The Natura 2000 network simultaneously protects habitats, animal species and plant species. In Greece, the Natura 2000 network consists of 446 sites, which includes approximately 28% of the country’s land and 20% of the country’s seas.
Natura 2000 sites are selected exclusively using scientific criteria, with the aim of ensuring the long-term survival of the most valuable and endangered species and types of habitat in Europe. The sites are selected and proposed by the Member States of the European Union. The European Commission analyses, evaluates and approves these proposals.
In Greece, the Natura 2000 network offers protection for a total of 299 plant and animal species, 177 bird species and 89 types of habitat. This is a valuable protective 'umbrella', as Greece, despite its small size, is one of the richest countries in biodiversity in the European Union and globally. In parallel, it also shows very high rates of endemism in categories of species such as snails (64.5%), freshwater fish (53.9%), orthoptera (35.8%), plants (23%), etc.
However, Natura 2000 is not just a network of protected areas. It recognises that man and nature perform better when they work together. In fact, in many cases, human presence is considered an integral part of the Natura 2000 network. Thus, it is designed in such a way as to ensure the compatibility of human activity with the protection of species and habitats.
We know the protection and management of ecosystems and biodiversity can be a cost-effective and sustainable way to strengthen the resilience of our societies against climate change. In parallel, this management can ensure that nature continues to provide us with food, water, safety and all other valuable ecosystem services. In this way, despite the fact that the Natura 2000 network was created with the aim of protecting biodiversity, its effective management proves to be very beneficial for humans.
The Natura 2000 network can contribute decisively to addressing the global crisis of biodiversity loss, it can act as a powerful bulwark against and response to climate change, and also as a model for a more balanced relationship between man and nature, which we so desperately need.
We monitor the legislative initiatives affecting the operation and effectiveness of the Natura 2000 network, just as we do systematically for all nature protection issues in Greece. We intervene in the public dialogue, we participate in public consultations, we collaborate with other environmental NGOs and entities, and we submit proposals with a view to the institutional shielding and effective management of the Natura 2000 sites.
At the same time, since 2018 we have participated in the LIFE-IP 4 NATURA Project, which has a duration of 8 years, and which is actually the first integrated LIFE Project ever to have been approved for Greece. Among the goals of the Project is the overall improvement of the operation of the Natura 2000 network in Greece and the country’s compliance with the relevant European legislation.
Within the context of the Project, in which a total of 11 partners participate under the coordination of the Ministry of the Environment and Energy, WWF Greece is responsible for the implementation of specific actions, such as mapping and analysis of those involved in the Natura 2000 network (stakeholder analysis), training of executives of the competent public services as well as the users (capacity building), implementing a Panhellenic campaign to inform and raise awareness (awareness campaign), distributing Project results and monitoring of the socioeconomic impact of the Project.
At the same time, however, participating in other actions in collaboration with the other Project partners, we were responsible for preparing the Action Plan for the Karpathos frog (Pelophylax cerigensis), which is species endemic to Karpathos.
It is no longer up to future generation to fight climate crisis. Our generation must fight this battle. There is no more time to waste on ineffective policies. We now have the means, the knowledge, the technology and the human resources to take decisive action. Averting the climate crisis is not a struggle we can win on our own. We need everyone’s support.