Partnership between 28 countries

Natura 2000 – is the most ambitious initiative ever undertaken to protect Europe’s rich natural heritage. It enables all 28 Member States to work together towards the same objective and within the same legislative framework to protect our most threatened species and habitat types, irrespective of political or administrative borders.

The network is founded on two pioneering pieces of EU legislation: the 1979 Birds Directive and the 1992 Habitats Directive. Those two documents are cornerstones of Europe’s legislation on nature conservation and all Member States are required to take similar measures in order to protect EU’S most vulnerable species and habitat types across their entire natural range.

Two pioneering pieces of EU legislation: Birds Directive and Habitats Directive

At the heart of both nature directives lies the creation of a Europe-wide ecological network of nature conservation areas – called the Natura 2000 network, which is designed to protect and manage most threatened species and habitats across their natural range in the EU. The Birds Directive was adopted in 1979 and is the first EU legislation aiming to protect all wild birds and their most important

habitats across the EU. Often migratory, wild bird species can only be protected by cooperating across borders. Birds Directive therefore sets a high environmental standard for the protection of habitats of endangered and migratory wild bird species within all 28 countries of EU.

The Habitats Directive, adopted 13 years later in 1992, introduces very similar measures but extends its coverage to other rare, threatened or endemic species of wild animals and plants – often collectively referred to as species of European importance. It also, for the first time, protects a number of rare habitat types in their own right. Habitats Directive supports the principle of sustainable development and integrated management. Its aim is not to exclude socio-economic activities from Natura 2000 sites, but rather to ensure that they are undertaken in a way that safeguards and supports the valuable species and habitats, present and maintains the overall health of natural ecosystems. 

wider approach to conservation and sustainable use of protected areas, largely centred on people working with nature, rather than against it. The Habitats and Birds Directives introduce a modern, flexible and inclusive approach to site conservation that recognises humans are an integral part of nature and that the two work best in partnership with one another.

These two directives form a Europe-wide ecological network Natura 2000 – the largest network of protected areas in the world. Its aim is safeguard Europe’s natural assets and wildlife heritage.

Most of Natura 2000 sites have already been declared as protected areas due their ecological value, for example strict nature reserves, national parks, water protection zones, etc. Natura 2000 network in Lithuania covers not all protected areas, although most of them are integral part of it.


Largest coordinated network of protected areas in the world

Over 27,000 sites are included in the network so far. In total, they cover a substantial area: almost a fifth of Europe’s land area and an important part of the surrounding seas. This makes it the largest coordinated network of conservation areas anywhere in the world.

Because of its sheer size, it not only conserves Europe’s rarest wildlife, but also offers a safe shelter for countless other animals, plants and healthy ecosystems which, although more common, are an equally important part of our natural heritage.

European added value


Nature and biodiversity are the basis of our health and well-being. Natura 2000 network provides a wide range of important benefits to society and the economy via the flow of ecosystem services. It provides us with clean air and fresh water, food, carbon storage, building materials, protection against floods and other extreme weather events, pests, climate control, pollinator insects, etc. This is all and more that we benefit from the nature and without which we can not survive. Nature provides pleasure, inspiration, relax and peace, it nourishes, heals and refreshes us…Natura 2000 in this case is most important tool for protecting it.

Having a fully operational network, huge financial investments required – currently estimated at around 6 billion per year. Despite the large sums involved in managing Natura 2000 network, its valuable ecosystem services and socio-economic benefits (including carbon sequestration and storage, water provision and purification, flood control and prevention of natural hazards) far outweigh the initial investments required and make sound economic sense, the monetary value of which have been estimated at Eur 200 – 300 billion per year, that makes 2 – 3 % of EU GDP.

Moreover, Natura 2000 helps to conserve a distinctive regional landscape and amenity values as well as support tourism and recreation. That gives people a unique opportunity to discover and enjoy Europe’s rich natural heritage.

In order to maintain our rich natural heritage, efforts must be put together to ensure the effectiveness of system of the protected areas. To achieve this, all Member States are being asked to develop multi-annual funding strategies for Natura 2000 called ‘prioritised action frameworks’. These strategies shall define the priorities for conservation actions needed and identify clear links to relevant EU funds and programmes, including integration of nature management measures into other sectors such as agriculture, forestry and tourism. LIFE programme and especially its proposed Integrated Projects are a key tool to help implement these funding strategies and ensure the protection of Natura 2000.


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