A protected area is a clearly defined geographical space, recognized, dedicated, and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values (IUCN Definition 2008).
In the Republic of Serbia, the protected areas are recognized in the Law on Nature Protection (Official Gazette of RS, No. 36/2009, 88/2010, 91/2010 – corrigendum, 14/2016, 95/2018 – state law and 71/2021).
Seven types of protected areas are recognized: national parks, nature parks, strict nature reserves, special nature reserves, outstanding natural landscapes, monuments of nature, and protected habitats. A total of 474 areas of special importance for the conservation and improvement of nature in Serbia have been protected, out of which 5 are national parks, 16 nature parks, 58 outstanding natural landscapes with specific natural and cultural-historical values, 71 strict and special nature reserves, and 313 monuments of nature. The total protected area is 531.279 ha, which makes only 6% of Serbian territory.
These protected areas are important for geological, biological, ecosystem and/or landscapes diversity and values. Also, habitats of bird species and other migratory species that are significant according to the international regulations can also be designated as protected areas of general interest. The assessment of a protected area is prepared according to the Rulebook on the Criteria for Evaluation and the Procedure of Categorization of Protected Areas (Official Gazette of RS, No. 97/15) and is performed in relation to the degree of the expressed main natural features, phenomena, and processes of interest for the protection of the area, as well as in relation to the functions and purposes of the area. Accordingly, protected areas fall into 3 categories: areas of exceptional (international, national), major (provincial/regional) and local importance.
Currently, all national and nature parks overlap with the proposed Natura 2000 sites; however, for the rest of the protected areas, not all of them are fulfilling the established criteria for the designation of Natura 2000 sites because values, geological or biodiversity values, are different. On the other hand, several new sites have been proposed as Natura 2000 sites that are not overlapping nowadays with any recognized protected area.
It is important to mention that the Institutes for Nature Conservation are always working on the designation of new protected areas. Nowadays, different areas are currently in the process of being approved by the Ministry of Environmental Protection (have already been presented and proposed by the Institutes for adoption) and others are being designated, increasing in that way the territory of Serbia under protection. When the Natura 2000 is established, at least between 20 to 30% of Serbian territory will be included in any protected category, improving a lot the conservation of biodiversity and natural values of Serbia.