Commission establishes largest network of protected nature sites in the world

The European Commission has included more than 7,000 nature sites in the Atlantic and Continental regions of the EU in the network of Natura 2000 sites across the continent.

Species such as the Wolf, Otter and Salmon, as well as certain coastal lagoons and river systems are on the lists of sites whose protection must be enhanced to preserve bio-diversity in Europe. In total, 197 animal species, 89 plant species and 205 habitats covered are considered to be of scientific importance.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "By establishing Natura 2000, the EU strives towards reaching its objective of halting the decline of biodiversity by 2010. After a slow start to Natura 2000 in the late 1990s, we have been able to pick up speed in the last five years. With the adoption of the lists in the Atlantic and Continental regions, the Natura 2000 network becomes the largest coherent network of protected areas in the world and the EU's most efficient operational tool to protect its fauna and flora."

The Natura 2000 network was set up under the EUs Habitats Directive. Member States must take all necessary measures to guarantee their conservation and avoid deterioration in their areas. The list does not exclude all economic activity in the areas but Member States must ensure that such activities are carried out in a way which is compatible with the conservation of the habitats and species living there.

The Atlantic and Continental lists just adopted cover sites in 12 Member States. The entire territory of Luxembourg and large parts of Germany, France, Belgium, Austria, Denmark, Italy and Sweden are included in the Continental list. The Netherlands, the UK, Ireland, the Western part of France, as well as parts of Belgium, Germany, Portugal and Denmark are included in the Atlantic list of sites.

The lists of sites foreseen in the Habitats Directive are divided in seven bio-geographic regions within the Union. The lists for the Macaronesian and Alpine regions have already been adopted by the Commission. The next steps towards completion of the Natura 2000 network will be the adoption of two more lists of sites - Boreal and Mediterranean regions - and the establishment of the Natura 2000 network in the new Member States.

David Hopkins



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