Natura 2000 is a Europe-wide environmental network of biodiversity conservation areas. It incorporates a series of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) established in accordance with the Habitats Directive and Birds Directive, respectively. Its main aim is to promote the preservation of biological diversity, while taking economic, social, cultural and regional rights into account; and to contribute to the general aim of sustainable development, while recognising that the preservation of biodiversity may, in certain cases, require the continuation or even encouragement of human activity. Natura 2000 serves to consolidate the European ecosystem and provides a network-based approach to the management of protected areas that are of Europe-wide interest. This approach, which was laid out as far back as the Birds Directive in 1979, is reinforced in the Habitats Directive and applied in practical terms through the creation of the Natura 2000 network. The Habitats Directive requires Member States to facilitate the overall coherence and proper functioning of the network by maintaining those elements of the landscape “that are of great importance for wildlife”. Management activities are carried out in collaboration with local stakeholders. Rather than acting merely as ornamentation for natural spaces, Natura 2000 is designed to involve and promote existing traditional human activities, as well as to preserve local natural heritage. It therefore plays a vital role in protecting biodiversity within the EU in the face of the impact of human activities. Its purpose is to safeguard biodiversity through the conservation of wild plants and animals and their natural habitats in Europe, by either maintaining their current conditions or reestablishing conditions that favour their conservation. To achieve this, Natura 2000 has established an extensive network of natural areas throughout Europe in line with specific conservation-related aims.



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