History and features of the Natura 2000 network in Greece

(November 2012)

  1. Natura 2000 is a European network of sites (Sites of Community Importance—Special Conservation Areas and Special Protection Areas), which operates under common European rules. In these areas certain management measures must be implemented, degradation and significant nuisance should be avoided, and an appropriate impact assessment of plans, projects and activities should be implemented. The Natura 2000 Network is a tool for implementing the European Union’s policy on nature and biodiversity.
  2. The completion plan for the Natura 2000 Network has been mapped out in the European Commission’s Biodiversity Strategy, which states that a significant part of the Network must be implemented in 2012. 2012 is also the final year set by the Habitats Directive for Sites of Community Importance, since six years after their characterization, the Sites of Community Importance (SCIs) must be designated as Special Conservation Areas (SCAs) and priorities and measures must be defined for them. Similarly, protection is also required of the Special Protection Areas (SPAs) defined for avifauna, for which there is no specific time commitment within the text of Directive 79/409; instead, there is the requirement for the Network to be implemented immediately.
  3. The first Greek SPAs, which were exclusively woodland, were submitted to the European Commission in 1987. In 1989 the list of SPAs was completed with the wetlands of international importance. In 1992, with the adoption of the Habitats Directive, Greece had to identify and declare SCIs for the protection of habitat types and species, but also to provide data on the SPAs avifauna, which it had already declared.
  4. For this purpose, a LIFE-NATURE program was developed by the Hellenic Biotope-Wetland Center and the Departments of Biology of the Universities of Athens, Thessaloniki and Patras for the identification of Natura 2000 candidate sites. The program was supported by the then Ministries of Environment and Agriculture, which funded 25% of the program. This program gave the first assessment of the presence and distribution of species and habitat types of Community interest in Greece and the first list of Natura 2000 candidate sites. The program was based on literature survey only.
  5. After the data were processed by a working group of the two Ministries, the first SCIs were proposed to the European Commission in 1996 and 1997 and the list of SPAs was completed. The SCI network as it stands today came from 11 consecutive additional site submissions or data updates from 1999 to 2012, while from six consecutive additional site submissions or data updates from 2001 to 2012 for the SPAs.
  6. The completion of the SCI network was mainly based on the conclusions of the Biogeographical Seminars in the Mediterranean area concerning the assessment of the adequacy of the proposed SCIs for the effective protection of habitat types and species of Community interest that the European Commission has implemented. According to the European Commission, in Greece, some work for completing the SCI network on the seaside is still pending, which mainly concerns scientific reservations for specific species and types of habitats. However, there is still significant work pending for the completion of the network of maritime SCIs.
  7. Completion of the SPA network was based on the IBA 2000 Census of BirdLife International. In 2008, Greece was convicted by the Court of the European Communities because the number and total area of Greek SPAs fell significantly behind in number and area in the IBA 2000 list. Subsequently, after a study, Greece submitted a significant number of new SPAs and, as a result, the conviction case was archived by the College of Commissioners in November 2011. The status of marine SPAs in Greece is still pending.
  8. Today, the Greek Natura 2000 network includes 419 sites: 241 SCI-SACs and 202 SPAs, while 24 sites are both SCIs and SPAs. The area of SCIs amounts to 2,807,512 ha covering 16.3% of Greek mainland and 5.7% of territorial waters. The area of SPAs amounts to 2,952,476 ha and covers 21.1% of the land and 1.4% of the territorial waters. In total, the area of the Natura 2000 Network in Greece amounts to 4,294,205 ha and covers 27.2% of the land and 6.1% of the territorial waters. The extent of the Greek Natura 2000 network accounts for 4.5% of the European network, bringing Greece to the tenth place among the 27 member-states of the European Union. The average cover of national land in Europe is 17.5%, so Greece ranks sixth among the 27 member-states, after Slovenia, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Cyprus and Spain.
  9. The majority of the sites in Natura 2000 is of great expanse and, due to the particular biodiversity of Greece, the sites include a variety of bio habitat types as well as species.
  10. A detailed mapping of habitat types has been carried out over much of the Natura 2000 expansion within the framework of the project “Recognition and description of habitat types in areas of nature conservation interest”, which was funded by 2nd and 3rd CSF (1999-2001). As part of this project, detailed vegetation maps in habitat types of 1:50,000 scale were produced; these are also presented on a scale of 1:20,000.
  11. Part of the sites in the Natura 2000 network is classified as protected under forest law. A portion of the network, approximately 25% of its area, is designated according to 1650/1986 law as it is currently in force since the adoption of the 3937/2011 law. These two portions have a very high percentage of overlapping. By the 3937/2011 law, 239 SCIs were already classified as SACs.
  12. In addition, general provisions of restrictions and regulations have been instituted within the Natura 2000 areas, which are included in the 3937/2011 law, the specific frameworks for spatial planning and sustainable development, the 3851/2010 law on forms of renewable energy, the adaptations of Directive 79/409 for the classification of avifauna, the forest management plans, the agri-environmental measures and the environmental permit-issuance process.
  13. The Court of the European Communities has convicted Greece because it has not adopted and implemented a coherent, specific and comprehensive legal framework capable of ensuring the sustainable management and effective protection of SPAs. Greece, along with its other efforts, has also developed a study titled “Identification of activities compatible with the types of characterization of existing SPAs” and has legislated further adaptation measures of Directive 2009/147 (codification of 79/409).
  14. Furthermore, 29 Management Bodies have been set up, covering about 23% of the Natura area, ie about 1,000,000 ha.
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