Introduction | Protected areas networks | Coverage and representativeness | Designation and management

Nature conservation activities play a key role in halting biodiversity lossand reducing pressure on ecosystems. A fundamental conservation measure targeting species and habitats as well as broader ecosystem functions and services is the designation of protected areas.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) defines a protected area as:

A clearly defined geographical space, recognized, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values

The term 'protected area' covers a variety of designations under national and international legislation. The main target of current EU and global policy frameworks is to legally protect 30% of land and sea by 2030. This is outlined in the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 and the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.


of EU land is covered by

protected areas


of EU marine waters are

covered by protected areas

Top 3 EU countries
with the largest terrestrial protected areas network

Top 3 EU countries
with the highest percentage of territory covered by protected areas


IUCN, 2019.Guidelines for applying the IUCN protected area management categories to marine protected areas. Second edition.