Natura 2000 is a Europe-wide network of protected areas consisting of territories important for the conservation of birds and habitats, whose purpose is to protect, maintain and if needed, recreate natural habitat types, animal and plant species within the territory of the European Community.
The initial idea of creating a network of European protected areas dedicated to the protection of endangered species came from the “International Council for Bird Preservation“, the predecessor to „BirdLife International“.
The rapid industrial development of the 1970s in Western Europe, the intensification of agriculture, and the resulting pressure on the remaining natural fragments have led to a significant decrease in the number of wetlands and natural forests. But as people‘s living standards in west European countries grew to reach their highest ever levels, the public started taking a much greater interest in the environment and the need for its conservation. The Ramsar Convention of 1971 for wetland protection was not enough. After a period of long deliberation in 1979 the member states of the European Community passed a directive for the protection of wild birds (Birds Directive).
The purpose of the Habitats Directive is to protect biological diversity in the EU by creating a network of protected areas meeting certain common criteria.The Annexes of the Habitats Directive contain lists of natural habitat types (Annex I) and species (Annex II), whose distribution and abundance in a given country are used as criteria for the selection of areas that need to be protected. The network of these areas is called Natura 2000 in the directive. The general aim of creating the Natura 2000 network is to ensure the protection of the natural habitats and species mentioned in the directive annexes. The directive also states that protected areas that were established as part of the Birds Directive are also included in the Natura 2000 network. The special aim of the Habitats Directive is to maintain, and if needed, restore natural habitats, wild flora and fauna of Community importance at a favourable conservation status.
In addition to these aims, the Birds Directive also requires the restoration of past and the creation of new biotypes necessary for birds. An important aspect of the Habitats Directive is the distinction of biogeographical regions within European territory, where the conservation of certain habitat types is coordinated according to these regions.
Lithuania is located on the southern edge of the boreal (northern) biogeographical region, and only a small part of southern Lithuania falls into the continental (temperate) biogeographical region. For practical reasons it has been decided that all of Lithuania‘s territory should be considered as part of the boreal region. This decision was adopted by the Habitats Committee, formed to implement the Habitats Directive, and endorsed by the Standing Committee of the Bern Convention.