The Natura 2000 network
The nature conservation policy of the European Union is essentially
made up of two directives, the 1979 "Birds Directive"
and the 1992 "Habitats Directive". They form the
framework for protecting and conserving Europe's wildlife and habitats.
At the centre of this nature conservation policy is the creation of a
coherent ecological network of special areas of conservation across
the European Union. This network is known as Natura 2000.
The main objective of Natura 2000 is to contribute to the
preservation of biological diversity on the territory of the European
Union, while taking into account socio-economic parameters. In this way,
Natura 2000 does not prohibit, a priori, human use of land or resources
within the sites proposed, nor does the Habitats Directive require them
to have a particular legal protection status. However, the requirement
is that the favourable conservation status of the habitats and
species must be maintained and ideally, improved.
The practical implementation of Natura 2000 is left to the Member
States. It can be done through legal protection, but just as much
through adequate land use planning or management agreements.
The network will be made up of:
- Special Protection Areas (SPAs) to conserve the 187 bird
species and sub-species listed in Annex I of the Birds Directive as
well as migratory birds and
- Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) to conserve the 253
habitat types, 200 animal and 434 plant species listed under the
Most of the sites making up the NATURA 2000 network should be
protected by 2004. The EU
Natura 2000 Barometer shows you the state of advancement of
designations for each Member State (number of designated sites, total
Natura 2000 in Belgium
The table below shows the state of advancement of
designations for Belgium (December 2002). Designations have been made in the
3 regions as well as at the Federal level, for a maritime site within
the Belgian territorial waters of the North Sea.
Sites in the Brussels-Capital Region and in the Belgian
territorial waters have been designated only under the Habitats
Directive. For Wallonia and Flanders, the Natura 2000 network concerns
both the Birds and Habitats Directives. Due to their importance at
European level, some of the sites in these regions have been designated
under both directives.
The Natura 2000 network currently totals (including
sites with overlapping status):
- 97,745 ha for SPAs and 101,891 ha for SACs in Flanders, and
- 82,483 ha for SPAs and 196,617 ha for SACs in Wallonia.
|Special Areas of
Conservation only (ha)
||Areas with both
of the territory
|Brussels Capital Region
|Federal level (North Sea)
(*) Percentage of the area of the
(**) Percentage of the area of the Belgian territorial waters
(¥) Percentage of the total area of Belgium (including territorial
For more information, see the Natura 2000 websites
developed by the Regions. They will present you, among others, the
context of Natura 2000 in each Region, as well as a list of sites
accepted by the regional governments.
AMINAL, Natuurpunt & WWF. 2003. Natura 2000 in Vlaanderen. Een
schakel in een Europees netwerk. Ministerie van de Vlaamse Gemeenschap
- Afdeling Natuur, Brussel, 56 pp. Link
to the pdf file (2.9 MB).
Very detailed website, which includes a general introduction to
Natura 2000, the description of designated sites and distribution
- Brussels Capital Region: available in French and Dutch :
You can also visit the WWF's pages on Natura 2000. WWF Belgium has
produced a list of forgotten Natura 2000 sites in Belgium (in French
and in Dutch).
The international website of the WWF hosts a page on "Snapshot
Report on the Status of Implementation of the Habitats Directive"