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Nature and biodiversity law

In a nutshell

At EU level, nature and biodiversity are protected by several laws. To read or refer to the official law texts (available in all EU languages) or to access the case law, you will find links and references below.

In practice

The EU has been committed to the protection of nature since the adoption of the Birds Directive in April 1979. It provides comprehensive protection to all wild bird species naturally occurring in the Union.

The Habitats Directive was adopted in 1992 to help maintain biodiversity. It protects over 1000 animals and plant species and over 200 types of habitat. It also established the EU-wide Natura 2000 network of protected areas.

More recently, new legislation has been developed. In 1999, the EU reinforced the role of zoos in the conservation of biodiversity and, in the wake of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020, committed to protect native biodiversity and ecosystem services against invasive alien species. We also have legislation regulating certain aspects of wildlife trade.

We also provide more information on the impact of the various enlargements on the Birds and Habitats Directives and about the current fitness check of the nature legislation.

Birds Directive

Find out why we need it, which birds it protects, how it works and what the law says

Habitats Directive

Learn which animals, plants and habitats it protects, why and how, what the law says and how it is applied

Zoos Directive

The EU regulates the role of zoos in the conservation of biodiversity.

Invasive Alien Species Regulation

Discover what invasive aliens species are, why they pose a problem and how the EU is responding

Wildlife Trade Legislation

Find out more about CITES and the fight against illegal wildlife trade, our humane trapping standards and how the trade in seals products is banned across the EU

Fitness Check of the EU Nature Directives

The Habitats and Birds Directives are being assessed to ensure they are 'fit for purpose', as part of a Commission-wide exercise. Find out more about the current fitness check of the nature law.

REFIT evaluation of the Zoos Directive

The Zoos Directive is assessed under the REFIT (Regulatory Fitness and Performance) programme to provide an evidence-based analysis of whether the Directive is proportionate to its objectives and delivers as expected.

Find here the latest information on the REFIT evaluation of the Zoos Directive

Impact of Enlargement on the Birds and Habitats Directives

Each new country joining the EU has brought new species and habitats with it. The EU nature law has had to be adapted to reflect the impact of enlargement.

  • Birds Directive: Directive 2009/147/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 November 2009 on the conservation of wild birds (codified version of Directive 79/409/EEC as amended)
  • Habitats Directive: Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (Also available the consolidated version of 1 January 2007 with the latest updates of the annexes)
  • Regulation on Invasive Alien Species: Regulation (EU) No 1143/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 October 2014 on the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species
  • Zoos Directive: Council Directive 1999/22/EC of 29 March 1999 on the keeping of wild animals in zoos.
  • Leghold Traps Regulation: Council Regulation (EEC) No 3254/91 of 4 November 1991 prohibiting the use of leghold traps in the Community and the introduction into the Community of pelts and manufactured goods of certain wild animal species originating in countries which catch them by means of leghold traps or trapping methods which do not meet international humane trapping standards
  • Trade in Seal Products: Regulation (EC) No 1007/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 September 2009 on trade in seal products (Text with EEA relevance)
  • Seal Pups Directive: Council Directive 83/129/EEC of 28 March 1983 concerning the importation into Member States of skins of certain seal pups and products derived therefrom
  • Case law

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