European Environmental Agency reports significant work still ahead despite the increase in protected natural areas

The European Environmental Agency has released its first Report on Protected Areas in Europe which shows the development of such environmental areas over the past years. In the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Habitats Directive and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, the report highlights that despite the significant increase in the extent of protected areas, there is still little attention paid at this issue at pan-European level.

The Report on Protected Areas in Europe put forward by the European Environment Agency (EEA) shows that about 21% of the territory in the 39 countries working with the Agency enjoy such protection. This figure, however, is much less when considering the percentage of marine areas controlled by member states belonging to the Natura 2000 network, which only reaches 4%.

The report stresses that despite the significant progress made since the adoption of the European Habitat Directive, there is still much work to be developed. The report notes – i.e., that less than 20% of the species and habitats listed in the Directive have received favourable conservation status. Moreover, the report highlights that only now are the tools to perform qualitative assessments of these protected areas becoming available.

Protected areas analysed by the report, including the increasingly extensive spaces part of the Natura 2000 network, meet a wide range of characteristics. Ranging from large natural areas to specific trees receiving special protection, including areas which are part of national parks as well as privately-owned land which by their nature are among the protected habitats, all are part of protected areas. This diversity requires the attention to many different parameters both in protective measures and evaluation criteria.