National system of classified areas

The "National system of classified areas" fact sheet reports on the number of classified areas and the area covered by the National Protected Areas Network, the Natura 2000 Network and other areas classified under international commitments undertaken by the Portuguese Government.


The National system of classified areas (SNAC) is defined in the Legal Framework for the Conservation of Nature and Biodiversity (RJCNB), comprising the National Protected Areas Network (RNAP), the listed areas that integrate the Natura 2000 Network and other areas listed under international commitments undertaken by the Portuguese Government.

The areas listed as protected are terrestrial and inland aquatic areas, as well as marine areas, whose biodiversity or other natural occurrences have, due to their rarity, scientific, ecological, social or scenic value, a special relevance that requires specific conservation and management measures, in order to promote the sound management of their natural resources and the enhancement of their natural and cultural heritage, regulating artificial interventions likely to degrade them.

With regard to the National Protected Areas Network (RNAP), the RJCNB addresses the types of Protected Areas (APs), protection schemes, and the objectives and procedures conducive to their listing, providing for the possibility of creating national parks in the Autonomous Regions. The APs can have a national, regional or local scope, and even a private status, being divided into the following types: i) National Park, ii) Natural Park, iii) Natural Reverse, iv) Protected Landscape and v) Natural Monument.

The Natura 2000 Network comprises areas listed as Sites in the national site list, Sites of Community Importance (SCIs) and Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) under the Habitats Directive and areas listed as Special Protection Areas (SPAs) under the Birds Directive. In these areas of community importance for the conservation of certain natural habitats and species, which also cover the marine environment, human activities should be compatible with the preservation of these values, aiming at a sustainable management from the ecological, economic and social point of view.

The areas listed under international commitments include, among others, Biosphere Reserves, Ramsar Sites and Geoparks.

Biosphere Reserves are areas listed under UNESCO's "Man and Biosphere" (MaB) Programme. These listed areas serve as living sustainability labs, where it is possible to test initiatives for the promotion and sustainable use of endogenous resources in cooperation with the populations and local development actors. This classification complements the listing as Protected Area or Natura 2000 Network area, benefiting from the work on biodiversity conservation developed in these areas.

The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat, also known as the Ramsar Convention, is an intergovernmental treaty and the first-ever global treaty on conservation. Sites listed under this Convention are recognised based on criteria of ecosystem representativeness, faunistic and floristic values and importance for the conservation of waterfowl and fishes.

Geoparks are areas recognised by the UNESCO for their unique geological heritage of international relevance. These territories follow a sustainable development plan or strategy in which the local communities are actively involved, with a particular emphasis on the areas of education, science, culture, economy and geotourism. These areas seek to raise awareness to the need for enhancement of the natural environment, through a collaboration with local companies and authorities to promote and support the creation of new products related to geological heritage.

This fact sheet concerns mainland Portugal and shall be updated on an annual basis.

Objectives and targets: 

The Biodiversity Strategy of the European Union (EU) for 2020, adopted in May 2011, establishes the central objective of halting the deterioration of the status of all species and habitats covered by EU nature legislation and of achieving a real and measurable improvement of its state so that, by 2020, in relation to  2011 assessments: i) 100% of the habitat assessments and 50% of the species assessments under the Habitats Directive show an improved conservation status; ii) further 50% of the species assessments under the Birds Directive show a safe or improved status.

To that purpose, it recommends, inter alia, the need to complete the establishment of the Natura 2000 Network and ensure its proper management as well as the adequate financing of the Natura 2000 Network sites, increase awareness and participation among the interested parties and improve compliance monitoring.

The National Strategy for the Conservation of Nature and Biodiversity 2030 (ENCNB 2030), adopted in 2018, pursues a long-term vision based on three interdependent strategic axes: i) Improving the conservation status of natural heritage; ii) Promoting the recognition of the value of natural heritage; and iii) Fostering the appropriation, by society, of natural values ​​and biodiversity.

On the other hand, it includes among its strategic options one to constitute the Fundamental Nature Conservation Network and the National System of Classified Areas, integrating in the later the National Network of Protected Areas, and to promote the valorisation of protected areas and ensure conservation of the its natural, cultural and social heritage, ensuring the conservation and enhancement of the natural heritage of sites and special protection areas integrated in the Natura 2000 process.

The ENCNB 20303 came forth with the objective of consolidating the national system of classified areas and ensuring its management, to which it associated various achievements, namely: (i) compliance with Aichi's goal 17 and SDG's 14.5 by consolidating the SNAC's network of marine areas (ii) the creation of a network of geosites to integrate the national system of classified areas and ensure geoconservation in the territorial management instruments and (iii) the development of management plans or an equivalent instrument for all sites of Community importance of the Natura 2000 network.

Progress analysis:

Forty-seven protected areas in the continental territory, including thirty-two national areas (one national park, thirteen natural parks, nine natural reserves, two protected landscapes and seven natural monuments), fourteen regional/local in scope (two Natural Reserves and eleven Protected Landscapes and one Natural Park), as well as a Private Protected Area, are currently part of the RNAP. The seven Natural Monuments have designation objectives oriented fundamentally for the safeguarding of the geological heritage.

Last update: 
Thursday, 18 April, 2019