Natura 2000 is a network of core breeding and resting sites for rare and threatened species and some rare natural habitat types which are protected in their own right. It stretches across all 27 EU countries, both on land and at sea. The aim of the network is to ensure the long-term survival of Europe’s most valuable and threatened species and habitats, listed under both the Birds Directive and the Habitats Directive.

Over 27,800 sites have been included in the network so far. In total, they cover a substantial area: almost a fifth of Europe’s land area and nearly 10% of the surrounding seas. This makes it the largest coordinated network of conservation areas anywhere in the world.

Although the network includes strictly protected nature reserves, Natura 2000 embraces a much wider approach to conservation and sustainable use of protected areas, largely centred on people working with nature.

Since every site is unique, the emphasis is on finding local solutions to local management issues in close cooperation with landowners, stakeholders, and any other interested parties. The Habitats and Birds Directives introduce a modern, flexible and inclusive approach to site conservation that recognises that humans are an integral part of nature and that the two work best in partnership with one another. In this way, everyone has a role to play in making Natura 2000 a success, whether they are public authorities, private landowners and users, developers, conservation NGOs, scientific experts, local communities or individual members of the public.