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Review article - Peer-reviewed, 2016

Gaps in ecological research on the world's largest internationally coordinated network of protected areas: A review of Natura 2000

Orlikowska, Ewa; Roberge, Jean-Michel; Blicharska, Malgorzata; Mikusinski, Grzegorz; Blicharska, Malgorzata


Natura 2000 (N2k) is a multinational and" coordinated conservation network designated to support the long-term survival of Europe's most valuable species and habitats. It is the key conservation tool in the European Union. We reviewed 510 peer-reviewed publications (period 1998-2014) focusing on ecological aspects of N2k, with the aims of identifying key research gaps and proposing future research priorities for improved conservation success. We categorized the articles by spatial scale, biogeographical regions, taxonomic groups, habitat types, and the analytical methods used. The majority of studies were performed in single N2k sites or at the regional level within countries. The Mediterranean region had the greatest number of publications and the terrestrial Black Sea, Macaronesia, Pannonian and Steppic regions were overrepresented in relation to their total area and to the area of N2k sites that they comprised. Grasslands, freshwater and wetland habitats were overrepresented in comparison to their area within N2k. Plants were the most commonly studied taxonomic group and quantitative empirical studies dominated. Future N2k research should address knowledge gaps by directing more efforts towards: 1) the Boreal region, 2) alpine, agricultural, forest and marine habitats, and 3) under represented taxonomic groups such as reptiles, amphibians, lichens and fungi. For enhanced evaluation and realization of the conservation potential of N2k, more studies will need to encompass large spatial scales and utilize modelling approaches to effectively address future climate and land-use changes. (C) 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Natura 2000; Birds Directive; Habitats Directive; Protected areas; Review; Knowledge gaps

Published in

Biological Conservation
2016, volume: 200, pages: 216-227

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, School for Forest Management
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Resource Management
Blicharska, Malgorzata
Uppsala University
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, School for Forest Management
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Blicharska, Malgorzata
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Swedish Biodiversity Centre

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG15 Life on land

UKÄ Subject classification

Environmental Sciences

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