Natura 2000 is a network of protected sites in the 27 European Union (EU) Member States, designated under the legal regime of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives. Its overall aim is to contribute to the conservation of biodiversity in the EU, and more specifically to enable the maintenance, or recovery to a favourable conservation status, of the species and habitats for which the sites are designated. Member States must put in place conservation objectives and carry out the necessary conservation measures and their monitoring, to ensure that these objectives can be achieved.
COP4N2K puts a particular focus on grassland habitats as they are often biodiversity rich and a key habitat for many rare and threatened species in Europe, including birds, butterflies and plants, yet they are very vulnerable and under constant threat from degradation or conversion into agricultural land or urban areas.
To ensure that grasslands within the Natura 2000 network are properly maintained, it is necessary to track their extent and quality in near-real time at the level of the site and even individual patches (areas) within each of the site.
To date, the required information from regular monitoring is often lacking or of insufficient quality to assess the condition and changes of habitats in individual Natura 2000 sites.
This is where the COP4N2K project sets in: by providing site managers and other interested stakeholders with publicly available information about changes in grassland habitats (especially about grassland losses and gains or degradation) by using data from the Copernicus Land Monitoring Services (CLMS) and helping to close this important information gap.
In the project space4environment was responsible for the overall project coordination, the quality control of the EO-derived products and the definition and analysis of the grassland indicators. In a further study, space4environment assessed the feasibility of deriving information on intensification, degradation or abandonment of grasslands in N2000 sites.