Habitats Directive

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Habitats Directive (more formally known as Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora)[1] is a directive adopted by the European Community in 1992 as a response to the Berne Convention. The European Community was reformed as the European Union the following year, but the directive is still recognised.

The Habitats Directive required national governments to specify areas that are expected to be ensuring the conservation of flora and fauna species. This led to the setting up of a network of protected areas across the EU, along with 'Special Areas of Conservation', which together with the existing Special Protection Areas, became the so-called Natura 2000 network established to protect species and habitats.[2]

This directive is one of the main pillars of the European Union's system of wildlife and nature conservation, another being the Birds Directive.[3][4] The Habitats Directive, together with the Birds Directive, are also called the "nature directives".[5]

The Habitats Directive consists of 24 articles of legislation to which all member states must comply. Article 17 of the directive sets the terms and standards for reporting on both the habitats and species listed in the annexes by the individual EU member countries. It stipulates a report from each member country on the state of nature every six years.[1][6] The first preliminary reports were due in 2001 (but only published in 2004),[6] the first actual assessments were due in 2007 (published 2009),[6][7] the second in 2013 (published 2015), and the third set of assessment reports were due in 2019 (published 2020).[6] The assessments of conservation status differ markedly from those of the IUCN Red List. The aim in the case of the EU conservation status is to assess the distance from a defined favourable situation, as opposed to the distance from extinction. There are three classes of conservation status: favourable (FV), unfavourable-inadequate (U1) and unfavourable-bad (U2).[8]

The annexes of the directive outline the protected habitats and species:[1]

  • Annex I covers habitats,
  • Annex II species requiring designation of Special Areas of Conservation,
  • Annex IV species in need of strict protection, and
  • Annex V species in which member countries may decide for themselves how to manage the population.


From 1988 to 1992, the policy was given importance at the national level by policy experts, scientists and ecologists; later on in the 1990s this spawned further political, social and administrative discussions among the relevant countries.

Due to differences in nature conservation traditions, national problems have arisen in the implementation of the directive. Since member states in the south and east of Europe participated less in nature policies, these states experienced problems with the EU provisions. In Germany, Austria, Italy and Belgium, the observation of conflicts between various government layers have caused prolonged delays in the management of nature policies. On the other hand, in member states such as the United Kingdom and Sweden, positive outcomes have developed due to stakeholder involvement, pro-active authorities, agencies responsible for implementation and public participation.[citation needed]

According to one 2014 report there are increasing incompatibilities with the Natura 2000 policy on economic development.[9]

Annex I[edit]

Annex I lists the specific habitats which have been designated as the a Special Area of Conservation, to which a common EU-wide legislation applies. Certain habitats among those are furthermore designated as "priority habitat types". Habitats in the EU are given codes. An area or habitat can combine two habitats, and be designated as for example code 35.2 × 64.1 - Open grassland with Corynephorus and Agrostis (35.2), in combination with continental dunes (64.1). Example Annex I habitats are:

Open sea and tidal areas

  • Sea cliffs and shingle or stony beaches
  • Atlantic and continental salt marshes and salt meadows
  • Mediterranean and thermo-Atlantic salt marshes and salt meadows
  • Salt and gypsum continental steppes


  • Sea dunes of the Mediterranean coast
  • Continental dunes, old and decalcified

Standing and running freshwater

  • Sections of water courses with natural or semi-natural dynamics (minor, average and major beds) where the water quality shows no significant deterioration


  • Mediterranean arborescent matorral
  • Thermo-Mediterranean and pre-steppe brush
  • Phrygana


  • Natural grasslands
  • Semi-natural dry grasslands and scrubland facies
  • Sclerophyllous grazed forests (dehesas)
  • Semi-natural tall-herb humid meadows
  • Mesophile grasslands

Bogs, mires and fens

  • Sphagnum acid bogs
  • Calcareous fens

Rocky areas and caves

  • Scree, chasmophytic vegetation on rocky slopes
  • Other rocky habitats

Forests - Only (sub-)natural

  • Forests of temperate Europe
  • Mediterranean deciduous forests
  • Mediterranean sclerophyllous forests
  • Alpine and subalpine coniferous forests
  • Mediterranean mountainous coniferous forests

The full list of habitats is distributed over 9 main categories.[10]

Annex II[edit]

Annex II lists species which determine if an area is a Special Area of Conservation. These include:[1]



Reptiles and amphibians[edit]






Mosses and liverworts: Bruchia vogesiaca, Buxbaumia viridis, Dichelyma capillaceum, Dicranum viride, Distichophyllum carinatum, Drepanocladus vernicosus, Jungermannia handelii, Mannia triandra, Meesia longiseta, Nothothylas orbicularis, Orthotrichum rogeri, Petalophyllum ralfsii, Riccia breidleri, Riella helicophylla, Scapania massolongi, Sphagnum pylaisii, Tayloria rudolphiana

Ferns and allies



Priority species[edit]

There are also a number of priority species:[1]




There is a separate list for plants from Macaronesia.

Macaronesian priority species[edit]

Androcymbium psammophilum

Annex III[edit]

This annex explains the criteria which are used to select sites which are eligible to be recognised as important for Europe, or as Special Areas of Conservation. The process consists of two stages. The first stage is to assess the importance at a national level, based on the habitats and species listed in Annex I and II. The second stage is to assess the importance for Europe as a whole, again based on the two earlier annexes.[1]

Annex IV[edit]

Annex IV lists species of interest to Europe which are in need of strict protection.


Reptiles and amphibians[edit]





Toads and frogs:







Annex IV contains all the plant species listed in Annex II (except the mosses and lichens), plus the plant taxa listed below:

Annex V[edit]

Annex V details the species which are of 'interest' to the European Union, of which the taking or exploitation of wild may be subject to the management decisions of the individual countries concerned.[1] This largely concerns plants or animals in which the hunting or gathering was/is an economic activity. Mammals





Annex VI[edit]

This annex compiles the types of capture and killing (i.e. hunting) which are prohibited in the European Community (and now the European Union), as well as prohibited modes of transport (while hunting). These can vary according to form of life.[1] Birds are covered by the older Birds Directive.

  • Mammals, for example, may not be hunted using explosives, gassing or smoking out burrows, poisons and poisoned or anaesthetic bait, tape recorders, artificial light sources, mirrors and other dazzling devices, blind or mutilated animals used as live decoys, non-selective nets or traps, crossbows and semi-automatic or automatic machine guns with a magazine capable of holding more than two rounds of ammunition. Other prohibited hunting devices are those to illuminate targets, electrical and/or electronic devices capable of killing or stunning and sighting scopes for night shooting with an electronic image magnifier or image converter.[1]
  • Fish may not be caught using poisons or explosives.[1]

It is furthermore illegal to hunt wildlife in the European Union from an aircraft or moving motor vehicle.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora". Eur-Lex. Retrieved 9 March 2020.
  2. ^ "Natura 2000 - Environment". ec.europa.eu. European Commission. Retrieved 9 March 2020.
  3. ^ "The Habitats Directive". Europa. European Commission. Retrieved 26 June 2013.
  4. ^ "Joint Nature Conservation Committee – European Legislation". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 26 June 2013.
  5. ^ "Nature directives".
  6. ^ a b c d "Habitats Directive reporting". Europa. European Commission. Retrieved 29 September 2020.
  7. ^ "Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora". Eur-Lex. Retrieved 9 March 2020.
  8. ^ Douglas Evans; Marita Arvela (July 2011). Assessment and reporting under Article 17 of the Habitats Directive Explanatory Notes & Guidelines for the period 2007-2012 (PDF) (Report). European Topic Centre on Biological Diversity. p. 8, 9. Retrieved 29 September 2020.
  9. ^ Suvi Borgström, Frederik H. Kistenkas, 'The Compatibility of the Habitats Directive with the Novel EU Green Infrastructure Policy' (2014) 23 European Energy and Environmental Law Review, Issue 2, pp. 36–44. http://www.kluwerlawonline.com/abstract.php?id=EELR2014004
  10. ^ "EUR-Lex - 01992L0043-20130701 - EN - EUR-Lex". eur-lex.europa.eu. Retrieved 3 January 2021.

External links[edit]