Scoping study of management effectiveness in the EU’s Natura 2000 network of protected areas

A scoping study prepared by IEEP and partners fed into an EEA briefing on the management effectiveness in the EU's Natura 2000 network of protected areas.

In October 2020, the European Environment Agency (EEA) published a briefing on the management effectiveness in the EU's Natura 2000 network of protected areas, based on a scoping study prepared by IEEP, UNEP-WCMC and Trinomics.

See the full scoping study published on the EEA's website here.

As parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the EU and its Member States are committed to protect and conserve biodiversity through well connected and effective systems of protected areas. The EU contributes to this objective by implementing Natura 2000, the world’s largest coordinated protected area network covering 18% of the EU’s land surface and more than 9% of waters.

As the designation of the network is nearing completion, the next implementation challenge will be to increase the effectiveness of its management in achieving conservation success. To explore how best to support the EU Member States in this challenge, the EEA commissioned IEEP, UNEP-WCMC and Trinomics to:

  1. Develop a proposal on how to capture management effectiveness;
  2. Provide an overview of the management frameworks of EU Member States for the protection of Natura 2000;
  3. Review the level of active (adaptive) management of Natura 2000 sites in the Member States.

The tasks were informed by a combination of literature review, a questionnaire among members of the Eionet National Reference Centres for Biological Diversity (NRC BD) and Land Use and Spatial Planning (LUSP) and country case studies for Finland, France, Ireland, Slovakia and The Netherlands. Based on this information, the study identified key strengths and weaknesses of current management approaches against established guidance on protected area management effectiveness.

Some of the key findings of the study are:

  • While the EU was committed to assess by 2015 the management effectiveness (PAME) of 60% of its protected area surface, so far reporting only shows this was met for 8%.

  • The implementation of legal provisions under the EU Nature Directives would already deliver on key elements of what established PAME guidance identifies as critical pre-conditions for effective management. Full and effective implementation and enforcement of the Directives is therefore critical to boost Natura 2000 management effectiveness.

  • In addition, Member State authorities and stakeholders could do more to meet the standards set out in EU guidance on management planning, such as setting conservation objectives, establishing conservation measures and integrating dedicated site and other relevant management plans.

  • Existing management effectiveness standards are insufficiently known and understood among practitioners. To address this, more targeted capacity building and better EU guidance on managing management effectiveness are needed.

  • Member States could better use EU funding to fill the investment gap on Natura 2000 management effectiveness by setting out prioritised action frameworks (PAFs) for Natura 2000 and through programming EU and national funding.

  • Making progress on the EU’s 2030 commitments will need substantial improvements in PAME monitoring and reporting. Based on a gap analysis of information on key PAME criteria, the study made recommendations for components that need better tracking.