. In 2007, the Commission finally published an estimate according to which 3.4 to 5.7 billion euros would be required annually for implementation in the EU. At the time, the Commission pointed out that it was more a matter of the lower limit of the financial requirement. The future accession states were also not yet taken into account.

Special forms

In addition to the implementation of the two central guidelines, the network also offers space for national and regional special forms:

  • European Wildlife Protection Areas in the State of Salzburg / Austria are FFH or bird protection areas specially designed for hunting law aspects.
  • Marine protected areas (Marine Protected Areas) are a special category within the Natura 2000 concept.

In Germany, the federal states are responsible for implementing Natura 2000 in the territorial waters (within the 12 nautical mile zone). At the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, a special working group is working on the program for marine protected areas called Habitat Mare Natura 2000 . For Natura 2000 in the area of ​​the Exclusive Economic Zone of Germany (EEZ), which joins the 12 nautical mile zone seaward and extends to international waters beyond the 200 nautical mile zone, the federal government, represented by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation and the Federal Environment Ministry , responsible. Decisive for the designation of Natura 2000 areas in the sea are the occurrence and distribution of special species of sea ​​birds , marine mammals and fish, and internationally important habitat types such as sandbanks and reefs that are particularly worthy of protection can be preserved. On May 25, 2004, Germany reported 10 Natura 2000 areas in the German EEZ of the North and Baltic Seas to the EU Commission. Two of the areas for the protection of sea birds are as a national nature reserve and international special protection area since September 2005 ( Special Protection Area - SPA reported). The remaining eight FFH areas were in November 2007 by the EU as Community areas significance - approved (Site of Community Importance SCI). Since January 2008, their protection status has become legally binding.

From the point of view of marine protection , the importance of the areas has already been called into question by precedents: The planned fixed Fehmarnbelt link is to be built in the Natura 2000 area Fehmarnbelt. The EU's structural fund is supposed to bear a considerable part of the construction costs.

Position of the Natura 2000 network in the IUCN system

The Natura 2000 network cannot be established in the internationally customary system of management categories of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN): The Commission has left it up to the members of the EU to decide how interests in protected area management are anchored in Union law is implemented. Different protection regimes, from complete decommissioning to active measures to preserve a species or a habitat, are sensible and possible, depending on the protected asset and the objective. The legal foundations of the communities only provide for a ban on deterioration, some states - such as Austria - focus their national protective measures on “restoration” and “achieving a favorable conservation status” (positive conservation idea). In some countries, the Natura 2000 network only covers strictly protected areas, while others also include areas used for agriculture and forestry. Many of the areas are also assigned to national protection categories, and can thus be classified between IUCN II National Park (“ protected area managed mainly for ecosystem protection and recreation ”) to V Protected landscape (“ … managed mainly for landscape / seascape conservation and recreation ”), Natura 2000 areas have nothing to do with the wilderness concept (untouched nature, IUCN I) of classic nature conservation in terms of their protection concept.

In addition, a working group of the Ministerial Conference for the Protection of Forests in Europe (MCPFE) has developed a - specifically European - classification scheme Assessment Guidelines for Protected and Protective Forest and other Wooded Land in Europe (MCPFE protection area classes ) for protected forest areas that under class 1.3. “ Conservation through active management ” provides - but the Natura 2000 network itself corresponds to this concept in its concern: “Biodiversity in the member states by establishing a common framework for the conservation of wild life To maintain plants and animals and habitats of community interest ”, not - the specific list of criteria is more in line with UNESCO's world heritage concept.

National implementations

Marking of the nature protection and Natura 2000 area Haslauer Moor , south of Amaliendorf ( Waldviertel , Austria)

At the end of 2013, 27,308 SCI and SPA areas with 1,039,332 km² were designated, 787,767 km² land area, 251,565 km² marine area. That is 23% of the state area ( EU-28 ). At the time, Spain was the leader in Europe in terms of the total protected area (around 148,000 km², 29.3% of the national territory), a large part of which is in the Coto de Doñana National Park . France in 2nd place had reported around 111,000 km². Malta had the densest network in relation to the national territory (around 74% of the national territory protected). In terms of sea areas, Great Britain had the largest area with around 74,000 km², and Malta had the highest national density with around 61%.

  • In Germany, Natura 2000 became legally binding with its implementation in national law within the Federal Nature Conservation Act in April 1998 and with the amendments to the BNatSchG 2002 and 2007. Since nature conservation in Germany is a matter for the federal states, the individual federal states are responsible for designating FFH areas. The exception is the German EEZ ; The federal government, and thus the BfN, is responsible for marine protected areas (MPAs) in this maritime area.
  • For Austria, where Natura 2000 is implemented in the state nature conservation law, see European protected areas in Burgenland , Carinthia , Lower Austria , Upper Austria , Salzburg , Styria , Tyrol , Vorarlberg , Vienna .
  • Sweden is also gradually implementing Natura 2000. 90 habitat types are listed for Sweden and around 100 endangered animal and plant species from Appendices 1 and 2. All Swedish Natura 2000 areas are classified as Reich Interest.


The designation of the network is associated with usage conflicts throughout Europe. That is why the national implementation has achieved very different degrees of success. Nature conservation associations repeatedly pointed out the degradation of FFH areas through direct destruction, landscape fragmentation or deterioration in quality.


  • According to Euronatur, the most important migratory bird resting place on the east coast of the Adriatic is to be sold through the Ulcinj saltworks in Montenegro for at least 257.8 million euros. This threatens the degradation of the globally important wetland area and a future FFH area. As part of the privatization of the former state-owned company in 2005, Eurofond took over 75 percent of the company from the state of Montenegro for 800,000 euros. This also includes the 14.5 million square meter salt works that are now to be used as building land. A spatial plan (2005–2020) was drawn up for Montenegro in 2007 with the support of the German Federal Government and the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), which also provided for FFH areas. In 2012, the candidate country Montenegro changed the intended use of the area.

See also



  • Hansjakob Baumgartner: Beaver, Wolf and Corn Crake : 23 wild animals from the Emerald program. Haupt, Bern / Stuttgart / Vienna, 2007 ISBN 978-3-258-07007-0
  • Tobias Garstecki et al .: Natura 2000 Award Scheme - Environmental Benchmarking Report . adelphi, Berlin 2015 PDF
  • Martin Gellermann; Claus Carlsen (Ed.): Natura 2000 . European habitat protection law and its implementation in the Federal Republic of Germany. In: Nature and Law . Volume 4, 2nd, enlarged and corrected edition. Springer, Berlin / Vienna 2001, ISBN 3-540-40563-1 .
  • Ahmet Mithat Günes: The protection regime of the Habitats Directive and its implementation in national law , Shaker, Aachen 2007. ISBN 978-3-8322-6829-9 (also dissertation at Bielefeld University , 2007).
  • Cesare Lasen, Thomas Wilhalm; Autonomous Province of Bolzano-South Tyrol Department of Nature and Landscape (Ed.): Natura 2000 Habitats in South Tyrol. In: Nature Conservation in South Tyrol . Autonomous Province of Bozen-South Tyrol Nature and Landscape Department, Bozen 2004, ISBN 88-900534-3-7 .
  • C. Mayr: 25 years of the EU Birds Directive in Germany . Balance sheet and outlook. In: Natur und Landschaft 79, 2004, Issue 8: 364–370.
  • C. Mayr: European Protected Areas in Germany . An (almost) never-ending story. In: Der Falke 55, 2008, Issue 5: pp. 186–192.
  • Axel Ssymank, U. Hauke, C. Rückriem, E. Schröder with the assistance of Doris Messer: The European Natura 2000 system of protected areas. BfN manual for the implementation of the Fauna-Flora-Habitat Directive and the Bird Protection Directive. Series of publications for landscape management and nature conservation, Volume 53. 1998, ISBN 3-89624-113-3 , 560 pp.
  • Sarah Sach: Natura 2000 - the backbone of European nature conservation . In: Sachsen-Anhalt-Journal 26 (2016), no. 4, pp. 21–23

Web links

Commons : Natura 2000  - collection of images, videos and audio files


Materials and cards



Individual evidence

  1. a b c Natural habitats (Natura 2000). EUROPA → Summaries of EU legislation (German version)
  2. Natura 2000 barometer. In: European Commission. Retrieved March 19, 2016 .
  3. Natura 2000. In: European Commission. Retrieved March 9, 2016 .
  4. Definition of BSG ( Memento of the original from July 20, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. on @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  5. Natura 2000. In: UMWELTnet → Nature and species protection. Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management (BMLFUW), accessed on June 24, 2010 .
  6. Natura 2000 areas. In: → Umweltinformation → Naturschutz → Protected areas → Natura 2000 areas. Federal Environment Agency (UBA), accessed on August 14, 2010 .
  7. Natura 2000 Austria. In: »Topics» Environment »Nature conservation. Tyrolean provincial government, accessed on June 16, 2010 .
  8. Natura 2000 Barometer (PDF; 108 kB) (status of the protected area designation)
  9. European nature reserves continue to grow . ( Memento of the original from August 21, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Press portal "Europe on site", January 10, 2011 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  10. Nabu press release of January 24, 2019 , accessed on March 20, 2019
  11. Press release of the EU Commission of January 24, 2019 , accessed on March 20, 2019
  12. DNR EU circular 03.2003
  13. ( Memento of the original from January 17, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  14. ^ Georg Frank: Harmonization of European forest protection areas . In: BFW, A (ed.): Forest newspaper . Leopoldsdorf 2006 ( excerpt [accessed on June 26, 2010]).
  15. a b quot. Frank 2006 /
  16. Exemplary quotations § 14 Special Provisions for Natura 2000 Areas Paragraphs 3a and 3b, Tyrolean Nature Conservation Act 2005 (TNSchG 2005); Announcement of the state government of April 12, 2005 on the re-publication of the Tyrolean Nature Conservation Act 1997. LGBl. No. 26/2005
  17. accessed on August 8, 2014
  18.  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /  
  19. ^ Länsstyrelsen i Stockholms län - Riksintressen
  20. European Commission: Commission sues Spain for failure to protect the Doñana wetlands. January 24, 2019, accessed January 24, 2019 .
  21. WWF: EU Commission takes Spain to the European Court of Justice. January 24, 2019, accessed January 25, 2019 .