Conservation of species and the environment


Over the past few decades, a concern has spread that more and more people share: the survival of many animal and plant species is threatened, essentially by the intrusiveness and unpredictability of our species. This column will talk about this, and what can be done to prevent this perhaps unique and certainly very rare phenomenon (the biodiversity of our planet) from disappearing from the cosmos.

The topic of environmental conservation is very broad and involves many fields of knowledge. Not being able to address them all, the column will focus on those points the common culture on the subject does not know or neglect.

Our articles

Of abandoned lands, of woods, of nonsense

What is amazing is that many self-styled environmentalists, praiseors of the past, in addition to free breeding, preach the abandonment of intensive agriculture, to return to extensive agriculture. If even that thing were possible, and it is not, since there is very little physical space to increase the cultivated areas, it would mean the immediate end of all forms of wild life in ... (read the article)

International Union for Conservation of Nature

L'International Union for Conservation of Nature, better known by the English abbreviation IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature), is an international non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Gland in Switzerland. On December 17, 1999, she was granted observer status by the United Nations General Assembly.

Considered as "the most authoritative international scientific institution dealing with nature conservation" [1], it was founded in 1948 in the French town of Fontainebleau [2], with the aim of supporting the international community in environmental matters by playing a role of coordination and exchange of information between member organizations at a time when this sector was still in the development phase and most countries in the world did not yet have institutional comparison processes for environmental protection.

The only Italian who participated in its establishment, as president of the Italian Movement for the Protection of Nature (Mipn, Pro Natura since 1959), was Renzo Videsott, at the time director of the Gran Paradiso National Park.


Council Directive 92/43 / EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural and semi-natural habitats and of wild flora and fauna

Official Journal no. L 206 of 22/07/1992 p. 0007 - 0050
Finnish special edition: Chapter 15 Volume 11 p. 0114
Swedish special edition / Chapter 15 Volume 11 P. 0114

Council Directive 92/43 / EEC

relating to the conservation of natural and semi-natural habitats and of wild flora and fauna


Having regard to the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community, in particular Article 130s,

having regard to the Commission proposal (1),

Having regard to the opinion of the European Parliament (2),

Having regard to the opinion of the Economic and Social Committee (3),

Whereas the preservation, protection and improvement of the quality of the environment, including the conservation of natural habitats and of wild flora and fauna, are an essential objective of general interest pursued by the Community in accordance with Article 130r of the Treaty

Whereas the Community action program on the environment (1987-1992) (4) contains provisions relating to the conservation of nature and natural resources

Whereas this Directive, the main purpose of which is to promote the maintenance of biodiversity, while taking into account economic, social, cultural and regional needs, contributes to the overall objective of sustainable development which the maintenance of that biodiversity can in some cases require the maintenance and promotion of human activities

whereas, in the European territory of the Member States, natural habitats continue to deteriorate and an increasing number of wild species are seriously threatened that endangered habitats and species are part of the Community's natural heritage and that the dangers they face are generally of a cross-border nature, therefore it is necessary to adopt measures at Community level for their conservation

whereas, taking into account the threats to certain types of natural habitats and certain species, it is necessary to define them as priorities in order to facilitate the rapid implementation of measures to ensure their conservation

whereas, in order to ensure the restoration or maintenance of natural habitats and species of Community interest in a favorable conservation status, it is necessary to designate special areas of conservation to create a coherent European ecological network according to a defined timetable

whereas all designated areas, including those already classified or which will be classified as special protection areas under Council Directive 79/409 / EEC on the conservation of wild birds (5), will have to be integrated into the coherent European ecological network

Whereas, in each designated area, the necessary measures should be implemented in relation to the conservation objectives envisaged

Whereas the sites which may be designated as special areas of conservation are proposed by the Member States; whereas, however, provision should be made for a procedure allowing in exceptional cases the designation of a site not proposed by a Member State which the Community considers essential for the maintenance of a priority natural habitat type or for the survival of a priority species

whereas any plan or program that may have a significant impact on the conservation objectives of a site already designated or to be designated must be subject to an appropriate assessment

whereas the adoption of measures to promote the conservation of priority natural habitats and priority species of Community interest is the joint responsibility of all Member States; whereas such measures may nevertheless constitute an excessive financial burden for some Member States since, on the one hand, these habitats and species are not uniformly distributed in the Community and on the other hand, in the specific case of nature conservation, the "polluter pays" principle is of limited application

Whereas it was therefore agreed that in this exceptional case a contribution by Community co-financing should be provided for within the limits of the resources available on the basis of Community decisions

Whereas the management of landscape features of fundamental importance for wild flora and fauna should be encouraged in land use and development policies

Whereas it is necessary to ensure the implementation of a system for verifying the conservation status of the natural habitats and species referred to in this Directive

Whereas, in addition to Directive 79/409 / EEC, it is necessary to establish a general system for the protection of certain species of fauna and flora, and provision should be made for management measures for certain species, if their conservation status justifies it, including the prohibition of certain methods of capture or killing, while providing for the possibility of derogations, subject to certain conditions

Whereas, in order to ensure monitoring of the implementation of this Directive, the Commission will have to periodically prepare a summary report based, inter alia, on the information submitted by the Member States on the implementation of the national provisions adopted pursuant to the Directive

Whereas the improvement of scientific and technical knowledge is indispensable for the implementation of this Directive and whereas the research and scientific work necessary for this purpose should therefore be encouraged

Whereas technical and scientific progress requires the possibility of adapting the annexes; provision should be made for a procedure for the modification of the annexes by the Council

Whereas a regulatory committee will have to be created to assist the Commission in the implementation of this Directive, in particular in taking decisions on Community co-financing

Whereas it is necessary to provide for complementary measures to regulate the reintroduction of certain species of indigenous fauna and flora, as well as the possible introduction of non-indigenous species

Whereas education and general information relating to the objectives of this Directive are indispensable to ensure its effective implementation,


For the purposes of this Directive,

a) Conservation: a set of measures necessary to maintain or restore natural habitats and populations of wild fauna and flora species in a satisfactory state within the meaning of letters e) and i).

b) Natural habitats: terrestrial or aquatic areas that are distinguished by their geographical, abiotic and biotic characteristics, entirely natural or semi-natural.

c) Natural habitats of community interest: habitats which in the territory referred to in Article 2:

i) risk disappearing in their natural range

ii) have a reduced natural range as a result of their regression or due to the fact that their area is inherently restricted

iii) constitute notable examples of typical characteristics of one or more of the following five biogeographical regions: Alpine, Atlantic, Continental, Macaronesian and Mediterranean.

These habitat types are listed or could be listed in Annex I.

(d) Priority natural habitat types: the natural habitat types which are in danger of disappearing in the territory referred to in Article 2 and for which the Community has a particular responsibility for their conservation due to the importance of that part of their natural distribution area including in the territory referred to in Article 2. Those priority natural habitat types are marked with an asterisk (*) in Annex I.

e) Conservation status of a natural habitat: the effect of the sum of the factors that affect the natural habitat in question, as well as the typical species found in it, which can alter its natural distribution, its structure in the long term and its functions, as well as the survival of its typical species in the territory referred to in Article 2.

The "conservation status" of a natural habitat is considered "satisfactory" when

- its natural range and the surfaces it comprises are stable or in extension,

- the specific structure and functions necessary for its long-term maintenance exist and may continue to exist for the foreseeable future e

- the conservation status of the typical species is satisfactory in accordance with letter i).

f) Habitat of a species: environment defined by specific abiotic and biotic factors in which the species lives in one of the phases of its biological cycle.

g) Species of Community interest: the species which in the territory referred to in Article 2:

(i) are endangered, except those whose natural range extends marginally over that territory and which are neither endangered nor vulnerable in the western Palearctic area, or

(ii) are vulnerable, i.e. their transition to the category of endangered species is considered likely in the near future, if the factors underlying this risk persist, or

iii) they are rare, that is to say that the populations are small and that, although not currently endangered or vulnerable, they risk becoming so. These species are localized in restricted geographical areas or scattered over a wider surface, or

iv) are endemic and require particular attention, given the specificity of their habitat and / or the potential impact of their exploitation on their conservation status.

These species are listed or may be listed in Annex II and / or IV or V.

h) Priority species: the species referred to in point (g) (i), for the conservation of which the Community has a particular responsibility due to the importance of the part of their natural distribution area included in the territory referred to in Article 2 These priority species are marked with an asterisk (*) in Annex II.

i) Conservation status of a species: the effect of the sum of the factors which, by affecting the species in question, may alter in the long term the distribution and importance of its populations in the territory referred to in Article 2

The "state of conservation" is considered "satisfactory" when

- the data relating to the evolution of the populations of the species concerned indicate that this species continues and may continue in the long term to be a vital element of the natural habitats to which it belongs

- the natural range of this species is neither declining nor likely to decline in the foreseeable future e

- there is and will probably continue to have sufficient habitat for its populations to be maintained over the long term.

j) Site: a geographically defined area, the surface of which is clearly delimited.

k) Site of Community Importance: a site which, in the biogeographical region or regions to which it belongs, contributes significantly to maintaining or restoring a natural habitat type listed in Annex I or a species listed in Annex II in a state of satisfactory conservation and which can also significantly contribute to the coherence of Natura 2000 referred to in Article 3, and / or which significantly contributes to the maintenance of biological diversity in the biogeographical region or regions in question.

For animal species that occupy large territories, the sites of community importance correspond to the places, within the natural distribution area of ​​these species, which present the physical or biological elements essential to their life and reproduction.

l) Special area of ​​conservation: a site of Community importance designated by the Member States by means of a regulatory, administrative and / or contractual act in which the conservation measures necessary for the maintenance or restoration, in a favorable state of conservation, of the habitats are applied natural and / or populations of the species for which the site is designated.

m) Specimen: any animal or plant, live or dead, of the species listed in Annex IV and in Annex V, any part or product obtained from the animal or plant, as well as any other property which appears to be a part or product of animals or plants of these species on the basis of an accompanying document, packaging, trademark, labeling or other element.

n) The committee: the committee established pursuant to Article 20.

1. The purpose of this Directive is to help safeguard biodiversity through the conservation of natural habitats, as well as of wild flora and fauna in the European territory of the Member States to which the Treaty applies.

2. The measures adopted pursuant to this Directive shall be designed to ensure the maintenance or restoration, in a favorable conservation status, of natural habitats and species of wild fauna and flora of Community interest.

3. The measures adopted pursuant to this Directive shall take into account economic, social and cultural needs as well as regional and local particularities.

Conservation of natural habitats and species habitats

1. A coherent European ecological network of special areas of conservation, called Natura 2000, is established. This network, consisting of sites containing natural habitat types listed in Annex I and habitats of species listed in Annex II, must ensure the maintenance or, if necessary, the restoration, in a satisfactory state of conservation, of the natural habitat types and the habitats of the species concerned in their natural range.

The Natura 2000 network also includes special protection areas classified by the Member States under Directive 79/409 / EEC.

2. Each Member State shall contribute to the establishment of Natura 2000 on the basis of the representation on its territory of the natural habitat types and the habitats of the species referred to in paragraph 1. To this end, in accordance with Article 4, it shall designate sites as special areas conservation, taking into account the objectives referred to in paragraph 1.

3. Where they deem it necessary, Member States shall endeavor to improve the ecological coherence of Natura 2000 by maintaining and, where necessary, developing the landscape features of primary importance for wild fauna and flora, mentioned in article 10.

1. On the basis of the criteria set out in Annex III (phase 1) and the relevant scientific information, each Member State shall propose a list of sites, indicating which natural habitat types listed in Annex I and which local species listed in Annex Annex II can be found in these sites. For animal species that occupy large territories, these sites correspond to the places, within the natural range of these species, which present the physical or biological elements essential to their life or reproduction. For aquatic species that occupy large territories, such sites are only proposed if it is possible to clearly identify an area that presents the physical and biological elements essential to their life or reproduction. Member States shall suggest, where appropriate, an adaptation of this list in the light of the outcome of the surveillance referred to in Article 11.

The list shall be sent to the Commission within three years following the notification of this Directive, at the same time as the information on each site. This information includes a map of the site, its name, its location, its extension, as well as the data resulting from the application of the criteria specified in Annex III (phase 1) and is provided on the basis of a form drawn up by the Commission in accordance with the procedure referred to in Article 21.

2. On the basis of the criteria referred to in Annex III (phase 2) and within each of the five biogeographical regions referred to in Article 1, letter c), point iii) and the entire territory referred to in Article 2 (1), the Commission shall draw up, in agreement with each of the Member States, a draft list of sites of Community importance, on the basis of the lists of the Member States, in which the sites containing one or more priority natural habitat types or one or more priority species.

Member States whose sites with priority natural habitat types and species represent more than 5% of the national territory may, in agreement with the Commission, request that the criteria listed in Annex III (phase 2) be applied more flexible for the selection of all the sites of Community importance in their territory.

The list of sites selected as sites of Community importance in which sites with one or more priority natural habitat types or one or more priority species are identified shall be established by the Commission in accordance with the procedure referred to in Article 21.

3. The list referred to in paragraph 2 shall be drawn up within a period of six years after the notification of this Directive.

4. Where a site of Community importance has been selected in accordance with the procedure referred to in paragraph 2, the Member State concerned shall designate that site as a special area of ​​conservation as quickly as possible and within a maximum period of six years, setting priorities in depending on the importance of the sites for the maintenance or restoration, in a favorable conservation status, of one or more natural habitat types listed in Annex I or one or more species in Annex II and for consistency of Natura 2000, as well as in the light of the risks of degradation and destruction affecting these sites.

5. As soon as a site is included in the list referred to in the third subparagraph of paragraph 2, it shall be subject to the provisions of Article 6 (2), (3) and (4).

1. In exceptional cases where the Commission finds that a site containing one or more priority natural habitat types or one or more priority species is missing from a national list referred to in Article 4 (1), which on the basis of relevant and reliable scientific information, it seems to it essential for the maintenance of that priority natural habitat type or for the survival of that priority species, a bilateral concertation procedure is initiated between that Member State and the Commission to compare the data used by both sides.

2. If at the end of a consultation period not exceeding six months the dispute has not been resolved, the Commission shall submit to the Council a proposal relating to the choice of the site as a site of Community importance.

3. The Council, acting unanimously, decides within a period of three months from the moment in which it is referred.

4. During the consultation period and pending a Council decision, the site in question is subject to the provisions of Article 6 (2).

1. For special areas of conservation, Member States shall establish the necessary conservation measures involving, where necessary, appropriate management plans specific or integrated with other development plans and the appropriate regulatory, administrative or contractual measures which are in accordance with ecological requirements. the natural habitat types listed in Annex I and the species listed in Annex II present on the sites.

2. Member States shall take appropriate measures to avoid in special areas of conservation the degradation of natural habitats and habitats of species as well as disturbance of the species for which the areas have been designated, to the extent that such disturbance could have significant consequences for with regard to the objectives of this Directive.

3. Any plan or project not directly connected and necessary to the management of the site but which may have a significant impact on that site, individually or jointly with other plans and projects, is subject to an appropriate assessment of the impact it has on the site, taking into account the conservation objectives of the same. In the light of the conclusions of the assessment of the impact on the site and without prejudice to paragraph 4, the competent national authorities shall give their agreement to this plan or project only after having been satisfied that it will not adversely affect the integrity of the site in question and, where appropriate, after obtaining the opinion of public opinion.

4. If, despite negative conclusions from the assessment of the impact on the site and in the absence of alternative solutions, a plan or project must be carried out for imperative reasons of overriding public interest, including social or economic reasons, the Member State shall take any measures compensation necessary to ensure that the overall coherence of Natura 2000 is protected. The Member State shall inform the Commission of the compensatory measures taken.

If the site in question is a site where a priority natural habitat type and / or species are found, only considerations related to human health and public safety or to positive consequences of primary importance can be put forward. environment or, subject to the Commission's opinion, other imperative reasons of overriding public interest.

The obligations deriving from Article 6 (2), (3) and (4) of this Directive replace the obligations arising from the first sentence of Article 4 (4) of Directive 79/409 / EEC as regards areas classified under Article 4 (1) or similarly recognized under Article 4 (2) of that Directive from the date of entry into force of this Directive or from the date of classification or recognition by a Member State under the Directive 79/409 / EEC, if it is later.

1. Member States, in parallel with their proposals for sites which may be designated as special areas of conservation, where priority natural habitat types and / or priority species are found, where appropriate, shall forward to the Commission the estimates of Community co-financing which they deem it necessary in order to fulfill the obligations referred to in Article 6 (1).

2. In agreement with the Member State concerned, the Commission identifies, for sites of Community importance for which co-financing is requested, the essential measures for the maintenance or restoration, in a favorable state of conservation, of the habitat types natural priority and priority species at the site in question, as well as the total cost of these measures.

3. The Commission, in agreement with the Member State concerned, shall evaluate the financing, including Community co-financing, necessary for the implementation of the measures referred to in paragraph 2, taking into account, inter alia, the concentration in the territory of the State member of priority natural habitats and / or priority species and of the burdens that the measures entail for each Member State.

4. In the light of the assessment referred to in paragraphs 2 and 3, the Commission, following the procedure set out in Article 21 and taking into account the sources of funding available under the relevant Community instruments, shall adopt a framework of actions listed by priority in which measures requiring co-financing in the case of sites designated in accordance with Article 4 (4) are indicated.

5. Measures which, due to a lack of resources, have not been included in the framework of actions and those which, although included, have not obtained the necessary co-financing or have been co-financed only partially, shall be taken into account in accordance with the procedure referred to in Article 21 as part of the biennial review of the framework of actions and may be postponed by Member States pending such review. The review takes into account, where appropriate, the new situation of the site in question.

6. In areas where measures dependent on co-financing are postponed, Member States shall refrain from adopting new measures which could lead to a deterioration of the areas.

The Commission, operating in accordance with the procedure referred to in Article 21, carries out a periodic assessment of the contribution of Natura 2000 to the achievement of the objectives referred to in Articles 2 and 3. In this context, the downgrading of a special area may be considered. conservation where the natural evolution found thanks to the surveillance provided for by article 11 justifies it.

Where they deem it necessary, in the context of national spatial planning and development policies, and in particular to make the Natura 2000 network more ecologically coherent, Member States undertake to promote the management of landscape elements which are of primary importance for the wild fauna and flora.

These are those elements which, due to their linear and continuous structure (such as watercourses with their banks, or traditional systems of delimitation of fields) or their connecting role (such as ponds or groves), are essential for migration, geographic distribution and genetic exchange of wild species.

Member States shall ensure the surveillance of the conservation status of the species and habitats referred to in Article 2, taking particular account of the natural habitat types and priority species.

1. Member States shall take the necessary measures to establish a system of strict protection for the animal species referred to in Annex IV (a) in their natural range, prohibiting:

a) any form of deliberate capture or killing of specimens of these species in the wild

b) deliberately disturbing these species, in particular during the breeding, rearing, hibernation and migration period

c) deliberately destroying or collecting eggs in the wild

d) deterioration or destruction of breeding sites or resting areas.

2. For these species, Member States shall prohibit the possession, transport, marketing or exchange and offering for commercial or exchange purposes of specimens taken from the wild, except for those legally collected before this Directive is put into effect. .

3. The prohibitions referred to in paragraph 1 (a) and (b) and paragraph 2 shall apply to all stages in the life of the animals to which this Article applies.

4. Member States shall establish a system of continuous surveillance of the accidental catching or killing of the fauna species listed in Annex IV (a). Based on the information gathered, Member States undertake any further research or conservation measures necessary to ensure that accidental catches or kills do not have a significant negative impact on the species in question.

1. Member States shall take the necessary measures to establish a system of strict protection of the plant species referred to in Annex IV, letter b), prohibiting:

a) collect, as well as collect, cut, eradicate or deliberately destroy specimens of the aforementioned species in the natural environment, in their natural range

b) possess, transport, market or trade and offer for commercial or exchange purposes specimens of the aforementioned species, collected in the wild, except for those legally collected before the application of this Directive.

2. The prohibitions referred to in paragraph 1 (a) and (b) shall apply to all stages of the life cycle of the plants to which this Article applies.

1. Member States, where they deem it necessary in the light of the surveillance provided for in Article 11, shall take measures to ensure that specimens of the species of wild fauna and flora listed in Annex V are taken from the wild, as well as their exploitation , are compatible with their maintenance in a satisfactory state of conservation.

2. In the event that such measures are deemed necessary, they must entail the continuation of the surveillance provided for in Article 11 and may also include in particular:

- requirements relating to access to certain sectors,

- a temporary or local ban on taking specimens from the wild and exploiting certain populations,

- regulation of withdrawal periods and / or methods,

- the application, at the time of sampling, of kinegetic or fishery rules that take into account the conservation of the populations in question,

- the establishment of a system of authorizations for drawings or quotas,

- the regulation of the purchase, sale, sale, possession or transport with a view to the sale of specimens,

- the captive breeding of animal species, as well as the artificial reproduction of plant species, under strictly controlled conditions, in order to reduce their collection in the natural environment,

- the evaluation of the effect of the measures adopted.

As regards the capture or killing of wild fauna species listed in Annex V (a), where exemptions in accordance with Article 16 are applied for the taking, capture or killing of the species listed in Annex IV (a), Member States shall prohibit all non-selective means capable of causing locally the disappearance or seriously disturbing the tranquility of the populations of these species, and in particular:

(a) the use of the means of capture and killing specified in Annex VI (a)

b) any form of capture and killing from the means of transport referred to in Annex VI (b).

1. Provided that there is no other valid solution and that the derogation does not affect the maintenance, in a favorable conservation status, of the populations of the species concerned in its natural range, Member States may derogate from the provisions of the articles 12, 13, 14 and 15, letters a) and b):

a) to protect wild fauna and flora and conserve natural habitats

b) to prevent serious damage, in particular to crops, livestock, forests, fish stocks and water and other forms of property

c) in the interest of public health and safety or for other imperative reasons of overriding public interest, including reasons of a social or economic nature, and reasons such as to have positive consequences of primary importance for the environment

d) for educational and research purposes, for repopulation and reintroduction of these species and for reproduction operations necessary for this purpose, including the artificial reproduction of plants

(e) to permit, under strictly controlled conditions, on a selective basis and to a limited extent, the capture or holding of a limited number of certain specimens of the species listed in Annex IV, as specified by the competent national authorities.

2. Member States shall submit to the Commission every two years a report, in accordance with the model drawn up by the Committee, on the exemptions granted under paragraph 1. The Commission shall communicate its opinion on these exemptions within a maximum period of twelve months after receipt of the report and inform the committee accordingly.

3. The information must indicate:

a) the species to which the derogations apply and the reason for the derogation, including the nature of the risk, with any indication of the alternative solutions not accepted and the scientific data used

(b) the means, systems or methods of capture or killing of animal species authorized and the reasons for their use

c) the circumstances of time and place in which such exemptions are granted

d) the authority empowered to declare and check that the required conditions are met and to decide which means, structures or methods can be used, within what limits and by which services and who are the enforcement officers

e) the control measures implemented and the results obtained.

1. Every six years following the expiry of the period provided for in Article 23, Member States shall draw up a report on the implementation of the provisions adopted under this Directive. This report shall include in particular information on the conservation measures referred to in Article 6 (1), as well as the assessment of the effects of these measures on the conservation status of the natural habitat types listed in Annex I and the species listed in Annex I Annex II and the main results of the monitoring referred to in Article 11. This report, in accordance with the model report drawn up by the Committee, is sent to the Commission and made known to the public.

2. The Commission shall draw up an overall report based on the reports referred to in paragraph 1. This report shall include an appropriate assessment of the progress achieved and in particular of the contribution of Natura 2000 to the achievement of the objectives referred to in Article 3. The part of the draft report on information provided by a Member State is sent, for verification, to the authorities of that Member State.The final text of the report, after being submitted to the Committee, shall be published by the Commission, at the latest within two years from the moment in which the reports referred to in paragraph 1 have been received and transmitted to the Member States, the European Parliament, the Council and the Economic and Social Committee.

3. Member States may indicate the areas designated under this Directive by means of Community notices prepared for this purpose by the Committee.

1. Member States and the Commission shall promote the research and scientific activities necessary for the purposes of the objectives referred to in Article 2 and the obligation set out in Article 11. They shall exchange information to ensure effective coordination of research. implemented within the Member States and the Community.

2. Particular attention will be paid to the scientific activities necessary for the implementation of Articles 4 and 10 and cross-border cooperation between Member States in the field of research will be encouraged.

Procedures for changing annexes

The amendments necessary to adapt Annexes I, II, III, V and VI to technical and scientific progress are adopted by the Council, acting by qualified majority on a proposal from the Commission.

The amendments necessary to adapt Annex IV to technical and scientific progress are adopted by the Council, acting unanimously on a proposal from the Commission.

The Commission is assisted by a committee composed of the representatives of the Member States and chaired by the representative of the Commission.

1. The representative of the Commission shall submit to the committee a draft of the measures to be taken. The committee shall deliver its opinion on the draft within a time limit which the chairman may lay down according to the urgency of the matter under consideration. The opinion is delivered by the majority provided for in Article 148 (2) of the Treaty for the adoption of decisions to be taken by the Council on a proposal from the Commission. In voting, the votes of the representatives of the Member States are given the weighting defined in the aforementioned article. The chairman does not participate in the vote.

2. The Commission shall adopt the measures envisaged if they are in accordance with the opinion of the committee.

If the measures envisaged are not in accordance with the opinion of the committee, or if no opinion is delivered, the Commission shall, without delay, submit to the Council a proposal relating to the measures to be taken. The Council acts by qualified majority.

If the Council has not acted within three months of the date on which the proposal was submitted to it, the Commission shall adopt the proposed measures.

In implementing the provisions of this Directive, Member States:

a) examine the appropriateness of reintroducing local species of their territory referred to in Annex IV, if this measure could contribute to their conservation, provided that, by means of a survey also conducted on the basis of experiences acquired in other Member States or elsewhere, it appears that such reintroduction effectively contributes to restoring these species to a favorable conservation status, and provided that such reintroduction is preceded by appropriate consultation of the public concerned

(b) check that the intentional introduction into the natural environment of a non-local species of their territory is regulated in such a way as not to cause any damage to the natural habitats in their natural range or to local wild fauna and flora, and, if deem it necessary, prohibit such introduction. The results of the evaluation studies carried out are communicated to the committee for information

(c) promote education and general information on the need to protect wild fauna and flora species and to conserve their habitat as well as natural habitats.

1. Member States shall adopt the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with this Directive within two years of its notification. They shall immediately inform the Commission thereof.

2. When Member States adopt those provisions, they shall contain a reference to this Directive or be accompanied by such a reference on the occasion of their official publication. The modalities of this reference are decided by the Member States.

3. Member States shall communicate to the Commission the text of the main provisions of domestic law which they adopt in the field governed by this Directive.

This Directive is addressed to the Member States.

Done at Brussels, 21 May 1992.

(1) OJ no. C 247 of 21.9.1988, p. 3 and

GU n. C 195 of 3. 8. 1990, p. 1.

(2) OJ no. C 75 of 20. 3. 1991, p. 12.

(3) OJ no. C 31 of 6. 2. 1991, p. 25.

(4) OJ no. C 328 of 7. 12. 1987, p. 1.

(5) OJ no. L 103 of 25.4.1979, p. 1. Directive as last amended by Directive 91/244 / EEC (OJ No L 115, 8. 5. 1991, p. 41).


The "×" sign that combines multiple codes indicates habitat types that are found associated. For example, 35.2 × 64.1 - Open meadows of Corynephorus and Agrostis (35.2), of the continental dunes (64.1).

The sign "*" means: priority habitat types.


Marine waters and tidal environments

Maritime cliffs and pebble beaches

Atlantic and continental swamps and flooded pastures

Mediterranean and thermo-Atlantic swamps and flooded pastures

Halophilic and gissophilic continental steppes


Sea dunes of the Atlantic shores, the North Sea and the Baltic

Sea dunes of the Mediterranean coasts

Continental dunes, ancient and decalcified

Sections of watercourses with natural or semi-natural dynamics (minor, medium and major beds) in which the water quality does not show significant alterations



Submediterranean and temperate

Mediterranean arborescent matorral

Thermo-Mediterranean and pre-steppe perches


Semi-natural dry grass formations and shrub-covered facies

Sclerophilous forests used as grazing land ("dehesas")

Semi-natural wet grasslands with tall herbaceous plants



Chasmophytic vegetation of the rocky slopes

(Sub) natural forests of indigenous species of more or less ancient planting (high forest), including the underlying scrubs with typical undergrowth, meeting the following criteria: rare or residual, and / or characterized by the presence of species of community interest

Forests of temperate Europe

Deciduous Mediterranean forests

Mediterranean sclerophyll forests

Alpine and subalpine coniferous forests

Mountain Mediterranean coniferous forests


a) Annex II complements Annex I for the creation of a coherent network of special areas of conservation.

b) The species listed in this annex are indicated:

- with the name of the species or subspecies

- or with all species belonging to a higher taxon or to a designated part of that taxon.

The abbreviation "spp." after the name of a family or genus, it is used to designate all the species belonging to that family or genus.

The asterisk "*" in front of a species name indicates that it is a priority species.

Most of the species included in this Annex are included in Annex IV.

When a species included in this Annex is not included in either Annex IV or Annex V, its name is followed by the sign (o) when a species included in this Annex is not included in Annex IV but is listed in the Annex V, his name is followed by the sign (V).

Customs and species conservation

Customs supervises import, export and transit of protected animals and plants, as well as their parts or products, in accordance with the provisions for the conservation of species (CITES Fauna and CITES Flora) for both commercial shipments and tourist traffic.

If the import or export of protected animals and plants occurs illegally, i.e. without the necessary documents (CITES certificates), customs, CITES checkpoints or the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO) may seize the goods as a customs lien.

Before crossing the border, it is necessary to check whether all the necessary documents are available.

In an obstinate and opposite direction

If the institutions, with criminal myopia, have not yet taken effective measures to counter the decline of biodiversity, there are nevertheless throughout the planet scientists, environmentalists and volunteers devoted body and soul to this mission. World Environment Day is celebrated on 5 June, established by the United Nations in 1972. The theme chosen for the 2020 edition is precisely the protection of biodiversity. To celebrate the day we have chosen five stories of people who have decided to dedicate their lives to the preservation of endangered living species, reminding us that, with the right skills and resources, conservation objectives can be achieved.

Tapirs disperse a wide variety of seeds and are irreplaceable forest gardeners © Joao Marcos Rosa / Nitro / 2020 Whitley awards

Patrícia Medici

Patrícia Medici was awarded the Whitley gold award, a famous award reserved for environmentalists who fight to protect wildlife and ecosystems in their respective countries of origin, for a conservation project of the South American tapir (Tapirus terrestris). The woman, co-founder of the Brazilian NGO Ipê, has been working for 26 years to protect endangered wildlife in Brazil and leads the Lowland tapir conservation initiatives. The protection of the tapir, considered an umbrella species, has positive effects on the entire ecosystem. These funny mammals, the last representatives of the ancient order of perissodactyls, are threatened by habitat loss, poaching and urban development.

Brazil, the first tapir was born in the Atlantic forest for over a century

Patrícia has dedicated her career to the protection of this unusual-looking species and, given the current insane Brazilian environmental policy, her work is particularly valuable. With her team, Patrícia has collected the largest and most complete dataset in the world on the South American tapir, gathering information via GPS and camera traps. It has also developed a national action plan for the conservation of the tapir, contributed to theestablishment of a large protected area and sensitized thousands of people through education projects.

The helmeted hornbill is threatened by the so-called red ivory hunt © Aryf Rahman Rangkong / 2020 Whitley awards

YokYok (Yoki) Hadiprakarsa

YokYok Hadiprakarsa, recently awarded the Whitley award, works to save an ancient and bizarre bird from extinction, a perfect example of the versatility of nature, the hornbill from the helmet (Rhinoplax vigil). Populations of hornbills, which live in the rainforests of Indonesia, are in severe decline due to poaching. The beak of these birds has in fact a very high value. It is estimated that, in West Kalimantan alone, 6,000 specimens were killed in 2013, making the horned hornbill the most threatened and hunted species in the world.

Indonesia, 4 young Java rhinos not registered

To avoid the disappearance of these animals, which play an important role in the regeneration of forests as seed dispersers, YokYok Hadiprakarsa and his team have started a project that includes, on the one hand, the monitoring of horned hornbills, and on the other the development of a model of sustainable ecotourism in the regency of Kapuas Hulu in West Kalimantan. The goal of the project is to make use of local communities, transforming the natives from hunters to hornbill guardians.

South Africa is home to a wide variety of endemic amphibian species, nearly two-thirds of the country's 135 frog species are found nowhere else © 2020 Whitley awards

Jeanne Tarrant

About 300 million years ago, amphibians ruled the planet, even relegating dinosaurs to small ecological niches. Today this taxonomic group is instead the most threatened and 41 percent of amphibian species are at risk of extinction. To protect South Africa's amphibians, which include an extraordinary number of endemics, Jeanne Tarrant runs a conservation of frogs and their habitat.

The loneliest frog in the world has found a mate, there is hope for the species

Protecting such small, unknown and moderately unattractive creatures is particularly difficult. An average of 75 percent less funds are allocated to the conservation of amphibians than mammals, birds or reptiles. However Jeanne, also known as the Frog lady, is not discouraged and, together with her team, she monitors the populations of eight endangered species and draws up conservation plans in collaboration with the landowners. Through the protection of amphibians, such asHyperolius pickersgilli, the woman contributes to protection of delicate lowland ecosystems which serve as important catchment areas and carbon sinks.

Human actions, including deforestation, habitat destruction, the intensification of agriculture and the acceleration of climate change, have pushed nature beyond its limits © Ingimage

Rawya Bouhussein

The Shouf Biosphere Reserve in Lebanon occupies 5 percent of the country's surface, and is the largest protected area in the Mediterranean area of ​​the Middle East. The reserve is known for its colossal and iconic cedars and is home to charismatic species such as ibex and vultures. The young biologist Rawya Bouhussein is concerned with protecting this precious natural heritage, conserving the fauna, planning the sustainable management of resources and developing nature-based solutions. “My grandfather told me that nature is our home - said Rawya -. As long as we keep it, we will live a sustainable, healthy and happy life ”.

Protecting umbrella species makes conservation more efficient

The woman, in particular, works to foster coexistence between human populations and biodiversity and coordinates projects focused on strengthening the resilience of Mediterranean environments to climate change. Farmers are taught how to restore old abandoned terraces through organic farming, and ecotourism activities are also promoted to enhance the wealth of the reserve. "Biodiversity is the web of life, a web on which we fully depend and of which we are an integral part - said Rawya -. Just as my grandfather believed he had borrowed the Earth from us, the future generation, rather than having inherited it from his ancestors, I dream that each of us will act to conserve biodiversity and the planet that hosts us ”.

At the moment, we don't know how much biodiversity the planet can lose without causing irreversible ecological collapse © Ingimage

Vusi Tshabalala

South African biologist Vusi Tshabalala also learned to love the richness of wild life as a child, when he spent summers on his grandfather's farm in the Biosphere Reserve from Kruger to Canyons. "Then I learned that if you respect animals and give them the space they need, you have nothing to fear." Today Vusi, realizing the loss of biodiversity, is responsible for educating the populations living in the reserve and providing solutions to allow coexistence with wildlife.

"Being surrounded by nature reserves such as Kruger National Park, between mountains with fresh water springs, incredible varieties of endemic plant species and the sounds of wild animals that echo all night, and be part of a team that helps people understand and appreciate these natural systems, it is the best gift that mother nature could give me ", said the man.


Conservation of biodiversity and threatened species

From the origins of our species to the industrial revolution of the 18th century. the human population has never exceeded 500 million inhabitants. The explosive demographic increase that took place in the last three centuries therefore represents an unprecedented event in the history of humanity. In the last fifty years alone we have grown from 1.65 billion to over 6 billion people, reaching a population density 30 times higher than the average of an omnivorous animal species of our same size. Man alone consumes, directly or indirectly through farm animals, about 40% of the planet's primary production (that generated by the growth of plant species). At the same time, our consumption of other animal species and water resources has increased.

Since prehistoric times, man has been able to permanently change his environment: the massive deforestation of the then wooded Ireland was started by our ancestors in the Bronze Age (4500 years ago) and, more recently, the Romans made themselves responsible for the deforestation, among other things, of vast coastal areas of the Mediterranean basin to obtain the timber for the construction of ships.The change of pace in the conversion speed of natural environments is however due to the use of fossil fuel machines, which has led to an estimated reduction of forests and wetlands between 30 and 50%, and to the conversion to agricultural areas. of the prairies, which caused a reduction of the latter by 90%. Given these assumptions and considering that the planet's resources are not inexhaustible, it is not surprising that the other living species, estimated to be between 10 and 50 million, are subjected to intense and growing pressure that places many at serious risk of extinction. .

Species are disappearing at a very fast rate: at least one vertebrate species per year for the past 150 years and, according to some estimates, one plant or animal species per day. This species extinction rate could be 100 to 1000 times higher than the basal rate found during the evolution of life on Earth. The values ​​reported here are only estimates, as most of the living species have not yet been discovered or classified, and are therefore unknown to Western science (although in some cases well known, as food, to the local populations of remote areas where these species live). However, it is widely believed that what the world is currently experiencing represents a mass extinction: the last one, which occurred 65 million years ago in the Cretaceous period, hit dinosaurs, the current one is the mass extinction of Vertebrates.

Ethics and conservation science

From the mid-nineteenth century, as a reaction to the significant transformations made by man on natural environments hitherto intact, a movement developed in the United States, philosophical even before scientific, whose goal was to sensitize public opinion on the importance of nature for purposes other than economic gain. The main proponents of this movement (Ralph W. Emerson, Henry D. Thoreau, John Muir) considered nature a temple in which to admire the work of God. Thus, the need was born to preserve intact vast natural landscapes of particular beauty and in 1872 the first national park was founded, Yellowstone National Park. It was the first protected area in today's sense: public and dedicated to preserving a natural environment over time, protecting it from the transformation activities implemented by man. In the 20th century, the romantic ethics of conservation were contrasted by a materialist and utilitarian one, the ethics of conserving resources. Highly anthropocentric, this vision, advocated by Gifford Pinchot, the first director of the US forestry service, was inspired by the need to obtain the greatest quantity of products from nature for the longest possible time. All natural elements were therefore classified as useful, useless or harmful. The influence of these opposing views of nature is still clearly visible in our society.

The transformation of nature conservation from a philosophical movement to a scientific discipline is due to another American, the ecologist Aldo Leopold, who in the mid-20th century, thanks to the contemporary progress of the sciences of ecology and evolution, developed a ecological-evolutionary ethics of conservation. In Leopold's new vision, nature was not a set of disconnected and separately manageable elements, but an integrated and balanced system of interdependent biotic and abiotic components, linked together by processes: ecosystems. The theory of the balance of nature did not withstand time and the succession of scientific tests, eventually replaced by the theory of disequilibrium: with Leopold, however, the science of conservation was born, which is still or should be quite distinct from any ethics of conservation.

Modern conservation biology, the scientific discipline that deals with the conservation of biodiversity, originated in the 1860s, when it became evident to ecologists that all major types of ecosystems were rapidly disappearing, altered in not reversible by human activities. Modern conservation biology is based on postulates, defined by one of the founding fathers of the discipline, Michael E. Soulé (What is conservation biology?, "BioScience", 1985, 35, 11, pp. 727 - 34), and widely accepted from the scientific community: the diversity of organisms is positive evolution is positive ecological complexity is positive biological diversity has an intrinsic value independent of its utilitarian value. Man, the only species capable of irreversibly changing its environment on a global scale, is the ultimate cause of all alterations in the components and processes of ecosystems. Conservation biology is therefore, unlike others, a science with a specific mission: to reduce (neutralize) the negative effects of human actions on the environment. For this reason, conservation biology is naturally interdisciplinary, placing itself between the natural sciences (ecology, evolution, genetics, botany, zoology) and the social sciences (sociology, economics, politics). Conservation biology is a crisis discipline. In fact, on the one hand, ecology is still a very young and imperfect science, full of uncertainties and with few unifying principles. On the other hand, the rapid growth of the human population is constantly causing the extinction of species and the alteration of environments. Conservation biologists are therefore called upon to suggest timely decisions based on insufficient information.

Biological diversity or biodiversity is not simply the diversity of plant and animal species present on our planet. Biodiversity is the structural, compositional and functional richness and variation on different scales of living systems. It therefore includes the genetic variability between individuals, the diversity between populations and between species, the diversity of landscapes, ecosystems, biomes. At each level of scale, the three components of the variation can be identified e.g. at the genetic level the compositional variation is measurable, among other things, by the presence of different alleles in the genome of different individuals, the structural variation by the presence of polymorphisms, the functional one from the rate of genetic exchange between populations. At the landscape level, the compositional variation is measurable among other things by the representation of different types of habitat, the structural one by fragmentation measures, the functional one by the flow of energy and nutrients.

Biodiversity is not uniformly distributed on Earth: it varies with latitude, altitude and other factors that act on a local scale, such as, for example, the presence of geographical barriers that hinder the individual movements of organisms, or of extreme environments such as deserts, for which few organisms are suitable. On a global scale, the most evident relationship is between biodiversity and latitude: biological diversity (number of species, diversity and complexity of environments) increases moving from the poles towards the equator. Numerous explanations have been proposed for this phenomenon, although there is no conclusive evidence in favor of one or the other, it is very likely that several factors contribute to determining it (Gaston 2000). A fundamental role is certainly played by the availability of energy, which depends on solar radiation and therefore increases towards the equator. A greater amount of energy available to organisms reduces their competition, allowing the coexistence of a higher number of different evolutionary strategies and therefore, in the long term, a larger number of species. At the same time, the greater climatic stability on an evolutionary scale of the equatorial regions, which were not covered by ice during the glaciations, would have left more time for species to evolve adaptations aimed at their environment, favoring speciation on the basis of even a few distinctive characters. .

Beyond the general effect of latitude, biodiversity is concentrated in some areas more than in others in particular, in some areas of the planet there are particular organisms and environments whose distribution is very restricted and which are therefore not present elsewhere. These areas are called centers of endemism and have a particular value because they are unique compared to all other areas on the planet. Their conservation is therefore even more important, because their loss would result in the definitive disappearance of the species and the environments that host them. The centers of endemism are distributed in several regions including the Andean Cordillera in South America, Madagascar, the Rift Valley and the Lake Victoria region in Africa, Indonesia and New Guinea in Southeast Asia. The common feature of the centers of endemism is the physical isolation created by inaccessible reliefs (Andean Cordillera, Rift Valley) or from the sea (islands of Indonesia, New Guinea, Madagascar). The conditions of isolation, in fact, allow populations to evolve rapidly in species due to the absence of genetic exchange with neighboring populations.

Threats to biodiversity and conservation strategies

Given the very high population density reached by our species, many human activities, previously compatible with the persistence of other species, have become threats to biodiversity. Agriculture, fisheries, industry, urbanization, trade are the global cause of the processes that erode the world's biodiversity heritage. These processes act directly on the species (killing for food or commercial purposes) or on the habitats in which they live. The most worrying phenomena include the degradation, fragmentation and destruction of especially some habitat types. Although their rapid decline and their importance in providing essential services for humans are clearly evident, forests and fresh waters are still rapidly degraded and destroyed and, as previously mentioned, almost all the natural grasslands existing on the planet have now been converted into agricultural areas.

The pervasive effect of pollution and that of climate change are added to the direct destruction and conversion of habitats. The latter has received great media attention in recent years, also thanks to the 2007 award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for its scientific and information on the topic. Although the speed of climate change is slower than that of other processes that threaten biodiversity, it is much more difficult to stop and acts by increasing the speed of other processes: the reduction of precipitation in some areas increases the consumption of water, especially for agriculture climate change changes habitats, making them in some cases less hospitable to the native species that inhabit them and at the same time favoring the spread of non-native species. These, introduced deliberately or accidentally by man, through competition, predation or parasitism can lead to the extinction of native species, as has happened above all in Australia, New Zealand and many small islands around the planet.

The conditions that have favored a great diversification of life are unfortunately the same that allow man to multiply reaching very high densities. Precisely for this reason there is a strong correlation between species richness and human population density (A. Balmford, JL Moore, T. Brooks et al., Conservation conflicts across Africa, «Science», 2001, 291, 5513, pp. 2616 - 19): in many cases, therefore, the areas in which biodiversity is concentrated coincide with those in which the threats to its persistence are concentrated. Most of the biodiverse tropical areas, with the exception of New Guinea, are home to a very large human population, thus exacerbating the conflict between human activities and the conservation of biological diversity.

Not all species are equally sensitive to processes that potentially threaten biodiversity: there are, in fact, intrinsic characteristic traits that make species more or less susceptible to extinction (A. Purvis, JL Gittleman, GM Cowlishaw, GM Mace, Predicting extinction risk in declining species, "Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B. Biological sciences", 2000, 267, 1456, pp. 1947 - 52). Species that have a high specialization for a habitat, as happens, for example, for many types of tropical forest, or that depend on a few other species for their survival, as happens for some predators, are particularly susceptible to changes in their environment. Slowly reproducing species may not be able to sustain an increased mortality rate. For example, the extinct Pleistocene megafauna had a lower than average reproduction rate, and therefore births were probably not numerous and frequent enough to replace the individuals killed by prehistoric hunters. An increased probability of extinction is also associated with the rarity of the species, this is particularly true for those limited to a restricted area, for which a single negative event can cause extinction for the entire population. The case of the 90 species of endemic plants of Centinela, a mountainous peak in the Ecuadorian Andes, discovered in the eighties of the 20th century, is paradigmatic. and extinguished a few years later for the conversion of the area to agriculture (E.O. Wilson, The diversity of life, 1992 trans. it. 1993).

Since biodiversity and the threats to it are not evenly distributed on Earth, and some species are more sensitive than others to the same threats, there are two possible conservation strategies. The first is conservation at the species level, identifying those that are threatened and implementing targeted actions for them; the second is conservation at the geographical area level, identifying sites with a lot of biodiversity and at the same time threatened. The two approaches are often integrated in the identification of threatened sites that contain many endangered species.

The categories and criteria of the IUCN Red Lists of Threatened Species

Strongly desired by the first director general of UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientifical and Cultural Organization), Sir Julian Huxley, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) was founded during an international conference in 1948 in Fontainebleau, France. The organization's mission is to "influence, encourage and assist societies around the world to preserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable" ( about / March 22, 2010). The IUCN now has over 1000 members including States, government agencies, non-governmental agencies and international organizations: in Italy it includes, among others, the National Research Council (CNR), the Directorate for Nature Protection of the Ministry of Environment, the main non-governmental organizations for the protection of the environment and some protected areas. In addition to governmental and non-governmental organizations, the IUCN is affiliated with a network of about 10. 000 researchers who contribute as volunteers to its scientific and conservation activities.

Among the most influential activities conducted by the IUCN network of volunteers are the maintenance and periodic updating of the IUCN Red list of threatened species ( Created in 1963, the IUCN Red List constitutes the most comprehensive inventory of conservation status globally by plant and animal species, identifying those at risk of extinction and promoting actions in favor of their conservation. Initially, the IUCN Red List collected subjective assessments of the level of extinction risk according to the main experts of the different species. At the beginning of the nineties of the last century, about thirty years after its birth, it became evident the need to reduce the subjectivity of the evaluations of the experts by requiring them to apply formal criteria: after an extensive consultation process, they were adopted in 1994 the first categories and quantitative and scientifically rigorous criteria for the production of the Red Lists, then substantially refined in 2001 (IUCN 2001). These categories and criteria, applicable to all living species with the exception of microorganisms, currently represent a de facto standard worldwide for assessing the conservation status of species even outside the IUCN. To officially become part of the Red List, the assessment of the conservation status of a species, prepared by a specialist, is subjected to a long process of examination by other specialists (peer review). This practice, commonly used in the publication of scientific results, is one of the reasons for the authority of the IUCN Red List.

There are nine categories of conservation status of the species adopted in 2001 (table 1), from the Extinct category, applied to the species for which there is the definitive certainty that the last individual has also died, and Extinct in the wild, assigned to species for which there are no longer natural populations but only individuals in captivity, up to the Least concern category, adopted for species that do not risk extinction in the short or medium term.Although the extinction categories (i.e. EX and EW) may appear to be simple to assign, even among the better known species such as Vertebrates there are numerous doubtful cases, due to the minimum amount of information available, especially for tropical species. In fact, it happens very frequently that attempts are made to evaluate the state of conservation of species, described even more than a century ago, known only for the holotype (the specimen collected as a representative sample of the new species and preserved in a museum as reference). Frequently, these holotypes come from remote areas (islands, forests or mountain peaks that are difficult to reach by scientific expeditions), which therefore have not been visited for many decades. In these cases it is very difficult to make hypotheses characterized by scientific rigor on the possible state of conservation, among other things, for this reason it sometimes happens that species considered extinct for a long time are 'rediscovered' by researchers.

Among the categories of extinction and that of least concern are the categories of threat, which identify species that face an increasing risk of extinction in the short or medium term: Vulnerable, Endangered and Critically endangered. These species represent conservation priorities, because without specific interventions, aimed at neutralizing the threats against them and in some cases even at increasing their small populations, their extinction is a concrete prospect.

Although the threat categories are graded according to an increasing risk of extinction, their definition is not quantitatively expressed in terms of the probability of extinction over a period of time, but entrusted to lexically vague expressions such as high, very high or extremely high risk. The semantic vagueness adopted is, however, necessary for at least one reason. Any quantitative estimate of the risk of extinction of a species is based, in fact, on multiple criteria: among these the assumption that the conditions of the environment in which the species is found (human population density, interaction between man and species habitat conversion rate, climate trend and much more) remain constant into the future. This is extremely unlikely, also because the inclusion of a species in one of the threat categories of the IUCN Red List may result in interventions aimed at its conservation that reduce its risk of extinction.

In addition to the categories mentioned, following the assessment of their conservation status, the species can be classified as Near threatened if they are very close to falling into one of the threat categories, or Data deficient if there is not enough information to assess their status. Species belonging to the latter category play an increasingly important role in the world of conservation. In fact, if the species that fall into a threat category are a conservation priority, those for which it is not possible to assess their status are a priority for basic research, and the areas where these are concentrated are those where they are most needed. scientific expeditions for the collection of new data.

The introduction of rigorous criteria in 1994 made the process of classifying species in the Red List categories much more objective. In the current version, approved in 2001, the criteria are divided into five types shown in tab. 2 . Each of the criteria is strictly coded into sub-criteria described in detail (IUCN 2001). For each criterion, there are increasing thresholds for the inclusion of species in the three categories of threat: vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered.

Criterion A is based on the estimate of the speed of numerical decline of the population of the species considered, regardless of its numerical consistency. For a species to be included in the lower (vulnerable) threat category, its decline must be greater than 30% over a period of 10 years or 3 generations (whichever is longer), while to be included in the highest threat category (critically endangered) the decline must be greater than 80% over the same period. These population reduction rates are extremely high and, although most species in the world are more or less declining, the number of species in such a serious situation is relatively low. Similar considerations also apply to the thresholds used for the other criteria, which reflect a precise philosophy of the Red List: to highlight only the conservation problems of the most highly threatened species, whose risk of extinction in the short or medium term is concrete and substantial. . The direct consequence of this choice is that many species, whose conservation status is deteriorating and which need conservation interventions, may fall into the category of least concern. Although Criterion A is simple and straightforward, there are surprisingly few species for which population decline has been reliably estimated. Producing these estimates in fact requires a very considerable amount of data, particularly for species that are still abundant and widespread over large regions. For this reason, the application of criterion A is often based on indirect information. A rather frequent example concerns the species closely linked to primary forest environments that live on islands subject to intense deforestation, in which case the rate of population decline is estimated to be equal to the rate of deforestation. Although to a lesser extent, even for the subsequent criteria the availability of reliable quantitative information is extremely limited and requires the use of explicit inferences.

Criterion B is based on the size of the geographical distribution area of ​​the species. For a species to be classified as threatened according to criterion B, its range must be small (less than 20,000 km2, approximately the surface of Sardinia, for the inclusion of a species in the vulnerable category), but this is not sufficient in itself: it is in fact necessary that the range is in contraction, that the population within it is restricted to mutually isolated fragments, that the quality of the habitat for the species is deteriorating. Criterion C is conceptually similar to that B, with the difference that it applies to numerically restricted populations (less than 10,000 individuals due to the inclusion of a species in the vulnerable category), dispersed in isolated fragments and with an evident decline. or dramatic numerical fluctuation of the population. Criterion D applies only to species with an extremely small population or distribution area (less than 1000 individuals or an occupied area of ​​less than 20 km2 for the inclusion of a species in the vulnerable category). Criterion E, on the other hand, is qualitatively different from all the previous ones as it is based on quantitative extinction probabilities estimated for a precise time interval. These probabilities help to give an interpretation of the threat categories: according to criterion E, a species is vulnerable if its probability of extinction is estimated to be greater than 10% in 100 years, endangered if it is greater than 20% in 20 years or five generations , critically endangered if it exceeds 50% in 10 years or three generations. These probability estimates can be obtained through an analysis of the vitality of the population, based on simulations of the demographic trend of the same as a function of parameters (birth rates, mortality, growth) estimated for different alternative scenarios.

The IUCN categories and criteria were originally developed for the global assessment of species and therefore are not directly applicable to local populations, which constitute only a fraction of the global population of a species. Given the popularity of categories and criteria, and considering the need to apply them also for national and regional Red Lists, albeit unofficial or created by the IUCN, in 2004 an official protocol was defined for the correction of the evaluations when these concern fractions of the global population. These corrections take into account the fact that a local population may not be a closed population: if it has exchanges of individuals with other neighboring populations not subject to assessment, its risk of extinction may be different from that assessed with the application of the criteria. global.

The Red Lists and the global assessments of the conservation status

Despite being the most complete inventory on the conservation status of animal and plant species, since March 2010 the IUCN Red List contains information for only about 48. 000 species, that is a small percentage of the total living species. Suffice it to say that of the approximately 320. 000 existing plants, only 12. About 000 have been rated on the Red List and only 1000 of these assessments are well documented. The same is true for many other groups of species, especially among invertebrates, which are still largely unevaluated today. Even for Vertebrates, by far the most studied and well-known taxonomic group, there is complete information: less than half of the nearly 60. 000 species have been evaluated and, in particular, only 14% of fish species (term with which the members of the two classes of cartilaginous fish and bone fish are generically indicated), the largest group among the vertebrates with about 30 . 000 species. Of the approximately 48. 000 species evaluated, 36% are threatened (vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered). However, this percentage could represent an overestimate of the real figure, since for some groups evaluated in a highly incompletely way, species with evident conservation problems were preferentially examined: 70% of plant species and 34% of invertebrate species evaluated are threatened. .

There are two strategies adopted by the IUCN to try to make the taxonomic coverage of the species assessed broader and more homogeneous: since the mid-1990s, in fact, formally recognized authorities (Red list authorities) responsible for collecting the assessments of species groups had been established however, even this was not sufficient to guarantee a uniform evaluation of the species, both due to the disparity of judgment between the different authorities and because it was not possible to designate them for large taxonomic groups. Therefore, since 2000 the IUCN has adopted the strategy of global assessments, centralized initiatives for the comprehensive assessment of large taxonomic groups.

The first global assessment carried out was that of the Global Amphibian assessment (SN Stuart, JS Chanson, NA Cox et al., Status and trends of Amphibian declines and extinctions worldwide, "Science", 2004, 306, 5702, pp. 1783 - 86 ), a joint four-year effort of over 600 experts to assess the conservation status of over 5100 existing species of amphibians. The success of this system gave rise to the impetus for numerous other global assessment initiatives: in August 2008, the global assessment of mammals was completed, while, among others, the global assessments of freshwater fish, reptiles, of numerous groups of marine species, dragonflies.

One of the most worrying results obtained by the Global Amphibian assessment is that of the three groups assessed more comprehensively (Mammals, Birds and Amphibians), Amphibians are the most endangered: one in three species is at high or very high risk of extinction in the short term (table 3). In the last century, dozens of species of Amphibians have become extinct with certainty and many others have not been seen in recent years: it is therefore likely that extinct species exceed 150 in the last 500 years. Overall, the population of 43% of Amphibian species is in numerical decline, while only 1% is increasing. The causes of this worrying wave of extinctions are certainly manifold. Many species of Amphibians are linked to fragile environments, such as temporary pools and more generally wetlands, which are disappearing at a very high speed both due to the direct action of reclamation by humans and due to the increase in temperature. of the planet due to global warming. In recent years, however, the effect on Amphibian populations of chithridiomycosis, a deadly and ubiquitous fungal infection, found in very distant populations on all continents, has become increasingly evident. It is still a matter of debate whether mycosis has spread relatively recently due to the massive increase in human movements, or whether the skin of amphibians, extremely delicate because it is permeable to water, is now more vulnerable due to 'increase in ultraviolet radiation due to stratospheric ozone depletion. However, this is the first documented case of a global threat to such a large group of species, caused by humans but capable of acting even in areas where the influence of human activities is still minimal.

In addition to identifying species at risk of extinction, the Red List is used to indicate progress (or regress) towards achieving the goal of reducing biodiversity loss, because the periodic replication of global assessments makes it possible to follow the variation in risk. of extinction of each species over time. The future objective of the IUCN is therefore to repeat the global assessments every five years, in order to calculate an index that measures the variation in the conservation status of the species, called the Red list index, for different biomes, biogeographical regions, groups of species. Up to now the only group of species for which it has been possible to calculate this index is that of birds: in the last sixteen years their conservation status has deteriorated in all biogeographical regions and in all types of habitats (on this see SH Butchart, AJ Stattersfield, LA Bennun et al., Measuring global trends in the status of biodiversity. Red list indices for birds, "PLoS biology", 2004, 2, 12, pp. 2294-2304).

Identification of priority sites for conservation

The concentration of threatened species in restricted areas of the planet and the disproportion between biodiversity conservation emergencies and the economic resources available to combat them gave a considerable impetus, in the first decade of the 21st century, to progress in the field of identification of priority areas to be protected. Two of the most influential research in the field, which marked a turning point in the way of conceiving conservation strategies, appeared in the scientific journal "Nature" in 2000. These researches, which summarize the evolution of scientific thought in this field in the previous twenty years, adopt fundamentally different principles and methods, but have in common the objective, more or less explicit, of obtaining the maximum possible result in relation the economic investment made in conservation actions. The two fundamental methods for identifying priority areas for conservation are the identification of hotspots (literally "hot spots") of biodiversity (Myers, RA Mittermeier, CG Mittermeier et al. 2000) and systematic conservation planning ) to identify the minimum set of areas that need to be protected to achieve a predetermined level of protection for a given group of species (Margules, Pressey 2000).

The hotspots method is based on the fact that a large percentage of known biodiversity is concentrated in a small portion of the planet. Based on this principle, Norman Myers and his collaborators have identified a set of sites that collectively occupy 0.5% of the land surface, contain 20% of the vascular plant species described so far and are highly threatened due to human activities. , which in the past have converted over 70% of the natural vegetation present in production areas. Protecting these sites (the hotspots) means protecting a lot of biodiversity in a few areas, therefore with relatively low costs. The 20 sites identified include, among other things, the tropical portion of the Andes, the forest fragments of West Africa, the Rift Valley, Madagascar, the Ghati mountain range in India, Indonesia, Malaysia. Since the analysis of the hotspots focused on the distribution of plants, in addition to these and other tropical regions, the floristic regions of the Mediterranean and the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa have been identified as hotspots for conservation, both very rich in plants. flower not present elsewhere on Earth.

Myers' work on hotspots has had many merits: he was the first to formalize the need to identify priority areas for intervention at a global level, and he identified as priority areas where high risk of extinction and concentration of endemic species coincide, which as such it is impossible to keep elsewhere. All the methods developed later identify priority areas on the basis of the coincidence of irreplaceable biodiversity content and strong threats. A considerable amount of economic resources, made available by foundations and international non-governmental organizations dealing with conservation, has been directed towards the conservation of hotspots: therefore this work has succeeded like few others in influencing conservation actions.The process of identifying hotspots, however, is highly subjective, on a coarse scale, and its theoretical foundations do not guarantee true optimization of resources. These limitations have been overcome by systematic conservation planning.

This planning aims to identify a set of sites whose protection allows the achievement of pre-established quantitative objectives (in terms of quantity of biodiversity to be conserved) with the minimum possible economic investment. In this way, systematic conservation planning allows an effective optimization of the limited economic resources available to conserve biodiversity.

The principle according to which a site is included in the system of areas to be protected or excluded from it is based on the concept of complementarity. Adding a site to the system of selected areas is only useful if this, complementing the biodiversity content of the other sites already selected, contributes to achieving the conservation objective. Knowing the cost of preserving each site (acquisition, management), it is possible to select the cheapest sites with the same contribution, thus maximizing the return (in terms of preserved biodiversity) of the conservation investment. Since the analytical solution of this problem is extremely complex when many species are to be conserved in numerous planning units, several algorithms have been developed to find solutions to the problem, obtainable quickly and in any case very close to the optimal one. In addition to identifying the most efficient protected area systems to achieve conservation objectives, the systematic conservation planning methods allow for the assessment of the contribution of each planning unit to achieving the goal. This contribution is defined as irreplaceability (literally "irreplaceability") of the planning unit, and is equivalent to the probability that unity is necessary to achieve the objective (RL Pressey, IR Johnson, PD Wilson, Shades of irreplaceability. the contribution of sites to a reservation goal, «Biodiversity and conservation», 1994, 3, 3, pp. 242 - 62). A planning unit can be completely irreplaceable if it contains species or habitats not present elsewhere, or if it contains such a large amount that it cannot even be replaced by the sum of all the others.

As a rule, the available economic resources do not allow the conservation interventions to be implemented simultaneously in all the selected planning units. In this case, the order of priority (the urgency of the interventions) is dictated by the vulnerability of each planning unit. Planning units, which are at the same time irreplaceable and subject to imminent threats, must receive the highest priority for intervention, because if they are not preserved in time they can lose, at least partially, their content in terms of biodiversity. Therefore, since these areas are irreplaceable, their degradation would imply that the conservation objectives can no longer be achieved.

Although systematic conservation planning has been used successfully around the world, and in particular in Australia (where it was developed) and South Africa, to date the only application of the method globally is due to Rodrigues and his colleagues. collaborators (Rodrigues, Andelman, Bakarr et al. 2004). Although the analysis focuses on vertebrate and non-plant species, many of the priority areas identified (almost all in tropical regions) roughly correspond to the Myers hotspots. This apparent concordance of priority areas for conservation on a global scale hides a profound and unavoidable divergence that appears evident by observing the result in greater detail. In fact, regardless of the method of analysis, the priority areas for groups of different species do not coincide and this poses a great and unsolved problem. It is impossible to comprehensively measure the variation in overall biodiversity on Earth and it is therefore necessary to rely on some better known groups of species. However, the choice of the group of species representative of biodiversity influences the result. So how is it possible to identify the priority areas for conserving biodiversity in its entirety? This, along with the problems outlined in the next paragraph, is one of the great conservation challenges in the 21st century.

Challenges at the dawn of the new century

During the World Conference on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg in 2002, the majority of countries in the world agreed on the goal of significantly reducing the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010. Although this goal can now be said to have failed, much has been done to identify weaknesses in the current theory and practice of biodiversity conservation. The collection of information on the conservation status of species to draw up increasingly complete IUCN Red Lists based on comprehensive data is still at an early stage. In fact, little or nothing is known about most species: an expansion of basic knowledge is therefore necessary. However, conservation is a race against time: when do you have enough knowledge to start taking action? In other words, when to reduce investments in basic research on a species and increase those for its conservation? A scientifically rigorous answer to this question is not yet possible, but it becomes more and more urgent.

Complicating the choice of the division of efforts between research and conservation contributes to the awareness that the distribution of the many species not yet described is and will remain unknown for a long time. It is therefore essential to develop tools to conserve these species as well, which could otherwise become extinct even before being known to science. This ambitious goal has been in focus only a few years ago, but techniques have already been developed to try, with increasing approximation, to achieve it (CJ Raxworthy, E. Martinez-Meyer, N. Horning et al., Predicting distributions of known and unknown reptile species in Madagascar, "Nature", 2003, 426, 6968, pp. 837 - 41 JAF Diniz, LM Bini, Modeling geographical patterns in species richness using eigenvector-based spatial filters, "Global ecology and biogeography", 2005 , 14, 2, pp. 177 - 85). These techniques are based on the different speed with which species are described in different geographical areas and on the number of species for which the different habitat types are potentially suitable. On the basis of these elements it is possible to simulate the distributions of hypothetical species not yet discovered, to try to understand where the priority sites for conservation will be located when the new species are known.

However, conservation challenges are not limited to species. In a world where the understanding of large-scale ecosystem processes and the benefits that derive from them (carbon sequestration, air and water purification, soil fertilization, containment of climatic oscillations and many others) are constantly growing it moves ever more rapidly from species to the processes and interactions that allow it to persist over time and that at the same time provide man with precious (and increasingly measurable in economic terms) ecosystem services (Luck, Daily, Ehrlich 2003). Precisely this attention prompted in 2000 the then UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, to start a five-year process called Millennium ecosystem assessment, with the aim of analyzing the consequences on human well-being of changes in ecosystems and identifying the scientific bases for the actions necessary for the conservation and sustainable use of these systems. The results of the survey, not at all rosy for the future, are that human action is depleting the Earth's natural heritage, to the point that the ability of ecosystems to sustain future generations cannot be taken for granted. It would be possible to reverse the trend in the next 50 years, but the substantial political and management changes needed are not currently underway (Ecosystems and human well-being: current state and trends, ed. R. Hassan, R. Scholes, N. Ash , 2005).

The greatest challenge for the conservation of biodiversity, however, does not concern the scientific side, although exciting and which still presents glaring gaps to be filled, but the human side. The best science of conservation can in fact do nothing if it is not capable of determining the actions of man. In this respect there are two kinds of problems. First of all, scientific advances in techniques for identifying conservation priorities are not matched by as many advances in the implementation of conservation plans, a phenomenon known as the implementation crisis (Knight, Cowling, Rouget et al. 2008). If in recent years a lot of scientific literature has been published on the subject, much of this has in fact remained a dead letter. The conservation interventions carried out were planned with little use of the knowledge acquired, especially due to the inability of the scientific world to communicate with social actors. In addition to this inability, there are still obstacles that still appear insurmountable on the way to reversing the trend towards biodiversity loss.

As for the second order of problems, there is an apparently incurable conflict between the conservation of biodiversity and other social and economic interests of man. These are not only due to the coincidence, in the tropical belts, between the richness of biodiversity and the human population, but also to the apparent irreconcilability between the need for agricultural areas for human nutrition and natural areas for the conservation of biodiversity. The (rough) estimate of the area that would need to be protected to stop the decline of biodiversity is, according to some authors, around 50% of the earth's surface, while in the majority of tropical countries over 80% of the territory is already subject to a strong use by man (Soulé, Sanjayan 1998). Although protected areas are unanimously considered the most effective tool for the conservation of biodiversity, it is therefore clear that they will never be able to cover an area sufficient to achieve the objective alone. For some years this has been evident to the scientific community and to the world that studies conservation and, however, until now, nowhere has it been possible to overcome the dichotomy between protected areas, which separate biodiversity from the processes that threaten it, and adjacent areas of production, where the conservation of biodiversity is a negligible objective.

In order to be able to preserve the biodiversity left on Earth over time, it will therefore be necessary to overcome many challenges, to which the fate of our species is ultimately also linked. It will certainly be necessary to increase our knowledge on the distribution and conservation status of biodiversity, but also to learn to reconcile multiple and diversified objectives, such as the pursuit of human well-being and the health of ecosystems. Given that human population growth is the ultimate cause of threats to the persistence of biodiversity, only stopping this growth can really put an end to the decline of natural heritage. Some regions of Europe are a comforting example of this, including Italy, where a slow but measurable reforestation is following the arrest of population growth and its concentration in urban areas, with the consequent abandonment of rural ones. However, intrinsic characteristics of our own history are the uncertainty and unpredictability of change. What will be the real extent of climate change? What energy sources will be used in the coming years? What will the permanent political and economic instability of our planet lead to? As the theory of biological evolution also teaches, any conservation strategy that is unable to predict and adaptively respond to changes could be effective today, but already a loser in the near future.

MYSELF. Soulé, M.A. Sanjayan, Ecology-conservation targets. Do they help? , "Science", 1998, 279, 5359, pp. 2060-61.

K.J. Gaston, Global patterns in biodiversity, «Nature», 2000, 405, 6783, pp. 220-27.

C.R. Margules, R.L. Pressey, Systematic conservation planning, "Nature", 2000, 405, 6783, pp. 243-53.

N. Myers, R.A. Mittermeier, C.G. Mittermeier et al. , Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities, "Nature", 2000, 403, 6772, pp. 853-58.

IUCN Species survival commission, IUCN Red list categories and criteria, version 3.1, Gland-Cambridge 2001.


The main objective of the work of the IUCN is to "influence, encourage and assist the societies of the world in order to preserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable".

The IUCN works mainly through its members, promoting alliances or partnerships, stimulating work by identifying new ways forward or new systems to achieve the objectives of nature conservation.

The IUCN has an important role in strengthening the institutional capacity of its members, including Member States, in their work to conserve biological diversity and safeguard the ecological processes necessary for both nature and human life, fostering greater cooperation between governmental and non-governmental realities and encouraging scientific research.

The IUCN is responsible, among other things, for the publication of the IUCN Red List, i.e. the list of animal and plant species on the planet and their attribution to specific threat categories, as well as the international classification system for protected areas. Both of these classification systems are now to be considered indispensable tools for the identification of environmental policy strategies and actions both at national and international level.

In addition to these tools, the IUCN plays a particular role as a platform for scientific debate and as a link between governments, institutions and NGOs aimed at the political recognition of environmental priorities. This role has also been formally recognized by the United Nations, which has given the IUCN an observer position in the United Nations General Assembly, where it is the only organization specializing in environmental issues.

The IUCN has a very complex structure which consists of:

  • a secretariat of about 1000 people in 62 countries around the world
  • an assembly of about 1000 members around the world that includes more than 800 NGOs, about 110 government organizations and 82 member states (including Italy)
  • more than 7000 experts who voluntarily lend part of their work in the six technical and scientific commissions:
    • Species Conservation Commission (SSC),
    • World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA),
    • Commission on Ecosystem Management (CEM),
    • Commission on Environmental Legislation (CEL),
    • Commission for Communication and Education (CEC),
    • Commission on Social, Economic and Environmental Policies (CEESP).

The shareholders' assembly meets every 4 years to decide the strategies and the four-year program of the Union and to elect the president, the regional councilors and other official positions. Since 1996, the shareholders' meeting has been organized within the World Conservation Congress (WCC) which has become the world's most important nature conservation event. The first WCC took place in Montreal, the second in 2000 in Amman, the third in 2004 in Bangkok and the fourth took place in 2008 in Barcelona in Spain.

In addition to the headquarters in Gland, Switzerland, which deals with global issues, IUCN has various offices in Europe. A European office in Brussels, a Mediterranean cooperation office in Malaga, an office in Belgrade for the Balkans, one in Moscow for the Russian Federation and a legal office in Bonn that has global support tasks.

IUCN in Italy Edit

In Italy the National Committee for the IUCN was established in 1999, which includes all the Italian member organizations of the IUCN. The first chairman of the committee was Aldo Cosentino, then general director for Nature Conservation of the Ministry of the Environment and territorial protection. The role is currently held by the current director general of the Ministry Renato Grimaldi.

Italy was also the first European country to formally adhere to the IUCN Countdown 2010 initiative, created to raise awareness among the political world and citizens about the general objective of the Convention on Biological Diversity of «significantly reducing the rate of biodiversity loss by 'year 2010 ".

The IUCN is responsible for compiling the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, IUCN Red List or Red Data List), established in 1948, which represents the largest database of information on the conservation status of animal species and vegetables from all over the globe. Endangered species are classified into nine categories: not assessed, insufficient data, minimal risk, near threatened, vulnerable, threatened, critically endangered, extinct in the wild, extinct.

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