Natura 2000 is a network of natural or semi-natural sites in the European Union that have significant value in terms of heritage, owing to the exceptional flora and fauna that they contain.
The Natura 2000 network was created with a view to maintaining the biological diversity of the environments, while taking into account the economic, social, cultural and regional demands within the scheme of sustainable development, and knowing that the conservation of protected environments and biodiversity also presents economic benefits in the long term.
The establishment of a European network of natural sites has come about in response to the acknowledgement that biodiversity conservation is only possible if it takes into account the needs of animal and plant populations, who do not understand the notion of national borders. The Member States are in charge of putting in place the Natura 2000 network in addition to local schemes.
Natura 2000 is founded on two European Directives:
In 1979, Europe decided to implement measures for the protection of birds with the "Birds" Directive 79/409/EEC. This Directive prescribes that "Member States shall take the requisite measures to maintain the population of the species referred to in Article 1 at a level which corresponds in particular to ecological, scientific and cultural requirements, while taking account of economic and recreational requirements, or to adapt the population of these species to that level" (Article 2). These measures include the protection of species, "the creation of Special Protected Areas (SPA), the upkeep and management in accordance with the ecological needs of habitats inside and outside the protected zones, the re-establishment of destroyed biotopes and the creation of biotopes" (Article 3).
In 1992, a similar initiative was launched for biotopes and other non-bird species with the "Habitats" Directive 92/43/EEC. This Directive suggests the creation of a Natura 2000 network composed of sites hosting the natural habitat types listed in Annex I and habitats of the species listed in Annex II. These sites are called Special Areas of Conservation (SAC). This network "shall enable the natural habitat types and the species' habitats concerned to be maintained or, where appropriate, restored at a favourable conservation status in their natural range" (Article 3).
Natura 2000 covers almost 18% of the land area of the European Union.
It covers 13 % of the Walloon region.
In France it covers over 12 % of the mainland area.
See the Natura 2000 website of the European Commission :