„Natura 2000”

About Natura 2000

Natura 2000 is a unified network of special protected areas in the European Union. It is the most ambitious and far-reaching initiative ever to preserve Europe’s natural heritage. The Natura 2000 ecological network brings together all 27 countries of the European Union to work together to preserve hundreds of Europe’s most valuable plant and animal species and their natural habitats for future generations, regardless of today’s borders. The network was set up in 1992 on the basis of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives, key agreements in European nature conservation policy that are binding on all member states.
The Birds Directive is the first piece of European Union legislation governing the long-term conservation of all species of wild birds in the European Union. This Directive resulted from the fact that most wild birds are migratory and their effective protection is linked to shared cross-border responsibilities. Implementing this Directive, Member States shall identify and protect areas of special importance for wild birds.
The Habitats Directive, adopted by the EU in 1992, is a key instrument for protecting wildlife across Europe. It is a tool that obliges EU Member States to protect endangered species of plants, animals and endangered habitats. The purpose of this Directive is to support biological diversity, taking into account economic, social, cultural and regional requirements, to contribute to the general objective of sustainable development and, where appropriate, to support or even promote human activities. Thus, although the Birds and Habitats Directives set a strict standard for nature protection, the view is that a man is an integral part of nature. In other words, Natura 2000 is not simply a network of protected nature reserves: it recognizes that it is best for people and nature to work together and not to abandon economic activity, but to ensure that it does not interfere with the protection of valuable species and habitats. These two directives protect sites and form a single European ecological network of special areas of conservation called Natura 2000.
Many of the designated Natura 2000 sites have already been declared protected areas due to their ecological value, e.g. nature reserves, national parks, water protection zones, etc. In Lithuania, not all protected areas belong to the Natura 2000 network, but a large part of them have become part of this network.

Today, there are almost 28,000 such areas in Europe, accounting for about 18% of the land and 10% of sea area. In Lithuania, 84 territories important for the protection of birds and 481 territories important for the protection of habitats have been approved so far, covering about 13% of country’s area.

Socio-economic benefit of Natura 2000

Nature and biodiversity are at the heart of public health and well-being: clean air, clean water, food, building materials, flood, pest and climate regulation, crop pollination – all these and more are benefits we get from nature and without which we would not survive. Nature provides pleasure, inspires, relaxes and soothes.

The network has a significant economic impact and its benefits far outweigh the costs. It is estimated that maintaining the Natura 2000 network in the EU costs around 6 billion euros a year. However, these protected areas generate around 200-300 billion euro in ecosystem services per year.

A comprehensive study in Lithuania published in October 2020 has shown that the benefits to society of the Natura 2000 network are more than twice bigger than the direct costs of landowners’ lost revenue due to existing operating restrictions and the costs of maintaining and monitoring the network itself.
The market value of mushrooms and berries grown in forests belonging to Natura 2000 network alone is more than 7.6 million euros per year, and the consumption value of visitors to protected areas exceeds 30 million. Businesses in these areas generate products and services for more than 6 million annually. However, the greatest benefits are provided by the indirect value of natural areas – it’s drinking water resources, protection against floods, climate change mitigation, preservation of natural values ​​for future generations. The total socio-economic benefits of the Natura 2000 network in Lithuania is around 193.7 million annually. The direct annual cost of maintaining the network is 10.1 million euros. The study also found that the lost amount of income of agricultural and forest landowners due to the existing restrictions in Natura 2000 areas seeks around 78.5 million per year. Taking all this into account, the socio-economic benefits of the Natura 2000 network are 2.2 times greater than the costs.
In order to preserve all this, it is necessary to focus efforts on ensuring the effectiveness of the system of protected areas. Achieving this requires significant investment, and the EU calls on Member States to develop multi-annual funding strategies for the Natura 2000 network, known as Prioritized Action Framework. They must set out priorities for action, set out specific safeguards to match them and establish clear links with relevant EU funds and programs. The integration of environmental issues into agriculture, forestry and tourism must also be envisaged. In this respect, integrated projects funded by the EU’s LIFE program are becoming one of the most important tools for implementing these strategies and strengthening the Natura 2000 network.

As the Natura 2000 network in Lithuania is insufficient and the implementation of the Green Deal will set even more ambitious goals, the LIFE integrated project “Naturalit” has a special role to play in fulfilling commitments of Lithuania to EU and ensuring that Natura 2000 network is fully protected.

More information:
Official website of Natura 2000
EU The Birds Directive
EU The Habitats Directive

The project “Optimizing the management of Natura 2000 network in Lithuania” (LIFE IP PAF-NATURALIT), No. LIFE16 IPE/LT/016 is financed by the EU LIFE Programme and the Republic of Lithuania. Webpage authors take full responsibility for the content of this website. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of European Commission.