EU Birds and Habitats Directives | WWF

EU Birds and Habitats Directives

What is at stake?

In Europe we have an immense heritage of natural areas and species: virgin forests like Bialowieza in Poland, beautiful lakes, seas, rivers and wetlands like Doñana in Spain and thousands of unique and rare species, such as lynx, wolves, turtles, whales and the beautiful lady’s slipper orchid.
To tackle the loss of nature, the European Union has put in place two important pieces of legislation, the EU Birds and Habitats Directives (EU Nature Directives). These laws are the cornerstones of EU nature protection policy and have brought about the creation of Natura 2000, the world’s biggest network of protected areas.

All evidence collected during the Fitness Check of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives has shown that many Member States have not fully and effectively implemented their legal commitments under the Nature Directives, and this represents a one obvious challenge for Europe to halt biodiversity loss (EU Biodiversity Target 2020). Another important problem is that unsustainable economic activities in the wider countryside fail to deliver on biodiversity conservation, instead lead to its degradation and undermine the integrity of the Natura 2000 network.

On 7th December 2016  European Commission declared the EU Nature Directives fit for purpose and decided to develop an Action plan that would help improve their implementation. The EU Action Plan on Nature, People and the Economy was adopted in April 2017. 


What WWF wants

We ask the  European Commissioners to:
  • Ensure a full and effective implementation of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives by completing the designation of, and effectively managing the Natura 2000 sites. Any breaches of the Directives should be prevented, promptly detected, and sanctioned.
  • Tackle two of the main drivers of biodiversity loss, namely unsustainable agricultural practices and infrastructure development by inter alia: 
    • Adopting an integrated EU approach to manage nitrogen, with a view to effectively address the enormous negative impacts of nitrogen pollution on biodiversity, climate and human health.
    • Adopting an EU Initiative on Pollinators to protect important animal species and also services they deliver for maintaining and promoting biodiversity, food production and human livelihood.
    • Addressing the fundamental problems with the current EU agro-food system, as laid out in the results of the Nature Directives Fitness Check, and move to more sustainable agricultural practices.  
    • Ensuring that the European Commission presents a TEN-G initiative by 2017 at the latest and by that contributes to the increase in large-scale ecosystem restoration and the uptake of nature-based solutions to deal with environmental pressures such as climate change. 
	© Maya Eye Photography
© Maya Eye Photography


Andreas Baumueller
Head, Natural Resources
+32 2 740 09 21

Sabien Leemans
Senior Biodiversity Policy Officer
+32 486 80 04 37

Edel Shanahan
Communications Assistant, Biodiversity
+32 484 49 35 15


Natura 2000 covers over a 1 million square km (18%) of EU land and about 6% of EU marine sites. More than 27,000 EU sites and over 1,000 species are under special protection. 


    • 40% of the world’s protected areas, incl. in Europe, have exceeded critical levels of nitrogen;
    • The use of genetically modified crops are among the main reasons for pollinators decline;
    • In the last 30 years, Europe has lost 57% (300 million) of its farmland birds.