Of all the European countries, Italy has the richest store of biodiversity, presenting the largest number of species in absolute terms. In fact, roughly half the vegetable species currently found in Europe, as well as approximately a third of all the animal species, are present in our country. To protect this immense natural wealth and, more to the point, to safeguard the species and habitats of community interest, each region, having identified the SCIs, or SACs, and the SPAs within its territory, handles their management and environmental conservation.
Species of community interest are those that:
- are in danger of extinction or vulnerable;
- are rare, being located in restricted geographic areas or spread across a more extensive surface area;
- are endemic, meaning that they are found typically or exclusively within a specific, limited territory.
Habitats of community interest are those that:
- are at risk of disappearing within their area of natural distribution;
- have a reduced area of distribution due to deterioration or because the area is naturally limited;
- constitute examples of habitats typically found in one or more bio-geographic regions.
Within the Lombardy Region, 242 Natura 2000 sites have been established, covering 15% of the region’s overall territory and breaking down into 194 Sites of Community Importance (SICs) and 66 Special Protection Areas for bird fauna (SPA). Within these sites, 61 species of community interest listed in Annex II of the “Habitats” Directive are safeguarded (47 animal species, of which 13 are mammals, 14 fish, 5 amphibians and reptiles, 15 invertebrates and 14 are vegetable species), together with 87 species of birds listed in Annex I of the “Birds” Directive.