The Habitats Directive: species protection requirements

An overview of the species protection duties imposed on the UK Member State by the Habitats Directive.

Articles 12 to 15 describe the species protection provisions of the Habitats Directive.

Articles 12 and 13 require a ‘system of strict protection’ to be set up for species listed on Annex IV of the Directive.

Articles 14 and 15:

  • allow controlled exploitation of Annex V species
  • prohibit indiscriminate means of killing or taking these animals and also those on Annex IV

Article 16 outlines a ‘derogation’ procedure (i.e. the method by which it’s possible to deviate from the Directive’s requirements).

Species of ‘Community interest’ are those:

  • listed on Annexes II, IV and V of the Habitats Directive
  • birds protected under the Birds Directive

Requirements for species of Community interest

Some Special Areas of Conservation have been designated for populations of species listed on Annex II of the Habitats Directive found in Scotland. (‘Priority’ species are particularly threatened and are subject to stronger protection, but no priority species occur in Scotland.)

A system of strict protection has been set up for populations of Annex IV species that occur naturally in Scotland. These are called European protected species in the Habitats Regulations.

Certain measures are required in relation to the managed exploitation of Annex V species found naturally in Scotland. Schedule 3 of the Habitats Regulations lists these species, which include several found in Scotland: e.g. the mountain hare and pine marten.

Read about the Habitats Regulations 1994 Schedule 3 – animals listed on Annex V of the Habitats Directive whose natural range includes Great Britain

Some methods of killing or taking Schedule 3 species are prohibited. These include any means that is indiscriminate and able to cause the local disappearance of, or serious disturbance to, a population. The same restrictions apply to the killing or taking of any European protected species.

A species may be listed on more than one Annex of the Habitats Directive.

View a table of all of Scotland’s protected species, which details how each is protected.

Last updated: