Habitats Directive

Last changed: 04 December 2017

Nature conservation in the EU member states is largely influenced by the so called habitats directive, formally known as Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora. The main aim of the directive is to promote the maintenance of biodiversity in the EU by conserving natural habitats in danger of disappearance. 

The habitats concerned are listed in Annex 1 of the directive. About 90 can be found in Sweden. Some of them cover vaste areas, such as the western taiga – old, naturally reproduced coniferous forests, which are not too affected by cutting and draining. Others have a very limited coverage, such as mountain hay meadows and petrifying springs with tufa formation.

Link to the habitats directive (pdf).
Link to a list of Swedish habitats (pdf, in Swedish).

Natura 2000

According to the directive, member states shall ensure that the listed habitats have a favourable conservation status. This means that

  • the coverage shall be stable or increasing
  • necessary structures and functions shall continue to exist
  • typical species shall be maintained in viable populations

A central part of the work to achieve this is Natura 2000. This is a network of areas where listed habitat types exist and can be maintained on a long-term basis. All over EU, member states have designated areas of conservation for the Natura 2000. In Sweden, there are more than 4 000 areas covering more than six million hectars. The network is in principle complete.

About 60 % of the Swedish Natura 2000 areas are formally protected as nature reserves. Not all of them will be protected in this way. Some habitat types are not actually threatened, and others are best conserved through management. For every Natura 2000 area, a conservation plan is elaborated, establishing what actions to perform to protect the natural habitat types included.

Article 17 reporting

But how can you know that the measures taken are sufficient to maintain a favourable conservation status of habitat types?

According to article 17 of the directive, EU member states should every six years report on conservation measures and how they affect the habitat types concerned. The first complete set of data was reported in 2007. However, much of the reporting had to be done despite insufficient knowledge. In Sweden, this was the case for most of the habitat types concerning sea shores, grasslands, rocky slopes and deciduous forests. To fulfill the implementation of the habitats directive, the survey has to be improved.

The MOTH project aims at the development of methods for monitoring less common terrestrial habitats and their conservation status.

Link to a popular version of the Swedish report from 2007 (pdf, in Swedish). 


Hans Gardfjell, Program manager MOTH
Department of Forest Resource Management/Division of Landscape Analysis, SLU
hans.gardfjell@slu.se, 090-786 82 41, 070-620 17 06

Åsa Hagner, Coordinator
Department of Forest Resource Management/Division of Landscape Analysis, SLU
asa.hagner@slu.se, 090-786 82 18, 070-376 00 28