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 Habitats Directive.

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 area, etc.).


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 Protection Areas only
Special Areas of Conservation only (ha) Areas with both status
Total area
% of the territory
Brussels Capital Region -   2,321   -   2,321   14% (*)  
Flemish Region 61,149  
65,295   36,596   163,040   12% (*)  
Walloon Region 20,923   135,057   61,560   217,540   13% (*)  
Federal level (North Sea)   -   18,120   -   18,120   5% (**)  
TOTAL 82,072   220,793   98,156   401,021   12% ()  

(*) Percentage of the area of the concerned Region
(**) Percentage of the area of the Belgian territorial waters
() Percentage of the total area of Belgium (including territorial waters)


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.

Just published: 

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 maps.

  • Brussels Capital Region: available in French and Dutch :

- (in French)
- (in 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" in Belgium.


Home > Biodiversity > Projects and programmes  > Natura 2000

Last updated  29-11-2004

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