NATURA 2000 Network of Protected Sites

The EU Habitats Directive was approved unanimously by all the member states of the European Community in 1992. It obliges each EU country to create special areas of conservation (SACs) as part of a European "NATURA 2000" network of sites with the purpose of conserving habitats and species of conservation value throughout the European Community. The NATURA 2000 network incorporates Special Protection Areas (SPAs) set up under the Birds Directive endorsed in 1979 for the protection of wild birds. Once a NATURA 2000 site (a candidate SAC or SPA) has been proposed and advertised by the government, the site has full legal protection under the EU Habitats Directive. Click here for more on the NATURA 2000 network.

             Bull Island, Co. Dublin with Howth in the distance

Natura sites cover approx. 13% of Ireland

By 2013, Ireland had proposed 587 candidate Natura sites but these are still awaiting full statutory SAC designation. These candidate Natura sites cover 13.17% of our national area. The EU average is 18.16% and Ireland ranks 22nd out of the 28 EU countries in this respect. Meanwhile the UK ranks 27th with only 8.55% land area covered by Natura.


Poor Status of EU Protected Sites in Ireland

In 2019 the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) published it's assessment of EU-protected habitats in Ireland. It found 85% of habitats were in unfavourable status (46% unfavourable inadequate or 39% unfavourable bad) with 46% demonstrating ongoing declines. The status of EU-protected species was found to be somewhat better with 57% in favourable status and 30% in unfavourable status (inadequate or bad) with 72% demonstrating stable or improving trends while 15% were showing ongoing declines. Click here for more details. 

The habitats that are most in decline are our peatlands, grassland, woodland and marine habitats and the main causes of these declines are agricultural practices which negatively impact 70% of our habitats, in particular, ecologically unsuitable grazing, abandonment and pollution according to the NPWS.  


National Parks and Wildlife Service

The National Parks and Wildlife Service is the statutory body that manages these protected sites as well as the National Parks and Nature Reserves on behalf of the State.


NATURA 2000 Network in European Union

Search for a NATURA 2000 site near you here

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European Landscape Convention:


Another international Treaty of interest is the European Landscape Convention, also known as the Florence Convention. This treaty was adopted in 2000, and came into force in 2004 (Council of Europe Treaty series no.176). It promotes the protection, planning and management of European landscapes and organises European co-operation on landscape issues. It is open to signature by member states of the Council of Europe, and for accession by the European Community, and European non-member states. Click here to read the Treaty. 









Laudato Si'

mi' Signore 


Praised be You

my Lord

with all

Your creatures

- St. Francis