Natura 2000 Network

Natura 2000 is a network of protected areas across the European Union, with the aim of affording protection to habitats and species of wild fauna and flora of Community interest. Conservation and management measures have to be established and implemented in order to ensure that the condition of the natural habitats and species' populations, which are of particular importance, are maintained and/or restored in order to ensure their survival.


A site may be proposed as a Natura 2000 site when it supports natural habitat types and habitats of species of Community interest (pSCI), which habitats and species are listed in the Annexes of the EC Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC). The natural habitats and species that are listed in the said Annexes include vulnerable, rare and endangered habitats and species. Once approved by the European Commission, each site is referred to as a Site of Community Importance (SCI), which is then eventually designated as Special Area of Conservation (SAC) once relevant conservation measures are applied by the relevant Member State. A Natura 2000 site can also be designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA), as called for under the EC Birds Directive (2009/147/EC), when the site is known to be particularly important for the conservation of wild bird species. It is imperative to note that Natura 2000 is not a system of strict nature reserves where all human activities are excluded. The aim is to ensure that the management of such sites is sustainable, both ecologically and economically.

Species that require designation of protected sites:
Maltese Pyramidal Orchid (left); Loggerhead Turtle (right).

The Natura 2000 network throughout Europe comprises more than 27,700 sites, with the terrestrial component representing 18.17% (789,868km2) of the EU-28 land territory. The network also covers about 444,446km2 of the marine environment (update November 2017​).

For further details on the network, reference can be made to the
European Commission Natura 2000 webpage. To get an overview of the location of the Natura 2000 sites across the European Union, reference can be made to the Natura 2000 viewer, which also includes site datasheets. The information within the datasheets can also be obtained through the Natura 2000 database.