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Natura 2000 Site Designation

Sites Protected Under the Birds Directive

Once member states propose sites to the EU Commission for protection under the Birds Directive, the sites automatically become special protection areas (SPAs) and are included in the EU’s Natura 2000 network of protection areas (see diagram). SPAs are selected for the especially endangered bird species listed in Annex I of the Birds Directive. Under Article 4 (1) of the Directive, the ‘most suitable territories in number and size’ should be declared as special protection areas. Article 4 (2) requires that member states shall take similar measures for regularly occurring migratory species not listed in Annex I, bearing in mind their need for protection in the geographical sea and land area where this Directive applies, as regards their breeding, moulting and wintering areas and staging posts along their migration routes. In Germany, the legislative powers of implementation for selection, delimitation and designation of SPAs lies with the states (Länder), although sites in the EEZ are the responsibility of the federal government. The Länder submit their reports to the competent national authority, the Federal Environment Ministry. Following consultations between the various government departments as required under Article 33 (1) of the Federal Nature Conservation Act, Germany’s foreign representation sends the reports to the European Commission. In Germany, placing SPAs under protection status is governed by Article 33 (2), (3) and (4) of the Federal Nature Conservation Act.

For each site, specific information must be provided along with cartographic material in analogue and digital form. These requirements are governed by Commission Decision (97/266/EC) of 18 December 1996 concerning a form to provide information about sites proposed for inclusion in the Natura 2000 network. The Standard Data Form developed for the purpose requires details of the site code (name, size, etc.), the site location and a brief description of its importance, vulnerability, protection status, and management and conservation objectives. Apart from mandatory information, optional details may also be given. A key component of the information provided about a site involves details of the occurring bird species.


Sites Protected Under the Habitats Directive

Designation of sites protected under the Habitats Directive takes place in two stages. Selection of sites for inclusion in the Natura 2000 network is subject to the nature conservation-related criteria set out in Article 4 and Annex III of the Habitats Directive and determined by the species and habitat types listed in the Directive’s Annexes I and II. Following a ruling by the European Court of Justice, neither political necessity nor economic nor infrastructural interests may play a role when selecting sites and setting their boundaries. Sites suitable for inclusion in the Natura 2000 network include those which contribute significantly to the maintenance or restoration at a favourable conservation status of natural habitat types or species listed in the Habitats Directive. Natura 2000 sites are also intended to contribute significantly to the coherence of the protected area network and to biodiversity in the  biogeographic regions (PDF, in German) within the European Union. For animal species ranging over wide areas, sites of Community importance correspond to the places within the natural range of such species that present the necessary physical and biological factors essential to their survival and reproduction.

The procedure for site selection involves two separate stages:

In stage one, the EU member states identify proposed Sites of Community Importance (pSCIs) for inclusion in the Natura 2000 network and forward them to the European Commission together with supplementary data and maps. In stage two, the sites are assessed at EU level for their importance to the Community. A List of Sites of Community Importance is then drawn up by the EU Commission in conjunction with the member states (Article 4 (2) of the Habitats Directive). Assessment of the pSCIs in both stages is conducted in accordance with the criteria set out in Annex III of the Habitats Directive – an assessment at national level in stage one ( criteria) and an assessment at EU level in stage two. The two assessments serve selection of the most suitable sites for inclusion in the List of Sites of Community Importance. Once the lists are complete, the member states are required to comply with the provisions of national legislation to place their respective sites under protection as special areas of conservation (SACs) within a period of six years.


Selection and Assessment of SACs/pSCIs in Germany (Stage 1)

In Stage 1, each member state is required to submit a list of sites (proposed sites of Community importance or pSCIs) that meet the objectives and criteria set out in the Habitats Directive (Article 4 (1)).

Suitable sites must be proposed for all natural habitat types listed in Annex I and for the species listed in Annex II. These are submitted to the EU Commission in the form of a national list. Development sites may also be taken into account. Selection of sites in stage one is solely a matter for the member states and they have a degree of discretion as regards selection and delimitation of the sites relative to the region concerned. This includes setting the site boundaries (relatively tight delimitation or delimitation to include biotope and habitat systems, buffer zones and development areas). In Germany, the legal powers of implementation as regards selection, delimitation and designation of SACs/pSCIs lie with the states (Länder) and with the federal government for areas in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). At national level, site selection issues involving nature conservation are the responsibility of the Federal Nature Conservation Agency (BfN) which assumes a key coordinating function and advises the Länder. The Länder submit their reports to the competent national authority, the Federal Environment Ministry. Following consultations between the various government departments as required under Article 33 (1) of the Federal Nature Conservation Act, Germany’s foreign representation sends the reports to the European Commission.

For each site, specific information must be provided along with cartographic material in analogue and digital form. These requirements are governed by Commission Decision (97/266/EC) of 18 December 1996 concerning a site information format for proposed Natura 2000 sites. The Standard Data Form developed for the purpose requires details of the site code (name, size, etc.), the site location and a brief description including its importance, vulnerability, protection status, and management and conservation objectives. Apart from mandatory information, optional details may also be given. A key component of the information provided about the site involves the details given on the natural habitat types listed in Annex I and the occurring species listed in Annex II of the Habitats Directive, including figures on their occurrence relative to the size of the site and the results of the national-level assessment. The BfN provides the Länder with expert advice on conducting the national assessment of habitats and species listed in Annex II and forwards the Länder-specific data contained in the standard data forms to the European Union.


EU-Level Site Assessment and National Lists of Sites of Community Interest (Stage 2)

The biogeographic regions within the EU serve as a basis for assessment at EU level. At least two biogeographic seminars are held for each biogeographic region. In the first seminar, a ‘reference list’ is drawn up to provide a scientific basis for assessment and to set out all the natural habitat types and species which occur in each member state. National proposals for sites of Community importance are then assessed for representativity in terms of each habitat type and species. Deficits identified in the first biogeographic seminar are notified to the respective member state together with a request from the Commission to  propose additional sites. At the second biogeographic seminar, the newly proposed sites are then assessed for representativity relative to the respective species and habitat types. The reference lists are published on the European Commission website  Eionet.

For Germany, additional  bilateral talks with the EU were arranged to assess its intended additional site proposals. Using the criteria set out in Annex III, stage two assesses whether the coherence of the protected area network is guaranteed by the national lists for individual habitat types and species submitted by the member states. At the end of stage two, the EU in conjunction with the member states draws up a List of Sites of Community Importance for each biogeographic region (see the  implementation schedule, PDF, in German).


Designation of Special Areas of Conservation by the Member States

Under Article 4 (4) of the Habitats Directive, once stage two has been completed members states must designate the sites of Community importance as special areas of conservation (SACs) as soon as possible and within six years at most. This can be done either by designating them as protected areas or using contract conservation. Member states must ensure that their national regulations and contractual agreements do not contravene the provisions set out in the Habitats Directive.

In Germany, placing SACs under protected status is governed by Article 33 (2), (3) and (4) of the Federal Nature Conservation Act. Site designation is performed by the individual German states (Länder).

Last Change: 26/06/2012

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