K309 Gustaf

A quarter of a century of the Habitat Directive: balance for Spanish plants


Juan Carlos Moreno Saiz


The Habitat Directive (DH) was approved in 1992 and listed plant species in three sections: Annex II taxa for including their core areas in the Natura 2000 network; Annex IV taxa to apply a strict protection within and outside Natura 2000 sites; and Annex V taxa for ensuring their sustainable exploitation. Nowadays, DH covers over 480 plant species from 28 Member States.
Spain is the country that contributes the largest number of plants to the Annexes of the DH, with more than 200 species (177 in Annex II, 198 in Annex IV and 13 in Annex V). The total figure represents 2.9% of the national flora (Peninsular Spain plus the Canarian and Balearic archipelagos) and such species have been later included in state and regional protection laws. On all of them, a sexennial report must be presented in accordance with DH article 17.
The selection of plants for the Annexes, made in the 1980s, was already questioned shortly after its inception in Spain (Domínguez et al., 1996). Particularly, Annex II mixed cases of the greatest conservationist urgency with scarcely threatened species, probably due to a lack of information. More worrying than this heterogeneity was the fact that a copious number of truly threatened plants, previously collected at the Bern Convention, had been left out of the Annexes.
Since its approval in 1992, the DH has only been modified to include species from the new Member States that joined the European Union. Biases and gaps detected in the annexes have not been corrected in these 25 years of implementation and their inconsistencies have manifested more clearly as studies were expanded: from the 439 covered by the Spanish Red Book of vascular flora (IUCN categories CR, EN and VU), only 82 were included in the DH (Bañares et al., 2004).
The recent fitness check of the European Nature Directives is correct when talking about the umbrella effect of the combination of Annexes of the Directives on the conservation of European endangered species, what led it to discourage any ‘change in the list of species listed in the Annexes at this stage'.
The recent economic crisis has aggravated the lack of adequacy of funds for research and monitoring of threatened species, a good part of which is destined to elaborate the European sexennial reports. This detracts resources for the monitoring of already endangered plants outside the Annexes which have been diverting for 25 years in studies of less or not at all vulnerable species. After this analysis, I suggest some measures to improve current DH efficiency and discuss possible lines of reform of its Annexes.

Bañares, Á., G. Blanca, J. Güemes, J.C. Moreno, S. Ortiz, 2004. Atlas y Libro Rojo de la Flora Vascular Amenazada de España. Táxones prioritarios. Ministerio de Medio Ambiente, Madrid.
Domínguez, F., D. Galicia, L. Moreno, J.C. Moreno, H. Sainz, 1996. Threatened plants in Peninsular and Balearic Spain. A report based on the EU Habitats Directive. Biological Conservation 76: 123-133.