A story started 25 years ago, whose stars are meadows, dunes and forests. And wolves, bears, turtles, dragonflies. These are some of the most threatened species in Europe, protected by the Habitat Directive, one of the pillars of EU nature legislation, adopted in 1992.
It protects over 1000 animals and plant species and over 200 types of habitat. It also established the EU-wide Natura 2000, the largest coordinated network of protected areas in the world.
Along with the Birds Directive (1979), they contributed to halt biodiversity loss and the degradation of ecosystem services, caused by over exploitation of natural resources, spread of invasive species, pollution, habitat degradation and loss, and global climate change.
Thanks to the policies implemented in these 25 years, it has been possible to ensure favourable conservation status of 231 european habitats, covering about one million square meters, and more than 1,200 species at risk, all included in the Natura 2000 network.
Another important milestone was the adoption of the LIFE programme, the main EU’s funding instrument for the environment and climate action.
Since 1992, LIFE has co-financed 4306 projects. In particular 93.000.000 euros were allocated in Italy for the protection of habitats, from forest to marine ecosystem, from wetlands to dunes, and 98.000.000 euros were allocated for fauna conservation, especially big mammals (wolves, bears, chamois etc).
Thanks to many projects and conservation activities carried out has been possibile to recover many endangered species, as the appennine chamois (Rupicapra pyrenaica ornata). At the beginning of ‘90 population was estimated to be about 300 specimen, while now its status has greatly improved and now more than 2.000 chamois survive within the boundaries of italian protected areas in central Italy.
Despite conservations efforts, biodiversity still struggles. According to the IUCN italian Red List, 596 species out of 2.800 are at risk of extinction. Thus, it is fundamental that countries give their best to meet the objective set under the EU Biodiversity Strategy – reversing the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the EU by 2020.

25 Years of protected nature in Europe and Italy