Natura 2000 is the European wide network of protected areas developed under the European Commission 'Habitats Directive' (Directive 92/43/EEC) and the 'Birds Directive' (Directive 79/409/EEC).
The Natura 2000 Network is made up of Special Areas of Conservation, (SAC) which support rare, endangered or vulnerable natural habitats and species of plants or animals (other than birds) of European importance, and Special Protection Areas (SPA) which support significant numbers of wild birds and their habitats. SACs in Scotland are designated by Scottish Ministers under the Habitats Directive and SPAs are classified by Scottish Ministers under the Birds Directive.
In Scotland, as of August 2012, a total of 393 Natura 2000 sites have been designated. These comprise a total of 240 SACs and 153 SPAs, accounting for approximately 15% of Scotland's land surface. These sites protect 79 bird species, such as Golden Eagle and Capercaillie, 18 other types of animal species, including seal, dolphin, wild Atlantic salmon, and 56 types of habitat, including reefs, Scotlands rugged upland habitats and machair. Further information on individual Natura 2000 sites in Scotland can be found on the JNCC website.
The majority of SPAs and SACs are also underpinned by Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) legislation as part of the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004. There are currently around 1440 SSSIs designated in Scotland. Frequently asked questions on Natura 2000 sites and SSSIs.