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Frequently Asked Questions

1 - What is the Natura 2000 Biogeographical Process?

The European Commission launched the Natura 2000 Biogeographical Process at the end of 2011 (at that time called the New Biogeographical Process) to support member states in their efforts to fulfill their legal obligations regarding the management of Natura 2000 and achieving favourable conservation status for those habitats and species that fall within their territory.


2 - What is a Biogeographical Region?

Biogeographical regions are useful geographical reference units for describing habitat types and species which live under similar conditions in different countries.

The European Union has nine terrestrial biogeographical regions, each with its own characteristic blend of vegetation, climate and geology. Working at the biogeographical level makes it easier to conserve species and habitat types under similar natural conditions across a suite of countries, irrespective of political and administrative boundaries. The same map is used for the Council of Europe’s Emerald network.

The nine biogeographical regions are: Alpine, Atlantic, Black Sea, Boreal, Continental, Macaronesian, Mediterranean, Pannonian, Steppic.

Biogeographical Regions


3 - What is Natura 2000?

Natura 2000 is an ecological network of protected areas in the territory of the European Union.

In May 1992, the governments of the European Communities adopted legislation designed to protect the most seriously threatened habitats and species across Europe. This legislation is called the Habitats Directive and complements the Birds Directive adopted in 1979.

At the heart of these Directives is the creation of a network of EU-wide protected sites, designated as being of special value and importance to Europe for the habitats and species they contain. These Natura 2000 sites comprise both Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for birds identified under the Birds Directive and Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) for habitats and species under the Habitats Directive. Some Natura 2000 sites can be both SPA and SAC.

Natura sites are part of a living landscape. Most of all, Natura 2000 sites are living networks of special habitats and species, as well as people. Most of the sites have seen some form of use by humans for hundreds or thousands of years. People earn a living from farming, forestry and fishing in Natura sites and many are enjoyed by visitors who appreciate their special qualities. In many cases, the natural features of a site can be vital sources of income for local people. Therefore, it is necessary to agree appropriate management approaches by working together with land owners, local communities, regulating authorities, industries and the public who visit the sites: in addition, this can provide opportunities to proactively engage local people, volunteers, community based groups, non-governmental organisations and governmental agencies. More...


4 - Which habitat types and species are prioritized for action within each biogeographical region?

The discussions under the biogeographical process are focusing on common issues, ranging from stakeholder involvement to habitat management.

In this respect, dealing with all the habitat types listed in the Habitats Directive Annexes would not be an effective approach. Therefore, for each biogeographical region a number of habitat types are being selected to focus on within the process. An initial selection for each region was made by the respective Steering Committees at the beginning of the process. This selection was based on a prior calculation carried out by the European Topic Centre on Biological Diversity on the basis of the data provided by Member States in the reporting cycle foreseen by Article 17 of the Habitats Directive. As the process evolves the selection of habitat types can be adapted in the light of new developments.

Until now, the Biogeographical Process has been focusing on habitat types. However, the process also allows for dealing with species.

For more information about each of the biogeographical regions see the process library.