Skip to main content

Culture and Creativity

Natura 2000 and cultural landscapes

Natural heritage is an important part of cultural heritage.

The European Union (EU) has worked hard over the last 25 years to create a network of nature conservation areas across the EU, called the Natura 2000 network. The purpose of this network is to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity in Europe.

Natura 2000 is the largest coordinated network of protected areas in the world, spanning all Member States, covering 18% of the EU’s land mass and almost 6% of its marine territory. The aim of the network is to ensure the long-term survival of Europe's most valuable and threatened species and habitats.

Natura 2000 success stories on managing natural and cultural heritage

There is increasing recognition of the strong interconnections between natural and built cultural heritage and of the need for an integrated management approach to ensure their long-term sustainability.

A series of case studies highlight the success of the integrated management of natural and cultural heritage at Natura 2000 sites.

Find out more about Europe's cultural and natural heritage in Natura 2000 [pdf].

A 2019 report on "Natural and cultural heritage in Europe: Working together within the Natura 2000 network" is a result of the action plan for nature, people and the economy. It is one of the follow-up actions to the European Year of Cultural Heritage mentioned in the European framework for action on cultural heritage.

The report explores the spatial overlaps between natural and cultural sites. It discusses their common threats and challenges and the opportunities available under different EU funds to kick-start joint nature and culture initiatives. It also sets out a series of recommendations on how to overcome existing challenges. The report demonstrates how to promote integrated management and the associated socio-economic benefits.

Find out more about the 2019 report and the links between natural and cultural heritage.

Case studies

The Rila Monastery Natural Park, Bulgaria

This area is a protected natural park because of its outstanding cultural and natural values. A small area within the park is also a natural reserve. The monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The main goals of the Rila Natural Park management plan are to guarantee:

  • optimum correlation between the conservation of the park’s natural and cultural assets
  • the use of its resources
  • the ability to make the most of the opportunities the park provides

Consensus among all interested parties has led to the successful implementation of the management plan, ensuring that the park remains a symbol of the inseparable link between nature and spirit.

Burren, Ireland

Burren became a national park in 1991 and has been included in the UNESCO Global Geopark Network since 2011. The Burren region is famous for its remarkable flora and beautiful limestone landscape, characterised by glacially planed limestone pavements which harbour an extraordinary range of rare plant species. To protect these rare habitats and species, there are 3 different areas of conservation as part of the European Natura 2000 Network.

Burren is also a cultural landscape of great importance, given the existence of pastoral systems during winter that contribute directly to the rich natural and cultural heritage of the region.

The Irish government regulates and manages this natural and cultural heritage under different instruments and involves local communities. The Burren Community Charter is a good example of bottom-up models for strategic management. Conservation and the development of resources benefit more from an integrated approach developed by local communities.