Brussels -- The latest update of the Natura 2000 lists concerns 20 Member States: Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Slovakia and the UK. The number of 'Sites of Community Importance' has increased by 235 to 22 793, expanding the SCI network by 3.4 %, i.e. nearly 24 900 km².
The latest additions cover all nine of the EU's bio-geographical regions – the Alpine, Atlantic, Black Sea, Boreal, Continental, Macaronesian, Mediterranean, Pannonian and Steppic regions.
This updating round adds a significant area to both the terrestrial and the marine parts of the Natura 2000 network. The marine parts concern the Atlantic and the North Seas (UK), the Baltic Sea (Latvia), the Mediterranean (Italy and Malta) and the Black Sea (Romania). The terrestrial part of the Natura 2000 network has primarily been increased in Romania, Bulgaria and Slovakia.
In some Member States (Austria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Germany, Spain, Hungary, Ireland, the Netherlands and Poland) the update mostly concerns modifications, such as adaptations to site areas or deletions/additions of smaller sites. This has resulted in rather small overall changes to the total area covered by the network in these Member States.
Bulgaria extended the boundaries of 26 existing sites and added 3 new sites, enlarging its already extensive Natura 2000 network by another 450 km2. These new areas enhance the coverage of the Natura 2000 network for several large carnivores such as Lynx and Wolf, tortoise and fish species, as well as for few forest, grassland and salt steppe habitats. These latest additions mean that Bulgaria now ranks among the Member States with the highest level of completeness of the Natura 2000 network.
Denmark extended 4 terrestrial and one marine sites, adding an area of 256 km2 to its national Natura 2000 network. The most substantial increase concerns the marine site “Centrale Storebælt og Vresen”, an area that is designated for the harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena, Europe’s smallest cetacean.
Estonia proposed 11 new sites and revised the boundaries for 16 sites, adding another 168 km2 to its national Natura 2000 network. Many of the areas added are small terrestrial sites that improve the coverage of the national Natura 2000 network for habitat types such as swamp forests, herb-rich spruce forests, western taiga, alkaline fens, and limestone grasslands. The single largest addition is a new marine site (Gretagrundi) proposed for reefs and sandbank habitats.
France has proposed 1 new site and increased or adjusted the area of 55 existing terrestrial sites, adding 238 km2 to its national Natura 2000 network. The most important site increases are the extensions, in the range of several thousand hectares each, of the sites “Bois De Paiolive et Basse Vallée Du Chassezac”, “Montagne Sainte Victoire” and “L’isle Crémieu”. These sites are characterized by high levels of forest and grassland biodiversity, and are designated for several dozen species including Beaver, Greater horseshoe bat, Western vairone and White-clawed crayfish, as well as habitat types of Community interest.
Italy has added 12 new sites and extended or adjusted the boundaries of 42 sites, adding a total of 1500 km2 to its national Natura 2000 network. All 12 new sites and most of the big extensions of existing sites concern marine area additions to the Natura 2000 network, in the Regions Abruzzo, Campania, Friuli, Veneto, Toscana and Sicilia.
Latvia added 6 large marine sites to its Natura 2000 network. The new marine areas host species-rich reef habitats and offer vital feeding grounds for migratory fish in the Baltic sea. They cover a marine surface of more than 2 600 km2. In addition, Latvia undertook some minor changes and area corrections to 170 of its terrestrial Natura 2000 sites.
Malta has proposed 4 new near-shore marine sites, hosting sea-grass meadows, reefs and sea caves. They also offer a vital habitat for the endemic Maltese Topshell Gibbula nivosa, a brightly coloured sea snail. Together with a few minor increases of the terrestrial sites, these 4 new marine sites add 183 km2 to the Maltese Natura 2000 network.
Romania has proposed major additions of its Natura 2000 network, adding 116 new sites and adjusting or increasing, often to a very considerable extent, another 28 sites. Altogether, these changes add up to a net area increase of 5 630 km2 for the national Natura 2000 network, making Romania the country with the largest terrestrial area addition to the Natura 2000 network this year. The new areas enhance the coverage of the Natura 2000 network for many of the country’s species-rich forest and grassland habitats, and for several species of large carnivores, amphibians and freshwater fishes such the Pontic shad, the Streber and the Sabre fish. These latest area additions mean that Romania (like Bulgaria) now ranks among the Member States with the highest level of completeness of the Natura 2000 network.
Sweden proposed 5 new marine sites, adding 1 353 km2 to its national Natura 2000 network. One of these is the “Bratten” site, a marine area in the Skagerrak designated for its reefs and submarine structures made by gases leaking from the seafloor. The other 4 sites, located in the western part of the Baltic, have been designated for their reefs and sandbank habitats, as well as for their occurrence of a significant population of the Grey Seal.
Slovakia has proposed 97 new and increased or adjusted the area of 382 existing sites, adding a further 116 km2 to its national Natura 2000 network. The new sites mean better protection for a number of species, including freshwater many fishes and bats, as well as various forest, mire and grassland habitat types.
The UK has added 2 new (Dogger Bank, East Mingulay) sites and extended two further marine sites (Prawel Point to Plymouth Sound, Shell Flat). These marine additions add another 12 480 km2 to the marine Natura 2000 network in the UK. With 12 330 km2, the Dogger Bank is the single most significant addition to the EU’s Natura 2000 network this year. This is a shallow sea area featuring submerged sandbanks in the central part of the North Sea. Together with adjacent sites from Germany and the Netherlands, this creates a vast trans-boundary Natura 2000 site covering over 18 000 km2. Dogger Bank was primarily designated for its highly productive sandbank habitats, which are an important spawning and nursery grounds for many commercial fisheries. The designation will facilitate the coordinated management of the area, including joint efforts by the Member States concerned to develop appropriate fisheries measures.
In addition, the UK added 2 new and extended 1 existing site to cover the most significant UK occurrences of a rare freshwater mollusc, the Ramshorn snail Anisus vorticulus. These 3 new areas add 40 km2 to the UK’s terrestrial part of the Natura 2000 network.
The nine updated lists were adopted on Friday 16 November 2012