Natura 2000 consists of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) designated respectively under the Habitats Directive and Birds Directive. The Habitats Directive requires Sites of Community Importance (SCIs
) which upon the agreement of the European Commission become Special Areas of Conservation (SACs
) to be designated for species other than birds, and for habitat types (e.g. particular types of forest, grasslands, wetlands, etc.).
Together, SPAs and SACs form the Natura 2000 network of protected areas.
Natura 2000 sites can vary considerably in character. They are not strictly protected in terms of how they are allowed to be used by people. Many sites are farmed, forested and some are even in urban areas. Other areas are much wilder.
In Greece, 202
areas have been registered as SPAs and 241
as SCIs. Areas in the two categories often overlap each other. These 443 zones form the Greek part of Natura 2000 and cover, roughly, 19% of Greece. Their registration was finalized in 2010-2011.