Natura 2000 network, an essential tool for nature conservation

July 28, 2020

The World Nature Conservation Day is celebrating each year on July 28 around the world. On this World Nature Conservation Day, people should put an effort to protect the earth and conserve the natural resources. For 25 years, the European Union is improving the conservation of biodiversity and the maintenance of natural resources through the Natura 2000 network.

Natura 2000 is the crucial instrument of the EU's nature and biodiversity policy that works to ensure the long-term survival of Europe's most valuable and threatened species and habitat types. Up to date based on sound scientific criteria, EU member states selected 27,852 protected areas all around Europe, which comprises nearly 18 % of the EU's land area. Natura 2000 is therefore considered as the largest coordinated network of protected areas in the world because each member state must provide legal protection of the Natura 2000 sites within its territory.

Serbia is currently preparing to access the European Union, and the establishment of the Natura 2000 network is one of the main requirements for accession country in the sector of nature conservation policies. However, the final main goal of the identification and establishment of this network of protected areas is the improvement of nature conservation.

Natura 2000 is primarily about conservation of European biodiversity, that happens in the whole continent and the 11 biogeographical regions. For Serbia, there are species and habitats listed in the Directives annexes that only occur in a one or two localities in Serbia and, on the contrary, some habitat types and species are widespread in Serbia, although they are critically threatened in Europe. The data about the occurrence of target habitat types and species within the whole territory of the country are alpha and omega in the preparation of the Natura 2000 network. The project "EU for Natura 2000 in Serbia" needs to gather all available relevant data on European threatened species and valuable habitats, to implement the criteria established for the selection of the Natura 2000 sites. A group of 24 experts with different expertise; beetles, grasshoppers, dragonflies, butterflies, mollusks, crayfish, fish, amphibians, reptiles, newts, bats, mammals, mosses, vascular plants species; and habitats; grasslands, peatlands, saline habitats, shrubs, rocky habitats and forests; are working with the objective to field mapping the most valuable sites to preserve these species listed in the Directives.

The selected sites for the field mapping activities during the vegetation season 2020 are including current protected areas as National Park Tara, Natural Park Stara Planina, Special Nature Reserve Deliblatska Peščara, and also in up to now unprotected naturally valuable areas such as Galamboš - sand grasslands on the North Serbia, Mučanj Mountain, or Vlasina region in the south part of Serbia. Some non-forest habitats have been mapped for the first time, revealing data on the importance of these areas for biodiversity in Serbia. Also, during these fieldworks, new locations for endemic species in Serbia have been identified, enriching knowledge about these important species. Forest habitat monitoring work is enhancing knowledge and interpretation of forest habitat types concerning Natura 2000 habitats.

All this work adds essential value for the conservation of biodiversity in Serbia. The results of the field mappings together with all other available relevant data on species and habitats will be evaluated to identify the sites of the Natura 2000 network in Serbia. It is crucial to comment that this won't be the final work, because it will remain many gaps in the processed data. However, the proposed sites will be supported by a sufficient amount of data from different sources, including field mappings from the 2020 season. Mapping all of Serbian's relevant areas and species is not an easy task and cannot be done "behind a desk". It needs more time and resources, as well as good cooperation between all relevant stakeholders. New data and knowledge about the habitats and species will raise in the next years because the project has developed all necessary assumptions and methodologies to handle this process as well as the whole preparation of the Natura 2000 network in Serbia.