1.3.2 The collective EU process and criteria for site selection


The process that Member States and the Commission must follow in drawing up the list of Sites of Community Importance is set out in Article 4 and Annex III of the Directive. The process is broken down into two stages:

Stage 1: assessment of the relative importance of sites containing examples of the individual Annex I habitat types and Annex II species in each Member State;

Stage 2: assessment of the overall importance of the sites in the context of the appropriate biogeographical region and the EU as a whole. This stage is often informally referred to as 'moderation'.

The criteria to be employed in Stage 1 are listed in Annex III. They can be summarised as:
a. degree of representativity;
b. area;
c. degree of conservation of habitat structure and functions and restoration possibilities;
d. global assessment of conservation value (i.e. an overall assessment, based on a-c above).
a. population size and density;
b. degree of conservation of the features of the habitat that are important for the species, and restoration possibilities;
c. degree of isolation of the population in relation to the species' natural range;
d. global assessment of conservation value (i.e. an overall assessment, based on a-c above).
In addition, Member States are required to classify sites on their national lists according to their relative value for each habitat type and species, and to identify which of the sites in their national lists are selected for priority habitat types and species.

Further guidance on the assessment of the Annex III Stage 1 criteria is given in the EC guidance document for the Natura 2000 Standard Data Form (European Commission DGXI 1995).

The criteria used in Stage 2 are intended to be used to assess the sites at the level of the nine biogeographical regions and the EU as a whole. The Stage 2 criteria may be summarised as:
a. relative value of the site at national level;
b. relationship of the site to migration routes or its role as part of an ecosystem on both sides of one or more Community frontiers;
c. total area of the site;
d. number of Annex I habitat types and Annex II species present;
e. global ecological value of the site at the level of the biogeographical region and/or EU as a whole.
The Stage 1 and Stage 2 criteria must be read alongside other site selection requirements or qualifications set out in the Directive. More specific requirements for site selection include:
a. restrictions on the site selection obligations in respect of widely dispersed and aquatic species (Article 4.1);
b. the requirement to contribute towards the maintenance of favourable conservation status3 (Article 2.2 and Article 3.1);
c. the obligation on each Member State to select a series of sites that reflects the proportion of the EU resource of a given habitat or species within their national territory (Article 3.2).

3See Article 1(e) and 1(i) for definitions of favourable conservation status.