The European Environment Agency (EEA) has commissioned a consortium made up of EFTAS, GAF and GeoVille to map additional grassland-rich Natura 2000 sites across Europe. This extends the coverage of the existing Copernicus Natura 2000 Local Land Component service. Telespazio Ibérica, as subcontractor of the Consortium, performs a visual interpretation of land cover and land use from very-high-resolution satellite imagery of the reference years 2006 and 2012. The first delivery unit containing around 22,000 km2 has been delivered to the EEA.
The Natura 2000 network of protected sites covers about 18% of the EU’s land area and is the main policy strategy to address biodiversity conservation in Europe. It is the world’s largest coordinated ecological network of protected areas, set up based on the legal requirements of the European Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive. Specifically, grassland habitats are an important component of biodiversity in Europe. Agricultural intensification and abandonment of traditional management practices have put these habitats under increasing pressure. Although protective legislation has been put in place, it has not yet been possible to stop the regional decline of important grassland habitat types.
The current survey is intended to complement and continue the previous mapping under the Copernicus Initial Operation phase (GIO) to a maximum area of around 470,000 km² until mid-2019.