Habitats refer to the place with certain conditions for a certain organism or population of a species to live. The Habitats Directive aims to conserve certain types of habitats (ecosystems) and the fundamental habitats of certain rare and threatened species of flora and fauna to ensure their survival over time. There are various catalogues of habitat types, but Europe unified this typology through the Habitats Directive. Habitats listed in Annex I cover a wide range of terrestrial and marine habitats, including a large number that are semi-natural rather than semi-natural natural.
The Habitats Directive defines the conservation status of a natural and a semi-natural habitat as favourable if i) its natural range and areas it covers within that range are stable or increasing, and; ii) the specific structure and functions which are necessary for its long-term maintenance exist and are likely to continue to exist for the foreseeable future; iii) the conservation status of its typical species is favourable. Annex I of Habitats Directive listed the natural habitat types of community interest whose conservation requires the designation of special areas of conservation. Certain habitats among those are furthermore designated as “priority habitat types”. Habitats in the EU are assigned relevant codes. An area or habitat can combine two habitats, and be designated as for example, with a shared code.
One of the first and most essential steps in the identification process of the Natura 2000 network is the establishment of the habitats and species reference lists in the country. Not all the habitats listed in Annex I can be found in Serbia, so specific reference lists for habitat types have been established – Reference list of Habitat types
Out of 233 habitat types protected in Europe, a total of 73 can be found in Serbia. There are 63 habitat types with a clear presence in Serbia. However, 10 habitat types are still questionable, and must be confirmed through more field mapping.
Serbia has requested amendments of Annex I, II, IV & V of the Habitats Directive and amendments of definitions of certain habitat types in the Interpretation manual of EU habitats as is the case of the habitat type Dry Balkan serpentinophilous stepic grasslands (Halacsyetalia sendtneri). The data analysis located this habitat in the Alpine region of Kosovo, but there is a high assumption of presence also in central Serbia Alpine region.
Implementation of the Directive has revealed difficulties in identifying the habitats in the field and the absence of information on habitat distribution in most EU Member States and accession countries. As a result, the Directive has been responsible for much survey work and has increased our knowledge of many habitats and species across the European Union. Currently, the Republic of Serbia, through the EU for Natura 2000 project, has improved the knowledge and the fieldwork data on this task, including the preparation of the field mapping methodology of habitat types as well as an Interpretation Manual of Habitat Types of EU Importance for Serbia.