Assessing the role of Natura 2000 at maintaining dynamic landscapes in Europe over the last two decades: implications for conservation



The Natura 2000 aims to promote the persistence of biodiversity and traditional uses. European landscapes have, however, undergone large transformations in the past decades, mainly associated with the abandonment of less productive lands concentration of intensive agriculture. These changes could pose management challenges and new opportunities to the achievement of the network´s goals.


Evaluate changes in land cover within Natura 2000 in the last two decades.


We use different Corine Land Cover datasets to construct transition matrices of land uses for measuring changes for each Natura 2000 site. We also explore the role of different drivers in observed changes and assess the impacts of these changes in the structure of landscape.


Landscape has been highly dynamic within Natura 2000 in the last two decades with more than 20% undergoing land cover changes. The most systematic transitions involved both, succession processes towards naturalisation in older and more abrupt protected areas (PAs) and anthropization in less steep and more recently designated PAs. Changes across land cover categories had also significant effects on the landscape configuration towards a higher homogenisation.


Two different strategies would be needed to enhance the role of Natura 2000, (i) tighter control to ensure anthropization, mainly intensive agriculture, does not compromise conservation goals within PAs and (ii) tackle more effectively the ecological and socio-economic effects of abandonment in less productive areas to halt loss of key habitats. On the other hand, changes in composition and structure of landscape open new conservation opportunities derived from enhanced connectivity.

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V.H was supported by a Ramón y Cajal contract (RYC-2013-13979) and by the FORESTCAST project (CGL2014-59742-C2-2-R) both funded by the Spanish Government.

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Correspondence to Virgilio Hermoso.

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Hermoso, V., Morán-Ordóñez, A. & Brotons, L. Assessing the role of Natura 2000 at maintaining dynamic landscapes in Europe over the last two decades: implications for conservation. Landscape Ecol 33, 1447–1460 (2018).

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  • Corine Land Cover
  • Habitats
  • Land abandonment
  • Transition matrix
  • Clumpiness
  • Common agriculture policy