The realization of Natura 2000 goals: drivers of success and failure
: The influence of the interplay of actors and sectors on nature management

  • K. Noppen

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Humanity depends on healthy and biodiverse nature. Economic growth and prosperity have caused various environmental problems, including the loss of biodiversity. In response to this, nature conservation policy has been developed at various levels, from global to regional. In the European Union, the legal cornerstone of nature conservation policy is formed by the Birds and Habitats Directive and the associated Natura 2000 conservation objectives to be achieved in the Natura 2000 areas. Member States are free to determine how they wish to manage the areas. Management plans are often used for this.

The implementation of nature conservation policy and the realization of policy goals has proven difficult. Habitats and species in the Natura 2000 areas are still a long way from being in a good conservation status. This is caused by vertical and horizontal coordination problems due to the increased number of actors and sectors in the policy arena. The interests of actors and policy goals of adjacent policy may conflict. To tackle these problems, an integrated approach is often proposed, in which stakeholder participation and policy integration of adjacent policy fields play an important role.

This study investigated how the interplay of actors and sectors influences the realization of the Natura 2000 conservation goals, by analyzing the underlying factors that influence the integrated approach to developing and implementing Natura 2000 management plans in North Brabant. This was done by a literature study to get more insight into the development of nature conservation policy and the implementation problems on international and national level, a desk study to get insight into the results this has led to in terms of halting the loss of biodiversity and the state of nature on EU level and in the Netherlands, and a case study to get insight into the development and implementation of Natura 2000 policy on a regional level.

The results indicate that participation and policy integration do indeed play an important role. With a well-executed integrated approach, the right stakeholders are involved in a timely manner, the right tools and methods are used, there is clarity about the division of roles, there is a shared responsibility and sense of urgency, there is cooperation between the stakeholders, there is mutual trust and respect and basic principles are not up for discussion. There is also a clear legal framework, coherence between sectoral policies, and alignment on policy implications and management processes.

What this research has also shown is that it is crucial that there is political commitment and ambition. In the Netherlands, political standpoints and policy choices fail to address root causes of the problems for nature policy goals. At the political level the choice was made not to pursue the agreements that were made on an international level, and to only fulfill the minimal requirements. As a result, the gap between the nature objectives to be achieved and the current state of nature will only widen and nature conservation will ultimately only become more difficult and more expensive. The findings of this study show that an integrated approach is required to improve the realization of nature policy goals, but depends on political commitment and ambition. It has also become apparent that it is not only sufficient to have enough financial resources, but also to ensure that the budget can be used where needed.
Date of Award29 Jul 2021
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorRaoul Beunen (Examiner) & Frank Van Belleghem (Co-assessor)

Master's Degree

  • Master Environmental Sciences

Cite this