The Commission has approved the first list of sites of Europe-wide importance for conservation under the EU's Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC). This list covers the biogeographic region of Macaronesia the Canary Islands, Azores and Madeira. The sites in question provide protection for natural habitats and rare and endangered plant and animal species, and now formally become part of the EU's network of specially protected sites known as Natura 2000. The Commission will compile five further lists of such sites covering the other five biogeographic regions into which the Community is divided - Alpine, Continental, Mediterranean, Boreal and Atlantic on the basis of proposals to be submitted by Member States. Commission Press Release 17 January 2002
|Source||European Commission, DG Environment|
Commissioner Wallström in the press release said that The completion of the Natura 2000 network and its positive management is essential in order to implement the commitment made by Heads of State and Government at the European Council in Göteborg last June to halt the decline in European Biodiversity before the end of the decade." I. Natura 2000 The objective of establishing an ecological network of sites to ensure the protection of the EU's threatened wildlife was agreed with the adoption of the "Habitats" Directive (92/43/CEE). Member States accepted the need for concerted EU-wide action recognising that this problem transcends national borders. The Directive provides for a "Natura 2000" network to be made up of sites identified for the protection of the 200 natural habitats and over 600 species of rare or endangered plants and animals together with the special areas for protection of bird species designated under the earlier "Wild Birds" Directive (79/409/CEE). For the purpose of Natura 2000 the EU is divided into six biographic regions - Macaronesia, Alpine, Continental, Mediterranean, Boreal and Atlantic. These represent the major distinct areas of nature across Europe. The establishment of the lists of sites for protection in each of these regions is a 3-stage process. 1st stage: Each Member State has the responsibility to propose, on the basis of scientific criteria set out in the Directive, a national list of sites for inclusion in the network. These sites are required to ensure the favourable conservation status of the habitats and species identified in the Directive. 2nd stage: The Commission, in consultation with the Member States, establishes an EU list of sites of conservation importance ("SCIs") on the basis of the proposals in the national lists. The decision now taken for Macaronesia is the adoption of the first of these lists. The Commission is advised in establishing these lists by a wide range of scientific expertise from the European Environment Agency, stakeholder groups and independent scientists. 3rd stage: Within six years of the adoption of lists of SCI's the Member States have to put in place the necessary measures to protect and manage the sites designated and in so doing to designate them formally as special areas for conservation "SACs". Once special areas for conservation have been designated, Member States must take all the necessary measures to guarantee their conservation and avoid their deterioration. The Directive provides for the co-financing of conservation measures by the EU. This does not mean that economic activities in the sites are excluded, but it requires Member States to ensure that such activities are compatible with the conservation of the habitats and species for which the sites have been designated. Where development proposals are put forward, these are subject to detailed assessment and, where impacts on conservation interests are identified, developments can only be permitted if there are no viable alternative sites and where it can be demonstrated that there is an overriding public interest. In the event that such a development does proceed, there is a requirement to compensate for the loss of habitat either by the creation or restoration of a replacement habitat or by improving management of other sites to ensure that the integrity of the overall network is retained. II. The Macaronesian List The list of sites of Community interest for Macaronesia has been established on the basis of the proposals made in the national lists prepared by Spain and Portugal. It includes a total of 208 individual sites with an area of 3, 487 square kilometres of land and 1848 square kilometres of marine areas. This represents 34% of the total land area of the islands. While the original timetable in the Directive foresaw the completion of the EU lists by 1998, the process of nomination of national lists by Member States has been subject to considerable delays and this list for Macaronesia is the first to be adopted. Although this is the smallest of the Biographic regions, it is nevertheless a region of great importance since these volcanic islands are the home of a unique range of wildlife due to the fact that they have never been in direct contact with mainland Europe. They possess very diverse flora and fauna including a high percentage of species that are endemic to these islands (they are found nowhere else in the world). For example, the percentage (ca.32%) of endemic plants per unit of surface is the highest in Europe, only equalled by Galapagos and surpassed by the Philippines and New Caledonia. The endemic animals include such remarkable species as the Giant Lizard of Hierro, probably the rarest reptile in Europe and one of most endangered species in the world. The contribution of these islands to nature conservation in Europe is demonstrated by the fact that, with only 3% of the EU's surface area, they support a greater number of the important species identified for protection in the Directive than the Atlantic Region which occupies 24% of the EU. The subtropical climate of these islands and their geography creates three main types of habitat coastal cliffs and dunes, open mountain areas and forests including rainforest such as humid evergreen laurel forest. Certain habitat types, like so many of the species they support, are often found only on these islands. The text of the Commission decision and the annexed list of sites in the Macaronesia region is available at the following address: http://europa.eu.int/comm/dgs/environment/whatsnew.htm. Maps showing the distribution of the sites on each island in the region are also available at the same address. Information on each of the individual sites listing the species and habitats for which each site has been designated and a map of its extent will be available at the same address shortly. For further information on this point contact Nicholas Hanley Directorate-General for Environment: 02 2968703.