Natura 2000

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The Meaning

Natura 2000 is an important Project for the nature’s protection and it consists on a network of areas imposed by the European Union, created through the individual (and obligatory) contribute of all the member countries of the European Union for a list of areas that can contribute to the preservation of natural habitats, fauna and flora, according to the economical, social and cultural demands.

It was then created an European ecological network called Natura 2000, formed by Special Protection Areas that aims the conservation of habitats with great ecological value, as well as the setting of Specific Protection Areas (European Interest Areas) related with the protection of wild birds.

At the Portuguese case, Natura 2000 includes around 20% of the territory, a percentage that is much higher than the one of the National Protected Areas Network, 8%, but which can be considered insufficient for the proper conservation of biodiversity and habitats.

Regarding the mainland Portugal, this Network includes 59 spots, many of them recognized with the two categories. The humid areas are subject of particular attention, namely some river’s estuaries – Minho, Coura and Sabor – and the littoral zone; much included in Natura 2000. There are also some mountain areas worth to refer, such as the Mountains of Arga, Monchique and Lousã.

In Madeira there are 16 spots that belong to Natura 2000, which cover almost 80% of the archipelago territory. Differently of as with the Protected Areas, Porto Santo is represented with two areas with more than 370ha, considered as European Interest Areas – Islets of Porto Santo and Pico Branco.

The Desert Islands and their more than 11 000ha give even more strength to their important role on the nature’s conservation. In Açores, the 38 areas belonging to Natura 2000 are spread over all the islands, covering 16% of the archipelago’s area.

The aims are not only preserving a great part of the littoral zone, but also higher spots, with more relief and, therefore, important for specific habitats preservation. Due to the bigger and bigger degradation of the natural resources nowadays, the creation and preservation of protected areas, where we should include Natura 2000, is not only the most effective way for the protection of nature’s patrimony, but also the most important strategy for a policy focused on the nature’s preservation. In order to achieve these goals, we need to define specific management criteria for these areas, as well as providing them with economical and human resources that enable the proper setting of a policy to nature’s protection, together with an approach of sustainable development – which will allow us to maintain the existing natural patrimony.

Main Rivers and ReservoirsEuropean Interest Areas