Building the European Union's Natura 2000 - the largest ever network of protected areas
The European Union's Habitats Directive is now 20 years old, and its network of protected areas, known as Natura 2000, is nearing completion. After a slow start, the network now includes about 26 000 protected sites and covers approximately 18% of the EU's land surface as well as significant areas of the sea.
It is widely considered to be the world's largest network of protected areas based on agreed site selection criteria. The review has been published in the newly launched open-access journal Nature Conservation.
In Portugal the Natura 2000 is represented by a total of 96 protected sites (30 marine) and 59 Special Protected Areas for birds (10 marine), covering approximately 17,4% and 10,8% of the national territory, respectively.