Natura 2000 image of a marsh fritillary butterfly

Planning a bright future for Wales’ internationally important wildlife

Wales has 20 Special Protection Areas for vulnerable birds and 92 Special Areas of Conservation for other rare species and threatened natural habitats. Together they are known as Natura 2000, and along with areas across Europe, they form an unparalleled network of international importance for nature conservation. Wales’ Natura 2000 network covers more than 700,000 hectares (8.5% of Welsh land area and 35% of territorial waters).

Organisations from across Wales (representing landowners, farming and fishing enterprise, recreational users, conservationists, the public sector and regulators) are coming together to plan how best to manage and restore these prime wildlife areas over the next decade.

The challenge is to set out agreed priorities for the designated species and habitats in Natura 2000 in Wales, both on land and at sea.

The programme will identify pressures and plan the actions which are required to significantly improve the condition of these features, safeguarding them for the future. Actions may be changes to policy, small-scale practical improvements, or major innovative conservation projects. The programme will also determine sources of funding, so actions can be delivered by 2020.

Benefits of the programme

The Programme will:

  • Bring together those involved in Natura 2000 to pool expertise, look at innovative ways to address the threats to their wildlife, and agree the way forward
  • Consider the needs of the Natura 2000 network strategically, setting Welsh priorities so efforts can be targeted to best effect and where the need is greatest
  • Calculate the cost of saving these key natural assets, and help mobilise millions of pounds of new funding from grant schemes and other sources to provide the investment needed (and a boost to local economies)
  • Highlight the benefits to human wellbeing that Natura 2000 can bring; like carbon storage, cleaner water, natural sea defences, green jobs and local enterprise
  • Provide evidence for decision-makers and grant-givers of the value of Natura 2000

By 2014 we will have:

  • A solid evidence base, drawing together existing information from across Wales and Europe
  • Action or implementation plans for every Natura 2000 area, detailing essential activities with costs, funding and work timetables for the period 2014 to 2020
  • Significant improvements to the database used to store, analyse and access information
  • A major funding study to assess the value of existing funds and establish new sources
  • The final agreed programme, including a delivery plan

The value of the Natura 2000 network

Natura 2000:

  • Provide a vital sanctuary and high level of protection to 69 species and 55 habitats which are internationally threatened
  • Contribute significantly to the Welsh economy through tourism, recreation, farming, fishing, and forestry
  • Provide essential life support services for all of us, such as purifying our drinking water and storing carbon
  • Show us nature at its best, giving enjoyment to millions of visitors every year

Protected habitats range from ancient oak woodlands, upland heathland, sand dunes, rivers and lakes marine habitats of estuaries, rocky coastline and open sea.

Iconic species like otter, bottlenose dolphin and grey seal, are protected alongside more obscure plants such as petalwort and unobtrusive species like whorl snails. A wide range of well known bird species are included, both resident and migratory, for example, chough, hen harrier, curlew and merlin.

While some Natura 2000 species and habitats are thriving, in over 50% of occurrences they are declining and in poor condition; so focused and coordinated action is essential.

How is the programme being run?

The Programme is being run by Natural Resources Wales, co-funded by the EU LIFE grant scheme, until September 2015. Dedicated members of staff, will work closely with stakeholders from across Wales to collate information and develop the programme.

Getting involved

Input from organisations with an interest in Natura 2000 is essential to the success of the programme. Organisations can contribute information, ideas and views and get involved in the creation of the action plans and programme by:

  • Coming along to workshops which will take place around Wales between 2012 and 2015
  • Signing up to the mailing list for newsletters and updates
  • Meeting with members of the team

Further information

If you require any further information on the project, please contact

Supported by LIFE, a financial instrument of the European Community : N2K Wales , LIFE 11 NAT/UK/385

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