Nearly 25,000 km2 of invaluable natural expanse have been added to the Natura 2000 network, the European Commission reports. This network of protected sites is the EU's primary tool in the fight to conserve Europe’s rich biodiversity.
The Commission has now formally approved the inclusion in the network of a further 235 sites, proposed by Member States for recognition as "Sites of Community Importance". Member States will have six years to put the necessary measures in place to protect these sites.
The latest update concerns 20 Member States and covers all nine of the network's bio-geographical regions – the Alpine, Atlantic, Black Sea, Boreal, Continental, Macaronesian, Mediterranean, Pannonian and Steppic regions. Natura 2000 now covers 768,000 km2 (17.9 %) of the EU landmass and more than 217,000 km2 (approx. 4 %) of its seas.
The most significant addition this year is the UK's designation of Dogger Bank (12,330 km2), a shallow sea area featuring submerged sandbanks in the central part of the North Sea. Together with adjacent sites from Germany and the Netherlands, this creates a vast transboundary Natura 2000 site covering over 18,000 km2. Dogger Bank was primarily designated for its highly productive sandbank habitats, which are important spawning and nursery grounds for many commercial fisheries. The designation will facilitate the coordinated management of the area, including joint efforts by the Member States concerned to develop appropriate fisheries measures.
Source: European Commission. Read more here.