Today is the 28th birthday of the EU Habitat Directive and the LIFE programme. To celebrate this, the European Union made the 21st May Natura 2000 Day.
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The Natura 2000 network contains all areas that are protected through the Habitat and Birds Directive, in total 27 800 sites and 16% of the EU’s land area. Due to the current situation, there are no few physical events to celebrate #Natura2000Day, but plenty of content of social media like Twitter and Facebook.
This year is a special year for Natura 2000, because the EU and its member countries will publish reports about the state of endangered habitats and species. These reports are published every six years and the new ones will include data from 2013 to 2018.
State of Natura 2000 in Germany
Germany published its national report just in time for the Natura 2000 Day. It paints a mixed picture. German forests are getting healthier, more birds live in forests and urban areas and the ecological situation of rivers improves. On the other hand, diverse meadows disappear quickly, which leads to a die-off of insects and birds. The status of 25% of examined species is favourable, 30% indequate and 33% bad. The numbers for habitats are similar.
The protected area network Natura 2000 […] have an importance for the protection of biodiveristy in Germany that cannot be underestimated.
The report also states that Natura 2000 sites do not only protect the species of the Habitat and Birds Directive, but also a host of other endangered species. However, to continue and improve this success, the management of the sites has to be improved. This includes minimizing negative influences from outside like the inflow of fertilizers and pesticides from agriculture.
These results show that Natura 2000 sites are an important step to protect biodiversity in Europe. However, to stop species loss, we need a holistic approach, in which agriculture takes a central role. Another step towards this is the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030, that the European Comission presented yesterday. And the new EU Common Agricultural Policy ‘Farm to Fork’ will be the next milestone to effectively protect biodiversity in Europe for the next decade.
Natura 2000 and Wilderness
One aspect that is still neglected within the the network is Wilderness. Even though the European Commission published a guideline for Wilderness in Natura 2000 areas in 2013, the amount of sites following the Wilderness principles is still marginal. While the protection of specific threatened species and habitats is important, Wilderness can protect the whole range of wildlife .