Overall Picture of Protected Areas in the EU

The ensemble of protected areas in the European Union, composed of Nationally Designated Protected Areas (NDPAs), Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) is extensively covering the continent (Fig. 11.2a). As of 2013, the EU28 counted over 77,000 terrestrial NDPAs and nearly 23,000 continental Natura 2000 areas. Yet, 30 % of the area protected in Europe represents an overlap between a type of designation or another. As a matter of fact, in some countries, such as Spain, Slovenia, and Estonia, the Natura 2000 areas almost entirely overlap with NDPAs (Fig. 11.2a). At the European scale, the overlap is particularly true for NDPAs in the IUCN categories I to IV (Ramão et al. 2012).

The majority of the Member States count more than 18 % of their territories in a protected area (Fig. 11.2b). Nonetheless, the map of Europe depicts a different picture when focusing on the most restrictive conservation categories of the IUCN (Categories I and II on Fig. 11.2c): most countries have less than 3 % of their area in those categories. Sweden, Belgium, and Slovakia are the only countries protecting

Fig. 11.2  Spatial perspective on European protected areas (EEA 2013a, 2013b). a European network of Nationally Designated Protected Areas, Natura 2000 sites, and overlap between the two designations; b Proportion of each EU28 country within a protected area (Nationally Designated Protected Areas and Natura 2000 sites); c Proportion of each EU28 country within a protected area in category I or II of the IUCN

more than 5 % of their national area as a strict nature reserve, a wilderness area, or a National Park (Fig. 11.2c). Natura 2000 areas overlapping with NDPAs classified as categories Ia and Ib represent 4 % of the network (European Commission 2013). The EU Protected areas tend to be created in high and remote areas, with lower productivity (Dudley et al. 2008; Gaston et al. 2008b), and with less regard for the habitats and the species that inhabit them than for the availability of the land. Nonetheless, conflicts might arise with local populations when an area used for resource extraction is set to be strictly protected. Such tensions are exacerbated by strictly top-down approaches, i.e. with the lack of consultation of local stakeholders in the establishment of a PA, which is often the case with the establishment of Natura 2000 areas (Crofts 2014). On the contrary, less restrictive categories, or “multiple use” PAs are typically more easily accepted (Possingham et al. 2006).

Moreover, designating a protected area is one thing, but establishing it in situ and managing it efficiently will depend on the financial and political supports of the local governments (Leverington et al. 2010; Pinto and Partidário 2012). As a result, designated PAs might suffer from a lack of adequate monitoring budget and trained staff (Hochkirch et al. 2013). The Natura 2000 Network has also recently been criticized for its lack of flexibility, adaptability, and monitoring (Crofts 2014; Hochkirch et al. 2013).

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