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HTML Document Natura 2000 in Belgium

Release date 21/01/2008
Geographical coverage Belgium,
Keywords Protected area, Natura 2000, Special protection areas,

What is the Natura 2000 network?

The nature conservation policy of the European Union is essentially made up of two directives, the 1979 "Birds Directive" and the 1992 "Habitats Directive". They form the framework for protecting and conserving Europe's wildlife and habitats.

At the centre of this nature conservation policy is the creation of a network of special areas of conservation across the European Union. This network is known as Natura 2000.

The main objective of Natura 2000 is to contribute to the preservation of biological diversity on the territory of the European Union, while taking into account socio-economic parameters. In this way, Natura 2000 does not prohibit human use of land or resources within the sites proposed, nor does the Habitats Directive require them to have a particular legal protection status. However, the requirement is that the favourable conservation status of the habitats and species must be maintained and ideally, improved.

The practical implementation of Natura 2000 is left to the Member States.

The network is made up of:

  • Special Protection Areas (SPAs) to conserve the 193 bird species and sub-species listed in Annex I of the Birds Directive as well as migratory birds and

  • Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) to conserve the 253 habitat types, 200 animal and 434 plant species listed under the Habitats Directive.

The EU Natura 2000 Barometer shows the state of advancement of designations for each Member State (number of designated sites, total area, etc.).

Natura 2000 in Belgium

In Belgium, designations have been made in the 3 regions as well as at the Federal level, for a maritime site within the Belgian territorial waters of the North Sea..

The national numbers are the following (2007):

  No. sites Total area % terrestrial area No. marine sites Area marine sites
SPAs (Birds Dir.) 229 2964 ha 9,7% 0 0 ha
SACs (Habitats Dir.) 278 3221 ha 10% 1 181 ha

Source: European Commission, December 2007.

Since those data, the Special Area of Conservation (SAC) 'Vlaamse Banken' (1,099 km²) was designated within the Belgian territorial waters of the North Sea (Royal Decree of 16 october 2012). Thanks to the designation of this SAC, one third of the Belgian part of the North Sea is now integrated in the Natura 2000 network.

Surface of Natura 2000 in the Brussels-Capital Region, flemish Region, Walloon Region and the Belgian part of the Nort Sea (updated in 2013):

Territory (ha) Natura 2000
Surface (ha) % of territory
Brussels 16 200 2375 14.7%
Flanders 1 352 200 166 322 1 12.3%
Wallonia 1 684 400 220 945 13.1%
Belgian part of the North Sea 346 200 124 929 34.2%
TOTAL 3 399 000 514 571 15.1%

Source: Fifth National Report of Belgium to the Convention on Biological Diversity (2014)

For more information, see the Natura 2000 websites developed by the Regions. They present the context of Natura 2000 in each Region, as well as a list of sites accepted by the regional governments.


[1] When including the Flemish Ecological Network, which is covered by a similar to more strict protective legal framework, the total surface comes to 193 268 ha and 14.3% (areas belonging to the Natura 2000 network as well as to the Flemish Ecological Network are only counted once).

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