The European Union’s (EU) Natura 2000 network of protected areas is expanding. To make full use the network’s potential, the protected sites need to be managed better with clear conservation goals, according to a European Environment Agency (EEA) briefing, published today. The briefing shows, that currently many of Europe’s protected sites lack specific and measurable conservation objectives.
The EEA briefing ‘’ sums up the results of a larger, joint study by the EEA, The Institute for European Environment Policy (IEEP), UNEP-WCMC and Trinomics. The joint study aims to improve the evaluation of the management of protected areas.
According to the EEA briefing, EU Member States have so far reported on the management effectiveness of less than 8 % of protected Natura 2000 sites. This is despite the EU’s and its Member States’ international commitment to assess the management of 60 % of its protected areas by 2015. To demonstrate progress towards this goal, monitoring and reporting must improve considerably either through an EU-coordinated process or through compilation of national reporting, the briefing states.
The EEA briefing looks at five EU Member States in more detail, showing large differences in the evaluation of protected sites’ management. For example, in Finland, a national agency conducts a standardised assessment but only every 6 to 12 years for each site. France uses site steering committees while Ireland and Slovakia do not have national assessment approaches. In the Netherlands, the assessments are largely done by site managers, agricultural collectives or external consultants. The case study findings suggest that there is a need for indicators on the management and evaluation process of Natura 2000 sites.
The EEA briefing shows that the lack of specific and measurable conservation objectives is a key problem for assessing the management of protected sites. Other shortcomings include the lack of established management measures, gaps in conservation data on the habitats and species the site is designated to protect, poor financial planning, and lack of public participation.
The EEA briefing further says that better and more complete implementation and enforcement of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives would most likely substantially improve the management effectiveness of the EU protected areas. Other clear ways to improve the situation include more targeted capacity building, enhanced guidance, and increasing the use of available EU funding.
The EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, published in May 2020, includes a specific commitment to “Effectively manage all protected areas, defining clear conservation objectives and measures, and monitoring them appropriately” by 2030.