European Protected Area Network Enlarged

10 January 2011: The network of protected areas of the EU - Natura 2000 - has been enlarged, with the latest additions including 739 new sites covering nearly 27000 square kilometres.

The latest update of Natura 2000 concerns fifteen EU Member States: Austria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the UK. The expansion covers six bio-geographical regions: the Alpine, Atlantic, Boreal, Continental, Mediterranean and Pannonian regions.

More than half of the area added comprises marine sites (about 17 500 km²), mainly in France, Denmark and Spain. Among the new marine sites included for the Atlantic region is a 680 km² stretch of the Loire estuary in France, harbouring cold-water reefs and sandbanks. Denmark has added the Sydlige Nordsø area designated for the conservation of the harbour porpoise. Spain's El Cachucho, an extensive offshore bank and seamount located in the Cantabrian Sea off the coast of Northern Spain, harbours several newly discovered giant sponges. The expansion also encompass mountainous beech forests and flower-rich meadows in the Czech Republic and lakes and wetlands in Poland.

EU Member States select their Natura 2000 sites in partnership with the European Commission. Once selected, the areas are formally recognized by the Commission as "Sites of Community Importance." As a result, Member States have six years to put the necessary management measures in place. [EU Press release] [Memo]