Europe and Central Asia
20 May 2016

Celebrating the day of 27,000 protected areas

The Ebro Delta in Catalonia, Spain. Photo: Marcella Escandell/Flickr
By Irene Lorenzo

Over 27,000 sites across Europe have one goal: ensuring the survival of the most endangered species and habitats in Europe. Tomorrow, we celebrate the European Day of Natura 2000: more than 80 activities and an online action have been organized to bring this network of protected areas closer to people.

Millions of Europeans live near Natura 2000 sites and they don’t even know it. In fact, as many as 80% of Europeans live near a site. This might be the national park you choose to go on holiday to, the nature park where you enjoyed your picnic last weekend or that secret wetland where you go birdwatching at dawn. They all have one thing in common: they are important bird and biodiversity sites for wildlife and nature. See if you live near a Natura 2000 site!

The network is worth between 200 and 300 billion euros per year to European citizens, according to the European Commission. Its role in mitigating the effects of climate change is especially essential since its trees and plants act as a carbon sink, with an estimated value of between 607,000 and 1,130,000 million euros annually.

SEO/BirdLife (our Partner in Spain) and the news agency EFE thought that the largest network of protected areas in the world, with its stunning landscapes, majestic birds and unique plants, couldn’t continue to stay unknown. This is why they created the European Day of Natura 2000, which initially started in Spain and has now spread to most European countries.

Why 21 May?

On 21 May, 1992, the Habitats Directive was adopted. Together with the Birds Directive, this important European law marked the first step towards the creation of the largest network of protected areas: Natura 2000.

What can I do to ensure these protected areas are safeguarded?

The celebration of the European Day of Natura 2000 calls for the participation of citizens through a gesture in the form of a butterfly. Feel free to support us by taking a photo of your butterfly gesture and upload it into the project website or through social networks using the hashtag #Natura2000day.

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This year, every gesture received will contribute to the reforestation of different areas in the Natura 2000 network. The goal is to get at least 5,000 photos but even if the target is not reached, a minimum of 3000 trees will be planted – these trees along will absorb an impressive 92 tonnes of CO2 during their first year. The following sites in Spain have been chosen for reforestation: Cortados y Cantiles del Jarama in Madrid, La Albufera in Valencia, Cinca y Alcanadre rivers in Aragón, Doñana National Park in Andalucía and Ebro Delta in Catalonia.

The Natura 2000 network is living proof that conservation benefits both people and the economy. Far from being an obstacle to the socioeconomic development of the sites, the network has offered new opportunities for traditional activities, recreation and ecotourism. We hope you will join us in celebrating #Natura2000Day! 

It's never been easier to plant a tree: take a photo doing the butterfly gesture and tag it #Natura2000Day. Our Partners will make sure a tree gets planted for you.

Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.