“Our origin is very much older than that of the dwellers of Mount Olympus… And what important services do not the birds render to mortals? … Through us you will know the winds and the seasons, summer, winter and the temperate months. We shall not withdraw ourselves to the highest clouds like Zeus, but shall be among you and shall give to you and to your children and to the children of your children health and wealth, long life, peace, youth, laughter, songs and feasts. … Is it not the most priceless gift of all to be winged?”
Aristophanes (448 - ca. 380 B.C.E.), Greek playwright. (From “The Birds” written in 413 B.C.E. and spoken by the Leaders of the Chorus and Second Semi-Chorus)
THE BIRDS DIRECTIVE:
The European Union (EU) Birds Directive (2009/147/EC) is one of the greatest achievements of the EU and represents the first major EU environmental legislation mandatory for all Member States to protect and conserve European species of wild birds naturally occurring in the European territory, with special attention to those European species that are migratory, endangered, vulnerable, rare, and/or endemic.
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The Birds Directive recognised its thirtieth anniversary in 2009 following three decades during which 4,850 protection areas for the birds covering 501,286 square kilometres were established throughout the 27 European Union (EU) Member States. These Special Protection Areas (SPAs) are a selection of suitable sites in which legally protected avifauna nest, breed, forage and rest. To date under the auspices of the Birds Directive, nearly 5,000 SPAs have been established across Europe covering more than 10% of the EU territory. These SPAs serve as a haven for wild bird species, facilitating the birds’ essential foraging and breeding behaviour and thereby enabling their population recovery. As a result, the SPAs along with the annual implementation of EU LIFE projects have significantly strengthened the EU’s conservation capabilities for the benefit of preserving Europe’s natural avian heritage.
Today, Europe has a rich diversity of more than 500 wild bird species, of which 43% are threatened or experiencing serious population declines as a result of habitat fragmentation and loss, natural prey depletion, pollution, illegal hunting, chemical poisoning and other threats caused by human activities most notably since the Industrial Revolution. In response to this situation, the Birds Directive, which is considered central to the EU aim of reducing biodiversity loss in its territory, provides for the management and protection of wild birds, their nests, eggs and habitats from destruction, capture, killing and trade that have been primary contributing factors to severe avifauna population declines. As the Directive recognises that habitat loss and degradation have become increasingly serious threats to the conservation of wild birds, the legislative provisions place great emphasis on the protection of habitats for endangered as well as migratory species listed in Annex I of the Directive.
Since 1994, SPAs, of which the Andros SPA is one, together with Special Areas of Conservation established under the auspices of the EU Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) form the EU Natura 2000 ecological network of protected areas dedicated to the conservation of flora and fauna species as well as natural habitats of European Community interest.
Has the Birds Directive been a success? In August 2007, the journal Science published the results of a study* which concluded that the trans-national conservation measures required to be implemented by European Member States under the EU Birds Directive have made a significant contribution to reverse the population decline and provide protection for many of Europe's most threatened bird species. The study further concluded that, to a great extent through the designation of SPAs, the Birds Directive has clearly helped those species considered to be most at risk.
With the Birds Directive as an essential foundation, the European Commission continues to support the worthwhile endeavours of those who bring “LIFE” to our irreplaceable natural heritage.
* [Donald, Paul F.; et al.: “International Conservation Policy Delivers Benefits for Birds in Europe”, Science, 317(5839): 810-813 (10 August 2007)]
Contact: Constantine Alexander