Natura 2000 Network enlarged with Croatia’s accession

01 August 2013 | Article

Croatia is characterised by a great diversity of land, marine and underground habitats with corresponding wealth of species. Becoming a Member State of the European Union, Croatia greatly contributes to the natural heritage of the EU. With 87 bird species and 53 regularly occurring migratory bird species, 135 “other” species and 74 habitat types on reference list, it is not surprising that more than 29% of total territory of the country is included in Natura 2000 Network.

Through the process of accession to the EU and by technical adaptations of the EU Directives, Croatia proposed inclusion of 11 species and two habitat types specific to Croatian and Dinaric karst. This shows Croatia’s strong responsibility for nature conservation policy on one hand, and on the other it brings evidence to its remarkable biodiversity. The Natura 2000 proposal was prepared in the period 2006 - 2012 by the State Institute for Nature Protection (SINP), the main expert institution for nature conservation in Croatia. Extensive field research focused on data collecting for target species and habitat types was carried out to gather the information needed for filling the Standard data forms for each site included into the network. A long list of scientific institutions, NGOs, individual experts and scientists were engaged in this complex task.

Due to the large areas of preserved natural habitats, Croatia contains significant populations of species which are threatened at the European level. For example, vast areas of mountain beech and fir forests are home to bear, wolf and lynx populations which are recognized as of European importance.

There is equal variety of wetland habitats, from large floodplains with lowland rivers, oxbows and stagnant backwaters to mountain karst streams and poljas (depressions) with periodical watercourses. Numerous karst rivers and lakes are "shackled" by tufas, while sinking and underground rivers flow through passages in karstified carbonate rocks. On the coast of Croatian Adriatic, rivers enter the sea forming unique mouths and deltas, contributing to the variety of other coastal brackish habitats and Mediterranean ponds.

Large flooding complexes with alluvial forests are important breeding, migration and wintering sites for European water birds and for birds nesting in wetland forests, such as the white tailed eagle and black stork. The wealth of marine biodiversity, in combination with the immense diversity of islands and cliffs with endemic life forms, gives the Croatian coastal area international significance.

Croatia is now facing new challenges regarding the Natura 2000 ecological network such as finding practical solutions for the long-term management of sites in close cooperation with stakeholders. It should work to demystify Natura 2000 ecological network mechanism of nature conservation and to convert it to a benefit and opportunity for future generations.

For more information please contact the State Institute for Nature Protection of Croatia.