Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora


Europe’s natural habitats are continuing to deteriorate and an increasing number of wild species are seriously threatened. Much of this is as a result of development and agricultural intensification. 


Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora, known as the Habitats Directive was adopted in 1992. The Directive is the means by which the European Union meets its obligations under the Bern Convention. The Directive applies to the UK and to its Overseas Territory of Gibraltar.


The main aim of the Habitats Directive is to promote the maintenance of biodiversity by requiring Member States to take measures to maintain or restore natural habitats and wild species listed on the Annexes to the Directive at a favourable conservation status, introducing robust protection for those habitats and species of European importance. In applying these measures Member States are required to take account of economic, social and cultural requirements, as well as regional and local characteristics.


The provisions of the Directive require Member States to introduce a range of measures, including:

  • Maintain or restore European protected habitats and species listed in the Annexes at a favourable conservation status as defined in Articles 1 and 2;
  • Contribute to a coherent European ecological network of protected sites by designating Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) for habitats listed on Annex I and for species listed on Annex II.  These measures are also to be applied to Special Protection Areas (SPAs) classified under Article 4 of the Birds Directive. Together SACs and SPAs make up the Natura 2000 network (Article 3);
  • Ensure conservation measures are in place to appropriately manage SACs and ensure appropriate assessment of plans and projects likely to have a significant effect on the integrity of an SAC. Projects may still be permitted if there are no alternatives, and there are imperative reasons of overriding public interest. In such cases compensatory measures are necessary to ensure the overall coherence of the Natura 2000 network (Article 6);
  • Member States shall also endeavour to encourage the management of features of the landscape that support the Natura 2000 network (Articles 3 and10);
  • Undertake surveillance of habitats and species (Article 11),
  • Ensure strict protection of species listed on Annex IV (Article 12 for animals and Article 13 for plants).
  • Report on the implementation of the Directive every six years (Article 17), including assessment of the conservation status of species and habitats listed on the Annexes to the Directive.


The Directive was amended in 1997 by a technical adaptation Directive. The annexes were further amended by the Environment Chapter of the Treaty of Accession 2003 and in 2007 when Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU.


Guidance is available in respect to the various Articles to ensure strict protection of species: listed on Annex IV (Article 12 for animals and Article 13 for plants)n for example:



  • For specific guidance on the protection of species in the marine environment visit the industries page.


Transposition to UK legislation

The Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994 transposed the Habitats Directive into national law. The Regulations came into force on 30 October 1994, and have been subsequently amended several times. They apply to land and to territorial waters out to 12 nautical miles from the coast. 


The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 consolidate all the various amendments made to the 1994 Regulations in respect of England and Wales. In Scotland the Habitats Directive is transposed through a combination of the Habitats Regulations 2010  (in relation to reserved matters) and the 1994 Regulations.


The Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1995 (as amended) transpose the Habitats Directive in relation to Northern Ireland.


For UK offshore waters (ie from 12 nautical miles from the coast out to 200nm or to the limit of the UK Continental Shelf Designated Area), the Habitats Directive is transposed into UK law by the  Offshore Marine Conservation (Natural Habitats & c.) Regulations 2007 (as amended).


JNCC role

JNCC advises the UK Government on the application and interpretation of the Directive, including the interpretation of the 'conservation status of habitats and species'. JNCC also prepares the required reports on the implementation of the Directive in the UK. In addition, working with the country Conservation Bodies, it advises the UK Government on the designation of SACs in the UK.


Since 2007, JNCC has also had a formal role under the 2007 Offshore Marine Conservation Regulations (as amended) in advising Government on the protection of habitats and species in UK offshore waters, including site designation, and advising Competent Authorities and others on objectives and management of offshore sites.  JNCC also has a role to promote public awareness of species and habitats of the UK offshore marine area, and the need for their protection.


JNCC has developed The UK Terrestrial Biodiversity Surveillance Strategy as a tool for analysing and assessing data needs and comparing these against current surveillance coverage. The strategy is currently helping the relevant bodies in the UK to implement their duty under the Habitats Regulations (below), to assess the Article 11 surveillance requirement.


For the marine environment, the UK Marine Biodiversity Monitoring Research & Development Programme is under development and is presently concentrating on habitats, seabirds and cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises). The programme is part of theUK Marine Monitoring and Assessment Strategy (UKMMAS).


Catalogue of case law relating to articles of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives


JNCC have produced a Catalogue of case law relating to articles of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives. It provides accessible and summarised information on environmental case law relating to the EU Habitats Directive (Articles 1 to 7 and 9 to 16) and the EU Birds Directive (Articles 1 to 9). The current version (Version 1.0) includes all relevant cases from courts in the UK and the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) up until December 2013 using the Westlaw, Lexis Library, Lawtel and Curia legal databases. The catalogue summarises the relevant cases identified by the search, creating an entry for each case which sets out the key information, facts of the case and eventual outcomes, and is written in a way that users will not need a legal background to draw out the relevant information


October 2014